The Singles (2003)
Sentinel (self-titled) (2004)
Sequels and Hunches (2006)
Kites Without Strings (2008)
Four Days Deep (2010)
Hi, How are you?
T~ Hi, we’re good! Excited to be here with Somojo Mag. Hello to all our UK fans!
Would you mind introducing us to Sentinel?
This is Dennis, guitarist and master visionary. We have Billy our friend and drummer. I’m Tarabud, vocalist and bass player.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t yet heard you?
T~ So hard to describe us, cause our songs have so many different moods over the years. We are often described by others as indie dream pop. What do you say Dennis?
D~ Indie Dream Pop sounds about right; influenced by the spectrum of 1980’s New Wave, Synth Pop to modern Indie Rock.
What have you been up to recently?
T~ Lately, we’ve been rehearsing lots in Billy’s studio in Oakland, to get ready for local shows. We also have some material that we wrote and have not yet released. We’re reworking it and making it fresh for ourselves, and hope to have an E.P. ready for fans by Fall of this year. Also, we like to release a Christmas tune each year. So definitely watch out for what will be our 3rd Christmas cover.
How did you meet each other?
T~ I found Dennis because he was a front man in his own band. He was dreamy. It was Dennis’ idea to have me sing on few of his recordings back in 2000, purely as a fun side project. On an old four track, Dennis laid down some guitars and I sang on them. Our friends said we should play live. Quite suddenly, Dennis put a band together with friends. I was simply amazed at how quickly it all came together. We played our first few shows back in Long Beach, CA. I relocated to San Francisco, Bay Area, and fortunately Dennis followed me up. He once again had the drive to find musicians to play with us, and continue Sentinel. That was around 2004, he talked me into playing bass. We started playing live shows in San Francisco in 2004, and took off running with the help of My space and the internet. We’ve had several Sentinel incarnations with other musicians supporting us, till today our current line-up. We met him on Craig’s List, a popular on-line free service that helps musicians find each other in the Bay Area.
How did you come up with your band name?
T~ Dennis thought it up; he liked the sound of it and the meaning of it, guardian/protector of the muses. I liked the sound of it, because it could easily be pronounced in Spanish. Lately podcasters have been calling us “Sentinel Dream” as our band name, because of our profiles On-line. It’s almost as if they are renaming us.
Did you always want to be a band?
T~ Dennis always wanted to have a band since he was in High School, and he had several previous to Sentinel. I always wanted to sing. Singing on stage came naturally to me all through middle school & high school. College was just a distraction.
What music did you listen to while growing up?
T~ I listened to Fleetwood Mac, ABBA, Olivia Newtown John, Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald.
D~ I grew up listening to Depeche Mode, Flock of Seagulls, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, U2.
How long have you been involved with writing and performing music?
T~ Dennis had been writing and performing music, long before I met him. He seemed like a veteran in my eye, 'cause composing came so easily to him. I never wrote music before I met him. Writing poetry came naturally to me, so writing lyrics was an easy transition. He and I have been contributing to this project together for over 10 years. Wow, time flies!
I like the idea of being together making music in a band. I feel transported when we play our songs. It might sound like a paradox, that even when the song is melancholy, I feel joy seeping up from the inside of me.
D~ I started writing my own ideas at age 15 when I picked up the guitar, and has manifested itself in many forms and bands since then.
Are you self-taught or did you have lesson?
T~ When I was young I had violin lessons, but I quickly had to give it up, because we were poor. After that I taught myself guitar from Beatles song books, on a very old guitar my mom brought back from Colombia. Dennis taught me all I know on the bass (smile). I was fortunate that I got to be in choir classes all through primary school. It was pure joy singing with others, I loved it. It would bring tears to my eyes when we performed. I tear easily. I’ve had private vocal couching lessons only in the last year and really enjoying the one on one attention.
D~ Since age 10, I played trombone, percussion, and concert bass in school, which gave me an early foundation; but it wasn’t until I picked up the guitar and began writing for myself that it all came together. I took a few lessons, but they weren’t moving as fast as I was learning on my own; so I read books, watched videos and other musicians, and especially made it a point to befriend and hang out with local musicians that were older and better than I was.
What is your current equipment?
D~ We’ve been through a shit load of equipment (Tarabud laughs). For now I’m on a mission to simplify and downsize without taking away from our sound. Tarabud plays a Fender Jazz through a Beringer Bass Amp. Billy plays on DW drums, killer sound. Tarabud and April sing through a TC Electronics vocal effects racks. April uses a Micro-Korg keyboard which we are enjoying all the sounds possibilities. I play an Epiphone Sheriton 2 hollow body, through a Fender Blues Jr. My pedals range from Boss, Pro Co, and Voodoo Lab. Sometimes we play open venues that don’t have PA systems so we have a JBL PA system.
