Category Archives: Music

Artist Spotlight: Tristan Prettyman, Musician from San Diego

It is always nice to see when someone is doing their part to help save our planet so when I read a blog written by Tristan Prettyman recently about all the amazing little things she was doing to that end, I immediately contacted her to see if she would be willing to share her thoughts on being eco-conscious. Tristan is a singer and songwriter based in San Diego, California who is quickly making a name for herself across the world with the recent release of her second album Hello…x. She is touring this album now and like many musicians she was concerned with the impact a cross country tour might have on the environment. Through the use of reusable water bottles filled with filtered tap water, metal silverware and personal coffee mugs, she and her bus mates have already begun reducing their level of waste. Her efforts extend far beyond the tour bus however and she was really excited to share it with us.

At what age do you first remember becoming interested in helping to protect the environment?

I think I was born interested. Growing up in San Diego, especially near the beaches and beautiful parks like Torrey Pines preserve I was always outdoors as a kid. I surfed, did beach cleanups, took field trips to tide pools, went camping and horseback riding in the mountains. As you grow older you take those memories with you and wonder what you can do preserve the environment around you for those to enjoy in the years to come.

My music has really allowed me to travel and see the world and now I’ve become more interested in helping raise environmental awareness in other communities, and encouraging others to get involve doing things locally.

Growing up was your family also Earth conscious?

Definitely. We had a garden growing up and before the county even had a recycling program we’d take our cans and bottles to the recycling center.

What are some of the ways you have incorporated going green into your work?

We have a bus this tour so we are able to do a lot. We try to eliminate plastic bottles by carrying a 5 gallon water jug with a pump. We all have reusable recycled Sigg bottles which cut down on a ton of plastic waste. I try to use metal silverware and wash it everyday instead of plastic and travel with my own coffee cup. We use recycled paper plates and bowls and travel with a recycling bin on our bus.

Is there any one green practice that is something you do naturally every day?

I’d say having a Sigg bottle has really changed my life. I used to spend so much on water; I was a Fiji brand fanatic. But one day, I just switched and started drinking tap water and bought a Brita filter for home. Buying bottled water adds [up] and ends up in landfills and waterways.

What are some of your day to day efforts that promote an eco conscious lifestyle (drive a hybrid vehicle, vegetarian, recycle, use cloth bags, ride a bike, etc)?

I mentioned some already, but I do most everything you mentioned. I’ve driven a Toyota Hybrid Highlander for the past 2 years. I love it. It doesn’t get insanely amazing mileage like some if the other hybrids out there, but for an SUV it’s great. My bass player and I both have bikes on tour, so we cruise around everywhere. I use recycled bags everywhere. And as much as I can when out buying things other than groceries, I try to bring a bag or just stash things in my purse, I just recently realized the great thing about woman’s purses being so big is that you can fit a new shirt, toothpaste and shampoo and a book! I always come home looking like a kleptomaniac because I’ll have to most random things in my purse. I just hate excess. As far as eating, I try to eat vegetarian but I can’t resist good BBQ so I’ll indulge here and there. But I’m learning about the great lengths our food travels to get to us and it’s very unappetizing. I try to always buy organic and local.

When did you first become interested in Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue and the Surfrider Foundation? Can you tell us a little bit about the mission and your involvement?

They came to me a couple months ago and asked me if I’d like to be a part of it. Naturally, it just seemed like a great fit. I’ve spent most if my life at the beach and always participated in cleanups. It’s a really amazing event and I think people are surprised at how little effort it takes to make a big difference. The event is about raising awareness and keeping the beaches barefoot friendly.

When is the next date you team up with them?

We have one event left. South Padre Island, Texas on August 23rd. It was voted on by the community!

Would you ever consider touring in a bio-diesel bus?

Oh yeah, would love that. I’m just getting into a bus though and it’s very costly as is, but as soon as we can afford some other options we will definitely be looking into bio diesel!

