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A Dirty Dozen with TOMMY SENTER from PARADISE VULTURES – June 2024

Photo credit: Michelle Shiers

According to a recent press release: “Los Angeles bass-and-drums duo Paradise Vultures creates a sound that can best be  described as dirty, doomy, desert disco.  Recently, the pair, comprised  of bassist and vocalist Tommy Senter and  drummer Matty Barreca, announced their single/video  “Catacombs,” ahead of a string of new content to come throughout 2024.” We get Tommy to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release. What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through? Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Our latest release, “Sister Kennedy,” has a lot of elements to it that are a bit off the beaten path. First off, the title of the track is a direct reference to Rosemary Kennedy, sister to JFK and RFK, who was forcibly lobotomized by her father because her promiscuity and unpredictability were seen as a threat to the family’s political aspirations, which is a story that I connected with deeply. This is a song that is fundamentally about addiction, impulsivity, shame, and repression. We wanted to convey the chaotic peaks and valleys of addiction not only through the lyrics but also through the composition and instrumentation. To do this, we bounce around between time signatures to make the song feel like it’s speeding up and slowing down, but it’s really the same tempo all the way through.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I come from a very musical family and started playing piano when I was 5 and drums when I was 8. My aunt and mom were both singers, so I just naturally gravitated to music. I was in band and orchestra all throughout school, and I think the first time I realized I wanted to do this professionally was one of the first club gigs I played in middle school. It was unlike anything I had experienced before—exhilarating and intoxicating. I was hooked from the beginning.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

I grew up listening to The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, and Neil Young, but the record that made me immediately go, “Oh my god, I want to do THAT,” was Songs For The Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age. The first time I listened to that record at 12 years old, there was a fundamental paradigm shift in how I viewed music.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Alain Johannes. He’s one of the most insanely talented musicians alive right now. Eleven made some of my favorite records of all time, and his contributions to Queens of the Stone Age are mind-blowing. Either him or Ken Andrews from Failure.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour? What do you like to do to unwind?

My favorite way to unwind is to spend time with my partner and our two cats. That’s my chicken soup for the soul.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

We always describe it as “dirty, doomy, desert disco,” which I think is a nice, concise way to sum it all up. Once, somebody told me I reminded them of Chad Kroeger from Nickelback. She meant it as a compliment, but that was a tough one. At least I’ve only gotten that once.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

I generally do the cooking, Matty gets the drinks, and the guy who used to crack out the acoustic guitar is no longer in the band.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I was born and raised in LA, so the starstruck factor got dulled at a pretty young age. I think the last time I was really starstruck was when the aforementioned Alain Johannes (Eleven, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures) came into the bar I was working at. We started a great conversation while I was serving him at the bar and his family asked my manager if I could get cut a little early to come and have a drink with them. My manager obliged and I was giddy as a schoolgirl having a glass of wine with one of my biggest musical inspirations. He’s a wonderful human and we still keep in contact.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The best part is being able to create music that people connect with and enjoy and then experience that connection and enjoyment firsthand while performing it live. The energy exchange that happens during a live performance is otherworldly. If I could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, I would love to be a philosophy professor. Philosophy, especially existentialism and phenomenology, have always fascinated me, and I’ve been studying it for years.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I would love for an interviewer to ask what my biggest influences are other than other musicians or bands (see: Dune, HP. Lovecraft, existentialist writers, personal loss, addiction, etc.). I don’t know that I’m tired of answering any questions. It’s a privilege to have people give enough of a shit about what we do that they want to ask me questions. That’s not something that I want to take for granted.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

If I could do it over, I would have given Paradise Vultures my complete and undivided attention from its inception. I spent too many years spreading myself far too thin with other projects and session work. I’ve learned that lesson now. Aside from sessions for friends here and there, this is my primary creative focus, which I’m putting all my energy and resources into.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I would go back to the South of France for the recording of The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main St. That would be a wild experience. I’d love to experience that level of creative chaos with those geniuses.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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