ANOTHER FULL DOSE OF LOVE: Beloved veteran vocalist, composer and multi-instrumentalist Evie Sands and her band have spent most of the summer months of 2019 in the studio in preparation for the release of Scandal Du Jour, her highliy anticipated follow up to 2017's acclaimed Shine For Me on her own R-Spot label  Sands (pictured above with bassist Teresa Cowles, drummer Eric Vesper and guitarist Jason Berk prior to a live performance in February 2019) discussed the creative process with Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell, as well as her undertaking the extraordinary step of underwriting the project via a Crowd Funding Campaign. Long time colleague and keyboardsman Adam Marsland also weighed in from Southeast Asia, where he took some time from working on the second season of his video blog, Adam Walks Around and post-production work for recent live dates by the Association to particpate in the Scandal Du Jour sessions. (Click on the above image to enlarge).

By Michael McDowell

Creative autonomy is a tremendous asset for the recording artist. But it comes with considerable responsibilities.

It was the Monkees who initially paved the way for creative autonomy among artists who were signed to a major label, which they did via their so-called Palace Revolt in early 1967. While there had been artists since the dawn of the recording industry in the late 1880s who had contributed to the outcome in various extracurricular capacities, the most frequently invoked methodology up until that point had been the so-called Team Approach. 

The Team Approach basically involved drawing from the most adept sources in every capacity (vocalists, musicians, composers, producers and engineers) to produce the best possible results. But while that template served a purpose for many an artist whose gifts were not multi-faceted, it often produced a sense of discontentment among the more visionary among them, who were predisposed to seeing their efforts through to completion themselves. 

Since the Monkees as a band were blessed in each of those attributes from within, it was inevitable that the continued invoking of the Team Approach on their behalf was not the most viable option for their ongoing aesthetic fulfillment. To be certain, every band and solo artist signed to a major label in their wake owes them a debt of tremendous gratitude for the quantum leap they took in that respect.

Over the course of the next decade, creative autonomy took another giant step. With the advent of the so-called Punk / New Wave movement in the mid-1970s, artists determined to chart their own course began to do so by taking over the business end of the process, as well. Independent labels sprang up in great numbers, with artists often doing their own management, publicity and booking. Not surprisingly, the results varied widely.

Before long, a number of veteran artists followed suit. Disenchanted with long term major label affiliations for a variety of reasons, artists who had been in the spotlight for years and even decades at that point began to assume creative autonomy over every facet of their career. 

Among the earliest to make the transition and flourish in the process were country music legend Bill Anderson and Byrds co-founder Roger McGuinn. Both were blessed with a rare savvy on all fronts, and both continue to oversee their entire operations to the present day.

On the other hand, a number of veteran artists have learned the hard way that being signed to a major label may not have been such a bad option after all.

During their seasons of their respective affiliations with major labels, the artists entered the studio, laid down their tracks, and then performed a series of live dates in support of their efforts. Upon occasion, their touring schedule was augmented by interviews with the press, radio and television. But in general, that was the extent of their contribution to the process.

Cinecyde co-founder and front man Gary Reichel was a key figure in the creative autonomy boom during the late 1970s. It was he who astutely observed at the time that having made the greatest recording in the world was ultimately an exercise in futility if others were unable to hear it.

And while it may not have been readily apparent to other artists as of yet, that was where their major label affiliation was often a blessing. 

It is not uncommon, even in the present day, for a long dormant artist to opt to return to recording and performing, only to discover the hard way that the creative process is not what it used to be. Armed with great ideas and a renewed sense of purpose, they rebound into the studio and pour their hearts into their comeback projects.

But then comes the inevitable question. Now what?

The former major label artist is then confronted with the reality that was readily apparent to the ambitious independents of the mid to late 1970s, who had no such mainstream experience from which to draw. And that is where Gary Reichel's aforementioned observation comes into play.

Beloved musical visionary Ron Dante was among the first to come to this realization, during his affiliation with Roulette Records in 1964 - 1965 as a member of the Detergents. Weary of seemingly endless live dates in support of the group's November 1964 Leader Of The Laundromat single, Dante approached label head Morris Levy to inquire as to when the gifted trio might realize tangible compensation for their efforts.