Do you feel that performing shows live via the internet is a great way to keep your carbon footprint down since you can reach so many without flying/driving all over the world?

I never thought about that, but I kind of like that idea. The more I tour and travel, the more I wish I was home! So Internet shows would help solve that!

Do you have an online presence where people can learn more about you and listen to your music?

Official Website

In addition to the AT&T Blue Room performance linked above, Tristan can be seen playing across the country through the middle of September. I strongly encourage seeing her live to support not only an amazing musician, but also someone who is taking steps to help maintain a beautiful planet to rock on.

Aug 15 2008 7:00P
Filene Center At Wolf Trap Vienna, Virginia

Aug 16 2008 7:00P
Festival Pier At Penn’s Landing Philadelphia

Aug 17 2008 11:00A
KZZO “A Day in the Zone” @ Gibson Ranch Sacramento, California

Aug 19 2008 8:00P
Visulite Theatre Charlotte, North Carolina

Aug 20 2008 7:00P
House of Blues Myrtle Beach

Aug 23 2008 7:00P
Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue TBD

Aug 24 2008 7:00P
St. Augustine Amphitheatre St. Augustine, Florida

Aug 26 2008 7:00P
Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP) Fayettevile, Arkansas

Aug 28 2008 7:00P
Pine Mountain Amphitheater Flagstaff, Arizona

Aug 29 2008 8:00P
The Joint Las Vegas, Nevada

Aug 30 2008 7:00P
Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater Reno, Nevada

Aug 31 2008 8:00P
Great American Music Hall San Francisco, California

Sep 3 2008 7:00P
Malkin Bowl Vancouver, British Columbia

Sep 5 2008 7:00P
Britt Pavilion Jacksonville, Oregon

Sep 6 2008 7:00P
McMenamins Egdefield Amphitheater Troutdale, Oregon

Sep 7 2008 7:00P
Marymoor Amphitheatre Redmond, Washington

Sep 9 2008 8:00P
Wilma Theater Missoula, Montana

Sep 10 2008 8:00P
Knitting Factory Concert House Boise, Idaho

Sep 11 2008 7:00P
Red Butte Garden Salt Lake City, Utah

Sep 12 2008 7:00P
Red Rocks Amphitheatre Morrison, Colorado

Smart Energy Technology:

Boston Based Band The Grownup Noise Kick off The Veggie Van Tour

There is a comfortable and casual tone in the air as I shake Adam Sankowski’s hand to thank him for such a wonderful performance and also express my strong interest in taking a tour of the band’s van. Under typical circumstances that sentiment would come off as if I was some crazed groupie but in this case Adam was happy to oblige knowing I was simply fanatical about the large silver tank just inside the back door. Despite the fact that it was close to 2 AM and they were leaving early for upstate New York, Adam was more than excited to show it off and chat about it.

In early summer The Grownup Noise (Paul Hansen – Guitar, Lead Vocals; Katie Franich – Cello, Keyboards, Vocals; Attis Clopton – Drums, Percussion; Adam Sankowski – Bass, Vocal) hired Aaron Stuart of Angelcity Motorworks based out of Los Angeles to custom build and install a veggie oil fuel conversion system in their Ford Econoline diesel van circa 1980’s and as they head out on a cross country tour the band is looking forward to saving some money while also saving the planet. The tour officially kicked off on July 25 in New York City at The Annex so the van made its maiden voyage of approximately 430 miles round trip hauling all four members of the band, their gear and veggie fuel. They returned to their hometown base of Massachusetts on July 26 to play at the famous Johnny D’s Uptown in Davis Square Somerville and were able to park the unassuming van directly in front of the venue for maximum exposure. Adam indicated the veggie fuel had been approximately two-thirds full when they left for New York and it was still one-third full upon their return, not to mention they had only used approximately fifteen gallons of diesel on the entire journey, I was impressed.

