Three Imaginary Girls

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“Synchronicity is the star of Radio8Ball” was what the program’s host, a musician and actor named Andras Jones, declared when I saw his program at the Little Red Studio a few weeks ago.

The idea behind Radio8Ball is that audience members write down questions that they are pondering and several are drawn randomly throughout the course of the evening. Jones discusses the question with the audience member and then a wheel is spun, and will land on a number that corresponds with a song by the show’s musical guest, who will then perform the song and Jones, the audience member and the artist will discuss how the song answers the question that the audience member was thinking about.

It’s a really amazing show that is carried by Jones’ charisma and intelligence, as well as the musical guests who appear on the show. The next episodes of Radio8Ball feature the Radio8Band (which is discussed below) and We Are Golden, on August 26 and September 2, respectively. There will also be a performance of Radio8Ball at Bumbershoot on Monday, September 7 (at Theater Puget Sound at 4:45pm). I spoke with Andras Jones, as well as Radio8Ball band member and frequent returning champion Jon Auer (who I have, full disclosure, known as a friend for several years), as well as Radio8Ball sponsor Dibspace’s founder Dominic Canterbury over drinks at Liberty Bar on Capitol Hill last week.

When I was at the Radio8Ball show about six weeks ago, you said that the star of the show is synchronicity. What do you mean by that?

Andras Jones: It’s really the star of the show is the format of the show. You ask me a question and then doing something that randomly selects some piece of pop culture, in our case we use music to answer that question. When you engage the synchronicity with the question synchronizes with the song and everyone in the room is paying attention to the synchronization that happens. I say it during the show that synchronicity is not something that is happening sometimes, it’s happening all the time, it’s just sometimes we notice it. There’s something about this game and asking questions and picking things at random and seeing how they connect. The more people who are in the room and the more attention there is, the more that happens. It’s pretty cool on the radio and it’s really cool in a room full of people.

Your run of shows at Little Red Studio is nearing its end and then you’ll move to Theater Off Jackson in the International District. Will that be right after Bumbershoot?

AJ: No, we’re doing Bumbershoot on September 7, with the Radio8Band and then we do two more shows at Little Red and those will be great. They’re with Jes Raymond and The Moore Brothers. The Moore Brothers are San Francisco guys and they’re awesome. There is also the show on the 26th, which is next week with the Radio8Band and then the next week, on September 2, we have We Are Golden with Sarah Rudinoff, who is also playing with the Radio8Band at Bumbershoot.

The Radio8Band, who I’ll talk about now, features Jon Auer from The Posies and Big Star and who is with us here; and Scott Taylor, who is sort of my secret weapon from Olympia and is a left-handed genius boy but has great harmonies, a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and our drummer is Chad Austinson (from the band Congratulations). They play songs that have been performed on Radio8Ball in the past. They are a cover band that is performing only songs by the other indie songwriters who have played on the show. They’ll be covering songs by people like Bart Davenport, Rachel Ries, Ian Moore.

Jon Auer: Michael Jackson.

AJ: He was awesome on Radio8Ball.

JA: He was really into synchronicity. The Police record.

AJ: Actually, I would love to hear a Michael Jackson version of the song “Synchronicity [II]”.

JA: Right, with him singing that line “packed like lemmings into shiny, metal boxes” in an Off the Wall falsetto. Don’t stop until you get enough on that one, right?

AJ: That’s why Jon Auer is a perfect artist for Radio8Ball, because his mind is so rampant and encyclopedic. That’s one of the factors that ends up playing out stage when he’s the artist. The artist changes the vibe of the show, so when the synchronicity is the star, the other star is the artist. It’s a very interesting showcase for the artist to perform in because they get paid attention to and they really set the tone for the whole show. Jon, the first time you were on the show, you didn’t really know what you were in for. You had seen it, but what was the experience?

JA: It was a couple of years ago. At this point, I have a pretty long-standing history with Radio8Ball and I heard about it through the grapevine and there was a nice little piece in The Stranger a couple years back. It was back when you were at the Capitol Hill Arts Center and it just sounded very intriguing. My motivation for doing it was out of a) it was something different to do and it was something in my career that I hadn’t done before and b) it sounded like a fun idea. I wasn’t quite prepared for how addictive it was to have one of the lyrics to one of your songs used for an interpretation to a question to the universe, if you will. That was a really cool jolt and I got hooked on it. It started as a fun thing and I recognized the whole synchronicity but it was something I just wanted to do. How many times have I done it?

AJ: Twice at the Capitol Hill Arts Center, once in LA, once at The Triple Door. Actually, I think it’s three times at Capitol Hill Arts Center, so it’s five times you’ve done the show. Plus, you’ve been on the radio a bunch, including down in Olympia when I was on KAOS. You and Andrea Wittgens, and you’ve done more shows than her, have been the two artists that have been on the show the most.

JA: The funny thing is that my initial approach was, I’m a believer in synchronicity, but I think I come to the show more as the guy making a snide commentary about synchronicity – but I will say that when it does happen and it does occur, it is pretty hard to dismiss. When that person asked that one question and somehow and spun the wheel and it lands on what could seemingly be the only answer for that song. That’s the moment I’m a believer, but I do have a lot of fun with it because I can provide a foil for someone like Andras.

Speaking of stars of the show, one of the big reasons I’m involved with it is because I like Andras Jones. Beyond as a performer, he does this because he loves it. He wasn’t doing on the radio on KAOS all those years because it was about making millions of dollars. He does it because he believes in it and has kept it alive through all of these incarnations. I am an Andras Jones fan as well.

When I was at the Little Red Studio for your show a few weeks ago, I noticed that people are really listening closely to the songs. It’s not normally how I listen to a song for the first time. I listen for a chorus or a hook, but here, people are listening intently for meanings in all of the verses.

