10Qs with Mel Stone

Photo by Eric Schnare

Portland musician Mel Stone has been in the studio working on her latest release, Fragments, which is due out in November.  She released the EP Coney for Bandcamp’s Transgender Law Center nonprofit event in August (it’s available now as a permanent fundraiser for the organization).  Learn more about Mel at melstone.co and on Twitter.


  • Where were you Born?
    I was born in Pomona, CA, which gives me the perfect icebreaker if I ever meet Tom Waits.
  • What brought you to Portland?
    My family moved from Southern California to Winslow when I was fifteen, and fell in love with Portland. It’s been my home off-and-on for the last decade.
  • What was your most memorable gig?
    Years ago, I had the chance to play at set at the Rainbow on Sunset Strip. Taught me a lot about expectations in professional music.
  • What was your worst gig?
    Back in 2006, I was doing a tour of the South, and my manager at the time had told me I had booked a show in Charleston, SC. I get there, and it was a full-fledged fine dining restaurant. Apparently, there was a huge mix-up, but I started to play anyway. Two songs into depressing acoustic music, the few patrons there were visibly uncomfortable, so I packed it up and left.
  • What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
    If I had to pick an artist, I’d say Elliott Smith. From composition to lyrics to skill, his music has been a tremendous inspiration, influence on my work and my interest in writing music. Many artists in that melancholy-pop-folk zone are big influences.
  • What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
    My capo! I love this thing
  • Any advice for a musician starting out?
    Practice and write every single day. Every little bit helps move you forward and refines your skills.
  • What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
    I absolutely love ABBA and Phish and I feel no guilt about it.
  • What was the first album/recording you owned?
    My mom wouldn’t let me listen to popular music as a kid, but for some reason, Weird Al was allowed, so my very first record was Weird Al Yankovic in 3-D. As a teenager, when my dad tried to get me into the classics, he gave me a copy of Revolver, Ziggy, and The Cars’ Greatest Hits.
  • What are you listening to at the moment?
    A.W.’s Runaway has been blasting in my car at least once a day. I’ve also been on this early Leonard Cohen kick for the last few weeks, and really getting into Nada Surf, particularly Let Go.
  • What was the best concert/musical performance you’ve attended?
    Phish’s IT in Limestone. I was seventeen and the experience changed my life.


Photo by Eric Schnare

10Qs with Kate Sullivan-Jones of The English Muffins

Kate Sullivan-Jones plays bass in the pop-punk trio The English Muffins, and used to play bass in The Outfits and High Spirits. She cohosts a podcast about fast food called Fast Food Date.

Kate Sullivan JonesWhere were you born?
I was born in Berkeley, California, but my parents moved to Cape Cod when I was a baby and I grew up there.

What brought you to Portland?
My eventual husband and I wanted to move in together, and we knew people who moved to Portland or were planning to. He lived farther north and I lived in Massachusetts, and it was the coolest place in between us.

Do you have a day job, and if so, what is it?
I have two! I work weekdays as a pharmacy tech at Apothecary By Design, and Saturdays as a cashier/camera explainer at Pinecone+Chickadee.

What was your most memorable gig?
Probably going on tour with High Spirits, since I had never gone on tour before and I thought it would be totally not my thing, but it ended up being one of the most fun weeks of my life. Maybe a tour doesn’t count as a gig, though. The Outfits played a show with Shellshag, Haru Bangs, and Mouth Washington once, which was awesome because I love all of those bands and there were donuts. I guess that’s technically the most memorable show since Noah put a donut on my mic and I can vividly remember being distracted by how good it smelled.

What was your worst gig?
Once we couldn’t play a show because a member of our band got injured while loading in, and then while loading out I accidentally took part of the other band’s drum hardware.

What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
This is really hard to answer, because I feel like the music that has been most influential music in my life doesn’t really affect how I play at all. Like I think The Mae Shi’s album Terrorbird changed my brain, but I don’t really make music that sounds anything like that. Probably singing along to oldies and top 40 hits on the radio has had more of a direct effect.

