My Favorite

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My Favorite (NY's indie new wave darlings on Double Agent Records) is back with a double CD that compiles previous EPs, a new EP, and many remixes. Todd E. Jones talks to Michael Grace Jr., the leader of My Favorite.

Growing up in the 80's, there was a love of depression and depressing music. The Cure, Morrisssey, Bauhaus and Siouxsie & The Banshees were the depressing new wave or gothic music which had a moody, depressing quality that affected many young people growing up. While many contemporary bands either play with the genre ("Boys & Girls" by Blur") or completely use their style, there are some artists who use the influences but add a modern feeling and a personal approach. My Favorite is a group from New York that has strong influences from these new wave and goth bands but also have a signature sound and style that is unique and contemporary. Lead by confessed Suedehead and failed painter, Michael Grace Jr., My Favorite is truly an incredible band that uses both male and female vocals, rock guitars, and atmospheric keyboard arrangements. The songs have magnificent characters who are depressed, drug addicted, in hospitals, or naked. Along with the amazing voice and keyboard melodies of Andrea Vaughn, the unique vocal styles make My Favorite unlike any other band. In the early days, My Favorite was interviewed by Peter Green (of Class), who at the time, ran a Telescopes fanzine called "Splashdown". Eventually, Peter Green formed Double Agent Records and signed both My Favorite and The Telescopes. My Favorite's debut album "Love At Absolute Zero" had an upbeat sound filled with strong guitars, spacey keyboard sounds, and David Bowie influences. Songs like "Absolute Beginners Again", "Absolute Zero", "Between Cafes", and "Modulate" were addictive. On a tribute to the 80's (released by Double Agent Records), My Favorite recorded and released a cover of "Modern Love" by David Bowie. The love of My Favorite spread and soon, the group began to release EPs. 3 EPs later ("Joan Of Arc Awating Trial", "A Cult Of One", and "The Kids Are All Wrong"), people began yearning for a full-length LP. Finally, Double Agent Records released the double CD, "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives", that compiled the 3 EPs and an un-released EP. The second disc compiles a bunch of remixes from Flowchart, Phofo, Alexander Perls, Double Agent and more. "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives: The Complete Joan Of Arc Tapes" is nothing short of a masterpiece of moody depression, atmospheric keyboard melodies, dancing, nuclear war, and strange love. The song "Burning Hearts" is a heartbreaking tale of two lovers in Hiroshima, saying goodbye as the bomb explodes. Other wonderful songs include "White Roses For Blue Girls", "The Suburbs Are Killing Us", and "Homeless Club Kids". The second CD of remixes breathes a whole new life to these already brilliant songs. On a depressing and rainy afternoon in February 2004, I had an in-depth conversation with Michael Grace Jr., the lead singer/songwriter behind My Favorite. We talked about relationships, depression, pills, music, Morrissey, Goths, and much more. As "The ghost of dead teenagers sing" to you while you dance, make My Favorite your favorite new band. Depression never sounded so good.

T.JONES: "What goes on?"
MY FAVORITE: "I am doing alright. I miss the summer but otherwise, I'm alright"

T.JONES: "Your new album 'The Happiest Days Of Our Lives' was recently released on Double Agent Records. Tell us about it."
MY FAVORITE: "It's a record compiling 3 limited EPs we did over the last couple years. It also includes 4 new songs and a bonus disc of remixes. It also has a bunch of photos and a letter written by the ghost of Joan of Arc."

T.JONES "Do you have a favorite song on the LP?"
MY FAVORITE: "The song 'Burning Hearts' is very sentimental to me because it's about letting go of one life and beginning a different one. 'Homeless Club Kids' is also somehow special."

T.JONES: "What song took you the longest to do? Why? The shortest? Why?"
MY FAVORITE: "'Homeless Club Kids' took a while to write. I remember many crossed out stanzas of lyrics in my notebook. Same thing with 'The Suburbs Are Killing Us'. The song 'The Happiest Days of My Life' was written pretty quickly and recorded pretty quickly."

T.JONES: "In the song 'Homeless Club Kids', the lyrics go 'The ghosts of dead teenagers sing to me while I am dancing'. Can you explain that a bit?"
MY FAVORITE: "With all due respect, I don't really explain lyrics so much. It's part of a story. Hopefully, it makes sense within the song as a whole. It's kind of a ghost story but works on a few levels. I like people to collaborate on meaning thus, I don't dictate it."

