As if The Way wasn't good enough, US prog band TCP have returned with an even more impressive platter of varied sounds on their sophomore release on 10T Records, Fantastic Dreamer. With a style that is at times modern yet also quite reflective of the 70's prog scene, TCP are quickly taking the genre by storm. Sea of Tranquility Staff Writer Mark Johnson had the chance to speak to the entire band recently about the creation of the new CD, their history, and plenty of other exciting topics.
SoT The album Fantastic Dreamer is your latest and it is available now through your website and will be available for pre - release starting April 11th, 2011. The album hits worldwide distribution on June 15th, 2011. Are you excited? (Just joking). What does it feel like to see your hard work finally make it to the marketplace?
Blake Tobias - Maybe one of the overriding feelings for me is relief. It's not incredibly easy to take all the necessary steps to get an album to the point of release. But yeah, beyond that point it is a bit exciting to see what sort of reactions take place around the world. I think artists feel that way in general - it's how listeners feel about it that counts, otherwise there's no point in distributing it.
SoT What are your hopes and expectations for Fantastic Dreamer?
Blake Tobias I'm hoping that it gives another reason for prog fans to listen to what I believe is the unique sound and style we offer. I think it's pretty hard to confuse us with any other band out there!
SoT I am so glad you guys found me. Normally I have to search for bands as good as yours. Describe your market outreach strategy, because I know few bands that have your skill.
Blake Tobias - Thank you so much....there are certainly a lot of talented bands out there. From an outreach standpoint we just make sure our web site and social sites, such as Facebook, are kept current and that we are interacting with fans there. As for market strategy, we don't have any tricks up our sleeve. 10T Records takes care of most of the marketing stuff and promos. My thought is that in the end, hopefully our music rises up enough to be a word of mouth sort of chain reaction. One thing is for sure, almost all prog people know other prog people and make their feelings known!
SoT Ok, let's talk about Fantastic Dreamer. Would you describe it as a concept album, or is it more of a collection of great songs with similar intentions?
Henry Tarnecky - Fantastic Dreamer is more of a collection of great songs, although there are some common lyrical threads that tend to weave through a good number of the tracks. These threads instinctively and intuitively probe the purpose of human life, love and the spirit element beyond the flesh or tangible world we see, because it might be said that this entire human experience is very much like a Fantastic Dream!
SoT "Schizoid and Guntrip" really kicks Fantastic Dreamer off well. But this song feels and sounds so different from the rest of the album. Was that intentional?
Jack Wright - "S&G" is a little different than the rest of Fantastic Dreamer... but not really different from other TCP pieces. It would probably fit nicely between He's Like You and Heavy Billy from our first album. It was Blake's suggestion to start Fantastic Dreamer off with S&G and I thought it was a great idea. Kinda gives the listener a little "smack in the face" you know... to get the blood flowing and listener alert for a continuing musical excursion....
SoT "In the Movie of You", wow, fell in love with this song instantly! Would you say it's loosely based on 'Vivling', (Vivien Leigh), and all the ills of the film industry, or is that a metaphor for a larger statement?
Henry Tarnecky - Yes
this track is loosely woven around the life of Vivien Leigh (nickname: Vivling). When I immersed myself in the music Jack and Blake had composed I started to perceive images of a starlet in the "Golden Age of Hollywood" (late 1920's thru the 1950's) when movie stars were made to appear bigger than life. As I studied the period, I stumbled upon Vivien and became interested in her career perspective and relationship with her husband the renowned actor Lawrence Olivia. It seemed her life was the perfect fit for the story I had in mind, and yes - there is a larger metaphor as the title suggests
Awareness, that each of our lives is being filmed.
SoT The concept for "Devotee" can be taken a number of ways. What was your intent? (that refrain is catchy by the way).
Henry Tarnecky - That characteristic is exactly what I intentionally try to do when writing lyrics. Having multiple meanings allows the interested listener to create his or her own interpretations. One might think this track is about devoted fans. My intent however, was to explore the sacred unconditional bond or connection between a spiritual teacher and his student, in which the student realizes that the ultimate choice in this world lies in the heart, mind and soul of the individual to live his life up or down.
SoT "Ambiance for the Active Mind" and "Releasing" are wonderful mixes of instrumentation combined with great lyrics. Please use these two songs and discuss how the song development process works within TCP.
