Music Interview

The Changelings

by Jett Black

The ChangelingsIn everything that is beautiful, here come the Changelings. Close your eyes and open both heart and soul to the transcendental music of the Changelings. Seductive, wondrous and varied, this quintet transports the hungry, romantic spirit beyond the toils of the day, beyond the walls of the desk, beyond the home and into tranquil bliss, an enchanted exploration of personal desires, needs and satisfying fantasy. Drifting as minstrels through the infamy of Atlanta, Georgia, Chandler Rentz, Regeana Morris, Nick Pagan, Damon Young and Paul Mercer conspire to charm and mystify you in blending Baroque ballads, modern ethereal enchantments and dark, mesmerizing, medieval incantations. Momentarily breaking the spell, we hear from this half somber, half smiling troupe concerning the imminent release of their fourth full-length CD and their plans for an upcoming tour, Summer 1999.

Five musicians, all with bills, routine obligations, personal relationships and the occasional last minute surprise event manage to convene, compose, rehearse, perform and record. I am having a Brady Bunch moment here. In general, how does The Changelings win out over so many separate daily agendas?

Nick: We've all been together for over 4 years now. I think the trick is for everyone to realize that people DO have lives outside of the group and be sensitive to that fact. We don't really socialize or get involved in each other's personal lives, as a result, being in The Changelings has been MANAGEABLE for everyone. I think it's more important for the music to keep the same lineup rather than stressing everyone out by PUSHING people past their limits in an attempt to "make it."

Regeana: It's not so much a matter of choice as it is a matter of need. I don't know what I would do with myself if I weren't singing - I would probably explode. My life does get rather hectic at times and I really feel like I need an extra day in the week, but it's all completely worth it. Maybe one day we'll make a living with this. We all want to quit our day jobs. Doesn't everyone?

Damon: Having outside lives is generally good for us as individuals. We make time for the music 'cos we love it! Making "art" is very fulfilling, right?

Chandler: It's not as hard as it sounds. It all just works out. We're all responsible, devoted and easy going enough to keep the Changelings headed where or at least close to where we want it to.

Besides performing live from one gig and tour to the next, what other forms of media will The Changelings explore in the future? And, if applicable, have you already begun to explore beyond the routines of 'record & perform'?

Nick: We would love to get into soundtracks and even did one for a haunted house in the Atlanta area named Netherworld. Unfortunately, the film studios have not come a-knocking. Insofar as videos are concerned, honestly, if MTV isn't going to show it - who's going to get to see it? Why bother? It's a shame. Maybe one day.

Damon: I think our stuff can be emotionally evocative and conducive to peoples' imaginations. It feels that way to me at least!

Regeana: I'd like to see us do a video. There was talk about making a Changelings game where you could control you favorite Changeling. We would all have special powers, of course. Paul could use his violin bow as an effective weapon and I could make things explode by singing at them. We could put it onto a CD and you could play it on your Mac. It's really just a funny thought at this point though. I really like what some bands have tacked onto their CDs like Rasputina's story book on "How We Quit the Forest."

What is the title of the next Changelings release? How is the recording of the next Changelings release coming along? And when & where will it be available?

Regeana: We are currently working on an EP that we hope to have ready by early July. Unless things change and one of us has a great brain-storm, it's going to be called Mercury, and the packaging will be silver. I'm sure we'll get it to all the distributors that currently carry us.

Chandler: It's coming along extremely well. First we are going to release an EP. Some 4 months or so afterwards would be a reasonable time to expect a full length. So realistically speaking about six months, maybe?!

Damon: We're hoping to have the new EP done by July or August.

Nick: We've gotten some wonderful drum tracks down and the rest should be done in the next few weeks. We hope to have it out by 07/04/99 in time for Dragon Con. I'm very optimistic about this one and think it will be very successful (artistically if not commercially).

Caterwaul, which debuted on The Changelings' Amphibian CD in Sept. '98, now appears on the Projekt Cat-CD compilation, A Cat-Shaped Hole In My Heart. What is the story behind this particular song?

Damon: Musically, it started with the violin theme Paul had been bringing up at practice for over a year. It just clicked one day right around when we heard about the Cat CD and seemed ripe for feline lyrics (a la Regeana).

Regeana: Well, Sam (Projekt) called Nick and asked us if we wanted to contribute a song and we took a melody that we were working on already and I wrote about the vicious habits of my kitty, Isabelle.

Nick: Paul (our violinist) used to play this (almost) annoying screechy violin figure at rehearsals. One day I put a bass line to it and we were up and running. We were working on the song (no lyrics yet) when Sam Rosenthal approached us about putting a song on the compilation. The song ALREADY had a very "feline" flavor to it - so the rest just kind of fell into place.

