21st century renaissance man
Tell us about yourself and your music
I’m ‘Sijo’ Art Lapham, drummer, and keyboardist for the New England-based originals band, ‘SIJO’. The band has been best defined as the answer to the question; “What if Cheap Trick and Kansas had a baby?” I’ve been a musician since 1979, following in the footsteps of my dad, who in his career, has shared the stage with such musical legends as Chubby Checker, Gary U.S. Bonds, Tony Bennett, Tina Turner, Patty LaBelle, The Rascals, Frankie Avalon and Fabian. I write all the lyrics and compose most of the songs for my group and we are currently working on our fifth studio CD.
Talk to us more about your latest release
Each of my band’s releases is concept albums and our newest one is no exception.
‘Fourteen Arrows’, the fourth CD release from ‘SIJO’, is a collection of 14 songs based on previous relationships (Ironically, its also my wife’s favorite of our four CDs). Several driving rockers are carefully blended with some soulful ballads to create a well-balanced disc for everyone’s enjoyment. The moody ‘Alter Ego’ tends to be a favorite with many listeners, but you don’t want to miss ‘The One That Got Away’, an interesting piece with a Middle-Eastern flavor, the pop-laden ‘Gnor Oi Nay’ (That’s Chinese for “I love you”, by the way), or our one attempt at a country song, ‘Lone Star Annie’.
What inspired you to write this release?
As stated above, each of SIJO’s releases is concept albums and I was looking for a new topic to write about for our fourth CD. I once wrote a song about my very first girlfriend from what seems like a thousand years ago. I finally decided to record it and I invited her up to my studio to give it a listen. The band played it live for her and she loved it. With such a positive response, I decided that I had found my new concept; songs about broken hearts.
Describe the writing and recording process
Once I pick a particular concept to write about, I then contemplate the different possible aspects of that subject. I usually come up with the lyrics first, then construct the basic melody. I then record some scratch drum, bass, keyboard and vocal tracks and give it to the guitarist. He brightens it all up with his guitar work, then we demo it to the other two members of the band, who put their own spin on it. We practice a while, fine-tuning our individual parts, then lay it all down in my 24-track recording studio.
Any plans to hit the road?
Right now, we are focusing on recording our fifth CD, which will be titled; “No Ax to Grind for the Enemy”. Once finished, we will start looking to hit the local stages again. I would love to find an agent to help out in that respect, but one thing at a time, I suppose.
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
With each of our projects being concept albums, every release seems fresh. Some bands tend to focus on a single theme throughout their music (whether it be politics, love, or whatever) which tends to feel as though they’ve fallen into a pattern prison in which they can’t seem to escape. Also, our music has a bit of an 80’s flavor to it, which tends to attract a wider range of listeners.
Who have you been listening to lately?
Depeche Mode, Souxie and the Banshees and John Williams movie soundtracks have been my life’s soundtrack as of late.
Who are your biggest influences?
The Knack, Adam & the Ants, Rush, Lene Lovich and the Cars to name just a few. Yeah, its a pretty eclectic collection there, I know.
Tell us about your passions
Besides writing, recording and performing music, I am also a life-long martial artist, illustrator and author. Beyond that I collect pop culture memorabilia such as comic books, rare movie posters and bubble gum cards.
What else is happening next in your world?
I recently married my childhood sweetheart (After not hearing from her for 25 years, she contacted me when she found out my first novel was published), I recently bought a new house on the water which will feature bigger versions of the previous recording studio, dojo, art studio and collection room, and I am currently writing the sequel to my first novel.
Thanks for an awesome interview, Sijo