Willowz
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Web Exclusive! Willowz branch out with new album
Peter Lindblad
“You're gonna feel it when it hits,” and damn, if that isn't the truth. That line comes from “Beware,” the Zeppelin-sized, Southern-fried, '70s arena-rock stomp that introduces The Willowz’s latest album, Chautauqua, the follow-up to 2005's critically acclaimed Talk In Circles. Trading off between huge metal riffs, mind-bending psychedelia, traditional country and folk, the Willowz are a grander, more fully realized version of the White Stripes' sepia-toned dream and in 2005, the world took notice.

Rolling Stone magazine named Talk in Circles one of its "Top 50 Albums of 2005" and Willowz music horned its way on to the soundtrack for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," thanks to famed filmmaker and video visionary Michel Gondry.

It was Gondry who directed the band's "I Wonder" video and two Willowz tracks are included on "The Science of Sleep" — another Gondry movie — soundtrack.

Bearing the mark of the Rolling Stones' devilish sinister blues drawl, with heaping helpings of "rawk" guitar crunch, Southern gothic imagery, Black Sabbath doom-and-gloom and punk sneers (see "Evil Son" and "Siren Song"), the Willowz' Chatauqua is quite simply a beast. Songs start in one place, but end up in others, unpredictably flying from alt-country trailer homes to dark mountains of rock, where they crash and burn. But the volume doesn't drown out the band's songcraft (see the lovely acoustic ballad "Once And A While").

Recently, one of the band's founders, guitarist/vocalist Richie James Follin, who formed Willowz with bassist/singer Jessica Reynoza in Anaheim, Calif., in 2002, took time out to talk to Goldmine about Chatauqua, "dumpster vinyl" and the group's new lineup.

Goldmine: Talk In Circles was one of those albums that seemed to come out of nowhere to impress critics. What did you think when you heard Rolling Stone chose it as one its "Top 50 Albums of 2005?"

Richie James Follin: I was kinda shocked because all the other bands on the list were major-label bands and bands that had full page ads paid for in the magazine... so besides being happy about being on the list because of the music, I was happier that we were the only independent band on the list.

GM: Did you feel pressured to follow it up with something bigger and bolder?

RF: Maybe at first at the thought of making the third record, but once we got out to the country and started making it in that basement, we just kinda forgot about everything and everyone. It was more about just making something we were happy with and would have fun playing for a while on tour.

GM: What’s striking about Chautauqua is that it retains the kind of torn-and-frayed charm and energy of the first album, but it seems to have fatter grooves in the more rock-oriented tracks and a real attention to detail in ballads like “Once And A While.” Was that simply a natural progression, a result of maturity?

RF: I think so. Plus we were playing with new members and had a lot of time to make the record. All the previous records had been rushed, and we were still new to making records, being the young lads we once were. You listen to more music, play hundreds of shows, make records, and you start understanding things you didn’t before. All of our records are different, and I think that is the best way for a band to grow into something worth existing

GM: Talk about how “Evil Son” came together. With the string arrangements, it seems like a really ambitious piece for The Willowz, and yet it goes from down-home country to an ending that feels as heavy as Black Sabbath, ending up in places that the band seems really comfortable with. Was that a difficult song to record?

RF: Not really. It was actually one of the easiest songs for us, and everything just fell into place. That whole ending was a mistake jam kinda thing in the studio and we just ended up keeping it. We are friends with Charles Coleman, who did string arrangements for (Frank) Zappa and Guns & Roses, and we just asked him to do it and he said, “Yes.” It ended up really making the song. It was just a simple folk song when we first started recording it, and it ended up being this monster of a song.

GM: It’s always strange hearing Southern-fried punk coming from a California band, and yet there’s a definite psychedelic aspect to your sound (that’s all California). When the band formed, did you have the same musical tastes, and did you have local influences — X perhaps? — that steered you in that direction?

RF: We love X and have tons of local influences — F.Y.P., Le Shok, Canned Heat, Gun Club. When the band started, Jessica and I had opposite musical tastes, and we shared our record collections. I worked in a record store, and Jessica had her uncle and father’s attics to search for records. We traded records back and forth for a while before we started making music. We try to not focus on not getting stuck in any one sound. Our records almost sound like mix tapes and we love all different kinds of music. Everything steers us in opposite directions.

GM: Do you see the band as a descendant of bands like the Rolling Stones, or Pussy Galore, or somebody like Royal Trux?

