Spock's Beard is one of the bands responsible for the Prog Rock big revival in the mid 90's.
The band was formed in 1992 in Los Angeles (USA) by brothers Neal Morse and Alan Morse. Neal left the band in 2002 to focus on his solo career, the band went on with the drummer Nick D'Virgilio on the drums in a Genesis way of doing things.
Two years ago the Prog community got to know that Nick was also leaving the band. So the Spock's Beard teamed up with Ted Leonard (Enchant) in the vocals and guitars and their old time mate and live drummer Jimmy Keegan to keep on rolling the wheels of the Progressive Rock and to record a new album. Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep (2013) was released in March and to talk about the album and to talk about their career too we interviewed exclusively the bass player Dave Meros and the new drummer Jimmy Keegan.
The chat you can read below.
Interview by Diego Camargo
Progshine – First of all, I would like to ask how different it is for the band to write with the new members Jimmy Keegan and Ted Leonard now? Jimmy Keegan is not really new, but I supposed it’s the first time he’s written with the band, right? How much do you think this changed the Beards sound and how it is to face the change of the vocalist for the third time?
Dave Meros - Of course the vocalist is the focal point of any band’s sound, so changing the singer had the most effect on our sound. Drums not as much, but I do think that both Ted and Jimmy added a little bit more of a “rock” sound to the band, a little more power than we had before.
Jimmy Keegan - We are all session musicians and sidemen so the adaptation to a new singer or musician is not new. Within the scope of the band, we were all great friends prior to joining together. I personally didn’t partake in the writing sessions but I’m a bit more heavy handed as a drummer and my style and taste will nudge the music in unique directions but like any “band” situation, this is the pleasure. The communication.
Progshine – Does the relationship with Nick D’Virgilio still exist or have you gone apart completely?
Dave Meros - We’re still on very friendly terms with him, it was an unfortunate but amicable split.
Jimmy Keegan - Oh yeah. Nick is still a great friend.
Progshine –A lot of fans were curious about having Alan and Neal working back together again. Was this triggered by Neal Morse’s 2011 album Testimony 2?
Dave Meros - I don’t think so. Neal had co-written a song with Al on X in fact, so this was just more of a development in that direction.
Jimmy Keegan - I think they are brothers and the idea of being creative and spending time together is just part of life. They may have thought about it in regards to the album but as they are brothers, it’s not unusual that they would collaborate.
Dave Meros - We did it on our own website last time, yes. But, that turned into problems because we process payments through PayPal, and PayPal has a 30 day limit on preorders, which we didn’t know about at the time. Our preorder for X was six months, so when PayPal found out about that, they suspended our account for the entire six months. We didn’t want that to happen this time, so we went for crowd funding, which worked for raising the money very well but presented its own set of problems and limitations.
I do think that self-funding is the only way to go for lots of small and medium sized bands these days. We just don’t get an adequate recording advance from the record label any more, so if we didn’t raise money some way we simply couldn’t record any more CDs at the quality that we like to record.
It’s a pain in the ass for us and the record company doesn’t like it either since it takes away some sales from them, but it’s a necessary part of the process for us these days.
Jimmy Keegan - Dave and I (mostly Dave) did a lot of research as to what would be the best way to make this happen and it turned out to be Indiegogo. I think it’s a brilliant way to go. Cut out the middleman nonsense and the artist can get to work.
Progshine –Today, every band releases a Special or Limited edition before the ‘regular’ one. You have already done it with the previous album, X. How did the band choose the material for the ‘main’ disc and for the Limited edition in Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep?
Dave Meros - Our record company president picked the songs for us. We had been arguing about it for weeks and couldn’t come to an agreement. We basically had three different versions of which songs should go on the main disc and in which sequence.
So I sent all the material to Thomas but didn’t tell him any of our ideas. He came back a few days later with the sequence that we used. It was VERY different than any of our ideas and at first it was a little bit shocking, but once we gave it a chance and listened to it in the order he suggested we realized that he was absolutely correct and any of our ideas would have basically ruined the CD.
I wish that we would have trusted him with that decision on our ninth CD. I think it would have been a much better CD and would have gotten much better reviews if we had done that. There is some outstanding material on that CD and there was definitely enough material for a good main disc and a bonus disc. But it was not sequenced correctly and there some songs there that should have been on a bonus disc that distracted the listener from what could have been a great CD.