T.JONES: "Out of the remixes on the second CD, which one is your favorite?"
MY FAVORITE: "At first, I really liked Leisure Enthusiast's 'John Dark' because it was so different, sparsely electro and like something from a Hohn Hughes soundtrack. Over time, I've come to see that Phofo's 'Le Monster' mix is just brilliant."

T.JONES: "Did you ever want to remix any of the songs yourself? If so, what song? What would you have done to it?"
MY FAVORITE: "I did mildly remix "Badge", and it appears on disc one. I would have liked to take a crack at "Le Monster" too."

T.JONES: "Can you explain the name My Favorite?"
MY FAVORITE: "Our drummer came up with it. I think we were trying to show just how little we cared about rock n' roll tradition and have a name that was awkward and subversive. I'm not sure if we succeeded but it reinforces the sense of 'preciousness' and 'belonging' we felt about our favorite records."

T.JONES: "How did the band come together, meet, and eventually form?"
MY FAVORITE: "We were high school friends. We messed around for many years, fought poverty, depression, boredom and after some time off, decided to really work hard over the last 3 years."

T.JONES: "How did you come to sign to Double Agent Records?"
MY FAVORITE: "Peter Green (who is also in Class) was a fan. He did a fanzine called Splashdown back in the mid 90s for the band The Telescopes. He interviewed me for the fanzine. He seemed to believe in the music and have ideas for the future."

T.JONES: "Musically, who are some of your biggest influences? Lyrically?"
MY FAVORITE: "I grew up listening to WLIR/WDRE on Long Island, and going to new wave / alternative strip-mall discos in crappy towns on Long Island. I think it all stuck a bit. The Smiths were a band I cared about a lot. David Bowie changed my approach to music too."

T.JONES: "What do you think of Morrissey's music these days (after The Smiths until now)?"
MY FAVORITE: "'Viva Hate' was an interesting record, and I think fans were just so happy that he didn't off himself when the Smiths broke up. 'Last Night On Muadelin Street' might be my favorite Morrissey solo tracks of all time too. 'Viva hate' still has a little of that Morrissey innocence which we all lost after grunge. 'Your Arsenal' was a really good rock n' roll record, and 'Vauxhall & I' was probably the most grown-up satisfying solo record he made. The last 2 LPs, however, are really weak. I'm optimistic about the new one coming out this spring."

T.JONES: "What do you do for a living besides music?"
MY FAVORITE: "I teach art on the college level and do some boring administrative work for the college too. I'm writing a young adult mystery."

T.JONES: "Do you have a title for your book yet?"
MY FAVORITE: "It's a series ala the hardy boys called 'Lost Detectives: The Unsolvable Mysteries'."

T.JONES: "Who are some of your favorite painters?"
MY FAVORITE: "I've got ones I like for different centuries. 19th Century. I really like Manet, and Utrillo and Lautrec and Rodin. 20th Century? I really like De Chirico and Hopper and then, I like pop art despite itself. I like Warhol more because of the Factory. Then from the 80s, I really like Robert Longo and Victor Burgin."

T.JONES: "What is your favorite part of your live show?"
MY FAVORITE: "Getting drink tickets. (Laughs). No, really. When we are in phase with the audience and laughing in between songs, and crying during them. When it's out of control, but graceful like ballet. Those moments are rare but worth living for."

T.JONES: "How has your live show evolved?"
MY FAVORITE: "We've gotten to be better musicians, singers. The performance art aspect of what we do comes and goes. If I had the budget, the whole thing would go slightly like a theatre piece."

T.JONES: "What artist or musician would you like to collaborate with in the future?"
MY FAVORITE: "Well one can dream about doing a Christmas duet with David Bowie. I'd like to have Stuart Murdoch do a string arrangement. In return, I would play synth on a B & S record. This too though is a dream."

T.JONES: "What has been on your turntable or in your CD player recently?"
MY FAVORITE: "Recent Belle & Sebastian record, The Decemberists, Outkast, old Roxy Music records."

T.JONES: "There is a My Favorite comic book too. Can you explain that for us?"
MY FAVORITE: "The artist Dave Keirsh was a friend of mine. I think he's brilliant. I thought a collaboration would be fun. He's from Long Island so he gets the haunted yet boring nature of the place."