The ChangelingsWhat specific reasoning compelled The Changelings to contribute to the Cat-CD compilation?

Damon: We love our kitties.

Tell us about the Summer tour planned for the Changelings. In what cites will you be stopping along the tour?

Regeana: Nothing is set in stone at this point.

Nick: Our best hope for a summer tour lies with William Faith's new company and label - N.A.M. I've been corresponding with The Shroud (whom we are supposed to co-headline with) and they seem to have a very similar agenda to ours - so we're hopeful. We'd like to hit L.A., San Fran, Seattle and Portland. I'm under the impression that there are a good many people on the West Coast who would like to see us - we'll see. Any booking agents reading this?

Which other bands will be on tour with the Changelings?

Nick: Potentially The Shroud and Onewenne.

What particular interests might you explore along the route of this tour, if opportunity permits?

Nick: I think it would be great to see the ocean facing left instead of right. I'm also curious to see the great Northwestern forests.

Damon: I'd like to spend some time in the Pacific Ocean (if only an hour). Swimming, sailing, scuba diving etc.

What does touring with the other bands offer to you personally and professionally that might otherwise be unavailable?

Damon: We've met some really cool people and found friendships with bands like Reflecting Skin, Faith & the Muse and Black Tape.

Nick: Just the opportunity to do it. We've never really toured. Promoters usually fly us up for one show and then back home we go.

Chandler: A more objectionable view of ourselves and what we're doing. It also opens up opportunities for mutual support. Sometimes it just gives you something new to rag on.

Elaborate on the importance of developing themes and songs to go with the atmospheric qualities of music in Changelings compositions.

Damon: Well, specific themes can help evoke imagery which can be essential. I think we try to be conscious of not going to far into the ether.

Nick: I'm constantly pushing the idea of songs. I'm from a very POP background and I think it shows in our work. It's all well and good to make pretty drifting noises or establish a sensual groove, but without MOTION, craft, composition, lyrical interest and definite themes or concepts to compliment that atmosphere - how long can ANYONE'S interest be sustained? Not to mention our own!!!!

Illustrate how live Changelings performances differ from the CD releases.

Damon: I find that we are usually able to set a nice mood and include some edge of your seat excitement.

Regeana: Playing live is a whole other animal than playing in the studio. When you have an audience that you can see, and hear, and smell, there's an energy exchange that makes it more tangible and alive. In the studio there's time to put in little details and shape and mold the sound in ways that are not possible on the spot at a live performance.

Nick: Some say our discs don't do us justice. I think we're like any band in the respect that all of us trade sonic sophistication (overdubs, exact proportioning of instruments, enhancing electronic effects) for vitality, passion and spontaneity. We try to include passages that can be improvised in our live performances to keep things interesting and the audience guessing. Actually, for an ethereal group, on stage, sometimes things get pretty damned intense!!!

Chandler: In short we're simply better live. We are still trying to find a way to capture the "live" essence on a recording. Our music is more intense live. It's not that we play harder and louder, but rather that we put more emotion into our performance (which of course depends a lot on the audience). Studios can be very sterile; it's an art in itself to perform 'live-like' when the tape starts rolling.

When you step on stage, and even when you rehearse, what happens to make you the quintet that is The Changelings rather than merely five individuals who happen to be fine musicians?

Chandler: We become puppets to the muses.

Nick: When we started over 4 years ago there were many times I didn't think things were going to work, as we all come from VERY different schools of music and ways of playing. I think we established a chemistry by all being very sensitive to what the other 4 are doing and trying to find ways to compliment their parts rather than clashing with them or trying to play over them. There is a surprising lack of ego in the fact that no one is trying to be featured or "in one's face" all the time. I think we're all very sensitive to the fact that part of being a good musician is knowing when NOT to play. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Regeana: Essentially what make us The Changelings is that we are individuals with sometimes completely different tastes. We all like different kinds of music. We're all pulling in different directions. It's this tension, the differences that blend together that make our "sound" something that none of us could achieve alone.

I gather a lot of joy and humor from reading previous Changelings interviews. The manner in which the five of your interact is amazing, even for a band of fellow musicians. Or should I say especially for a band of musicians? The chemistry clearly comes through in your music both on stage and on CD. When touring and dealing with a million-and-one decisions, how do you manage to work so well together without the instruments in hand?

