Houston Calling

Questions for Us & Them

June 7th, 2006 · No Comments

I recently attended a concert film of David Gilmour’s On An Island. It’s a strange concept, I know, but with ticket prices in the high hundreds of dollars and only a handful of U.S. dates, only the wealthiest of fans were lucky enough to score tickets to the real thing. The film, which cost a whole $10 to attend, was recorded in early May in London and quickly edited for a one-night-only showing in select cities across the U.S.

While there, I noticed a few people wearing Us & Them T-shirts. I am a big Floyd fan, and have seen Us & Them, Houston’s Pink Floyd tribute band, a time or two. Since Gilmour recently released a new album and film, and recent news that former Floyd frontman Roger Waters is touring this summer, I decided to ask Us & Them about their experiences with the band they so dutifully pay homage to. Jason Deere, who plays rhythm and lead guitar and supplies backing vocals for Us & Them, was gracious enough to answer these questions. Enjoy.

Questions for Us & Them

HC: What’s your favorite concert memory? Anything particularly memorable that’s happened at one of your shows?

Jason: It’s hard to pick a favorite concert memory, but I’d have to say that one of my favorite moments was watching Roger Waters walk out onto the stage in 2000 with a big smile on his face, really enjoying the experience, after a long hiatus from doing live performances. It was really something to see him in that light, playing Pink Floyd music again after all of the earlier bitterness with the other guys in the band, and having a great time doing it.

As far as our shows go, we’ve had some great experiences with the fans, especially when you can hear them sing over the top of the PA system! Really, it’s that kind of “communion” that Pink Floyd’s music inspires in people that keeps us going and makes every minute of work worth it.

HC: I am a huge Pink Floyd fan, and was fortunate enough to see them in Dallas on their last tour. Not once did I consider forming a band to play their songs, though. How did the idea come about for a Pink Floyd tribute band? I have my suspicions…

Jason: Well, it was really the brainchild of lead singer Mike Osborne and bassist Daniel West after seeing Roger Waters in concert in 2000. It started out as really just a lot of fun for us, but after we did a few shows, the response was so overwhelming that we’ve kept at it! The songs are so diverse and sonically rich that it is a real challenge to recreate them in a live setting, and that fuels us as musicians. It is still a labor of love on our part, we just have such a great time playing this music together, always trying to learn new things and surprise the audiences.

HC: I read once that a tribute band in the UK played at David Gilmour’s birthday party once. Do you know if the members of Pink Floyd have heard of Us & Them?

Jason: Actually, yes, it was The Australian Pink Floyd Show that played at Gilmour’s birthday party a few years ago. They’re a very good band, obviously. I don’t think any of the members of Pink Floyd know about us at all. There are so many Floyd tribute bands worldwide, I imagine they hardly notice anymore.

HC: So what do you think of On An Island? What’s your favorite track? How do you think it compares to his previous solo work? I really enjoy his debut solo album, but find the second one to be a victim of its time — much of it sounds really dated, in my opinion. “Love On The Air”? C’mon… I am digging everything on the new one except “Take A Breath” — that one I skip.

Jason: On An Island is an interesting piece of music that really has to be viewed with the right perspective (I believe) to be appreciated. It certainly is nothing like his previous efforts for the most part, with only a song or two bearing some resemblance more to The Division Bell than to any solo effort he’s done prior. David has said that it is the record he wanted to make, not for the fans, not for the record company, or anyone else but himself. I certainly respect that, though it’s still growing on me. I really enjoy the airy feel of the songs, and David’s voice is still outstanding.

I do like “Red Sky at Night” quite a bit. I also rather like “Take A Breath” outside of the chant part. I also agree with you on his debut album vs. About Face, songs like “Blue Light” are quite hard to listen to these days. Loved his cover of “There’s No Way Out of Here” on his first album, which he actually had produced for the band that wrote and first released it (Unicorn).

Click to read more…

HC: Will you be playing any of the new Gilmour songs during your upcoming shows in June and July?

Jason: We have not added any songs from On An Island as yet. Certainly not out of the range of possibility in the future, however.

HC: I saw you guys floating about at the screening of the David Gilmour concert film the other night. What did you think of it? I was pleased at the results, considering it was filmed less than two weeks ago in London. I think my favorite was “Wearing the Inside Out,” which is a favorite of mine from The Division Bell. I had never heard it live. Seeing Rick Wright up there with Gilmour was great. Did you get a good response from people coming out of the theater while you were handing out flyers?

Jason: We dug the film, and I liked the minimalist type setup the guys used on stage. You didn’t have all the glitz and such, just the music straightforward. I personally liked how David reworked “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” the way he did. It really shows you just how strong his voice and playing is. I wish they’d have had the volume a little louder in the theater, but hey, can’t please everyone. I also wish they would have included some of the songs that David has been playing later in the tour like “Arnold Layne,” “Echoes,” “Dominoes” (Syd Barrett song), “Wots…Uh The Deal,” and “Fat Old Sun.”

I too really like “Wearing The Inside Out,” as well as much of The Division Bell, and it was great to see Rick up there playing those songs with David. We had a great response from people on the flyers, hopefully there will be some new faces at the show this weekend (June 10th).

HC: Maybe On An Island could have been the new Pink Floyd album — I read in the British press that Nick Mason pissed off Gilmour by having a shady photographer around during The Division Bell tour for some book deal without Gilmour knowing it was for that purpose. The British press has a tendency to write very one-sided, in my opinion. Have you heard anything about that?

Jason: I had not actually heard that about Nick and David. I know that Nick recently joined David and Rick on stage for the encore songs in London, so I guess he’s not too ticked at him! As I mentioned earlier, David made this album at his own pace, and on his own terms. He has said multiple times that he just didn’t want to have to carry the weight of Pink Floyd around with this record, and to an extent, you can’t blame him for that. He has a big family now and they are his number one priority. That’s also why he did such a limited tour for the album.

