THE LOST BROTHERS TALK NEW MUSIC & FUTURE AMBITIONS 122

Having previously been a part of major label rock acts The 747s and The Basement respectively, Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland, better known to music fans as The Lost Brothers, have to date enjoyed a decade long, successful career that has seen them be praised by the likes of Richard Hawley and song-write with Glen Hansard. As the duo prepare to release their new album Halfway Towards A Healing next month, and while currently on a tour that runs through to the Spring, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Oisin to chat social media, advice for upcoming artists and to find out where he’d like to see the band several years down the line.

TITL: You’ve been around for a little over a decade now, having released your first album in 2008. What do you think it is about The Lost Brothers as a duo that’s allowed you to stay a solid part of the industry when so many of your counterparts have fallen into obscurity?

Oisin Leech: I’ve no idea – I think we are still pretty obscure – but thank you! I remember reading an interview with Randy Newman once in Portland, Oregon. He said that it’s “all about stamina.” You’ve got to keep on going. Even when all the bullshit surrounding music pops its head up out of the snake charmer’s basket. Don’t let it bite! Writing new songs is our fuel and it keeps us going. Bringing new songs to our audience for the first time is still as exciting as it was when we started out.

TITL: What would you say each of you bring to The Lost Brothers? Why, in your opinions, do you believe you work so well?

OL: I grew up listening to punk bands like Alternative TV and Stiff Little Fingers. Mark was a grunger. So it’s a combination really. A weird soup.

TITL: How do you think, if at all, your sound and style has changed over the years?

OL: Ten years on the road has turned us into studio ninjas. We work fast. We have honed and crafted a sound. When we gig now, we can read each other’s minds. It’s a deep case of “Telepathy Blues.”

TITL: Your new album Halfway Towards A Healing is released on January 26th. Without giving too much away, what can fans both old and new expect from it?

OL: The forthcoming album is both sides of the moon – it’s our darkest and yet our most hopeful album to date. I think the lyrics and songs are our best so far. It’s my favourite of all our records. The sound is more focused. The guys we worked with in Tucson did a beautiful job capturing the sound. We just sat there strumming a few chords.

TITL: Could you pick your favourite track(s) from the album and if so which are they and why?

OL: I’ve come to love “Summer Rain” and “Songs Of Fire.” They just have a feeling we captured that stays with me.

TITL: How did you come to co-write with Glen Hansard and what did he bring to the creative process?

OL: Glen is a dear pal – “The Lost Father.” We found ourselves strumming songs at 4am off in Dublin one night and Glen started singing new melodies and words to songs we had half written. It all just happened by accident really. There were noodles involved and a lot of tea. Then Guinness.

TITL: Who or what most influences and inspires your song-writing? Is creating a song something you find fairly easy or can it depend on your mood or the subject matter you want to focus on for instance?

OL: It’s the old cliché – song-writing is like fishing. Every so often you might get lucky. But you have to go and sit by the river and wait!  It’s a vocation. Like being married to a mystery. Everything and anything can inspire a song from the spilt coffee under your mug in the smallest village in Scotland to the busiest avenue in New York. Life that passes you by like a film and sometimes a scene jumps at you and you capture it in words and melody. If you’re lucky the song will survive. The best songs come fast. Musically I love Van Morrison and Bob Dylan- the two greats in my humble opinion. Both inspirational. But what do I know?

TITL: You’ve announced a tour in support of the new album that’s kicked off and runs through to March. Is there any particular venue or location you’re most excited to play?

OL: I can’t wait to play these shows! There’s no knowing how these new songs will work and where they will take us.

TITL: If you could perform at any venue in the world, with four bands or artists who can be living or dead, where would you play and who would join you on that stage?

OL: Wow. I’d love to be roadie for Planxty, The Band, Bob Dylan and Van the Man all on one night …next week in Vicar St. Dublin! I’ll play harmonica on the encore.

TITL: How do you feel about social media and the boom in the impact it can have – and has had – on individuals and businesses such as the music industry?

OL: The music world is changing so fast I can’t keep up. I try though. At the end of the though its music that matters- it’s all only “songs and sound”. These new social media platforms are just roads to lead the song down to as many listeners as possible.

TITL: You’ve been praised by the likes of Richard Hawley but of all the support and acclaim you’ve received over the years, is there one particular moment/comment that stands out for you?

OL: Richard said some kind words which meant a lot because I’m a huge fan. Andy Irvine once came to see us and enjoyed it. He is a hero.

TITL: What advice would you give to bands and artists just starting out who are struggling to make a name for themselves? Is there any advice you’ve been given over the years that you tend to reflect on and holds particular resonance?