Jack Wright - the process varies from song to song, both Ambiance for the Active Mind and Releasing followed close to what would be our typical process. The composer develops a backing track and offers it for consideration to the group. Typically the backing includes the minimal chords and essential elements enough to convey the basic structure, leaving it open as much as possible for each member to formulate their own individual interpretations. Then we develop and record our individual parts. This is an iterative process and the song takes on a life of its own during this phase, as if growing from the "stem cell" original backing into its completed form. It's amazing to witness some of the transformations.
SoT The title track, "Fading in the Rain" and "Upon Further Review" seem like a look at life in general. How does the band perceive the current state of affairs in the world? How do you hope your music can help bridge the gap between what was and where we are all headed?
Blake Tobias - There's a lot to be said about our state of affairs, but I'll limit it to just saying the world is still a chaotic place. It looks like a fair chunk of the developed world will be experiencing very trying financial times within the next few years. And who knows exactly what the result of the current Middle East unrest will be, but it may not be pretty. When I think of where society was and where it seems to be going, aside of some obvious advances on the surface, we are much the same at the core level of existence. If our music might help awake or reinforce certain people to the good they can do in our world, I count that as a definite bonus.
SoT "Vision", the epic closer, just takes your breath away. Where did the inspiration for those lyrics come from? There are so many high points for me, but what are your favorite parts?
Henry Tarnecky - Vision was the title provided by Glenn Arpino, who wrote the beautiful keyboard themes and overall structure of the track. I was emotionally inspired to write the foundational lyrics while listening and driving five hours straight from Pennsylvania to Boston. It's a story of two very close old childhood friends, one of which has a vision via an out of body experience and wants to share the feelings and imagery he perceives, all the while reflecting on his life and its purpose from beginning to end. The friends are depicted in the last line: "There's a photograph when we were young
you were laughing and my eyes we're closed!" which by the way is one of my favorite lyrical lines on the track, especially suited to end this epic - and the CD.
Blake Tobias ha-ha, yeah...Henry's got that fantastic mobile studio the car. Wish I could do that.
Jack Wright lol! Yeah
well when you see me driving down the road playing "air guitar" or "air drums" you know I am working on the next track! and uh
. might want to stay back just a little extra
. Just in case!
SoT Will you go on tour to support this album? If so, will you promise to come to the Pacific Northwest?
Blake Tobias - We'd love to play there but sorry to say I don't think touring is in our likely future. The logistics of our situation and the financial realities of a touring prog band are not great catalysts for us to tour. However, we are discussing the potential of doing a future prog festival if the opportunity came along.
Jack Wright We are hoping to have Henry appear with my "other" band, The Quantum Kids for a TCP meets Qkids (QCP?) performance July 17 at the Columbia Lakefront in Columbia, MD. A number of TCP songs will be on the setlist.
SoT If it's ok, let's talk about your first album "The Way". "You Can Never Know" is another great statement on life. That pause for "Are you still there?" was cool. It works perfectly with the song structure. Who was inspired to create that cool moment?
Blake Tobias - That's all Henry who's got total carte blanche with all lyrics. He has such special creativity and intuition with those things. If I remember correctly, Henry once questioned whether that phrase should be taken out Jack and I were emphatic: "absolutely not!". We loved it when we heard it. I think everyone does.
SoT In my review I described "I'm Me" and "Mankind" as the 'Human Suite', was that a fair assessment?
Henry Tarnecky - It's interesting that you perceived a human connection in these two tracks as they do explore that realm, but in different ways. I'm Me is about a 'Nāga, or serpent deity in Buddhist mythology in which a fully enlightened Nāga could transmit and/or transport hidden treasure in and out of the human realm. In I'm Me a Nāga or serpent, in human form, attempts to become a monk; when telling it that such ordination was impossible, the Buddha tells the serpent how to ensure that it would be reborn a man, able to become a monk. The story also is a metaphor for humans in that despite what you think you may want to be or become you are first and always your true self. On the other hand Mankind is a perceptive statement as to the current human world condition and the choices we collectively and individually face to better or worsen it while offering a bit of hope - that is - if the good inside us leads the way!
SoT "Heavy Billy" and "Road to 2012" are cool instrumentals allowing the band to stretch their musical muscles. Did each of these songs come out of a long jam session?