Nick: Thank you! We once played a show in Boston and a local music mogul came up to me and said: "Y'know what I like so much about you guys? You can tell that you guys have nothing in common with each other than the fact that you love the music you're playing." I said, "Are you SURE you're in the business? I can't believe anyone involved with the biz would be so perceptive!!" I think we co-exist so well because the focus is on THE MUSIC - never each other.

Chandler: It's either earplugs and the 'shut out' mode or a sense of humor and tons of patience. We have our psychotic moments but we always let it go in the end...usually through humor.

Regeana: The funny part about that is that we're usually only together as the band. We all have our own separate lives. We see each other at rehearsals, meetings, shows and in the studio. Occasionally we'll interact socially, but I think what makes us able to tolerate each other creatively and professionally is that we're all doing our own things individually.

Damon: We're mostly an agreeable bunch. When it comes down to it, we're a democracy and there's 5 people to vote on any issue, if one develops.

Redundant question of the day: So you want to sell-out, make a million dollars, and blow the whole world away, musically speaking at least. What's the secret plan 'unveiled'?

Damon: I guess the plan is to get some of the uninspired, mass marketed, redundant music off the radio and help bring in some creative, fearless, beautiful, ass kicking music. (Not just us mind you - there are several good bands that deserve to make it!)

Chandler: The thing is that there is no real plan (unless you want to say: Keep writing good music, experiment and get out there so people become aware).

Let's say it happens, you become independent and retain complete control of your own music even, what then? How would you describe your music, and your motivation to continue as The Changelings?

Regeana: We are essentially independent, and we do have complete control over our music. I keep doing this because I like to.

Nick: I honestly don't know how to describe our music. As far as motivation is concerned: Descartes called it "Raison d'être" - reason for being.

Terra FirmaListening to Terra Firma, I often feel free and privileged to enjoy it. Though, sometimes the music saddens me. For Endymion for example, and Salome, too. I find myself pondering issues of oppression and abuse and wonder about the inspiration for sadness in your music. Regeana, you write most, or is it all of the music? Could you illuminate any significant details that may have influenced the development of sadness in your music?

Regeana: I write almost all of the lyrics. Sometimes I have help, Paul and I wrote Johnny Ether's Great Escape together in the studio moments before I went in to record the final vocal tracks. I'm not sure what makes the music sad, nothing terrifically horrible happened during my developing years. I'm an only child, so there were periods of loneliness and plenty of room for introspection - I think everybody gets sad. I guess we're just trying to touch upon the emotions common to us all.

What motivates you to continue performing and recording music as The Changelings now?

Chandler: The fans and the music that the muses keep bringing to us. It's really about the love of music - a truly divine thing!

Nick: Once again, raison d'être. I can't imagine how empty and desolate MY life would be without the sense of purpose that The Changelings provide. I thrive on the work for it's own sake. I believe it's important to try to accomplish SOMETHING.

Damon: The pleasure of individual expression and being part of the group makes composition and performance a joy.

How many clubs are now available in Atlanta that welcome The Changelings members and fans?

Nick: Really only two - The Masquerade and The Red Light Cafe. Most of the others have a specific type of music they book or are being booked by goateed "Alternative" dickheads or smarmy music biz types. We don't fit into their cultural agenda and they don't fit into ours. At least the relationship is a mutual one! I stopped trying to deal with those people years ago - it's just not worth it.

The ChangelingY2k, the year 2000, the new year, the new millennium, the turn of the century... As time runs out this year, all of the above become a reality. What would the Changelings like to accomplish before the final hour? And, just for the twisted nature of the question, what significance do any of the phrases (Y2k, etc.) have for each of you either in relation to the Changelings, or personally?

Nick: We have been described as "music for the new and better millennium" - but I think the reviewer was overly optimistic. It does seem as we have broken away from the past somewhat. As far as what I would like for myself before the final hour - If not success, then perhaps love? (How's that for an honest reply?)

Chandler: 2000 is just a number. In other cultures years are counted differently. Life keeps going on until a comet or something crashes into planet Earth. Even then life keeps going. I'll just wait for all the hoopla to pass and hope that people don't freak out and start trying to kill everyone and I'll wake up someday - say 5/23/2009 - and have my cappuccino and live my life.

Regeana: It's just another year - I'm hoping we'll see mass suicides from the stupid, but I'm not holding my breath. I'd like to do something special that night, but I haven't made any plans yet. I may go to bed early just so I can say I missed the whole thing.

The Changelings are currently in the studio working on new material. Chandler's side project, Fascia, just released their debut CD.

For booking, interviews, concert information and press kits, send email to -- changelings@catgoddess.com -- or write to:

The Changelings, P.O. Box 5583, Atlanta, Georgia USA 31107.