Sea of Tranquility's Jack Toledano bumped into Land of Chocolate guitarist John Covach at NEARfest recently, who shared some news on the band as well as info on his column for Progression Magazine, his upcoming solo album, and much more.
Read on for the full interview!
SoT: We're speaking with John Covach of Land of Chocolate here at NEAFfest. How are you doing, John?
John Covach: Fine. Having a great time.
SoT: I understand that you are also a columnist for Progression Magazine?
John Covach: I've done that since 1995. Recently, I've given up doing the column for a while, just taking a break from it, because there's just too many other things going on with me in terms of my writing and my music. It would probably be a great way to sort of turn my attention to other things for a while. I'll be back to it, though.
SoT: How does it feel to be both a writer for Progression Magazine, and be a performer, to be kind of be on both sides of the coin?
John Covach: Well it is great, sometimes I don't know which hat I'm wearing, when I'm out at these things and I'm somebody who's supposed to be chronicling what's going on, or am I performer who's supposed to be involved.
SoT: How do you like playing at a festival like NEARfest?
John Covach: Well, NEARfest is the Cadillac of festivals in a lot of ways for groups that do what we do. We've played a prog date preshow, we did a NEARfest preshow last year, Prog-In-The-Park road fest, but NEARfest is really the top of the line. It's a great festival, and it's always a great crowd, very supportive of everyone who plays.
SoT: Great. How do you like interacting with all the fans at NEARfest?
John Covach: You know, I have to say that the progressive rock crowd community is one of the nicest and most supportive of the sort of underground or subculture surrounding music that I've been involved in. I've played in a lot of different groups, playing original music, power pop, alternative, that kind of thing, and those crowds have been ok, but the prog crowd really is special. These folks are much warmer and more supportive and more honest in a certain kind of way. So I really like this group more than any that I've been involved with.
SoT: You talked about a whole bunch of different bands that you've been in, would you like to talk about some of those?
John Covach: Well, the most recent project that I've been involved in is a Chapel Hill based group called Poor Valentino. It had an album out a couple of years ago and we were working on a 2nd one, when the whole thing got put on hold but we did all the typical sort of indie alternative rock venues up and down Franklin St., which is a great indie scene, one of the best in the country. Played a lot of festivals in the North Carolina area. So that was a lot of fun, and it really gave me a look at another scene besides the prog scene to really judge.
SoT: Just for the record, when did you last play during a NEARfest weekend?
Land of Chocolate
John Covach: The only time I played with the group at NEARfest was for the preshow last year. The group did a preshow a couple of years before that. The main stage, the main show, we're still waiting for that to happen. We're depending on you to talk to Chad and Rob and tell them they must have Land of Chocolate next year!
SoT: Hopefully this interview will help get you there. Would you like to talk about your influences and how you got started as a musician?
John Covach: In many ways, Land of Chocolate is centered around John Buzby's composing. He comes in with all of the songs roughed out pretty much, they're gonna change, they're gonna morph, my job is to add the guitar stuff and to help with the arranging. So the group really starts where John starts from. And John, having played in Finneus Gauge, having lived in the same household as Chris Buzby of Echolyn, had a lot of progressive influences, although probably more recent ones than 70's ones. Starting with Rush, and going to some more angular sort of groups, those are his influences. Now my influences really are Yes and Gentle Giant and Genesis, and groups like that. Between the two of us, he sort of brings the younger end of the influence, and I sort of bring in the more traditional prog elements.
SoT: Did you want to talk about your latest CD?
John Covach: Well, we're currently working on recording the band's 3rd studio CD, and the title we're going with now is Your Finest Hour. People will note two of the songs from the EP that we released a couple of years ago are going to on this album, those being "Your Finest Hour" and "Helpless". But then there are 8 other songs, some of which we've been performing kind of regularly but didn't do for the 2nd album, plus some things that are particularly new. So we're working on that album now, our hope is to have it out by the end of the calendar year, and if not then, some time in early 06'. And we're really excited about the new music. It's what we think really continues to extend, you know from Unicorn to Regaining The Feel there was a kind of extension on what the group did, and now onto this next album is extended even more. And I'm excited because I'm playing more instruments this time, not just the electric and acoustic guitars that I played last time, and classic guitar, but I'm adding in steel guitar and electric sitar and other things, so I'm just bringing every guitar I own. I must own about 20 guitars. I'm trying to bring every one to the party. So we're real excited about this record.
SoT: Ok, one last question, and one of the other writers of SoT recommended it. You mentioned something that you might be doing a solo project?
John Covach: Oh, I am, yes, in fact I'm working on that at the same time. And I don't know when exactly this record will be out. I promised it at a couple different times and not delivered. Things have come up and I haven't gotten hooked up, but this album I think will be much more a guitarist record in the sense that there won't be a lot of singing. There will be a lot of guitar playing in different kinds of styles. Although in many ways it will be a traditional kind of prog rock record. It will be a much more instrumental album, unlike Chocolate records, which have lots of vocals on them. This will be a chance for me to stretch out and really do a lot of guitar things that the context of Land of Chocolate don't really allow me to do. That's another project that I'm really excited about.
SoT: Ok great, I thank you very much for your time, I hope you enjoy the rest of the festival.
John Covach: I'm sure I will. Thank you very, very much.
SoT: Oh, you're quite welcome, my pleasure.