OL: I’d say “keep on going”… no matter how massive or tiny your audience is. What matters is the music you make. Nothing else. Trust yourself first and foremost. And don’t let the clamour of social media deafen out your songs and the making of music. You might think you’re struggling but that’s part of the journey. In 5 or 10 years you might look back and realise you were right on it. And…never listen to anyone outside your band. Including me!

TITL: Finally then, were would you like to see The Lost Brothers five, even ten years from now? Having already achieved so much, what other dreams and ambitions do you want to fulfil?

OL: I want the albums to keep getting better. The live show to evolve. To get better at entertaining the poor suckers to have to sit through our songs! To bring a communion in the room and connect with people. To tour Mexico with Beck and Bob Dylan simultaneously in ten golden tour buses. The end.

The Lost Brothers’ new album Halfway Towards A Healing is available for pre-order now. Tickets and further information on their tour can be found by visiting their website. Header photo credit: Gabriel Sullivan.

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DANIELLE PINNOCK CHATS ‘YOUNG SHELDON’ & THE BODY POSITIVITY MOVEMENT 51

With The Big Bang Theory having proven to be a global hit since its very first episode, it should come as no surprise to learn that its spin-off, a look at the childhood and early years of Jim Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper, aptly titled Young Sheldon, has also become a phenomenon. With the show about to air its debut season finale, and with season 2 already greenlit, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Danielle Pinnock, who plays Ms. Ingram in the show, to find out about her very first audition, her role as a body activist and how she feels about the reaction to and her being part of the smash-hit series that is Young Sheldon.

TITL: At what age did you first realize you wanted to pursue acting as a career? Was there one particular show/actor you watched that made you think ‘I’d like to do that’?

Danielle Pinnock: When I was 19 I was in a production at Temple University called In Conflict. It was a documentary play about war veterans returning home from serving overseas. The show was so incredible. We were even pulled out of school for a year to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Off-Broadway in New York.  All of the vets we portrayed were real people, based on interviews done by journalist Yvonne Latty. The veteran I played, Sgt. Lisa Haynes, was the only one we were unable to get a response from during run of the show. I heard that during her initial interview, her PTSD was so severe once returning home that she may have “fallen off the map.” I didn’t want to accept this, so I took it upon myself to find Sgt. Haynes. I called every VA hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she was from, and was able to locate her and her family. During the run of the show,  I flew down to Tulsa and met Sgt. Haynes and her family. When I returned back to New York, I was determined to have Sgt. Haynes see the final Off-Broadway performance. So in the final two weeks of the run I managed to raise $10,000 to get Sgt. Haynes and her family members up to New York to see In Conflict’s last show. It was THAT show that made me want to act for the rest of my life.

TITL: Can you recall your very first audition? 

DP: Yes! Ha! My very first audition was for the middle school production of Aladdin. I played Halima, Jafar’s evil sister. It was like pulling teeth to get me to audition for this role. I never wanted to be an actor growing up, and was super shy as a child. My audition song was “Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill.

TITL: Which auditions, looking back on them, do you feel went really well or that you struggled with? 

DP: The reason I ended up in Los Angeles is because I auditioned for a production at the Geffen Playhouse called Barbecue by Robert O’Hara. At the time of the auditions, I was still living in Chicago and actually flew up to L.A. to be seen for the project. It was a risky decision and I would not recommend actors doing that, but I knew I had to be on point! I also knew if I was going to move to Los Angeles, I needed a job! Barbecue was one of my best auditions in L.A. Recently, I ran into Colman Domingo and he said: Danielle, you just walked in with your blue dress and commanded our attention. Working with Colman and the cast members was a dream realized. It was an honor to be included in that production.

My most memorable audition that I struggled with also happened in Los Angeles. I was going in for the role of a nurse on a sitcom. A lot of auditions in L.A. happen in “bungalows” which are really just trailers on the studio lots. I only bring this up, because the walls in most audition rooms are extremely thin so you can hear another actors’ entire audition. There was a young woman who went in before me, and her audition was so fantastic that the casting director actually booked her for the project IN THE ROOM! The entire waiting room, full of actors, heard the casting director call this woman’s agent to say the actor had booked it. However, in the waiting room, chaos ensued. People began to leave the audition and I had no clue what to do because I was NEXT! As soon as the actor left the audition room all I heard was: “Danielle Pinnock come on in.”  It was my worst audition to date. I forgot all of the lines and was just unmotivated to even give my all because I knew there was no chance of me getting booked on that project.