While generally not remembered for his altruistic tendencies, Levy nonetheless gave Dante a bit of sage advice that succintly put the matter in perspective: "Your money is in touring. You let me worry about the records".

In other words, in that era of the Team Approach, Dante and his Detergents colleagues had done their part by recording and composing a significant percentage of their material, as borne out in their classic The Many Faces Of The Detergents album. It was at that point that their work for Roulette was done. 

But for Roulette (and any other major label, for that matter), the work had just begun. Mixing the master tapes. Post-production. Album cover design. Promotions. Advertising. Mailing out an endless stream of promo copies and press kits. Follow up. 

It was a gargantuan process; one that remains beyond the reach of many artists now, let alone a half century ago. Yet Dante ultimately learned his lessons well, having been a leading light on a variety of musical fronts in the ensuing decades. 

In turn, it was also to Bill Anderson and Roger McGuinn's credit that each succeeded in that respect at such a relatively early stage. As a former newspaper reporter, Anderson had the blessing of the so-called "nose for news" that enabled him to pay closer attention to such details than did many of his colleagues. 

In turn, McGuinn's career had run the gamut of experience, from session work for such artists as Bobby Darin and the Chad Mitchell Trio to pre-Byrds major label projects with the City Surfers and the Beefeaters. Their respective experiences and keen attention to detail both served them well in the long run.

Thankfully, other veteran artists with that "nose for news" and a wealth of experience borne of such misadventures as those which initially befell Ron Dante have taken the proverbial bull by the horns and have seen their careers blessed exponentially as a result.

Enter the beloved veteran five-tool player, Evie Sands.

With a wealth of major label affiliations to her credit (including ABC Paramount, A&M, Capitol / Haven and RCA Victor, as well as brief but most memorable associations with the storied Blue Cat and Cameo labels), Sands over the past few decades has navigated a healthy transition from the majors to the indies (fellow vet Chip Taylor's Train Wreck Records), and most recently overall creative autonomy via her own R-Spot Records. In the process (aided an abetted in no small part by an unwaveringly devoted long term fan base), Sands has continued to excel on all fronts. 

To that effect, Sands and her colleagues have spent much of the summer of 2019 in the studio, working on her forthcoming and highly anticipated new album, Scandal Du Jour. In doing so, she is taking the ambitious step of underwriting the project via a Crowd Funding Campaign.

"Crowd funding campaigns depend upon lots of sharing and spreading the word to work out successfully", said Sands.

"The campaign goes live (on the eleventh of September). It's all massively helpful!"

While an untested concept to date in terms of her own career, the Crowd Funding Campaign, if proven successful (as it doubtlessly will be) will underwrite for the time being both the creative process and the resultant business follow up. To her considerable credit, Sands had already more than proven her mettle on all fronts in 2017 with her highly acclaimed Shine For Me for R-Spot. By all accounts, the forthcoming Scandal Du Jour should follow suit accordingly.

"Scandal Du Jour is a full length album", Sands said, in comparison to the six-track Shine For Me.

"Twice as many songs and ideas to explore. The album will have a mix of high energy, somewhat of an edge, soulful stuff, moody textures and melodic earworms."

Quite a diverse mixture from an artist whose methodology to date has been to produce successive recordings that can at once both augment and stand in contrast to her previous efforts. And it is in that respect that the Team Approach continues to serve her mission statement well.

"The band is Teresa Cowles - bass and vocals, Jason Berk - guitars and vocals, Eric Vesper - drums and vocals, and me on guitar, keyboards and vocals", Sands said.

"Kurt Medlin will be adding percussion."

Sands and her band have previously worked together extensively in various capacities. In the spirit of the Team Approach, each is remarkably gifted in their respective roles. To wit, bassist Cowles is both a veteran of long time favorites Dragster Barbie, and also portrayed renowned session bassist Carole Kaye in the acclaimed Brian Wilson biopic, Love And Mercy.