T.JONES: "Word Association. I am going to say the name of a group or an artist and you say the first word that pops into your head. If I said 'The Beatles', you may say 'John Lennon' or 'Revolution'. If I said, 'The Cure', you may say 'Black Hair' or 'Three Imaginary Boys'. Okay?"
T.JONES: "The Cure."
MY FAVORITE: "Lipstick."
T.JONES: "David Bowie."
T.JONES: "Sonic Youth."
MY FAVORITE: "Gehard Richter."
T.JONES: "Sex Pistols."
MY FAVORITE: "The Beatles."
T.JONES: "The Fall"
MY FAVORITE: "Manchester."
T.JONES: "Joy Division."
T.JONES: "Stone Roses."
MY FAVORITE: "Watery."
T.JONES: "The Telescopes."
MY FAVORITE: "Peter Green's money."
T.JONES: "Happy Mondays."
MY FAVORITE: "Pigeons."
T.JONES: "Blur."
T.JONES: "Close Lobsters."
MY FAVORITE: "Mix tape from 89."
T.JONES: "The Beautiful South."
MY FAVORITE: "Not The Housemartins."
T.JONES: "The Roots."
MY FAVORITE: "Ex member of My Favorite in the band."
T.JONES: "Felt."
MY FAVORITE: "Horribly Amazing."
T.JONES: "Severed Heads."
MY FAVORITE: "Seen T-shirts only."
T.JONES: "Mojave 3."
MY FAVORITE: "Tourism."
T.JONES: "Spiritualized."
MY FAVORITE: "I'm too sober."
T.JONES: "Richard Ashcroft (formally of The Verve)."
MY FAVORITE: "Not compelled towards a strong opinion."
T.JONES: "Beastie Boys."
MY FAVORITE: "Not part of the solution."
T.JONES: "George Bush."
MY FAVORITE: "Part of the problem, the biggest part."

T.JONES: "Favorite books?"
MY FAVORITE: "The Great Gatsby, Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner, Less Than Zero, and The Bible."

T.JONES: "Favorite films?"
MY FAVORITE: "Godard's 'Alphaville' & 'My Life To Live'. Bresson's 'The Devil', probably, and 'Diary of A country Priest'. 'Wings Of Desire'. 'Pretty In Pink'."

T.JONES: "Abortion. Pro-choice or pro-life?"
MY FAVORITE: "Pro-choice. Free-will is necessary to find one's goodness."

T.JONES: "Death penalty. For or against?"
MY FAVORITE: "Against, but killing with your own two hands in an alley when surrounded by skinheads, is probably justifiable."

T.JONES: "Where were you on the September 11th Terrorist Attack. How did you deal with it? How do you think it has affected music?"
MY FAVORITE: "In my apartment in Queens, watching the news and getting ready for work. I drove straight to Long Island to see my partner at the time. I just felt numb. Part of me felt like we asked for it with the way we run this country. Another part of me was, obviously, just very sad. I'm not sure it has affected music. We are certainly not in a somber or reflective period in popular culture."

T.JONES: "What is the song writing process like? Do you come up with the music first or the lyrics?"
MY FAVORITE: "Music tends to come first because lyrics need to fit the rhythm of melodies. However, I'm always scribbling bits in notebooks waiting to use them."

T.JONES: "Is there a romance between you and Andrea?"
MY FAVORITE: "Not anymore, not for a while. But, we spent a good deal of time together when we were younger and we shared a relationship that was pretty important to both of us."

T.JONES: "Is it hard being in a band with her now?"
MY FAVORITE: "In the beginning, is was really difficult for the both of us. There were definitely moments when one or both of us wanted to give up but the band was formed out of the strength of 5 people's friendship and the bond of their youth. For me, I tried to honor that , and have that hold, even when the personal relationship between the two of us couldn't."

T.JONES: "What kind of child were you? Were you a good kid? A bad kid?"
MY FAVORITE: "I had a pretty strict Italian-Catholic upbringing. I kept mostly to myself, reading and drawing as a child. We lived on a very busy street, which my mother would not allow me to cross so my brother was my only friend. When I turned 13, I got into metal and sniffing glue. By the time I was 16, I was back to reading, moping and dreaming. That's when I started thinking about music as a way out."

T.JONES: "What was it like growing up in Long Island?"
MY FAVORITE: "Isolated. Uninspiring but strange and mysterious. I would find all these haunted spaces, troubling places. I'd find something beautiful in the condiminiums and strip malls. It was my world and for people who could see beyond it, it became the setting for a pretty moving identity crisis, and thus you find your clique."