What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
I need thick picks! I like these red ones with holes in them that are like little grippy strawberries. Also, living without a practice space has been pretty rough.

Photo by Don Marietta

Any advice for a musician starting out?
It does not matter how old you are! I was 28 when I started playing bass. Before that, my musical experience was mostly limited to church choir growing up and singing in my car. The Outfits were figuring out what we were gonna do right after we decided to be a band, and we already had a guitar player and a drummer, so I bought the cheapest bass at Buckdancer’s and played our songs until I wasn’t a total embarrassment. I also think the best way to motivate yourself to play better is to join a band that has a show coming up. When I joined High Spirits, I knew we had a show in a couple months and that I couldn’t let them down, so I worked really hard to become a better bass player.

What was the origin behind your band name?
Natalie found an old picture she drew of a cartoon band called The English Muffins, and posted it on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to make it a reality. It was a really cool drawing, so I asked if I could join.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
My musical guilty pleasure is a five-way tie between some real cheesy Blue Öyster Cult songs.

What was the first album/recording you owned?
I think the first tape I bought with my own money was TLC’s CrazySexyCool, which I still love.

What are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve been super into Jason Derulo’s newest album lately.

What was the best concert/musical performance you’ve attended?
I think seeing Mission of Burma at Space was the best. I love that band, and my husband played in both the opening bands (The RattleSnakes and Huak) and the whole night was a total blast.

Mission of Burma
Kate at Mission of Burma at SPACE in 2009, photo by Stephen Quirk

10Qs with Sasha Alcott of When Particles Collide

When Particles Collide, a duo consisting of husband and wife Sasha Alcott and Chris Viner, is releasing an EP entitled This Town on May 26th.  This is the sixth independent release from the pair and it’s available for pre-order through Pledge Music.  They’ll play two record release shows: Friday, May 29th at The Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge Mass and Saturday, May 30th at The Asylum in Portland.

Sashastudio1-e1417534758261Where were you born?
Bangor, Maine

How long did you live in Maine?
I lived in Maine from birth to age 14 then from age 32 until 40.

What was your most memorable non-musical job?
I’m in my 16th year of teaching high school chemistry. The memory never phase.

What was your most memorable gig?
Oh man, there are so many. Highlights: During our most recent tour we played a show in Lexington Kentucky with our good friends Mad Anthony and The Shanks. The room was packed, into all of the music, and we had an amazing, sweaty fun time with old friends and new. Oh, and people were singing along. And we sold a bunch of merch. And we had a hilarious van ride back to Cincinnati where we were all staying. There was peeing in a bottle, hilarious outbursts and people falling asleep mid sentence. We then got home and stayed up until 6 in the morning. It was glorious. Of course playing at The State Theater in Portland ME for this year’s State of the State was an amazing experience in a totally different but equally awesome way.


What was your worst gig?
There are many. But really they are all the same in nature. We’re in a new place, or maybe Brooklyn, and barely anyone is there, the other bands only show up for their set, they play like crap, and the sound is god awful horrible and we wind up going on two hours past our set time.

What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
I’m not really sure. I consciously do not make music to sound like some genre or artist in particular. I grew up listening to classic rock and Motown, but I’m not sure the exact ways that this music influenced me as a musician. I also purposefully try not to learn lots of other people’s songs so that I don’t fall into the habit of playing like the people I admire most.

Any advice for a musician starting out?
Work hard at getting better, all the time. Practice, practice practice, get out of your hometown, and don’t fall into the habit of playing mostly covers if you want to be an originals band.

WPCStudio2-e1416580853520What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
I don’t feel guilty about much these days.

What was the first album/recording you owned?
Michael Jackson, Thriller, on vinyl. I got it for Christmas.

What are you listening to at the moment?
I’m listening to my friends’ bands: Album from Rogers Ohio, Mad Anthony from Cincinnati, The Shanks from Toronto ON, and Theodore Treehouse from Portland ME have all been on the listening devices recently.