TITL: How did you hear about the role of Ms. Ingram for Young Sheldon? What was/is it about the character that made you want to audition for the role?

DP: Funny enough, this was a same-day audition. My manager called me on a Thursday morning and I had three-hours to prepare the sides for an Untitled project. I initially went in for the music-teacher and then Nikki Valko, the casting director, asked me to read for a brand new character they created that week “Ms. Ingram.” It was refreshing to see that casting was considering me, a plus-sized African American woman to play the mathematics teacher. Ms. Ingram is one of my favorite characters to play because she is so quirky, hilarious and extremely no-nonsense.

TITL: The show has proven to be a HUGE success in the US and is also popular here in the UK. Did you or your fellow cast members ever expect the show to get the response and reaction it has? 

DP: It’s surreal! This show is a hit internationally and I’ve never, in my entire career, been a part of such a phenomenon. Chuck Lorre is a genius and absolutely has the Midas touch when it comes to creating successful television! Working with the creators Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro has been a dream come true. My mom and I were in the grocery store and someone stopped us and said “That’s Ms. Ingram, Oh My God!” In the pilot, my character Ms. Ingram talks about attending Oral Roberts University and the school sent me a gift! I went to graduate school at Birmingham School of Acting UK, now known as the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, so it’s really cool for my friends, family and professors to see it overseas as well!

Aside from it’s obvious TBBT connection, what do you think it is about Young Sheldon that has attracted so many people to watch, and keep watching, it?

DP: The show is hilarious and the main cast give masterful performances. Iain Armitage who plays Sheldon Cooper is a brilliant young performer and is such a joy to work alongside. His portrayal of Sheldon Cooper is honest and relatable.

TITL: You’ve also appeared in Scandal and This Is Us. How important to you is it that you’re able to take on a variety of roles that really put your abilities to the test, and with that in mind, what’s your dream role? Which show would you most like to appear in and why?

DP: Working on those two shows was incredible. I was able to work on Scandal with the genius Kerry Washington; the legendary Viola Davis was the cherry on an already delicious sundae! I’ve had the opportunity to play some fantastic roles both in theatre and on-screen. To be honest, I don’t know what my dream role would be. There are so many great shows out right now. My favorites at the moment: Good Girls, Atlanta, How To Get Away With Murder and SMILF. 

TITL: The entertainment industry is cut throat and competitive, so what advice would you give to anyone looking to make their mark on it? Is there any one piece of advice you were once given that you still look back on?

DP: A colleague of mine once said: “In this industry, you must learn to be plural.” In this industry, especially nowadays, you have to be multi-faceted. This is why there is an uprising of artists creating their own content now.

TITL: Away from TV, you’re an accomplished writer/playwright, and are passionate about creating productions that address life, living and the many issues that come with it. Does your work in that field ever cross over into your acting work and vice-versa?

DP: Absolutely. I’m actually developing an improvised Instagram series with my friend, LaNisa Frederick called Hashtag Booked. Hashtag Booked is a hilarious, raw, and shocking portrayal of what happens during the short period of time in the audition waiting room.  These “characters” are based on real-life experiences.

TITL: How are you finding your role as a vocal activist for body positivity impacting both yourself and those around you? How did you first get involved and would you like to see more individuals, especially those in the public eye, using their status to speak out about important matters as you are?

DP: The first play I ever wrote was a solo show called Body/Courage. Body/Courage was created from over 300 interviews I conducted worldwide, and it was an exploration on body acceptance. This project changed my life. The show is about my journey to find my own beauty through the voices of others. The cool thing about the show is that it introduced a constellation of characters grappling with diverse body issues including weight, illness, disability, skin color, aging, and gender transition. It was this show that got me involved in the body positivity movement. Body/Courage, allowed me to find a courage in myself that I didn’t know I possessed. The body positivity movement already has some fierce voices and it can always use more so I would encourage others to speak out.

TITL: Are there any other plans or projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?

DP: This summer, I’ll be releasing an interview-style podcast called SHOOK discussing true stories of mental health in the industry. I’ve also been asked to be a guest contributor for Shondaland, so check out my essay I’ll be writing for them in the next few weeks.

TITL: Finally then, given that the industry is ever changing, sometimes at a pace even fans can’t keep up with, where do you think the business will go and be 5-10 years from now? What would you like to see happen and do you think that such things will? 

DP: My hope for the industry in 5-10 years is that we can begin to bring more stories by women of color to the forefront. I want to see more women of color on set, I want to see more women of color in the writers room, I want to see more women of color as producers and directors. I want to see women of color win in this industry now and in the future.