Jack Wright - Interestingly both of these songs from the first album have their origins before TCP (as we know it now) formed. Road to 2012 was a song Blake developed and was one of the first songs we worked on together as I added the lead guitar. Heavy Billy was a song I developed with my other band The Quantum Kids. I offered it up as a TCP track because I thought it needed the extra dimension a keyboard could add.... and what can I say? Blake knocked it out of the solar system!
SoT "Sheep", wow, as epic for me as the legendary Pink Floyd classic. You hit the mark with this one. Tell us about the development of this classic.
Blake Tobias - It's one of the songs I wrote on keyboard during the hyper-creative period I had preceding the release of The Way, and one of the few I've written strictly 'left to right'. It was in my active catalog as an instrumental when David Deal, a friend of the band's, told me he thought it would be a great song for Henry to sing. Of course he was right!
SoT "He's Like You" and "The Way", really hit home with current events around the world. What is it like balancing a music career with your other full time responsibilities?
Jack Wright - Yes, we all have our day jobs.... it's tough, but music is a necessary creative outlet, a catharsis from the stresses and distractions from work/news/price of gas/politics/etc. I don't think I could function as a "normal person" (whatever that is?) without music. Then for the results to reach even a few that relate and appreciate it is especially rewarding!
SoT Ok, tell us about your interest in Hypatia, and how her works inspired the two massive epics "Hypatia" and "She".
Henry Tarnecky Hypatia was inspired by Blake's exceptional theatric musical track from which I perceived vivid images from a time in antiquity. These images led me to the ancient library of Alexandria, Egypt. I've always been fascinated by the unfortunate loss of human knowledge when the library was burned. While reading about the period, I stumbled upon the unique and tragic life of Hypatia. She was a woman scholar, philosopher and mathematician in a man's world. Believed to be the last overseer of the ancient library, she was killed for religious and political reasons at the time the great library was burned. For me it was a story that just had to be told and seems still relevant today. In She, Blake's musical composition again inspired images of a time long past where a man was wrongfully imprisoned in a horrid dungeon with no hope to survive except for his raw will and deep unconditional love for She, his love. It seemed natural to assume She was Hypatia. As I recall, that connection was Blake's idea which flowed from how the tracks were placed together on the CD.
SoT "Liberate Me" is a wonderful way to end the album. We all need liberation to enjoy life again. How do you achieve it in your daily lives?
Jack Wright - As mentioned earlier, the act of playing music is in itself liberating and cathartic. When you are in "the zone" and all the forces align, you are for that moment expunged of all rational thought - that and yoga a couple times a week!
SoT What are the band's favorite songs on each album?
Jack Wright - Wow... that's a tough one! Kind of a "Sophie's Choice" situation with our beloved songs! Ha! I would wager to say that if we did each have our favorites and you combined them all you would be back to a list of all the songs! LOL! As to not totally skirt the question, for Fantastic Dreamer we had more songs than album space so some songs already "in the can" did not make the cut. So if you were to ask "which of the songs was the biggest no-brainer must-have on the album?" Then I would answer unequivocally: Vision, a colossal piece, and still very rewarding to listen to the finished product after all the effort that went into that one!
Blake Tobias Couldn't disagree with Jack on Vision. Glenn composed that one. After that my favorites by each composer would be: Henry- Devotee, Jack You Can Never Know, myself She.
SoT What is next for TCP?
Blake Tobias We're talking about a concept album with no particular time constraints - no arbitrary rushing for completion. It must say exactly what we want to say musically and lyrically within the context of the concept. I hope it will be a defining moment for the band that shows the depth of our feelings toward music as a whole along with a meaningful statement that speaks to many. We've already got a decent pipeline started up.
SoT Is there anything else you would like to add to the interview?
Henry Tarnecky It's been fun to delve into the story behind the formation of TCP and of course the origin and thinking behind the music. We look forward to doing this again sometime.
Jack Wright Thanks Mark!
Blake Tobias A big thanks to Sea of Tranquility for the opportunity to tell more of our story, and your incredible support for prog bands and listeners around the world! Thank you Mark!
SoT- Thank you again for answering these questions. We at the Sea of Tranquility wish you all the best and look forward to your future projects.
(Click here to read our reviews of Fantastic Dreamer)