Feeling rosy about Turning Blue
By Dave Schwartz
Photos by Keith Durflinger and Pal-Tone Records
We have been fortunate here at DaBelly. We have ample opportunities to interview people in the entertainment industry and quite often we walk away refreshed in the knowledge that there are some real nice people in the business. Turning Blue is a fine example. Back in October of 2000, several members of the DaBelly staff attended the Interactive Music Xpo (IMX) in Los Angeles where we met the members of Turning Blue. They had won the IMX song-writing contest and, as part of the prize, they were opening an industry-only show for the benefit of VH-1 Save the Music and Musicares Foundation.
Now, almost two years later, we find ourselves checking in on Scott Thomas and the rest of Turning Blue crew. They have just released their first full-length CD, "...Whatever 'Till We Die", on Pal-Tone Records and will soon embark on a summer tour. Good things are happening to this band and, when I finally caught up with them, I had a chance to hear all about their new effort.
"It came out in January, but it was a long time in the making," Thomas began. "We finished recording it about three months prior to that. We were going to put the record out on our own. And so, we had been talking to Pal-Tone off and on for the past few years. They were doing a split CD with a few other bands. We were talking about doing that, but then we decided to put out a full-length record because we hadn't done that yet. We had recorded some four song CDs, mostly demo stuff. So we decided to just go ahead and do our own thing. When we finally finished it, we sent it around to a few people. Pal-Tone was one of them and they wanted to put it out."
When I first got the new release in the mail I was happy to see that it is comprised of some of your older songs, like "Paper Cut" and "Let Down," as well as some newer songs.
"'Let Down' is probably the oldest song on the CD," Thomas replied. "'Someone Else's Song' is new, '401' is new."
I see you did a cover too, I interrupted. You did "Break My Stride"?
"Yes, 'Break My Stride' is a cover," Thomas agreed. "Actually we played that at the first show we ever played. We did the song as kind of a goof on it. We liked the song. I heard it on the radio one day and thought, 'Wow, what a great song.' It was such a well-put together song. I brought it up to the guys and we just kind of did it for one show. Suddenly we were doing it every show after that and it's become one of our most popular songs. We recorded it, but we never really intended to put it on the record. We recorded it because we were doing a few songs and we had the mics setup we did it. It ended up on the record and our first single!"
I remember when that song first came out. When I read the liner notes I didn't recognize the name, but I'm listening to your CD and suddenly there it was! I was a bit astonished.
"It's funny, when we play out we see that," Thomas revealed. "We start the song and no one knows it, but by the time we start the chorus everyone is singing along. After every show people ask us who originally did that song. Even when we say the name, Mathew Wilder wrote it, most people who don't know music don't recognize the name. A lot of people think the Jackson 5 did it or someone like that because it sounds like a young kid singing it. It's one of those songs that people really connect with for some reason."
You were a part of the Billboard songwriting contest receiving an Honorable Mention both in 1999 and 2002. What can you tell me about that?
"Actually we just sent a few songs in, well really it was only one song, 'Let Down'. We ended up getting an Honorable Mention for it." Thomas explains, "I guess the song is pretty good. I know that a lot of people enter the contest, but I don't know how many Honorable Mentions they give out. I think it means it was one of the top 500 entries. It's something that looks good on our bio and that's really about it."
As most will understand, a band is a fairly dynamic entity. It's not unusual to have members come and go and Turning Blue is no exception. Since first talking to the band in 2000, there have been personnel changes. Singer/guitarist Scott Thomas, along with bassist Rob C and guitarist Mike Melody founded the band. Drummer Tom Harrop was added to the lineup in early 2002.
"Since first meeting you at IMX we got a new drummer," Thomas shared. "The first drummer in the band, which was even before we met you at the IMX show, couldn't really commit to playing with us. Then came Bobby, the guy you met. He played with us for a while until he decided to become a police officer. Now we have Tom. Tom has been a shot in the arm for us. Bobby couldn't commit and we knew that he had a dream to be a cop since he was a kid. We grew up together and were in bands together my whole life. He was, and still is, the best technical drummer that I know. But towards the end he couldn't put the time into it. He was going to classes and the police academy and stuff. It was good for him and we were happy for him. So now we've had Tom come in. He's added new life to this band, so it was good for us too."