If you had an unlimited equipment budget what would be on your shopping list?
D~ Well, performance gear can only take you so far, and can’t really help you write good songs; but if I had to spend it on gear, I’d probably invest in an updated, more powerful recording setup; an Apple computer, Pro Tools interfaces, nice Neumann microphones, quality cables, etc.
Do you use the same equipment live as you do when you’re in the studio?
D~ We use the same guitar, bass, drums and keyboard, but tend not to use the live amps and do more direct patching through preamps; that way we get a cleaner, more controlled sound.
Do you have a set routine when writing and recording or does it depend on each track and the inspiration?
D~ For us, a song usually starts as a “notebook” idea, then seems to manifest on its own; but the origin differs from song to song. Personally, on my days off, I like to sit at the computer with a blank slate, goof around, play with beats and riffs, and then if I think its good I’ll present it to the band. Other times, we’ll just be jamming before or after rehearsal, and we’ll suddenly all agree that, “hey, that’s really cool; now let’s record it so that we don’t forget it!”
Which software/recording process do you use?
D~ Currently, we’re recording on a PC, through a Presonus interface, on Cubase.
Would you sign with a major record company?
T~ That is a heavy topic for us indie bands. Signing to an independent label is a good place to start. They will get us more exposure, and shows. Clubs and radio programs take you more seriously if you have someone backing you up. Major labels, take so much from the artist’s cut, and leave artist with less control of your music and how you write it. But then again they can do so much more for an artist, and reach more people globally, with their larger distribution and larger touring circuit, bigger venues, & festivals. I definitely prefer smaller intimate venues, but having your music heard is the key. I’m a little torn. What do you think Dennis?
D~ Basically, what Tarabud said; but in any case, if an investor can cover what I make at my day job, I’m game!
Do you have any new recordings planned?
D~ We wrote some material last year, that we did not release with our last record For Days Deep; So we’re working on recording these ideas properly, and we’d like to include Billy with his own drum parts. Tarabud just shared with me, her working title for this coming release: ‘The Stars In Your Eyes’ or “When Stars Synchronize". Let’s see if any stick?!
T~ Mmmmm, I like them.
Do you find the process of recording enjoyable and does it get easier the more you do?
D~ We’ve done most of Sentinel recording in our home studio over the years, in different locations we’ve lived in. We started tracking drums at PopSmear studio in San Rafeal, CA for our last album, which really makes a difference in our album. It has become easier over the years ‘cause I know the tricks to make the tone I want to get out of the recording. All the studio work I did in the past is finally paying off for us! We’ve been using Cubase, and it’s working out well. I thought it would be a problem in translation to an outside studio using Protools, but it’s been satisfactory recording software. The only thing dragging me down right now is the 7 year old PC. It’s really time to upgrade! Especially since I like to edit our videos on it, it’s like an old horse, hard to get rid of.
Do you try to capture your ‘live’ sound on recordings or do you think that the ‘live’ sound and recorded sound should be different experiences for your fans?
T~ Our recorded sound is much more polished, and our live shows are much more raw. We feel our live sound should be based on our recorded sound, but by playing them over and over, the songs take on their own shape and character. Somehow our live songs feel like they are getting a rebirth and sound new to me. It’s interesting for Dennis and I to see what our new musicians playing with us find they like and want to perform. We have so much material; sometimes it’s hard for us to know what songs people want to hear at live shows.
Do you have any favourite tracks from your album?
T~ Right now I’m in love with ‘Locator,’ & ‘Whaley’ from For Days Deep album. This comes from the feeling while writing and playing these songs as a band.
Who are the main songwriters for the band?
T~ Dennis and I are the main song writers, & of course the muses that invade our mind with ideas.
Do you have a method for writing songs?
D~ That really varies and depends on our mood. Many previous albums I would lay scratch tracks down and Tarabud would write lyrics & melodies, sometimes we would write them together. Our last album was an exception, as we wrote all songs from jamming together with the drummer, and pulled out 10 songs out of these sessions. It was the first time we had included another in our process. It’s a very intimate process, and the emotional core of the song is with those that wrote it. I like to compare how a band writes a song to what it would be like for four separate painters to collaborate on the same canvas.
Do you write songs only about personal experiences?