RF: We hold the Stones very close to our hearts... didn’t ever really get into Pussy Galore and I’m friends with Jennifer Herrema from Royal Trux. She’s rad. We might tour with her new band RTX. I could see how people might think we are descendants of them because of the whole girl/guy thing, but I don’t think we really sound anything like them. We just like some of the same bands. The first thing my old girlfriend said to me was that I looked like Neil [Hagerty] (laughs). Jon Theodore is our drummer Lorens favorite drummer as well. Any real rock 'n' roll music is normally good in my book

GM: “Jubilee” is great country song, with that driving, train-like rhythm and those slide-guitar accents. Could you ever see a time where a band like the Willowz crosses over into country and has a hit?

RF: (Laughs) Maybe in 1956. I haven’t heard any country “hits” that sound like country music in my lifetime.

GM: You have a new lineup. What do Aric Bohn and Loren “Ted” Shane Humphrey bring to the band?

RF: Aric has always been a great friend, and we are into the same things, and he knows what is good and what sucks — plus he knows ‘how to rock” and is a master of “tone.” Loren Shane is a drumming prodigy and is a great producer as well. They are both great talents, so the Willowz are honored to have both of them on board. Everyone is friends and it’s always a really fun time whenever we are working together.

GM: The patronage of (film director) Michel Gondry has been an interesting facet of the band’s history. How did he hear of the Willowz?

RF: The music director for his film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” gave him our CD. He fell in love with our music [and] had a dream about making a video for our song “I Wonder.” [He] flew us out to New York City, [we] made the video, [he] hooked us up with labels and the rest is history. We are eternally indebted to him!

GM: Do either of you collect much vinyl?

RF: We both collect vinyl with a passion.

GM: Are there certain vinyl records you’d love to have?

RF: Beatles' "butcher" cover, test pressing of Velvets’ first album, and anything else that would bring in the big bucks (laughs).

GM: Any recommendations on where to shop for vinyl?

RF: I worked at this record store in Orange County, Calif., called Pepperland, and it had a lot of great vinyl. Then one day I came in and half the store was empty. I asked the owner where all the vinyl went, and he said it was in the dumpster out back. So if you like free dumpster vinyl, go there. There is this cool place on Melrose in LA called Record Collector that has a lot of good stuff and, of course, all the Ameoba stores are unbeatable.

- GOLDMINE


***1/2 stars
On its third album, this coed California band does exuberant garage-rock better than most of its sloppy peers. Chautauqua is a little more polished than the Willowz's earlier stuff, but the joys are similar: big, ballsy tracks like "Siren Song" plus trippier, genuinely engaging psych rock like "Waiting to Fall," with a load of good, basic melodies and expertise that takes a couple of spins to notice.


CHRISTIAN HOARD
- ROLLING STONE


The Willowz
Chautauqua
Dim Mak
2007

You can blame or thank bands like Wolfmother for this latest rock resurgence, either way, in the past year it's become all right to be a band and play straight up rock music again. I tend to thank them nightly while I offer up sacrifices to the rock gods, but that's just me. Chautaqua, the third disc from The Willowz, is Rock 'N' Roll free of slashes, dashes, and extra adjectives. It's not punk rock, post rock, or dance rock. It's only Rock 'N' Roll, and as the Rolling Stones so famously said years ago, I like it.

A police siren punctuates the opening bars of "Beware." Consider it your warning for what follows is a whole lotta rock. There's nothing fancy or stylish about it: big drum beats, pounding rhythms, and even bigger guitar riffs. On that opening number, singer/guitarist Richie James Follin boasts what turns out to be the mantra for The Willowz, "You're gonna' feel it when it hits." Man, do I feel the rock when they kick it on numbers like "Nobody," "Evil Son," "Siren Song," and "Choose A Side." Now, while there may be nothing fancy about it, when rock music is done this well, it is refreshing, uplifting and life affirming.