It's funny how a new member can do that. If you find the right person, it's like everything becomes new again. You rediscover a lot of energy and the music seems fresh again.
Turning Blue's music has also caught the attention of Hollywood filmmakers. The song "Letdown" is featured in the movie "Repli-kate" from the producers of "American Pie." The band's song "Me Vs. the World" is featured in the Tomorrow Film Corp. movie "Deal of a Lifetime." Turning Blue is also a featured artist in a new film documentary entitled "20 Years of Punk," while NBC television producers used "Papercut" in a May 2002 episode of "Just Deal."
"'Repli-kate' was made by the same people who did 'American Pie,'" Thomas said. "I actually saw the movie for the first time not too long ago. It came out on DVD, I'm sure there was a good reason! It never made it into the theaters here in America, although It was in the theaters overseas. I know some people over in England that saw the movie in the theaters when it came out and they liked it! It's just one of those teen sex movies like 'American Pie' was; it was kind of like 'Weird Science,' remember that movie? Two guys create a robotic kind of girl. It was cool being a part of it."
Well I guess it's time for the obvious question. So far it's been the white elephant sitting in the corner that no one wants to talk about. But it is a topic that demands attention, so we must address it. Rhode Island, the Great White fire, how has things changed?
"It's monumental," Thomas stated. "You can imagine that in a state this small, you really tend to know everybody, especially in the sense of music. This is a state where people really support the music and you tend to see the same faces at every show you attend. I remember growing up and going to shows myself. You see the same people, you don't really know them, but you recognize them. After this happened, I was reading the paper and it was like, 'I know these people.' They were people that had connections to our band. Our drummer knew a few who died, we all had connections.
"When I was younger I was in a band that played there. I used to go to shows there." Thomas continued, "It's completely rocked this state. The future of the local music scene is really up in the air now. Clubs are being forced to get up to code with their fire standards and some can't afford to do it. Even some of the larger venues can't afford to do it. They are discussing legislation that states that if you put on a show with patrons under 21, all ages shows, it would require a fire marshal and two cops. Already some clubs are stepping forward and saying that they can't afford that. The fire will certainly have long-term effects here.
"The first show we played after the fire was the day after the fire. This was at our most popular venue in Providence. We played with a national touring band and actually had a good turnout considering," Thomas goes on. "We had several hundred kids there, but it was a real strange feeling the whole night. The fire had just happened, they were still pulling bodies out. It was still all over the news and we had to play the show. The kids were like zombies. Everyone was kind of on edge. The day after our show, 'American High Five' played at the same venue. They pre-sold 500 tickets, but only 100 kids went. It seems that most of the venues now, since the fire, have worked out their emergency exits and they make announcements. For example, the last time we played at Lupo's, we have a banner with our name on it, now they are requiring that we have certification that the banner is fireproof. Anything we bring on stage, other than our equipment, must be certified."
Understanding that Turning Blue has signed with a small indie label, I was curious if they had the chance to get out and tour a bit.
"Regionally we are getting out," Thomas replied. "New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York. This summer we are planning a full-blown, few-weeks-at-a-time tour up and down the east coast. That was really the intent of getting the record out in the first place. We want to get out there and build our name."
Have you been getting airplay?
"Yes, we have been getting a little bit," answered Thomas. "We are meeting with the local alternative rock station about getting our first single spun in regular rotation. This is a big thing for a local band on an indie label. This has never happened around here before. It's funny because every year this station sponsors a listeners' poll. Last year we really didn't play too much because we were working on the record. But last year, the listeners voted for the best bands in Rhode Island and we were voted in the top three. We were like, 'How did that happen? We didn't really do anything!' It was surprising. We got an e-mail from our label informing us of the poll. We only played five shows all year!"
Support from the local radio stations is paramount for a young band. Unfortunately, music is more than just writing great songs, it's a business and Turning Blue understands this. Over the past couple of years, they have taken a handful of happy punk rock songs and parlayed them into a recording contract and new CD. They have a long summer ahead of them, hopefully bringing Turning Blue to a venue near you. And then, in the fall, they expect to begin work on their next album. Take the time to find this band. You won't be sorry.
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