If you want to hear some of the best music currently out on this planet, then The Passive Aggressives will completely blow you away. You will enjoy every beat, note, vocal, and everything else in between with their melodious tune and catchy lyrics. I recently completed an online interview with the four members of the group and had a blast.
Don't believe me; check out the final result for yourself in this exclusive spotlight.
Members of the Band:
Jose Santiago-guitar (currently on a leave of absence)
Andrew Smith-guitar (replacing Jose while he is on a leave of absence)
Isaac: Elaborate on who you are and your upbringing.
Keren Gaiser - I am Keren, singing is the one thing that relaxes me the most... it gets all the demons out of me. I grew up in Israel in a very small town east of Tel Aviv. Mom was home, dad was a military
Jose Santiago -- Jose, Puerto Rican, Latino, Hispanic, brown. Grew up on island with island sounds and then discovered electric guitars in 1988.
Tim Dayner - Tim Dayner was born in Denver Colorado, raised mostly by my mom and grandma. My mother married, moved to Marin County at 8 years old, and had two brothers and one sister with my stepfather. I studied martial arts for 10 years which taught me discipline and coordination. I asked my parents for a drum set every birthday and Christmas but never got one. Started playing drums when I moved out on my own and haven't stopped since.
Andrew Smith -- I was adopted from India when I was 3 months old. No real connections to my origins. Brought up by my father who is a single parent. Pretty normal childhood. I was always moving around a lot because my dad would get relocated or take on new jobs, so I never stayed in one city for too long. I mostly stuck to the Bay Area with brief periods of residence in the Central Valley and Las Vegas, NV. It
wasn't until I came back to California in 2000 when I got into music. I was a lead singer in a band in high school for about 3 years, and along the way picked up guitar. I've been continuing performing music all
throughout college. Had a semi-successful band called Theory of Noise, and I am currently performing with The Passive Aggressives.
Damian Lynch -- I am Damian. I like rust. I find beauty in decay of structure being reclaimed by nature. I grew up in a small town in Colorado. Mom and Dad worked. Raised by a single mom till she found the
right guy. Dad played in country bars and work at a small radio station.
Isaac: Was there any one musician that spoke to your heart so profoundly, you were inspired to do your own thing?
Keren - As a little kid, all I was doing all day is listening to music and imitating it nothing else felt so right. I've grown to love so many musicians but those who had anger and sadness in their lyrics grabbed me the most. After moving to America in '94, the first artist who did that to me was Alanis Morissette with her jagged little pill album. Her music inspired me to write more and in a second language which I didn't know very well at that time.
Damian -- I have to name just one person? Wow.
Tim - My first desire to start playing drums was when Led Zeppelin became my favorite band; listening to and watching John Bonham inspired me to play the drums. I then became a fan of Neil Peart, Tim Alexander, Danny Carey, and Dave Weckl.
Andrew--I think my biggest influence was Jon Crosby composer and lead singer of VAST (Visual Audio Sensory Theater). His music and lyrics blew me away when I first heard him on the radio back in maybe 95 or 97. Since then, I've always been a huge fan and love his style and rhythms.
Damian -- The Chili Peppers/Flea/Anthony Kiedis maybe. I know that's not just one. They talked about this extreme love they had for each other when they played and union that was created through music that was magical. I experienced that early on in bands I played with... That in itself is such a remarkable experience. Then, to take that love and share it with an audience.
Isaac: Which singer/group would you say you would most like to do a duet with?
Keren - Would love to do a duet with Rob Thomas, and Freddy Mercury of 'Queen' maybe in the next life.
Jose --System of a down.
Tim - I would be honored and humbled to fill in for Led Zeppelin on tour instead of Jason Bonham, but that wouldn't be right.
Damian -- I'd say the Black Eyed Peas. They seem like they just have so much fun performing. That would be a hell of a good time.
Isaac: What singer/songwriter do you most connect with?
Damian -- Other than our own? Matt Nathanson comes to mind.
Keren -- There is an Israeli Singer called Rita, whose voice always sticks in my head. I've learned a lot from her technical; I'm definitely a better singer because of her. I really like Jewel's way of writing; she gets in my soul.
Jose --Roby Draco Rosa; Tito Auger .
Tim - Mostly connect with Maynard from Tool. His lyrics are profound and he doesn't conform to the masses.
Isaac: Out of your entire song collection that you've written thus far, which song(s) would you say is/are the most personal/meaningful to you?
Keren - There is one song I've written about my old man. It's on our new album; it is one of the most personal and difficult songs I've ever written.
Tim - I haven't written any lyrics to our songs but the most meaningful to me would be "Sweet Lisa" since it is still a song we play and has lasted over the bands different generations.
Jose -- "One More Look".
Andrew--All of the music I wrote when I was doing my solo thing between the years of 2003-06 were very close to my heart. While probably not the most mature lyrics every written, the songs were musical
representations of my current state of mind and my wanting to know what love truly was.
