Andy Gross and Shawn Sandler
On Names, Shopping, and the Temptation of Barbeque
BD: It's good to finally sit down with G. Ross and the Sandwhacker...
AG: I'm at an internet kiosk at the mall.
SS: Anything for the 'Double Deuce'.
BD: You two have had a long career as musical collaborators, longer than, I think, the Gerwin[sic] brothers. You're now doing something new on Sparky the Dog Records. Does it have a name? Is there a nomiker placeholder we can refer to it as?
SS: Who are the Gerwin brothers?
BD: Whoops, that was sloppy typing. I meant "Gershwin."
SS: There's so many damn Jewish songsmiths...It's impossible to keep track of them all. G. Ross and I have been working together for a long time, but we're not the average songcrafting team, like Simon & Garfunkel for example. First of all, we're only 1/4 Jewish, collectively. Secondly, we really have more of a parasitic relationship than a symbiotic one. We just kind of feed off each other mercilessly. Andy, have you come up with a name yet?
AG: Foleys, Victorias Secret, Helsburg Diamonds, we've got a long list of options we're working with.
BD: You guys seem to have a problem with band names in the past...
AG: We were Vena Cava and then we changed it to Vena Kava which was a great marketing move designed to capture those who just love K. We've also been Hambone, Whirling Dervish and Sunsettler. Actually we've never done an album under the same name twice. Orange Julius.
SS: (Defensively) You know, you have a very curious nickname - Deuce. Did you know that Deuce means: A severe reprimand or expression of anger, as in "I got the deuce from my old lady for being late". It also means "an outstanding example, especially of something difficult or bad" as in "I had a deuce of a time getting rid of those crabs". So who is it that has a problem with names???
BD: Actually, my nickname has been "Juice" not "Deuce" -- Juice Duesing. Before that, people called me "Crusher." People who feared me, and my crushing abilities, I guess...
SS: Is there a question in there?
BD: [clearing throat] Yes, your last STD project was the westerly blowing gales of modern bluegrass called Sunsettler. What can we expect to blow from the new ensemble?
AG: Chunks of y'allternative
SS: I don't like the tone of that question.
BD: Sunsettler was an almagamation of members of Vena Kava (you two) and Matt Shupe and Mr. Tree from Mr. Tree and the Wingnuts -- all "lost souls" looking for what they wanted to do next musically. What did the fates have in store for you all once the Sunsettler project ended?
AG: Mr Tree leaved. [Editor's note, Mr.Tree now resides in the overly hot city of Houston , Texas ]
SS: I went to rehab [uncomfortable silence]
BD: [clearing more of throat] Andy, while Shawn was recovering from his nightmare descent into booze and drugs, you went to Nashville to pursue professional songwriting for a while. What was that like?
AG: It was quite a trip. Shawn was struggling with his demons here and I go and pick up one of my own in the beautiful south. Her name was Pork Barbecue. You meet a lot of these amazing songwriters and realize why they aren't the ones on CMT (Buddy Jewel being a notable exception). They're fat, man. And I'm not talking just a few pounds here and there. So when I started pushing 215...I mean it was breakfast every morning down at Jacks meat and 3 Meat and 3 vegetables. Macaroni and cheese is a vegetable. I was just stuffed. My fingers turned into these plump little vienna sausages that made single notes impossible. If you listen to some of my later demos it's just this pounding on the piano like 3 notes at a time. That was with one finger. I had to go.
During my binge down there though I did meet some great songwriters and learn a thing or 2 about writing better lyrics. A couple of tips. Write about specific images (instead of "Some girl was in my car" say "My 15 year old bleach blond hottie cousin was wearing cut off jeans, sporting a Poison tattoo, and we was cruisin' in my 57 V8 chevy ragtop"), and write what you know. Shawn and I are working on a song called "barbecue rehab"
BD: Sandler, you play, like, a gazillion instrumentals, right? I can't even hang a label on you. "Bassist?" "Vibraphonist?" What can't you and your genius master? Have you tried being a "Zitherist?"
SS: Well, I have played the Mountain Dulcimer, which is technically a zither. So yeah, I have tried being a zitherist.
BD: And you're also in the new STD band with Argyle and Shupe called Six Months to Live. Does that fill you with apprehension? Are you sure you know what you're getting into?
SS: This project fills me with apprehension more than any other. Mainly because there's some pretty strange cats in the group. I recevied an email from our drummer this morning that read: "shawn...i love you...i want to touch on your christian parts...you know, where your bathing suite covers." That kind of stuff scares me a little.
BD: Andy, you headed up to the hills and left this troubled town behind. Packed a suitcase of love and a suitcase of beer, so to speak, and moved to a mountain retreat. Has it been conducive to making new music? Or has the wife just been forcing you to fix stuff?
AG: I try to come to the mall as much as I can to connect with civilization. It's lonely and I get a little 'out of sorts' up there in them hills. There's lots of good shopping at Flatirons Crossing and you can even find some decent bargains at Westminster Mall. Sharper Image is the best. Hey Shawn, you want me to pick you up that flashlight?
BD: Try one of those massage chairs. It'll make you feel wonderful. Especially around your Christian parts.
AG: I'm way ahead of you Juice. Way ahead.....
--Brett Duesing, May, 2005