"I love my band", Sands said.

"We all love making music together and we're all the best of friends. I think it affects the music in a special way."

To that effect, the physical presence of one esteemed colleague is missed at the Scandal Du Jour sessions. Long time band member, Cockeyed Ghost co-founder and Karma Frog Records CEO Adam Marsland presently divides the majority of his time between various locales in Southeast Asia, where he is presently filming Season Two of his acclaimed Adam Walks Around video series.

Nonetheless, through the miracle of technology, Marsland has been a welcome participant in the Scandal Du Jour proceedings.

"Adam is contributing at least one keyboard track for a song, remote recorded in Asia", said Sands.

"Others may be enlisted as the album takes shape."

For Marsland, his ability to participate is a relatively easy byproduct of his current video ventures.

"I have a little portable studio that I carry around with me", said Marsland.

"I borrowed a keyboard at a home studio owned by a friend of mine, Jaye Muller in Cebu (Philippines). 

"Basically, I just set everything up and banged out the part while Jaye and his wife were waiting for me to come down for dinner!"

Marsland readily echoes Sands' enthusiasm for their ongoing collaboration. Both had worked together regularly in Marsland's ambitious Adam Marsland's Chaos Band, in which Sands served as guitarist.

"I may do another thing for her, as well", Marsland concurred.

"These are both songs that we did in the early days of Adam Marsland's Chaos Band, which I did some arrangement on. I think Evie wanted me to play on those tunes because of that, which I appreciate!"

To underscore the success of the best of both worlds mission statements of both Marsland and Sands, Marsland has also devoted much of his on the road studio time in recent weeks to working on a project for yet another beloved veteran band.

"I did recently get asked to do some work on live tapes by the current line up of the Association", he said.

"It's a whole concert. But basically, I just did one song to see if the approach I would take to mixing it would be valid. 

"The last I heard, one of the guys in the band liked it and was going to the other guys. I don't know if it will go beyond that or not. Hope so!"

Meanwhile, Sands and her colleagues are persevering in the studio with considerable enthusiasm.

"At the moment, (I am) developing the next few songs to record, and will begin adding on to the first six", she said.

"So far, we've recorded six basic tracks, six lead vocals, and some backing vocals. The band recorded the tracks together live."

In the process, there should be much in Scandal Du Jour to both placate the long term devotees and please the more recent converts to her cause.

"There's a special synergy that happens in the room when a band records live", Sands noted.

"Listening to each other, in the moment with each other, and playing off of each other. Different nuanced ideas arise, evolve and are captured."

Even so, Sands is not averse to opting for alternative methodologies if the circumstances warrant it.

"It's fine to do it piecemeal, too, with each element recorded one at a time", she said.

"Both ways are good. It's still about songs, feelings, passion, emotion and telling the story. That said, recording tracks live as a band is a blast!"

To ensure optimum results, Sands has remained loyal to proven working relationships in the technological settings, as well.

"Steve Refling is again at the board", she said.

"I love working with that guy!"

Concurrently, Sands is dividing her time in the studio with her unwavering, ardent support of Major League Baseball's premier franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sands is part of an ad hoc entertainment industry quartet that professes and promotes camaraderie between the industry and the team. The foursome also includes Balancing Act and Thee Holy Brothers co-founder and renowned session musician Willie Aron, fellow journalist and author Domenic Priore, and Blitz Magazine Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell.

"Would be nice to have a downtown parade this year", Sands said.

"Lots of baseball and, I'm sure, frustration to endure. Some opponents will be formidable. Let's hope they can get over it and find a second wind to blaze into October!"

In the meantime, Sands and her colleagues are persevering through the studio process with a healthy mix of creative autonomy and the Team Approach, which in her case is almost certain to guarantee the usual optimum results.

"Very happy and excited about this one", she said.

And if previous triumphs are any indication, Scandal Du Jour is certain to be far, far more than just a (in the words of one of her earlier triumphs for the A&M label), Close Your Eyes, Cross Your Fingers moment.