Young Sheldon is currently airing on E4 in the UK on Wednesdays at 8.30PM. You can keep up to date with Danielle Pinnock via her Twitter. Header photo credit: Joe Mazza.

REVIEW: THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS – AMERICA 36

Five years in the making, Thirty Seconds To Mars’ new album ‘America’, which Jared promoted this week by hitch-hiking his way across his home country as part of an event called #MarsAcrossAmerica, is most certainly a considerable shift away from what members of the Echelon have heard from the trio (though current duo) over the years. But is this said shift good or bad?

Beginning with “Walk On Water” which introduced both old and new fans alike to the bands’ new rather electro-edged sound, ‘America’ starts off well, especially given that the rather radio friendly “Dangerous Night” follows on from it.

“Rescue Me” ups the tempo somewhat, and with its toe-tapping, body swaying rhythm, combined with Jared’s rough edged vocal, it’s just over three and a half minutes of enjoyable considerably upbeat rock, and the simplistic chorus in particular will work well when – or if – its performed on their current Monolith tour.

Prior to the release of the album, the band gave a sneak peak of one of the album’s collaborations, with A$AP Rocky. Having watched said sneak peak, this reviewer personally felt his involvement was random and pointless. Fortunately however, and for reasons unknown, he doesn’t feature on my (likely all UK albums) version and with the song performed for the most part in a breathy, almost dream-like manner, it would most likely have been completely ruined with Rocky’s inclusion.

The “Monolith” instrumental, AKA track 5, doesn’t really serve any purpose, however it does lead into the album’s one collaboration that REALLY does work – that of Jared and Halsey on “Love Is Madness” – one of the darker tracks, but not the darkest, on the album. She compliments Jared perfectly, enhancing the song and its sultry mood/feel to the point where it easily stands out as a highlight of the collection.

“Great Wide Open” is an inspiring track, and one that’s perfect to listen to when you’re out discovering yourself or exploring this world we live in, or most likely, doing both at the same time. It’s the type of song you can see playing behind a montage of a person’s life, as their friends and family pay tribute to or celebrate them in some form or another, and with that in mind, it’s one of the album’s strongest, and most emotive, pieces.

Mixing simple electronic hooks, plenty of synth and a chorus which, it could be argued, is rather understated, “Hail To The Victor” almost flashes back to the ‘Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams’ era of the band, perhaps included to draw that chapter to an undeniable close. The darkest, deepest number on the album comes in the form of “Dawn Will Rise.” With lyrics including “Come and hit me, strike me while I’m down” and “Fortunes fade in time, I must change or die.”, it’s certainly not a track to listen to if you are in a good mood, as its sombre, almost depressing tone, matched by Jared’s almost defeated vocal performance, will soon shatter said mood to pieces.

If there’s any real surprise on the album, it’s Shannon’s Leto’s vocal on “Remedy.” It’s raw and stripped back in comparison to any track that has come before and comes after it. There’s an organic feel to the song, and Shannon’s performance, although different, is so in a phenomenally good way, and he’s no doubt going to find himself requested to play it live.

The chorus of “Oh Oh Oh”, on “Live Like A Dream”, in a nice touch from the band, was recorded at one of their Camp Mars events, and serves as an audible reminder for those who were there of the project they were involved in (though it’s unlikely they knew what it was for at the time) and the fun they had, while for other members of the Echelon, it’s a nice throwback to the ‘This Is War’ era when many of them featured on that album, having participated in ‘summits’ around the world.

“Rider” has so far proved to be quite a strong, albeit new, inclusion to the band’s tour setlist, and with its rising crescendo as the piece nears its end, it’s quite stirring and powerful. Meanwhile, on the deluxe edition of the album, the acoustic, choir-inclusive version of “Walk On Water” might lack the energy of the original, but with the electronics removed, it brings Jared’s genuine vocal ability to the forefront again, and such has been considerably lacking up to this point.

With remixes growing in popularity, it’s not that surprising to find the band have included 2, the first being a R3hab remix of “Walk On Water.” For those who like a more dance-like and continued electro-feel to their songs, it’s not a bad version by any means, but it’s not the best remix ever made either, and the Cheat Codes remix of “Dangerous Night” doesn’t fare that much better.

Despite the new sound and styles with which the band have experimented on this collection, ‘America’ is still at its heart, very much a Thirty Seconds To Mars album, and if the social media reaction is anything to go by, it’s proving a hit with their huge following. Yes there are tracks on the album that don’t quite work as well as they should, like the remixes, but for the majority, lyrically and instrumentally, it’s a considerably solid piece of work that fans hopefully won’t have to wait another five years for in order to hear its follow-up.