Jimmy Keegan - This was a tough one. We liked all of the material very much. It was the only time we really argued because we each had our favorites and wanted them on the main disc. It could’ve gone any number of ways and we all would have been satisfied.
Progshine –Another new thing for the band is the inclusion of Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep in the Bandcamp and other digital retailers. How important is the digital selling to the band right now?
Dave Meros - I hate to say it because I love CDs, but the CD is slowly becoming less and less popular. Portable media is taking over. To add to the problem, a recent increase in postage rates to send CDs from the U.S. to other countries has more than doubled, which causes even more incentive to purchase a download.
Jimmy Keegan - It turned out to be huge for us because of some unforeseen glitches. But at the end of the day. It’s all digital (unless you buy vinyl). The format is only relative if you need to have that CD in your hands.
Progshine –I have presented one of your new songs in one of my Podcasts and the response was very good (Editor: Check it HERE). Do you think that it is the way to go without the big media channels? Are small websites, blog reviews and local radio shows the best way to spread your music together with the social websites like Facebook and Twitter?
Dave Meros - Well, I think it all adds up and the more the better. There is nothing like a big media push though. It’s like putting a puzzle together from 1,000 pieces that all look the same versus just going out and buying the puzzle already assembled.
Jimmy Keegan - It’s all good. Today you have to do whatever you can. The more creative, the better your odds.
Progshine –As a reader, I have always liked to know about my favorite artists tastes such as their favorite bands and albums. If you guys could name your favorite albums and artists, which ones would they be?
Dave Meros - It always changes. Right now I’m not really listening to much. I really like the newest Bon Iver CD (Editor: Bon Iver, Bon Iver).
Jimmy Keegan - Personally: Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Yes, Genesis, Joni Mitchell, The Police, Marisa Monte, Bobby Mcferrin, Heart, Maria João, it’s endless!
What is my mood today? Do I feel like pop, rock, jazz, ethnic musics, Brazilian (Elis Regina, come on!), African (Youssou N’Dour), Latin? I was just listening to the fantastic Lara Fabian with Maurane. Two of the most amazing singers on the planet.
Progshine –And what about your favorite Spock’s Beard albums? Would it be possible to make a top 5 list?
Dave Meros - 1) Beware Of Darkness
2 - 5) All the other ones. (I’m serious. They all have songs that I love and some that I don’t love quite as much). Well, except for Snow and Feel Euphoria. I’m not crazy about those two although there are some great moments within both of them.
Jimmy Keegan - Nope!
Dave Meros - We’ve tried that a quite few times, and the result is that we don’t get played on mainstream media and our prog fans get really upset. But we keep trying anyway. Maybe this time will be different. ;-)
Jimmy Keegan - Soften? There have been songs in the past that could be considered pop. But I think the spirit of Prog is the freedom.
Progshine –The band is about to complete 20 years since the first album, The Light. During all this time, has there ever been any major crisis or problem when it comes to finding inspiration to create new music?
Dave Meros - For me there is ALWAYS a problem finding inspiration. Each time I write a song, I feel like I just got really lucky and it will never happen again. I’m not one of those guys who music pours from, I have to drag it out kicking and screaming, bit by bit.
Jimmy Keegan - Ha! I can’t answer this one.
Progshine – Looking from the perspective of time, have you ever imagined how far you guys would get? All the places you have played, all the stages you have shared with another great bands and so on.
Dave Meros - Well, we’re really not that far along. Lots of people in the prog world know about us but I can’t say that we have anything to brag about as far as concert attendance or CD sales. If we combined all of the money we make, it still wouldn’t be enough to support even one of us. But having said that, when we first got together it was just for fun and we never really expected ANY success at all, so in that way we have far exceeded our expectations.
Jimmy Keegan - Well I joined when it was already moving but I cherish every chance I get to play for an audience that appreciates what I do. Getting to play in places like Paris and Copenhagen and VIenna just make it much cooler.
Progshine –In all of my interviews the final space was devoted to messages from the bands and artists to their fans. So the space is all yours!
Dave Meros - We truly appreciate all the support you’ve given us all these years. Come see us on tour in May!
Jimmy Keegan - This is my tenth year with The Mighty Spock’s Beard. The greatest pleasure I have is, actually, not playing for the fantastic people that come out to the shows. It’s the joy of meeting them. Great conversations and laughter. I am a better person because of this. And we’re coming out again. Are you ready?
See more Spock's Beard on Progshine:
- Podcast #10 with the song 'Hiding Out' from the new album
- Other news