Near the end of the disc The Willowz lose some of their steam as the big, boisterous rock and roll is moved to the back burner in favor of mellower, country-tinged psychedelica. There's not necessarily anything wrong with this, except that in terms of the album, they could have sequenced some of these numbers in between the rockers to produce a more cohesive disc. Even in what many consider the mp3 single age, proper sequencing is still important. I'm willing to let it slide this time, but only because, the first 40 minutes are so damn strong, and when they combine sunny psychedelica with some of that dirty rock, as they do on "All I Need," and album closer, "Lonesome Gods," it results in some of their most stirring work.
- I Rock Cleveland


Red Hot Rock-Ette:
Jessica Reynoza (The Willowz)
By Fred Mills
Anaheim’s garage-cum-hard-rock maestros the Willowz have charted an impressive ascent, notching critical hosannas for their three LPs and their sweaty live shows. One reason is their tireless get-in-the-van work ethic. “If I wasn’t in a rock band, I wouldn’t exist—this is where I’m supposed to be,” says bassist Jessica Reynoza, who’s joined by guitarists Richie Follin and Aric Bohn and drummer Loren Shane Humphrey.

The other reason? Aside from no small degree of musical prowess, the Willowz grasp the genetic link between sex and rock ‘n’ roll, and they infuse every note, every thump, every yipped/yowlped/purred syllable with a steamy sensuality. “An audience should be able to find desire in whatever they want,” says Reynoza, who as the band’s resident femme objet du désir knows of what she speaks. “Sex does belong in rock n’ roll. The same sweat that drips down on stage is the same sweat that drips for sex. Rock ’n’ roll without sex is hunger.” Boy howdy to that.

First printed in June 2007
- Harp Magazine


Though still in their teens by the time director Michel Gondry handpicked them to be featured in his films' soundtracks, Willowz has always been one of ear-splitting ferocity. Lead singer Richie Follin's charm has always been a yelping recklessness combined with a natural ear for melody. Fortunately, they still got it. While the band's music grows on Chautauqua, it also lacks that off-the-cuff sincerity that so fully enveloped the band's sound. The Willowz have clearly matured with their new release. Songs like "Take a Look Around" are stunningly complex; on a former release the band would have easily milked the song's riffs and melodies for two or three songs, instead of combining them into a more fleshed-out concoction. Still a band that knows how to have fun and isn't afraid of volume, Willowz, nevertheless, have finally stepped into adulthood. - Urb Magazine


Willowz have been inspiring awe and dropping jaws since their debut EP four years ago, with 2005’s Talk in Circles earning them Band of the Year honors from the LA Weekly and a slot in Rolling Stone’s Top 50 Albums of 2005 cover story. The Willowz’ latest, Chautauqua, finds the band in a growth spurt, as vocalist/guitarist Richie James Follin and bassist/vocalist Jessica Reynoza welcome new guitarist Aric Bohn and drummer Loren Shane Humphrey and expand their garage rock range without forsaking their core sound. On the album’s opener, “Beware,” the Willowz mix up a thick White Stripes-via-the-Stooges paste and apply it to their own canvas with Led Zeppelin’s trowel of the gods. After that, Willowz throw away map and compass and navigate by intuition, moving from the lost Robert Johnson patina of “Jubilee” to the Bob Dylan-rocks-the-garage stomp of “Nobody” to the Beatlesque “Evil Son” to the all-hands-on-Jimmy-Page’s-deck howl of “Warship.” With Chautauqua, the Willowz prove their mettle (and metal) as a big expansive rock machine cleverly disguised as an economical indie garage band.

~ Brian Baker
- Amplifier Magazine


After one EP(The Willowz) and two LPs(Are Coming, Talk in Circles), the Willowz(Richie Follin, Jessica Reynoza, Aric Bohn, Ted Humphrey) have returned with one of the most impressive releases to come out thus far in 07. Continuing to channel the blues, rock, and soul of the 60’s and 70’s, the Willowz approach, although the antithesis of the minimalist framework of the White Stripes, maintains a similar sonic quality. Whether they are playing loud and raucous or twangy and soulful, this foursome from Anaheim, CA on Chautauqua has raised their song writing to truly legendary heights. Instead of merely creating brilliant displays of guitar work or drum solos(not to say that these areas do not shine on this album), the Willowz have worked long and hard at creating a complete album that will not soon be forgotten. With each song offering a different story told with a different musical approach, Chautauqua is an engaging and desperately needed resuscitation to raw fundamentals of rock in this digitally perfected age. Flawlessly executed, attention grapping, and joy inducing, Chautauqua is a renaissance rock masterpiece.


JIVE Magazine Rating: 5 out of 5
- Jive Magzine


Life for most rock n' roll bands is not much more than a series of dull moments. And like in The Shining, that boredom and isolation can easily lead to insanity. So, instead of just sitting around, The Willowz start sorting M&Ms, trashing rooms, building sugarcube castles, clapping on, clapping off, burning matches, lifting latches, etc, etc. Director Ace Norton explains the inspiration and how this video is really a quest to find the majesty in the mundane.

