Here is my interview with the entertaining, witty, and talented frontman for The Sights, Eddie Baranek. The Sights is an impressive rock band from Detroit who in the last year, released their latest album, Left Over Right, and they also toured with Tenacious D.
Alex Obert: Tell me the first band you were obsessed with.
Eddie Baranek: The Beatles.
AO: What did you like about them?
EB: The songs. The songs, the voices, everything. It just made sense to me.
AO: Present day, what’s on your iPod?
EB: That’s a good one, man. Well, early Bob Seger is what I was just jogging to. Are you in Connecticut?
AO: Uh huh.
EB: So it might not make sense to you if I say Bob Seger because everybody thinks really cheesy, cheesy Bob Seger. But in the early days, he was really, really, really good. So early Bob Seger, Ike and Tina Turner, and Carl Perkins.
AO: About your latest album, let’s get into that, writing the title track, Left Over Right, how did you develop that song with the catchy guitar riff?
EB: (laughs) It’s funny you say “catchy guitar riff”. Do you mean the opening line, the note?
EB: When I did that, I thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever did. It’s one note and I was like, “This is the dumbest thing I had ever done.” It’s one note. How can this be good? And then I did it, and then my buddies are like, “Oh, that’s good! That’s good!” People try to be too smart, they try to be too clever and it’s cooler to just keep it simple. It’s kind of like an AC/DC thing. So it was written just cause it was simple. I was going for simple.
AO: What’s your favorite track off the album?
EB: What’s yours?
AO: Probably that one.
EB: I like that one. I like Fool (I Can’t Stop Making Out With You) because there’s not really any guitar on it, it’s really just a wah-wah distorted harmonica. So that was kind of a cool new avenue, something different for us. Certainly hadn’t done it before.
AO: As it relates to your band, what’s the origin of your band name?
EB: It was just on a list of potential band names that the first drummer had, so there’s really no meaning beyond that. It was just the coolest name that we liked on the list.
AO: Another name, your album title, “Are You Green?”, how’d you come up with that?
EB: Oh man, you did your homework, dude. Well, we were a young three piece and I’m not into later Jimi Hendrix, but I really liked the first Jimi Hendrix album, “Are You Experienced?”. So it’s sort of a take on that. But also there was a book in the studio that we recorded at that had a joke that had something to do with boogers and something green. (laughs) It’s the dumbest story ever, but we combined our love of the first Jimi Hendrix album with this really, really, really shitty joke. And that became “Are You Green?”.
AO: Moving on with present day, tell me about this book that you wrote.
EB: Yeah! It plays into us having toured with Tenacious D last year. We wanted to do a release, but we wanted to do something different that wasn’t just, “Here’s another dozen songs that we’ve written and here we go.” So instead, we took all these online tour diaries that I had been writing for the local paper here in Detroit and they were posting them online, we took all those and mashed them together and that became our book, Taken Alive. And then we put a live DVD on the inside flap of that so that there’s still some music attached to the book and it’s not just text. We just wanted to do something different.
AO: The show I was at was the Mohegan Sun show, do you have any memories of that?
EB: Yeah! (laughs) That’s funny, man. When we got asked to do the Tenacious D tour, we looked at all the dates listed in the U.S. and we’re like, “Holy shit, we’re gonna play Red Rocks! That’s sweet!” And then we said, “Oh my God, we’re playing the Mohegan Sun Arena!” Now we’re in Detroit, so we had no knowledge of what the hell the Mohegan Sun Arena is or was. We just knew that it was Blah Blah Arena, so we started laughing. Actually on the tour, the term “Mohegan Sun” became a phrase on the tour where you had to play it cool. So if we’re backstage in New York and some Blah Blah comes backstage, and you’re trying not to freak out, you’re just like, “Keep it cool, dude. Mohegan Sun.” The one thing that I found funny that I remember was our bass player, Kyle. He’d be looking at himself on the big screen while we were playing on stage. I thought that was pretty funny.
AO: I also remember someone yelling out “Free Bird!” right when you started.
EB: (laughs) There’s another one! I remember the really, really nice backstage area. That was the end of the second leg of the Tenacious D tour and we drove straight home from there and when I got home the next day, which was the Fourth of July, I got home at twelve noon, and an hour later, my then girlfriend broke up with me. So Mohegan will always have a really strange place in my heart. But I kind of remember the Free Bird reference. I remember the crowd. The crowd was kind of into it, but kind of just whatever.
AO: I remember you were like, “Oh yeah, you’re cool!” to that Free Bird guy.
EB: (laughs) I probably said something dicky.
AO: Back to that tour, what are your first memories of listening to Tenacious D?
EB: Well, we played a show with them, we did two shows with them back in 2003 or 2004 in Chicago. And that’s sort of where we met those guys and then they came out and saw us a couple of times throughout the years like in LA and stuff. So we kind of knew each other and they wanted a rock n’ roll band on their tour. So to be able to reconnect with them on that first date we did in California, it was awesome because they’re a band who has a good live show, rather than a band that just a show with five dumbasses standing there saying, “Look at me! I can rock!” The first couple of gigs, it was fun to really just watch the show. I like that they put on that show. It’s pretty awesome.
AO: Did you bond with them over music tastes?