T~ I don’t know about Dennis, but I feel inspired by ideas and themes I read about, movie characters I am drawn to, sometimes scenery and places I have traveled. But I also, travel a lot in my mind. I don’t feel I consciously write about my personal life.
D~ I agree; nothing very personal. As I get older, I don’t have that young adult heartache anymore, so the content has to come from somewhere else; like inspiring films, other people’s lives, random ideas. I dunno, maybe I’m pulling from the “me” in the other dimension… or my past life!
Do you find song writing easy or difficult?
T~ I find telling a story easy. I struggle with melodies, but that's where Dennis comes, as he master at catchy melodies. I call him the ‘hit maker.’
D~ The way I see it, it’s all been done before. All we have are new timbres to old melodies. From that perspective, to me it’s easy just to pull them down out of the airwaves from time to time.
Is there anyone who you would like to collaborate with on writing songs or performing?
T~ I would like to have the influence of Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois on the production end of it. That would be amazing!
D~ I used to think so too Tarabud; but considering that outside influence is already so strong and prevalent; I think I still prefer to write from my own headspace. If I had to pick though, I guess it would have to be Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, The Edge of U2, or Robert Smith of The Cure.
Who are your favourite songwriters?
T~ I really love The Innocense Mission, Camera Obscura, Bat for Lashes, and going way back: Cocteau Twins, and Morrisey.
D~ Ditto on all of those; but I would add Depeche Mode, Dead Can Dance, U2, and the list goes on.
Which countries have you gigged in?
T~ We’ve only played in California.
Which countries would be at the top of your list to tour?
T~ My dream for the band is to tour in Japan, then Europe, and finally South America. Would be so incredible to play in Colombia, to my family and friends. They still wonder where I got my musical interest (laugh).
Who would you like to tour with?
T~Who’s touring now…I would enjoy touring with Eisley, Block Party, or It would be phenomenal to play with School of Seven Bells! Love that band.
How do you promote your music and get your music out to new fans?
T~ Let’s see, most of our promotion is On-line, through Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, CDbaby, iTunes, Music Submit, just to name a few. Staying in touch with podcasters and Radio DJs has helped us. The local stations like to hear new music from Local Bay Area bands, and lucky for us, they play us! We like to make videos of our songs. Our ideas are usually grander than our budgets but we do our best to get our vision across.
Which music promotion websites do you use and do you have a favourite?
T~ I’m on Twitter for “SentinelDream” daily with updates for our fans. Myspace is still used by clubs for booking us. We also like, ReverbNation, Ourstage, Amazing Radio band page. Our favorite right now is Music Submit because they offer good opportunities to unsigned bands like us. I really like SoundCloud too because we can share free downloads of our tunes!
Do you think such sites and the internet are good tools for independent and unsigned artists?
T~ I would say excellent. No one would know us without the internet to spread the joy around.
How do you relax?
T~ I like to knit & sometimes make collage art. If I really need to come back to zero of the unlimited field I sit down and meditate. Transcendental Meditation really works.
D~ Actually, doing “nothing” is my favorite thing to do; but if I have to do “something” when I’m relaxing, I like to watch movies, or get far away into the woods, backpack, camp.
What's your best/worst experience at a gig?
D~ The worst is when you have those nightmares of things going wrong at gigs; nothing works, you just cant get set up in time and the crowd and rest of the band is waiting! In the real world though, that does sometimes happen, and is a living nightmare! But in the real world, it always works out somehow.
Do you get nervous before a gig? How do you calm down?
T~ Yes nerves always attack my stomach. Once I’m on stage it all magically disappears.
D~ I only get nervous if too much time has passed in between shows; but when we play every week, it stays pretty much at bay. When do I get nervous though, I just keep myself occupied with getting things ready, etc.
What are your day jobs if you have them?
T~ Oh ya, alternative universe does exist apart from our music. :) I work as a temporary worker in an Ophthalmology office in San Francisco, mostly shuffling paper. So glamorous!
D~ I have had many day jobs; but am currently working as an EMT in an emergency room.
Is there something you’d like to get involved with if the opportunity came along?
T~ It would be fun to play an Awareness Concert about the plight of the whales, but specially the tuna fish that are both not yet on the endangered species list. Can you tell I’m a member of Greenpeace? There is also this touring opportunity in India, through Music Submit. We hope that this comes to fruition. It would a wonderful way to share our music to a new audience and see a magnificent country.
D~ I’m already playing mostly for free, and am having a great time; so it would be awesome to perform anywhere for anything that benefits a good cause!