Damian - "Slice It Away", "World of Compromise", "Just Because That Comes", and "From My Own Pain".
Isaac: Which singers/groups do you enjoy/like from some of today's music genres?
Damian -- Muse is my current favorite. I'd love to tour with them. The Peas... Mars Volta. I saw a great band when we were playing down at SXSW - Decartes a Kant. Wow. They'd be great to play with.
Jose --The Sword, Clutch, Muse, NPR.
Keren - Match Box Twenty, Jason Mraz, Gavin Degraw, Jewel, Melissa Etheridge, Maroon 5. We just came back from a tour, and our bass player put 'Muse' in the car, I probably am the only person on the planet who hadn't heard this group yet, but I totally dig their music, their lyrics and melody lines are absolutely amazing.
Tim - Tool, System of a Down, Incubus, Perfect Circle, Mars Volta. Anything with extraordinary drumming and odd time signatures.
Andrew--A lot of today's music doesn't move me a whole lot. But I do enjoy more hard rock groups like System of a Down, Thursday, Saosin, Weslester, and Black Tide.
Isaac: What charities are you involved with or support?
Tim - I have supported Breast Cancer Foundations and Animal rights foundations.
Keren - I support organizations and charities that help needed-- children, battered women, women with Cancer, and ending the hunger in our world.
Damian -- We support a few. Breast Cancer research through the 3-day walk. We're doing a benefit show for Breast Cancer on the 8th of November. We've also done a benefit for Hopalong in Oakland. And, personally give to some causes like Heifer International and Human Rights Watch.
Isaac: Have you (or would you ever consider) writing a song about any of today's particular world issues/problems? If so, what world issue would speak to you the most to write about?
Jose --Mental health, health care, hunger, war.
Damian -- Damn. Many of our songs target world issues. We try to mask them somewhat so we don't come across a preachy. But, Our Lulla-Bye song is a thinly veiled punch at the current administration.
Andrew--I'd probably write a song about the huge amounts of human suffering going on in the world today as a result of the war in Iraq, or some futuristic song about where I see humanity going in the years to come.
Keren - The band and I have written a song on the corruption of our corporate world, it is called 'World of Compromise', and is featured on our new album.
Damian - It is in many ways about the selling of souls to corporations while they fleece the world.
Keren --I think that song can talk to a lot of people who work every day in the corporate industries.
Tim - The world issue that speaks to me the most would conflict, war, and poverty.
Damian -- Soundtrack, about the lack of original voice or honest voice in mass market media. And, from the last Album, The Evil Clown song is about politicians. Right now, I'm working on a song about the wonderful economic crisis.
Keren -- World issues I would like to talk about…so many problems in this world. The way people are taking religion, and twisting it around trying to force those around them to believe in it…so many unnecessary wars because of that; I'm sick of that.
Isaac: Why should people listen to your music?
Keren - Because it's delicious, because our songs really target so many problems we all have in our lives, because our guitarist's riffs and our bassist's playing are unique and original, and because our drummer is hot.
Isaac: You are all hot! :-)
Jose --Cause we give it to you straight, no boring self indulgent crap; maybe a little self indulgent.
Tim - People should listen to our music if they want to hear something out of the ordinary which still has soul and meaningful lyrics; music that is soothing to ears but still packs a punch and makes your head
bounce up and down.
Keren - Because our music explains our name exactly the right way: It's the unique blend of expressing aggression in passive ways with beautiful melodies and heart-pounding instrumentation, it's the eternal struggle between wanting to create beauty and destroying it (I stole the line from a SF Chronicle review that was done on our music last year, ha ha).
Damian -- Because there really are not a whole lot of people today that are doing what we do bringing difficult messages to the table, pop coating them in sugar to make them easy to digest, and backing it up
with complex yet fun musicianship.
Keren - And of course you add my voice!!! (ha ha).
Andrew--Our music is unique in every sense of the word, and what I like mostly about it is that it gets people moving. Keren's vocals are amazing and she really is the star of the band I think, along with
Damian's crazy bass lines, it's almost a crime not to get up and dance along with the groove.
Isaac: Your music is relaxing and chill. What inspired you to toss out these awesome lyrics and cords?
Tim - A combination of musical backgrounds that each of us respect and try to blend together to make something totally unique.
Jose --Is our music relaxing and chill??
Keren - Our bass player has a split personality so he writes awesome lyrics (both of them); so much pain and happiness together.
Damian -- I'm personally haunted. I have these songs rattling around in my head for days... weeks... years even. And, the only way to exercise them is to record them. It's my personal therapy.
Keren - I'm coming from such a different musical background than the guys. I'm always trying to stay within the 'box', and be very melodic. The combination of the two is powerful.
Isaac: How far into the creation of a song do you share any of it with anyone? Who would
you play it for? Would it be a chorus, a verse and chorus, or a complete song?
Damian -- Depends on the songs and how strong the haunting is in my head. I have a strong vision on some songs where I can jam on the bass or guitar part and sing it. I go a little crazy and the rest of the group thinks I'm doing some insane Jack Black impersonation.