T.JONES: "What is the biggest mistake you have made in your career?"
MY FAVORITE: "I'm not sure it was a mistake, but rather a part of my life. I would say depression, anxiety, fear definitely sapped me of confidence and aggression during the first part of our 'career'. I did not seize opportunities and I spent most of my time lying in bed dreading the future and fantasizing about it at the same time. During the last few years, the clouds have been parting. Now, so much more is possible."

T.JONES: "Were you on prescription medication for depression?"
MY FAVORITE: "No. I resisted it even after Doctors were pretty insistent. I felt like my mind, regardless how troubled, was all I could depend on, especially after my relationship fell apart. I'm not trying to be a martyr...for some people I think it is very helpful. But for me, punching a punching bag and taking out my old rosaries worked."

T.JONES: "In your music, there are many references to clubs and raves. Were you in the rave scene? Did you ever go to any raves or clubs? What is your opinion on both the rave scene and clubs in New York?"
MY FAVORITE: "I went to a decent amount of 'alternative' dance clubs in the 90's. Usually of the Wednesday night strip-mall variety. I went to a rave or two. I had high hopes for techno when it started. I thought it might reconnect us with some kind of futurist impulse but it basically became The Grateful dead gone midi."

T.JONES: "You sing some songs while other songs, Andrea sings. Some songs, you sing together. How do you choose?"
MY FAVORITE: "Certain characters really seem to call out for Andrea to sing. She has a certain empathy and emotion, but also a certain numbness that implies distance. She is really a unique vocalist. I tend to handle the more straight-up angst or bitter stuff. It's my forte. We usually sing together at some point in every song "

T.JONES: "What is music lacking these days?"
MY FAVORITE: "An idealogical distance from Corporate America. A level of content and passion and the fight to go with clever sytlistic approaches. The Strokes are a good pop band, Interpol is a good Goth band, but nothing more. The best bands are also important philosophically, emotionally, and even politically. The more control the taste-makers and the labels retain, the less the bands really have to say. It's like managing a super-model versus a writer. They're easier to handle."

T.JONES: "Drug of choice?"
MY FAVORITE: "Diet Coke is daily. Tea on most days. Cappucinos and beer on weekends. I once was a straight-edge Suede-head. Now, I'm just broke."

T.JONES: "What are some major misconceptions do you think people have of you?"
MY FAVORITE: "That I think being 'New wave' is cute. That I'm pretentious as opposed to just seriously damaged by thinking too much. That I won't accept a drink someone buys for me. I will."

T.JONES: "Do you want to be cremated or buried?"
MY FAVORITE: "Cremated. Most Catholics would not approve but if it was good enough for Joan, it's good enough for me."

T.JONES: "In your music, there are many references to Joan Of Arc? What is it about Joan Of Arc?"
MY FAVORITE: "Sex appeal."

T.JONES: "What song would you like to cover that you have not covered yet?"
MY FAVORITE: "'I Still Miss Someone' by Johnny Cash or 'Now My Heart is Full' by Morrissey."

T.JONES: "Are there any plans for solo albums?"
MY FAVORITE: "I like people to actually buy the records we have made before I indulge this idea. I am pretty fortunate that I feel like I can write my songs my way within this band. I think it's more likely Gilbert would release an acid jazz record.."

T.JONES: "What is in the future for My Favorite?"
MY FAVORITE: "Playing shows in the mid-Atlantic, the West coast, a festival in Sweden and hopefully, the UK. Recording a new record, staying sane and in God's good graces."

T.JONES: "What will the new record be like?"
MY FAVORITE: "All the songs are written, being rehearsed, and demo-ed. It's sort of a theme record based on Horror movies. Possibly titled 'Please Remember the Haunted Hearts'. A little more possessed by the margins. Blue Oyster Cult, Roxy Music. It will probably sound the same to everybody else. It's a little bit more of a art rock record."

T.JONES: "So, more guitars and less keyboards?"
MY FAVORITE: "No, just scarier versions of each."

T.JONES: "Any final words for the people reading this?"
MY FAVORITE: "Not really. Just listen to us. Listen to us like you watch the movies that matter most to you. Don't listen to a little keyboard line or moaned vocal and think we've lost our minds. There is a method to our madness and that method is love."


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