A Few Minutes with… Sandy McKnight

0

LEE, MASSACHUSSETTS – On September 16h, Sandy McKnight and Fernando Perdomo released their album, San Fernando Blast, successfully book-ending an ambitious catalogue of work taking place over the course of the pandemic. Starting in 2019 shortly before the pandemic, Sandy and Fernando began their working relationship. In that time, they first released San Fernando Beat (2020), San Fernando Blitz (2021). With San Fernando Blast, an amalgamation of the first two records, plus an additional three songs, they have released an impressive fifteen-song album that is not only straightforward, and accessible, but also extremely cohesive in its content.

Over the weekend, I had a chance to sit down with Sandy McKnight to discuss the project; that of which they’re coining the “Bandemic.” Read on to catch our discussion as we parse the album effort, creative influences behind the record, and more! You can support the artsits and their efforts by following the link at the end of the article.

Sandy McKnight, photo credit: Stephanie J. Bartik

Lucas Garrett: Thank you for sitting down with me today! I got your new album, San Fernando Blast. Why don’t you tell us about the project, Sandy?

Sandy McKnight: The quick story is: I met Fernando (Perdomo) in Los Angeles; I was doing some other sessions that he was involved with. Then, about a year later, I went back out there for some other reason and called him up and said, “hey, let’s do a session for a day and just see what happens.” And, we clicked; we were making good music. I did another day with him out there on that trip, then came come. Then, the pandemic hit. It was like, “ok, how do we do this?” So, we figured out how to make it work long distance. We completed the first six songs; I put out an EP with those songs (San Fernando Beat). Then, we did another six and I put another EP out (San Fernando Blitz). Then, I said, “you know, this should be a full album,” so, I added three more songs and it’s now a fifteen-song album (San Fernando Blast).

Fernando, for those not familiar, was probably best known by most people for being in “Echo in the Canyon,” the documentary about the L.A. scene in the late 1960’s. He’s actually not of that era; he’s much younger than I am. He’s a brilliant multi-instrumentalist. He does a lot of progressive rock stuff. He’s all over the place; he just did a record with Carmine Appice from Vanilla Fudge. He did a tribute to Paul McCartney’s Ram album that’s nominated for a few Grammy’s. He’s a great guy to hook up with and I was lucky to connect. When the first EP came out, it got a “Best EP of the Year” by Power Pop. The second EP, the reviewer said, “this one’s even better.” I hope you enjoyed it!

LG: Yeah, it was nice. I heard a few influences, but why don’t you tell us what influenced you, mainly?

SM: That’s a tough one because this album is really a niche thing. I have a lot of influences but I don’t always use them on every project, you know? So, I would say this project, after I finished it and stepped back a little bit, I kind of recognize as a potpourri of 1960’s and 1970’s styles of music. I didn’t intend it that way, but that’s just the way it happened. So, for instance, “Adrienne” (track one) sounds like an R&B flavored song from maybe the 70’s, you know?

Sandy McKnight, photo credit: Liv Cummins

LG: I heard a lot of – in the way you sing, especially – Elvis Costello.

SM: I get that all the time. I’ve learned to accept that, haha. I don’t hear it. But, it’s inevitable that there’s always going to be that comment, so I’m used to it now. It is a compliment because obviously Elvis Costello is Elvis Costello. Also, Cat Stevens was mentioned last night; someone that heard me for the first time. I hadn’t heard that before.

LG: I love Cat Stevens. How did you become connected with Fernando?

SM: Like I said, we met at a session. I liked him, you know? I thought he had good energy and stuff, but I didn’t really have anything planned to do with him. I go to L.A. two, three times a year just to do business out there and meet people. It was kind of a fluke-y thing. I was out there, anyway. It was like, “I’ll give him a call and see if he wants to hang out; do some playing.” I had a song that I’d written, which is on the album, called “Facing the End of the World” (track thirteen). That song came out really great. We did it in two hours; he totally got what I was going after.

LG: I really liked the production on the record.

SM: Yeah, he (Fernando) has his own studio. I recorded most of the stuff there. That, I think, may be one of the few songs I played bass at his studio. Most of them I played bass at either Overit in Albany, or a few other studios I used. Once it sounded like it was finished, I would send them down to a friend of mine who has a studio called Systems Two Recording Studio down in New York. He mixed and mastered it. It was really a collaborative effort, but since I paid for it, I get to put my name on top.

LG: Haha. So, on the record, you’re playing all of the bass, right? And singing everything.

SM: Right. Fernando could have easily played bass but, bass is my instrument. I wanted to have my interpretation of bass stuff for my songs. And, I also wanted to do something other than just sing and writing and producing songs.

Fernando Perdomo (left) and Sandy McKnight (right), photo credit: Fernando Perdomo

LG: How did you write the songs? What’s your process?

SM: Usually, it’s a melody first that creeps into my head somewhere: I’m driving around or I’m in the bathroom, ha. Melodies just happen for me now. I’ve been writing for a zillion years, so maybe it’s my brain’s way of making a shortcut; I don’t have to pick up a guitar and figure out harmonic or whatever. Once I have a melody, I find the chords that work for that melody. If I think I’ve got something, I’ll sit down and write a lyric. I might hear a phrase that works with that particular part of the melody and I’ll try to write around that phrase and make it make sense, somehow. It’s very easy for me right now to just write – especially with the pandemic; I was writing like a madman. Last night, I played a gig at Pauly’s (Hotel), which was like a last-minute solo gig. I decided to try some of the new stuff. I got a sense of what the reaction was.

LG: The project, like you said, started a little bit before the pandemic. Then, you carried it through. Now that it’s done, what are your plans?

SM: That’s always the big question because I haven’t really sold a lot of CD’s for a long time – no one else has, either. Unless you’re gigging regularly and you have a loyal audience that has everything you do. What I’ve found out about maybe fifteen years ago is that you could make a decent amount of money with licensing. So, I actually have had a lot of stuff on T

SV; a few movies, you know? That’s one thing. At this point in my life, I’m not that ambitious in that direction because it’s a lot of work. I think what I’d really like would be to have the album heard and appreciated by people and then see if that leads to some other phase; maybe I put a live band together. I’d have to find somebody who’s as good a guitarist a Fernando.

LG: There’s a lot of good stuff on that record.

SM: He plays amazing solos. I put in a couple songs that were really right up his alley that he really took off with like, “Fake,” and “Seven Words.” There’s a few that sort of line toward the rock-end of things. Power Pop is a very general kind of category but it’s usually melodic; there’s usually harmonies. Other than that, there’s all kinds of different guitar sounds; different approach to it. I think between the fifteen songs I pretty much run the gamut between the harder edge and the more poppy Paul McCartney world.

Sandy McKnight, photo credit: Andy Gregory

LG: I’m definitely getting a lot of the middle era of the Beatles with their Revolver album.

SM: It’s certainly an influence. There is one song, “Heart in Your Hands,” that has a very psychedelic kind of influence.

LG: Is there anything, as we wrap up the interview, that I did not address?

SM: I’m excited about the album; it’s the first complete album that I’ve done in four or five years. I really think of myself as a songwriter first. I understand that my voice isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. I get extreme reactions from, “I don’t hear it,” to “oh, you’re such a great singer.” That’s a matter of taste. I wanted to make a record that couldn’t be picked apart too easily. I wanted to make it as I could make it on my budget and I think that’s a good message for everybody: “do the best you can with what you have.” Everyone’s improved – I’ve improved. Just keep doing it. Go in the studio and perfect what you do. Think about the listener; that’s always the thing.

The one big mistake I hear – I’m going to turn into an old man now and tell people how to do stuff – the one thing I hear that takes me out of the moment is a sort of self-indulgence: too long of an intro, or gratuitous solos. That kind of stuff I feel keeps people out of the ballgame for getting airplay or recognition. So, that’s what I’ve learned. Primarily, I’m also a producer for a lot of singer-songwriters. I try to work with them on taking those issues out of the picture as much as possible. That doesn’t really directly refer to the album, but I like to think the stuff I do is a good example of how to get right to the point. Sometimes I’ll even open with the hook, and others, like “Adrienne,” there’s no intro at all. It just comes right in. These are things to think about for up-and-comers. Surprise the listener; have an impact sonically. It’ll make you sound more professional and thought out.

I appreciate you writing up something and let me know if there’s any other questions I can answer.

LG: Thank you again for taking the time today to do this!

_

Relevant link:

https://sandymcknight.bandcamp.com/album/san-fernando-blast

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.