HC: What’s your favorite Floyd song to perform live? Why?

Jason: “Dogs” is probably our favorite to perform, but there are many that are up there as well. Animals has such an edge, and is so interesting musically, that songs like “Dogs” are both a challenge and monumentally fun to play! “Echoes,” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” probably round out the top three songs for us.

HC: I saw you guys live a few years ago — the crowd is always into it and never seems to care you guys aren’t the “real thing”. Do you get good feedback from concertgoers? How does Us & Them approach the songs you choose to play? Would you ever strip a song down like Gilmour did to “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” in the movie?

Jason: We have some great fans, and it is a real treat to play these songs like this for them. We get lots of requests, and try and honor those as best we can. When making a setlist for given show, we try and incorporate a lot of diversity, while still getting in enough favorites for everyone. We’ve mixed songs together before (like injecting “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” into the middle section of “Echoes”), and we certainly try and look for places where we can introduce some of our own “flavor” to certain songs.

HC: Have you heard Ambulance Ltd’s live cover of “Fearless” (from their New English EP)? It’s great.

Jason: I have not, I will certainly seek that out.

HC: What did you think of the Live 8 Pink Floyd reunion? Gave me chills, although I later read that Roger Waters wanted to play different songs and Gilmour wouldn’t agree to it. I saw recently that Waters is taking his own show on the road this summer and will be doing Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. No Houston date, though…

Jason: Live 8 was such a momentous event in so many ways. Seeing the guys up there together was a sight I never thought I’d see. I think I teared up at one point!

You know it’s interesting about Roger these days, it’s like he’s had an utter change of heart on the music and the fans. He seems so happy to be doing what he’s doing and was by all accounts ready to play again with the other gents if they would have agreed to it. It’s a far cry from his attitude even 12 years ago. David invited him to play Dark Side of the Moon during Pink Floyd’s stint at Earl’s Court in 1994, and Roger refused. He was still quite bitter about the whole thing I suppose. Strange thing is that David is now coming across as the bitter one and Roger is the one trying to make peace. Can’t say I ever thought I’d see that happen.

Who knows what the future holds though. Roger is taking his show on the road again, and I certainly wish they’d add at least one date in Texas. His voice isn’t what it once was but it’s still a great time. Not looking likely for us to get a show though.

HC: I doubt there will be another Pink Floyd record. Your thoughts on that? Of course, there are those who feel that anything after The Final Cut wasn’t really a Pink Floyd album. I can see both sides, but enjoy it all. I can see, however, how some might feel Gilmour watered-down the band a bit in later years. His wife writes for him, etc. She co-wrote songs on The Division Bell as well. At the time, I thought it was strange but now maybe not so much. What are your thoughts on that?

Jason: I agree that another Pink Floyd album is highly unlikely. Though who would have called the Live 8 performance! Talk about never say never. But you’re most likely correct. I don’t know, I enjoyed The Division Bell as an album, and I listen to it a decent amount. I thought it was much better than Momentary Lapse of Reason, largely because it was actually more of a Pink Floyd album, rather that David with some session players. Both albums lack that songwriting edge that Waters gave to Pink Floyd. I won’t be heartbroken if there isn’t another Floyd record, but it will be sad to know that there will never be any new Pink Floyd material (with or without Roger). On The Final Cut, you certainly hear the absolute dictatorship Roger held over the band at that point. Rick Wright was gone, and David’s input was minimal. There is a strong argument that it is not a true Pink Floyd album, just as one could certainly make the same argument against Momentary Lapse of Reason .

I initially (and to some extent still) felt it was a bit weird with David co-writing songs with his wife Polly. But as David says on one of the interviews about On An Island, songwriting never came easy for him, and sometimes I feel like who am I to judge how a song comes together? I try and listen to the album without biases, and when you do that, there is some high quality music on The Division Bell.

HC: How many times have you seen Pink Floyd live? Are you a fan of the Live at Pompeii film?

Jason: Shamefully, I have to say I have never seen Pink Floyd live. I was in college during the 1994 tour and was broke at the time, which made it difficult given the high ticket prices. In hindsight I should have found a way to go regardless! I am a fan of the Pompeii film, I love seeing the old psychedelic side of the Floyd.

HC: If you could only have one PF album to listen to the rest of your life, which one would it be?

Jason: Wish You Were Here — it just has all the essential elements of Pink Floyd’s sound.

HC: What’s your favorite “early single” by the band? I am partial to “See Emily Play” or “Paintbox”…

Jason: I’m rather partial to “Pow R. Toc H.” and “Lucifer Sam.”

Thanks to Jason Deere from Us & Them for taking the time to answer these questions. Be sure to see the band live this Saturday night (6.10.06) at Fitzgerald’s in the Heights.

In other Floydian news, Billboard.com has a great interview with Roger Waters about Dark Side Of The Moon, which has now spent 1,500 weeks on the Billboard charts.

Here’s a sample:

Q: Did you feel like you had accomplished your goals in the studio?

A: When the record was finished I took a reel-to-reel copy home with me and I remember playing it for my wife then, and I remember her bursting into tears when it was finished. And I thought, “This has obviously struck a chord somewhere,” and I was kinda pleased by that.

You know when you’ve done something, certainly if you create a piece of music, you then hear it with fresh ears when you play it for somebody else. And at that point I thought to myself, “Wow, this is a pretty complete piece of work,” and I had every confidence that people would respond to it.

Read the whole thing at Billboard’s website.

Again, be sure to go see Us & Them perform the songs of Pink Floyd at Fitzgerald’s (6th & Studemont in the Heights) this Saturday night (6.10.06).

Tags: Music

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