What was the best concert/musical performance you’ve attended?
Helmet in Rochester NY circa 1994

What’s the origin behind your band name?
I’ve been thinking about how particles must physically collide for most physical and chemical phenomena to occur. And of course, the collision of air particles is how sound travels. And we’re all about sound!


10Qs with Zak Taillon of Superorder

Photo by Joel Desmond

Could you tell me about any current projects, performances, or recordings?
As far as projects go, I am working on training a new bassist for my band, Superorder. Once he is ready, we will be planning a CD/DVD release show for our visual album, Ten Cities, which is currently only available in digital format. In the meantime, I am composing our next album and practicing synthesizer for an embarrassing Clash of the Titans performance on March 18th*.

Where were you born?
Born in Methuen, Massachusetts. Raised in the Seacoast Region, New Hampshire.

How long have you lived in Maine?
Nine and a half years. I moved to Portland, Maine in 2005 for college and have lived here since, except for a year I lived in Portland, Oregon in 2010.

What was your most memorable non-musical job?
All things considered I’d say that I’m currently working at what will one day be my most memorable non-musical job: bartending and serving at Boda. Really bizarre things happen there like clockwork. Example: just last week I caught a guy eating cat treats at the bar on his birthday.

Photo by Ben McCanna

What was your most memorable gig?
Every opportunity I’ve have to perform music over the last seven years is memorable and special to me, though there are probably two gigs tied for first place: one was my first show playing guitar for Picnic Casket in February 2008 at Dos Amigos Burritos in Dover, New Hampshire. We opened for Transistor Transistor’s 7’’ release party during a massive snowstorm but surprisingly the turnout was so good that they had to turn people away at the door because there was like 60 people stuffed into this tiny burrito shop. The other gig was a couple years ago with my band, Superorder, at Waranimal’s Winter Beach Ball at Space Gallery. After playing a 40 minute set of all instrumental prog-rock/electronic music, Kyle Scofield and I performed a very faithful cover of Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” to a sold out crowd of thrash metal kids who were mostly wearing bathing suits.

What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
It’s impossible for me to chose any one above all others, since being a musician, for me at least, is being a cumulative byproduct of all the influential albums and soundtracks and weird little noises that have made their way into my life at pinnacle moments. That being said, some albums definitely worth mentioning are The Second Stage Turbine Blade by Coheed and Cambria, Before the Dawn Heals Us by M83, Focus by Cynic, Surface to Air by Zombi, Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution, Thriller by Michael Jackson, and Ride the Lightning by Metallica. The common denominator between these albums is genre-hopping and inconsistent display of moods. Each of these albums played a part in helping me discover how to transform my fears and pains of life into something sonically epic and conceptually plot driven.

What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
An Apple computer with Logic 9 installed. I compose 90% of the music I write with virtual synthesizers in midi draw mode with just a mouse and keyboard. But if I was more concerned with this answer not being super nerdy, I would say my 2001 Ibanez UV777.

Any advice for a musician starting out?
Listen critically. Draw as much inspiration as you can from many diverse sources. Get out of your comfort zone. Practice meditation. Adapt meditation into your music practice. Experiment. Try harder.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
R. Kelly. Especially Trapped in the Closet.

What was the first album/recording you owned?
Weird Al’s Bad Hair Day.

What are you listening to at the moment?
Currently listening to Prince’s Art Official Age as I answer these questions, but recently I’ve been listening to Falls of Rauros, Blut Aus Nord, Nothing, Oneohtrix Point Never, Majeure, An Autumn for Crippled Children, The Fucking Champs, and Steve Hauschildt.

What was the best concert/musical performance you’ve attended?
Yet again, I cannot name just one. It’s a close tie between seeing Goblin and Zombi performing together at the Sinclair in 2013 or My Bloody Valentine at House of Blues in Boston last November. I dig on all three of those acts so much and I still can’t believe I got to see them all perform within six months of each other. Also, seeing the Star Wars Symphony Orchestra is up there.

*We’re not sure if he’ll be performing as Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus