by Jett Black
In 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
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
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
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
Damon: We're hoping to have the new EP done by July
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
What 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Listening 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.
Y2k, 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 -- email@example.com -- or write to:
The Changelings, P.O. Box 5583, Atlanta, Georgia USA