Sunday, January 3, 2010

Q&A: Ren the guitarist of The Sweethearts

When I saw The Sweethearts perform in Austin in 2005, I was not only impressed, but found that they were fun people to hang with as well. Ren and I become friends and have hung out both in concert situations and normal situations and he's a cool dude, and a guitar nerd like myself. I'd already Q&A'd their singer Linette this past summer, so it only seemed fitting to see what Ren thought about everything.

Q: Do you like the slogan "keep Austin weird" or does it bug you?

Ren: Ha! I don't really like it. You can't go anywhere in Austin without seeing someone with a "Keep Austin Weird" shirt or a car with the bumper sticker on it. They have an annual party here to in Austin to celebrate Eeyore's birthday from Winnie the Pooh which I guess is something that keeps Austin weird. I've heard that people meet at a park hang out and form hippie drum circles. I've never been to one though and I don't think I want to. I just don't get it. I remember going with you the No Doubt concert in Dallas and there was a girl with a pink tie die " Keep Austin Weird" shirt in front of us. I remember it really bugged you! That was funny!

Q: What's the Austin music scene like? Does it live up to the stellar reputation?

Ren: The Austin music scene that I liked when I first moved up here is gone. Most of the cool local bands are gone. There's still shows going on every night but I don't recognize any of the bands. Seems like there's a lot of bands that get together for a little while and then just disappear. One thing for sure is Austin does not have many people who are into pop punk music. There's not much of a fan base for it here. Most people in this town like the indie and emo bands . They do really well here. The only times you get to see cool punk bands is at the annual Fun Fun Fun Fest and Chaos In Tejas.

Q: Do you have any funny or crazy tour stories or hometown concert stories you can legally share with us?

Ren: We had a crazy and scary experience on tour once. We had a show in Downey California and we got to the venue really early.We decided to find a liquor store a start drinking in the van to kill some time. We had no idea where we were going or knew how close Downey is to Compton. We finally ended up finding a liquor store in Compton. Our bass player at the time Kyle and I went inside while Joel and Linette waited in the van. We got down with tour cash in hand which was a big mistake! A thug walked in and whispered in Kyle's ear to give him the money cause he had a gun. It was scary! Kyle acted like he didn't hear him and the store clerk kicked the guy out. We saw him waiting outside for us. He got impatient and walked back in to get some cigarettes and Kyle and I ran out of the store! Joel was thankfully waiting for us with the van on so we jumped in and hauled ass out of there!

Q: What sort of guitar gear are you playing thru these days?

Ren: Right now I am playing a DiPinto Mach IV guitar through a B52 head and a Randall cab. I'm left handed so it's really hard for me to find cool looking guitars that sound good. I got a good endorsement deal with DiPinto and I really like my new guitar. I'm saving some money to get myself a JCM 800 half stack. My guitar sounds amazing through those classic amps!

Q: Do you have any personal favourite songs The Sweethearts have done and why?

Ren: One of my favorites is a song Linette wrote about 10 years ago called "You Did It Again". We recorded that song on our first album and decided to record it again for our last ep " Take Note" We changed that song so much and made it sound 20 times better. It's cool playing and listening to the new version cause it just reminds me of how much we've grown as a band.

Q: What's the songwriting process like for The Sweethearts?

Ren: Linette will usually write her own songs and I write my own songs. We do have some songs we've written together. We then take them and play them as a full band at practice and just start tweaking them from there with everyone's input.

Q: How did The Sweethearts begin as a band?

Ren: Linette and I met when we were 15. We played in a punk cover band together and started going out. We ended up moving to Austin when we were 18 and started looking for people to play with. We started as a 3 piece. Linette played guitar and vocals and I played bass and sang backups. We had my brother Aaron travel to Austin to play drums on our first record and and just kept playing as the Sweethearts with a few different lineup changes since then. That was around 2000.

Q: What other bands/artists do you listen to regularly that inspire you?

Ren: I'm really inspired by alot of the Rock n Roll and Doo Wop bands and artists from the 50's. Two of my favorite artists are the late Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly. I just love their sound and songwriting style. I wish they were still around. As for punk bands I really like The Leftovers and the Copyrights. I wish I could write awesome songs like they do. I think they're both great bands.I'm really inspired by Ben Weasel as well.

Q: What's next for The Sweethearts?

Ren: I don't know right now. I think we'll eventually start working on some new material and maybe go into the studio and record. I got a little burned out on playing live shows recently so I don't think we'll be hitting the road anytime soon. I prefer to be in the studio working on new songs and ideas as a band. That's my favorite part about being in a band. I could be in a studio for days!

Random topic round.

Topic: Tex-mex

Ren: Tex- Mex food is my favorite!I love to cook mexican food. Linette makes the best mexican rice ever!

Topic: guitar hero

Ren: I recently bought a Wii system and Guitar Hero. It's really fun to play. Linette and I have a Guitar Hero band called "The Party Anjimalz". We were supposed to be calld the Party Animals but I accidently spelled it wrong and just left like that.

Topic: classic cars

Ren: I love classic cars. I've always wanted a 1955 Chevy Belaire. I like to watch the classic auto auction show on t.v. I just sit there and drool over all the awesome classic cars they auction off!

Topic: sodas

Ren: I think I drink too much Coca Cola. I really need to cut down.

Topics: boxers, briefs, tightey-whiteys

Ren: You're probably going to think it's weird but I like to wear my boxers over my briefs.

Topics: sports, olympics, luge, skiing, football, soccer

Ren: I've been watching alot of football lately.

Topics: skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing

Ren: I used to be pretty good at skateboarding when I was younger. I would ride my board all over town and then I justed stopped. I wish I could've kept skating.