Ace Norton, director: "The video is about making the little, normally insignificant moments in life seem really epic and important. It's also about what we do when we lose our mind. When I lose my mind I do stupid stuff, so this video is about doing a whole lot of stupid stuff. But when juxtaposed against the tone of the song, the images take on an entirely new meaning; Its turns into this weird psychedelic, mystical adventure.

It was largely inspired by my own boredom. At times, I'll catch myself doing really silly things like rubbing my eyes until I see light spots or vegging out on a couch with an airplane pillow around my neck. I thought if i captured that, it could make cool video.

The budget was $3,000, which sounds tiny, but it gave us the freedom to shoot things our own way with good friends. We filmed most of it in my producer's garage and in a slew of houses that belonged to close friends and family."
- Videostatic


Michel Gondry loves the Willowz, and he wants you to love them too. The French filmmaker has peppered the soundtracks to his silver-screen dreamscapes (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep) with their songs, he’s directed videos for the Anaheim-based band, and he’s said that he wants the Willowz linked to him much like the Velvet Underground was to Andy Warhol. You can’t ask for better PR than that.

But when most people think of Gondry, they picture soft colors, wispy woolgathering, and surreal brain twists — a direct contrast to the straightforward, brash garage-punk of the Willowz. On their fourth full-length, Chautaqua, the band turns in another un-Gondry-like slice of greased-up cacophony replete with snarling guitars, clobbered drums, and blues-fed riffs. Songs like “Warship” and “Nobody” stand tall on growling distortion and bent chords like monolithic slabs of Sonics-inspired rock. Lead Willow Richie James March has a nasal howl that might remind some of a certain White Stripe, but March’s drawl is a hundred times more disaffected and caustic than Mr. White’s commercial rasp.

Chautaqua’s true standouts, though, are the moments of stripped-down departure when the band stretches out, catches its breath, and rolls out something other than a distortion pedal. “Evil Son” introduces itself with a purty piano melody and ambles along on a bed of dreamy, delicate strings; you could actually imagine it rolling over the credits of Gondry’s next flight of fancy until a thrashing guitar busts in and runs over the reverie.

The Gondry-Willowz alliance doesn’t make much sense on the surface, but at the time, songs about heroin and paintings of Campbell’s soup cans didn’t either. - Venus Magazine


Who? Singer/guitarist Richie James Follin joined forces with bassist/vocalist Jessica Reynoza while in still in high school. Although original drummer Alex Willow is no longer part of the lineup, the group is rounded out by guitarist Aric Bohn and drummer Loren Humphrey. Their fourth studio effort, Chautauqua, drops March 20 on Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak imprint.

What’s the Deal? Already the cherished underdogs of California culture rags like OC Weekly and Los Angeles CityBeat, the Willowz formed in 2002 to not-so-successful results. The California music press refrained from pouncing on the band’s garage rock sound and early '80s punk influences, thus the Willowz' un-Anaheim sound won them the coveted title of "Most Hated Band in Anaheim." Follin, whose rocking chops fall between Jack White and Robert Plant, shifts between raw, garage rock-driven performances and softer, folk-inspired tunes. "Evil Son" most readily recalls the two-step rhythm and bluesy vocals of the White Stripes, enlivened with lush orchestral arrangements and a pregnant guitar solo straight out of a 1960s acid trip. Other tracks such as "Jubilee" evoke blues, folk and even country influences, showcasing the Willowz' carefully honed stylistic prowess.

Fun Fact: The band's self-titled debut album caught the attention of French director Michel Gondry, who included the band's songs, "Something" and "I Wonder," to the soundtrack for his 2004 quirky romantic comedy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The album earned a Grammy nomination for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media in 2005.TIFFANY WAN
- Spin Magazine


Discography

Singles
The Willowz (5"MCD on Wanker Records, Germany 2002)
That Willowz Feelin' / Think Again – Label: Posh Boy Records – (2003) – Vinyl 7”
I Wonder / Something - Label: Rex Records (2004) - Vinyl 7" - Country: UK
Equation #6 / Questionnaire – Label: Acid Bird Records (2005) Vinyl 7”
Scarling / The Willowz – Label: Sympathy for the Record Industry (2005) – Vinyl 7” split
The Horn Song/ Wake Me Up - Label: Contaminated Records (2005) - Vinyl 7”
I’ll Go Crazy / Head- Label: April 77 Records (2008) – Vinyl 7” – Europe

Full-Length Releases
The Willowz With A Z (2003) Artmonkey Records (Live recording)
The Willowz s/t (2004) Dionysus Records
Are Coming (2005) Sympathy for the Record Industry
Talk In Circles (2005) Sympathy for the Record Industry
See In Squares (2006) Sympathy for the Record Industry (companion to Talk in Circles, 27 concept videos 27 directors )
Chautauqua (2007) Dim Mak Records
Unveil (2007) LeGrand Bag Records
EVERYONE (2009) Dim Mak/Downtown Records

Soundtracks
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Keep on Looking / Something/ I Wonder – 2004- Hollywood Records
(Grammy nominated)
The Science of Sleep – Ulcer Soul / Making Certain – 2007- Astralwerks

VARIOUS FILM AND DVD
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ( Michel Gondry) – 2004 - The Willowz – Keep On Looking, Something ***(Nominated for Academy award)
Point and Shoot ( Carmen Kass) – 2004 - The Willowz – I Wonder
Sex and Breakfast (Macaulay Culkin, Eliza Dushka) – 2007- The Willowz – I Wonder
See In Squares (2006) Sympathy for the Record Industry (companion to Talk in Circles, 27 concept videos 27 directors )
The Science of Sleep, (Michel Gondry) – 2006 – The Willowz – Ulcer Soul, Making Certain
The Director’s Label Box Set 1, ( Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham, Spike Jonze) The Director’s Label Box Set 2, ( Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham, Spike Jonze)
Foursquare DVD – 2007 – The Willowz – Jubilee, Yesterday’s Lost
Several various skate and surf videos.

Honorable Mentions
*Nominated for band of the year LA Weekly 2005
*Number 8 video of the year Subterranean for Cons and Tricks 2006
*Nominated for best video of the year Subterranean for Evil Son 2008
* 2003 year end top album OC Weekly
*2004 year end top album OC Weekly
*Pazz and Jop Critics Pole 2004 and 2005
* Rolling Stone Magazine vote Talk in Circles 2005 #46 album of the year.
* Yahoo Y! Who’s Next Competition Tomorrows Music Today 2005

Photos

Bio

In 2002, while still in their teens, Anaheim natives Richie James Follin and Jessica Reynoza formed the Willowz.Their music was a mix of brash rock 'n' roll, soul, and instinctive raw punk. They recorded a 7-inch for legendary Posh Boy records produced by Follin's step father Paul Kostabi (White Zombie, Psychotica, Y.G.M., Detours). They then toured relentlessly across America, and in 2003 recorded their debut self titled album for Dionysus records. Songs from that album were featured in Michel Gondry's Oscar winning film"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Two songs were included on the Grammy nominated soundtrack as well. Gondry also directed a video for the band featured on the directors label box set and was quoted as saying, "I wish to be to the Willowz what Warhol was to the Velvet Underground." Willowz then released a 7-inch for XL records and toured the U.K.

In 2005 the Willowz recorded and released their highly ambitious second album "Talk in Circles" on Sympathy for the Record Industry. The album was ranked as one of the "Top 50 albums of 2005" by Rolling Stone magazine, graded "A-" by Spin magazine, and ranked on many of the year end lists throughout the country as one of the best albums of the year. The album also features a guest vocal appearance by Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks). Songs from the album were featured in Gondry's film "The Science of Sleep" as well as on the soundtrack.The Willowz followed up "Talk in Circles" with "See in Squares", a dvd accompany to the album with a video for every song (27 videos total and live footage of the band playing a catholic schol summer camp in Oklahoma). They were nominated for Rock band of the year by the LA Weekly.

In 2007 the Willowz signed to Dim Mak records and released "Chautauqua". This album featured a heavier sound rooted deeply in rock and psychedelic music. The album was named "#1 Rock Album of the Year" by the O.C. Weekly. The Willowz toured world wide for this release playing over 300 shows in 2008. They also released numerous 7-inches on labels such as April 77, Contaminated, Acid Bird, and SFTRI.

In February of 2009 the Willowz went to Dallas to record their 4th full length album entitled "Everyone". The album was produced by Stuart Sikes and is the best Willowz album to date. Their latest album contains the raw energy they are known for, mixed with strongly crafted pop hooks. "Everyone" is set to be released Summer 2009 on Dim Mak / Downtown records.