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Do you think it could have been what it was without having that very intense, very personal, conflict happen?

Samezvous: Umm...

Do you think your art suffered for it, or do you feel that you came through the better because of it?

Samezvous: That's a good question. I guess it depends on how you look at it. From my point of view I feel like I came through the better for it. In artistic terms, it depends on how you view For Ramona, because For Ramona is my reaction to having gone through that experience.

Your second release is quite a shift from the emotional intensity of your self-titled debut. For Ramona is a very tender album.

Samezvous: All that craziness and all the bitterness and fighting that went on during the first album eventually was what, in my case, I needed to learn how to love. And so For Ramona was me learning how to love. You get to a point with addiction where it becomes surrender. You just have to surrender to something and say, "You know what? This is out of my control."

[ for ramona ]
[ give a listen! ] "Will You Go to
Heaven?" MP3

It's the drowning man taking down whoever he can along with him.

Samezvous: Exactly. And sometimes it's the only way that you can really help them. You have to say, "You know what, I'm there for you anytime, any day, but I can't live my life for you. I can't continue to feed your addiction, because it's continuing to feed my own addictions, too."

I have my addictions. They might not be to narcotics, but I have my addictions -- I have my bad habits, my bad ways of thinking, my negativities that feed on the situation. It's a constant cycle.

After the first album was completed, I went into the studio alone and told myself that I was going to create something beautiful and really pretty that expresses where I want to be. I wanted to find a better place. For Ramona was me, for the first time in my life, not being afraid.

Am I mistaken in thinking that there was a considerable delay between the release of your first album and For Ramona?

Samezvous: There was a significant space. For Ramona had been recorded about two years before it came out, and the first album had been recorded about four years before it came out. They were somewhat successive. As soon as the first one was done, For Ramona was begun.

How did you feel after For Ramona was released?

Samezvous: I was very happy. It wasn't intended to be an album, actually. We'd gone into the studio to record the first album and had spent a lot of money in the process. And although it sounded good, I thought I could do better if I had more time, and what not. So I took out a big ole loan, put in a lot of hard work and built my own studio.

For Ramona was me just going out into my studio every night and recording ideas here and there, and trying to express a different side of myself. One day after doing this for some time it just struck me that I needed to do something with it, so I phoned up a friend and said, "Hey, I've got a bunch of songs. Wanna mix 'em?" We mixed them together and decided there was enough for an album.

It was done, but it took two years before Loveless Records signed us and put it out.

There's an interesting story behind you hooking up with Loveless. According to popular lore, you'd broken up with a girlfriend and were flipping through a music magazine when you came across an advertisement for Loveless and decided it was a sign. Is that really what happened?

Samezvous: That's exactly what happened. For Ramona was done and I decided that I needed to do something with it. In fact, the first album still hadn't been released at that point. We had a bunch of labels turn us down, but I still felt that it was something half-decent and decided to send out a bunch of packages again. I was at my studio going through the back of Magnet Magazine and as soon as I saw Loveless I decided that I had to send them one.

It's quite funny because I'd never been a huge My Bloody Valentine fan. I respected them, but never really got into their music. So when I saw the Loveless ad, the whole My Bloody Valentine thing didn't even occur to me. I just saw a picture of a guy who looked like he'd just gotten dumped by his girlfriend [laughs], and thought, "I know that feeling!"

I sent the package out and they didn't sign us. The first year I was in communication with them there was no talk of being signed. At Loveless, John Richards had gotten the CD and we'd been in contact. He played it a couple of times on KEXP, where he also deejays, and seemed to like it. I didn't even know he was involved in the label as much as he was; I just thought he was on the periphery as well as doing a deejay gig. I also didn't realize that KEXP was as big a station as it is, too. I just thought that it was a small college station -- like most college stations are. I started getting e-mails from people who were calling into the station asking where they could buy my music, and it finally built to a point where I asked John if we could do something, and he said, "Yeah, we can do something." So... it worked out.

Which brings us to your most recent Loveless release, Leaving VA, an album that takes the elements of your first two releases and balances them out.

[ samezvous ]

Samezvous: To a certain extent it does, yeah. Definitely. There was a very conscious effort to make something that sounded really interesting; that wasn't just an acoustic guitar, but instead was aurally stimulating. At the same time, though, I really wanted to express some other ideas.

First and foremost, I consider myself a songwriter. I feel that some of the songs on the first album got lost in a lot of noise, which I love, but not everyone can really hear the songs and hear its meaning because there's so much noise. For example, at the end of For Ramona is a hidden track that's the acoustic version of "Tornado," which is a 20-minute song on the first CD. It's the same song, but it's just been stripped down. I wanted to keep the song at the forefront, but also make it interesting to listen to as much as possible within my abilities.

I take it Leaving VA was written and recorded entirely by you?

Samezvous: Yes, it was entirely me. Leaving Virginia was entirely me holed up in a room, surrounded by all different kinds of instruments, talking to myself, basically.

Is there a particular sound or artistic ideal that you're trying to achieve and/or define yourself with? Or, do you let the muse take you where it will?

Samezvous: I am guided by luck, basically. I don't consciously write a song. It's something I've never done. At least, when I have it's never worked. Every song I've ever written is a matter of pure luck. A melody comes to your head, and I'm just lucky enough to have caught a few. And then there's a lot of work to try and harness whatever vibe and mood came with it. I just try to follow whatever comes.

At this point, I'm backed up with songs and it's kinda tough. I have three new albums that are basically ready to go, and as I write new stuff it's tough because I know that it's going to the end of a long line.

On your website I believe I read that you had nearly 100 albums worth of recorded material. Is that true?

Samezvous: That's all stuff that I've done. The three albums I'm talking about here is all stuff that I want to do.

How do you choose what gets released? What gets the full band treatment and what stays locked up at home?

Samezvous: I try out every idea that comes. And with some of them you'll have one cool verse or whatever, and you can't find anything more. That's all there is, no matter how many times you try and play it. That either gets discarded or put someplace where I might come back to it some day, if the mood ever strikes me. Then with some songs, you sit down and write one word and suddenly everything comes out and it's perfect. You lay down a guitar track and it sounds exactly the way you want it to sound.

It's such a fluke and you can't predict it. I know immediately when something works or doesn't. I can listen back to something and know that something is or isn't working. And if it goes somewhere, then I just keep following it until it's finished or until it doesn't inspire me anymore.

[ photo by justin renney ]
photo by justin renney
[ give a listen! ] "Reasons to Smile" MP3

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