EB: A little bit. They did The Who medley. They did Pinball Wizard and several others. I remember talking to Jack about that and he’s pretty classic rock based. Midway through the tour dates, they started messing with the crowd and doing a song called “Jazz”. And it was literally the backing band and then Kyle would play the flute. And they would just play bullshit jazz work and Jack would just run around and go, “Jazz!” “Fourteen hours of…jazz!” It was great, man. They started doing that the second half of the tour. Certain cities were just pissed off. It was bad that I really think that I could say I bonded with them on that. I really liked that they were challenging the audience and not just saying, “Well, here we are. Tenacious D.” They were not gonna give the crowd exactly what they wanted. I really enjoyed that.
AO: Speaking of modern bands, I hear it in your music, would you say that Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl is an influence?
EB: I don’t know. Can you hear that? I don’t listen to them, but do you hear that enough?
AO: I hear it with his early work with Foo Fighters.
EB: I’ll give you a little bit of that. I like that first album. I remember the first single, This Is A Call. For me, that’s my favorite song of theirs. I’m not really too familiar or into their later stuff, but I really do enjoy This Is A Call. Or you go back to Nirvana, I think InUtero is just fucking insane. Dave Grohl’s drum sounds are just, oh my God, so good.
AO: A band from your area, are you friendly with Electric Six?
EB: Very friendly, yes. Awesome guys.
AO: What is it that you enjoy about their music?
EB: From day one, man, Dick Valentine, the first day I ever met that guy, he always had a good sense of humor. I know you can hear that and you know that in the music, but the guy is hilarious. Even before, they used to be called The Wildbunch. The Wildbunch were hilarious and that kind of morphed into Electric Six. And Dick Valentine, he’s just so funny, man. I love that guy. I don’t like guys that take shit too seriously. You’ve gotta have a little bit of a balance.
AO: You’re both from Detroit, what’s it like playing there? Tell me about that.
EB: Electric Six, The Wildbunch, I guess you could say, we sort of grew up in the same scene at the same time. Sort of like the late nineties coming into the 2000s or whatever you call those. I call it a rabid, wild circus. It was awesome. I was a teenager still, so I got to kind of see everything for the first time. Life was in color. It was like, “Woah! Chicks!” “Woah! Beer!” It was awesome. And the crowds were awesome. The crowds still are awesome. Everybody’s a little bit older, so things are a tad different. But it’s still pretty, pretty vibrant and there’s just a ton of new talent. Awesome shit. Always has been.
AO: Another band that kind of reminds me of your sound, are you familiar with The Hellacopters?
EB: Oh yeah, man! Love those guys! Hell yeah! We did a bunch of gigs in Sweden and we had a rowdy night with them. They took us around town. I love them dearly.
AO: Back to the shows, what do you feel makes a great frontman?
EB: Man, you’ve got some good ones! Journey of a Frontman, huh? (laughs) Somebody who moves, man. I think of James Brown. I always think of James Brown. Though he wasn’t a Detroit boy, I think of that showmanship. You can’t just get up there and sing your songs. You gotta sell your songs. And as much as I think of myself as a musician, I think of myself as an entertainer. And if people pay good money, you gotta bring it, man. You can’t just stand there like Oasis. I love those early Oasis records, but those guys just sit there. You’ve gotta have some showmanship.
AO: Speaking of early bands, if you could tell your 1999 self something, what would it be?
EB: (laughs) I don’t know. Fuck. What would you tell your younger self?
AO: I don’t even know. I never thought of that.
EB: (laughs) I don’t know, man. I don’t regret a thing. Do exactly what I do. I’m happy where I am. So I’d tell myself to relax and enjoy it.
AO: And look where it led you.
EB: Yeah. Life’s good.
AO: What are your interests, hobbies, and passions outside of music?
EB: I like history. I’m an American History dork. I like anything pertaining to that. But pretty much music is the obsession. I’m driving to work right now, I work at the School of Rock. I teach children about AC/DC and The Stones and shit like that. Pretty much my life revolves around music. But I like history.
AO: Have you had any memorable or notable music debates with bandmates or friends?
EB: There’s always arguments over what’s the best Bob Dylan record, that’s always an ongoing argument. There’s always one about the best Beatles record. There’s always Beatles vs. Stones. Things of that nature.
AO: Before we wrap up, I’m going to do a speed round with you. I’ll ask you questions and you just answer whatever comes to mind.
AO: Favorite frontman?
EB: Steve Marriott from Small Faces.
AO: Favorite one hit wonder?
EB: Oh God! Foundations, Build Me Up Buttercup.
AO: Circus by The Sights was on the Wedding Crashers soundtrack, where were you when you first saw the film?
EB: (laughs) I think I borrowed a DVD from somebody. I don’t remember where.
AO: Favorite Tenacious D song?
AO: Favorite guitar riff?
EB: Oh, Jesus Christ! Helter Skelter, The Beatles.
AO: If you could share an apartment with any musician, which would it be?
EB: A clean, sober one.
AO: Best live band?
EB: God, that’s a good question, man. I love the band I saw once called Jonathan Fire*Eater. They later became the band The Walkmen.
AO: In wrapping, do you have anything you’d like to plug?
AO: Do you have tour dates coming up?
EB: We’ve got a lot of stuff locally till the end of the year. Then there’s some stuff in the new year, but just check the website.
AO: Well I’d like to thank you very much for your time.
EB: Yeah! Thanks Alex!