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Savoy Special: Better Living Through Chemistry

Savoy Special pic #1
Savoy Special's Sam Rasch, Tim Rieker, and Ben Parks discuss their new album, New Age Hustle, as well as relationships, therapy, and Terri Schiavo.
Savoy Special plays Friday, August 18th at Last Concert Café (1403 Nance Street, Houston, TX. 77002).


SCR: Tell me a little about your band.
Ben Parks: We started playing music together in high school. We played some while in college, and then we formed Hi-Ficus when we all moved to Houston around 2001. After one EP and several years of playing shows, we found that Hi-Ficus had run its course. Two years later, we formed Savoy Special with all new music and a changed lineup.
Who are your influences?
Ben: Toad the Wet Sprocket, early Metallica, The Beatles, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pinback, Radiohead, the Police, Alice in Chains, Pink Floyd, Primus, the Doors, the Beta Band...we could go on and on.
What are you listening to now?
Ben: Augie March, the Mars Volta, Death Cab for Cutie, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chamillionaire, Moonlight Towers, Elbow, Glen Phillips, Scattered Pages, Pete Yorn, Lil' Wayne...etc.
What does music mean to you?
Ben: Expression and a creative outlet. Communication -- not only between the three of us, but between us and our audience. Music obviously means a great deal to us, but it is quite difficult to represent the passion and feelings you have for something like this with words. We hope that how we feel about music is expressed by what we put into it.
What do you think of current music out there?
Ben: Good music is out there but it can be hard to find. With the help of the Internet, quality music is able to reach the public. The majority of quality music these days is found on a smaller scale, where you discover real musicians that maintain their artistic integrity.
What makes you feel that Savoy Special has something to offer the music world?
Ben: Mostly, just because we believe in what we are doing. We've put our hearts and souls into this band and we feel that our original sound and honest message is something worth putting out there.
What are your thoughts on the music scene in Houston? How do you feel it has changed since Savoy Special started?
Ben: Savoy Special has really only been playing shows for the past three months. In this time, the rock bands we've encountered have been top-notch. Honestly, this is the best rock we've ever heard out of Houston. The support network for the rock scene is also getting stronger every day. Houston's cultural diversity is reflected in its music, and it's exciting to see the lines between genres becoming blurred.
-- Atmosphere record cover
(Music courtesy of Savoy Special.)

What are your day jobs?
Tim Rieker: Computer programmer for a shipping/warehousing company.
Sam Rasch: High school English teacher.
Ben: Nurse assistant in an operating room and in school to become an EMT.
Tell me about the album and what it means to you.
Tim: It's a culmination of years of work. We learned from our first time in the studio and we were able to go in with a better idea of what needed to be done. It's satisfying to have created something that we are happy with and proud of. By drawing on our new experiences, we will be able to set the bar that much higher for the next album.
Sam: The songs on this album were written in a pretty rocky time in my life. My ex had just dumped me after cheating on me, my old band had just fallen apart and my job at the time was going nowhere. These songs are basically what I wanted to hear at that time. I wrote them for my own therapy. It's great to hear the music on this album captured so well with so much amazing talent.
Ben: When we started this album, it was about getting the job done and doing it well. It was about getting the best possible product without any sacrifices due to time, money or any external responsibilities. To me, now that it's done, it really shows what we are capable of and what we can accomplish.
Who wrote the lyrics for New Age Hustle?
Ben: Sam.
What inspired each of you during the making of this album?
Tim: A desire to see a product we were happy with, without cutting corners.
Ben: Sausage and cheese kolaches, breakfast tacos, coffee, starburst, cigarettes.
Sam: Watching the guest musicians do their thing on the album.

Savoy Special pic #2
What people, events, music and books directly contributed to New Age Hustle?
Ben: Everyone we know has played some part in contributing to this album. One of the songs, "Call the Doctor," was inspired in part by both the Schiavo case and "Ligeia" by Edgar Allen Poe -- the prominent theme of this song being alienation. Some of our album references while mixing were Pete Yorn's Music for the Morning After, Radiohead's OK Computer, Coldplay's Rush of Blood to the Head, Guster, Elvis Costello, and Tom Petty.
A huge portion of this album pertains to people who have problems, who just don't "get it" -- they feed off their own anger, fear, greed, etc. You express your dismay and disappointment in the other person's flaws/failings. What do you do to stay balanced? How do you keep yourselves above all of that?
Ben: While some of the dismay might be towards others, much of the disappointment that you sense is towards our own shortcomings. When people have flaws of shortcomings, they often fester from their own inability to communicate and work through this. By creating music, we are able to grow and learn from our shortcomings and turn a negative experience into a positive one.
Who is Holly? Why did you put her voicemail message in the song "My Band is a Waste?"
Ben: Holly is our former bassist's ex-girlfriend. She had a hard time with how much time he spent with the band and was openly cynical regarding the band's purpose and possible successes. The voicemail is unrelated, but it fit so well with the song we had to put it in. It was actually left by one of our friends who were pretty hammered at the time. We heard it while we were in the studio and thought it was too funny to leave off the album.
How did you get hooked up with the Heights Chamber Players, Two Star Symphony, and DJ Sun?
Ben: Heights Chamber Players had actually been hired to play at my wedding and made quite the impression. Two Star Symphony had been recording at RBI around the same time as us...who can resist them? When we were looking for a DJ, we just sought out the best we could think of...we looked up DJ Sun and emailed him. April Rapier is from Sugar Bayou, another great Houston act. She has helped us with instruction in the past and we were pretty excited to have her on the record. Jon Durbin is from a band called Salmerum. We had a hard time finding a trumpet player. He was highly recommended by a friend of a friend. We couldn't be happier with how he contributed to the CD. Alfred Tam plays with Clouseaux, once again another great performance by another great musician.
Who should listen to this album, and why?
Ben: Everyone -- because they might like it.
What are your future plans as a band?
Ben: Play lots o' shows. Tour next summer, maybe. Record another album.
Your Top Five Albums ever.
Tim: Led Zeppelin, IV; Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here; The Doors, Strange Days; Radiohead, The Bends; Guns N Roses, Appetite for Destruction.
Ben: The Beatles, Abbey Road; Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon; Blind Melon, Blind Melon; Tori Amos, Under the Pink; Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magic.
Sam: Pinback, Pinback; Radiohead, Hail to the Thief; The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; Augie March, Moo, You Bloody Choir; Pete Yorn, Musicforthemorningafter. END