AJ: I will say that one of the things that really inspired the show was being a frustrated singer-songwriter who went out, and unless you went out and happened to be playing at Largo (a famous LA club known for being completely silent when performers are on stage)… well, I remember going to see very successful artists playing in really cool venues and there will be people as loud as this room is right now. I don’t know what drove me crazier when they were doing it during my show or at a show that I really wanted to listen to. We’re doing it as a way to force people in a way that they don’t feel like they’re being forced. You don’t have to yell at them, you don’t have to be like Largo and hold a stick and say “you’re not going to talk”. It’s not even out of respect for the artist, it’s because they are interested. People ask questions like “is my relationship going to work?” and you can see that people really want to know the answer. It’s like talking during a therapy session, you just don’t do it. You’re really right there. To me, that’s my favorite part of the show, where the audience sits there and listens to an artist like Jon Auer and Raina Rose. Even an artist like Jon, who people pay attention to and listen to all the time, it’s just a different thing. People are hanging on every word. I believe every songwriter deserves a good listening and they really sound better when you’re paying attention.

Let’s talk about Dibspace, because Dominic is here with us, too. When I was at that show, you mentioned that you were looking for sponsors and was that how you found Dominic and Dibspace?

AJ: Yeah, pretty much. To me, this is the most fun kind of the sponsor. Everyone wants to make money and I’m a big fan of US currency but this is just so much more fun. He’s inventing his own money and has a system for delivering it in a way that really works. One of the Sacred Ushers of the show said I had to check it out and I thought it was going to be a weird “hippy dippy” thing, but I went and checked it out and found that everything I could need to make a movie or TV show, I could make here. What there isn’t, I could fill in. We met here, at Liberty Bar, and pitched the idea to Dominic as using Dibspace to create a show for no money. It’s a great advertising method. It ultimately creates a DibSpace economy.

Dominic Canterbury: What Andras presented to me was this idea of bringing in the music community and production community, a creative community and rather than have them sitting around with nothing to do with their time, have them start to collaborating with them. If we could get them to use this currency, they could start trading with each other for their own project. You could have a musician hiring other musicians and a recording studio, but using an alternative currency.

What Andras pitched to me that got me excited was the idea of reenergizing the music community. Right now, they are lagging because US dollars are kind of scarce right now, but we are enabling them to work with one another in getting this whole community on board here. It’s all outside of the US dollars.

AJ: Plus, I promised I could get Andy Dick (on Radio8Ball).

Have you?

AJ: Well, yes and no. He’s an old, old friend of mine and has been on the radio show many, many times.

We’re adding this section which is a celebrity Skype segment and the technology is there to do it super-cheap. We’re going to have Andy Dick on his computer Skype in and ask a question and show him on the wall and he picks a number between one and eight and that starts off the second act. So, at [this] week’s show, we’re going to test it with Dominic Skype-ing in and asking a question. By the end of run at Little Red, I really want to have Andy Dick as part of it, because he’s a dirty whore, in the best way.

JA: Andras is an “idea man”. He’s always had these ideas and has been able to put them together. “Celebrity Skype”? What a great idea, and the first I’ve heard of it.

Where did the idea for Radio8Band come about? Who said “why don’t you cover songs that have been on Radio8Ball before?

AJ: Honestly, it’s because this guy, Scott Taylor, we have this band called My Brave Face.

JA: You know the My Brave Face thing, right? [Andras] plays Elvis Costello and Scott plays Paul McCartney.

AJ: We do all of the songs that Elvis and Paul wrote together. We do them as if Paul had joined the Attractions, they had kicked Bruce Thomas out, and had gone out and toured with those songs. It’s the thing he would do now, but before he figured out he could tour with Burt Bacharach or Allen Toussaint. I’m really bad about figuring out songs, but I wanted to learn the songs that are played on the show as a way of getting to figure out the songs.

It became clear that that became an idea in Radio8Ball, but it didn’t make sense to have me singing it. So we brought in someone like Jon, who it may be hard to get the same excitement because, for example, I think (Jon’s song) “Six Feet Under” has come up in every show. I love interpreting it each time, but to put Jon in a different situation, to learn these different songs. Plus, “Six Feet Under” may come up again because it’s in the setlist. By the way, do you remember when it came up last time? At The Triple Door?

There was a little girl who was nervous about her first day of school and she was moving to a new school, from preschool to kindergarten.

JA: Oh yeah. That came up and I was like “do we have to?”

AJ: Those are the amazing moments.

JA: There was another moment that I want to relate. We were on the radio, was it on KAOS in Olympia? I posted on one of my websites that I was doing it and one of my fans from Iowa got online and streamed it. She was one of the people who called in. I had a song called “Josephine” and she called in to ask, because she was pregnant, and she called in to ask if she should keep the baby. The answer to her question was my song “Josephine”, which was a song I wrote about how my father was given up for adoption at the age of six months and didn’t know her and she died before he ever got to meet her. This was the answer to question. That was the thanks she got for taking the effort to stream the show and call in.

But I do still know her and she ended up having the baby and everything was fine. It proves that that even though it’s about synchronicity, it’s also about looking at life in a different way. It could be a catalyst for any way that you want to take it. That’s why I like it.

AJ: Both of these things are things that I really love about the format. It possibly goes towards the truth that may be difficult to look at. If week keep it light enough and fun enough, you can go…if I remember about “Josephine,” that was about the fears and thoughts and concerns that she was having. It doesn’t always say “this is how it’s going to go” but it says this is what you’re thinking and all of a sudden you’re going to hear it in a song, and it’s beautiful. Your own voice in your head could be horrible, but the synchronicity is finding yourself in somebody else’s songs. It ends up being a place where you can hear some scary stuff without it being that scary.