Keren - For our latest album, we took songs the guys wrote a while back before meeting me, and a few songs I brought the band from when I was a solo act, we combined it all, rearranged it musically, and that's how 'Conflict Resolution' was created.
Tim - I will share a new drum beat that I like to the band mates and see if we can incorporate it into a new song.
Jose --I mostly share complete song, I like my babies fully grown before birth.
Keren - Usually when I write, I like having a song almost complete before presenting it to the band, but we have decided to write more together for our next album. Right now, I'm working on 3 different songs
the bass player wrote trying to get into his very creative head and write the melodies; we'll see what comes out of that.
Isaac: How much do you let others "mess around with" one of your new songs?
Keren - I used to be a control freak when it came down to the music I create, I've learned from the guys to let go a bit and trust more. I hear a lot of melodies in my head, but English is my second language, so
I use my talents where needed, and let them use theirs in the right places.
Jose --A lot if they have ideas that goes with the original intent.
Tim - I only let other band members or our producer mess around with songs.
Damian -- Well, when we release a song, we consider it a TPA song. It wouldn't get where it gets without all our contributions. We fight a lot. Sometimes I lose the fight and sometimes I win, but in the end, the
song is stronger.
Isaac: Do you have to be a tortured soul to be a singer-songwriter?
Jose --To be a good one: double gamma turbo YES.
Andrew--I'd say it probably helps if you want to write lyrics that people today want to hear about, but as far as writing music is concerned, I've never had trouble writing something that people like to
hear. It all depends on our ear for it and if you can compose the right arrangement of chords and melody that make people want to listen to you.
Keren - That's a tough one. I'd lie if I would say no. You have to find deep inside of you everything that makes you feel hurt, anger, despair, happiness, love and get it out of yourself; learning to let
go--I'm still learning.
Tim - I think everyone has a tortured soul in some way but singer/songwriters most likely are more tortured and use music as therapy for themselves.
Damian -- The most meaningful songs I've ever heard are the ones that when I hear first them, they instantly puncture my soul. I remember a line by Bono, "every artist is a cannibal, every poet a thief, and all kill their inspiration, and sing about the grief." That struck me hard because it cut through the bullshit and it was so honest. I personally think, it is that honesty that people connect to in a song. We're all so full of façade and bullshit that when we hear a true line it immediately resonates in the soul. As a songwriter, it is tough for me to be truly honest. And, I mentally go to a very dark place when I write trying to bypass all the materialism, media, propaganda, and social construct training to try and get to some truth. Is that to say I think I'm tortured? Maybe. Are all artists? I think a lot of the ones who get to a place of real honesty are. But maybe another question is how much of that torture is self inflicted.
Isaac: Are your songs strictly autobiographical or are they embroidered autobiography?
Damian -- Does that mean we stick ourselves with needles? If so, then yes.
Tim - I think they are a combination of both.
Jose --Not really; maybe half of the material.
Damian - But, then again, there are so many voices in our heads, it's hard to differentiate.
Isaac: How long does it take you to process your emotions and turn them into songs?
Jose --Not long.
Keren - Weeks, sometimes months.
Damian -- I'm not sure I can quantify them in terms of time; rather I quantify it in terms of bottles. And, the answer is three.
Tim - Instantly, I can turn my emotion into a drum beat and that is how I usually play and come up with new beats. I am a feel player and play what I feel at the time.
Damian - Seriously, it depends on the song. There have been a few songs I've struggled on for years. And, couldn't quite find what I was trying to say. Others seem like they wrote themselves.
Isaac: The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Keren - To always believe in me and way I chose to live my life.
Tim - Think positively and positive things will happen.
Andrew--"Never make the people under you work harder than you do." This quote was told to me from one of my film professors at UCSC and it totally stuck with me. I believe that if you are in a position of
leadership that you need to be the one working the hardest, putting in the most hours, etc. Otherwise people do not respect you or who you are.
Damian -- Burn your candle at both ends, and do so brilliantly.
Jose --Best advice I've followed was to not listen to advice.
Isaac: Shutouts to your family and friends.
Andrew--I'd like to give a shoutout to Emily, my other half, who I love with all my heart. And of course all my friends who have supported me and my music career even if they thought the music sucked. And last but not least my father who giving his all to raise me as his own and doing a hell of a good job at it!!
Jose --To my wife and my daughters, las amo mucho mucho.
Damian -- Much love to my son, wife, and family. And all the TPA faithful that keep us close to their hearts.
Isaac: Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Keren - Writing material for our new album, rearranging the songs on our set so we can have a more elaborate live show.
Tim - I am working on new songs, expanding my drum technique constantly, and trying to incorporate a sample pad into our live shows.
Jose --Supporting TPA in any way I can.
Damian -- We're trying to get this current release in front of as many people as possible. We're trying to find a manager to help us take this to the next level and put us on the road opening for a bigger act.