During the show I noted that they had fans in attendance in excess of 200, Johnny D’s was jam packed and everyone was dancing to their infectious grooves. As we waited out front at the end of the show approximately twenty five of those people came out exclaiming “oh is this the veggie van?”. It occurred to me that the van may be a bit more famous than the band itself, and rightfully so. The specs on the conversion are amazing. For approximately $4500 the unit was fabricated and installed. The unit is no more than four feet wide by two feet deep and includes the tank itself, visible fuel gauge indicator, hoses (one that diverts engine coolant to the small radiator unit in the box and another that runs the oil) and an oil purifying filter. The tank holds 100 gallons of the fuel that they have been acquiring from restaurants for free and they are able to travel approximately 2,000 miles on one full tank. Adam indicated the unit should pay for itself by the end of this tour in the savings on diesel fuel alone.

With a conversion system the vehicle starts on diesel but after a short period of time the fuel source is swapped over to the heated veggie oil. The fuel must be swapped back to diesel upon stopping as well. Adam indicated that in this warm weather the time period for heating the oil to swap over can be as short as thirty seconds, in colder temperatures the time increases to only five minutes, greatly reducing emissions pumped into the atmosphere. The veggie oil is zero emission and they use this type of oil as opposed to other fry oil because it is less sludgy and requires fewer filter strains to thin it out for use. The oil can be directly poured into the tank through a filter “sock” but the band filters into a bucket first to further extend the life of each sock.

Each member was gracious enough to discuss thoughts on their tour and how the van will help to greatly reduce their cost to play shows across the country from Boston to Sacramento, CA and back again over the next two months. The band is excited to get on the road in support of their first release, The Grownup Noise, a self titled album consisting of thirteen tracks, and also to promote their conversion simultaneously. In the midst of the set they made reference to the van and how excited they were to get it out on the road, not to mention allow fans to actually smell the tank. It smelled pretty good. By the end of the evening I was not only impressed with their music but the generosity each member showed to spend time with a crazy environmental fan such as myself talking about their endeavor and how excited they are to begin the adventure.

I walked away with a copy of their CD and a promise from Adam to take mental notes while on the road for a follow up discussion on his overall impression on the performance of the van and the ease of use to run veggie fuel as touring musicians. Their next stop on the tour is Columbus, OH on July 28 as they continue the journey cross country. Restaurant owners who are looking to dispose of veggie fuel are encouraged to get in touch with the band on any of their stops as they are more than happy to take it for free. Additionally, music fans of snappy indie-pop with an emphasis on beat and story telling lyrics are also encouraged to head out to one of their shows. Be sure to stick around after the set, shake Adam’s hand and ask to see the Veggie Van; tell him Jenn sent you.

To read the original interview with Adam click here. The follow up interview will be posted some time in September so stay tuned!

The Grownup Noise tour dates (per the band’s official website) and locations as of July 27, 2008 are:

Mon. July 28th, The Rumba Cafe, 9pm
Columbus, OH – 2507 Summit St.

Tues. July 29th, Subterranean, 8pm
Chicago, IL – 2011 W. North Ave.

Wed. July 30th, Terminal Bar, 9pm
Minneapolis, MN – 409 E. Hennepin Ave.

Fri. August 1st, Lion’s Liar, 8:30pm
Denver, CO – 2022 E. Colfax Ave.

Mon. August 4th, Rendezvous/Jewelbox Theater, 9pm
Seattle, WA. – 2322 2nd Ave. (in Belltown)

Tues. August 5th, Berbati’s Pan, 9pm
Portland, OR – 213 SW. Ankeny St.

Wed. August 6th, Luna’s Cafe, 8pm
Sacramento, CA – 1414 16th St.

Sat. Aug. 9th, The Mint, 8:30pm
Los Angeles, CA – 6010 West Pico Blvd.

Mon. August 11th, Don Quixotes Music Hall, 8pm
Santa Cruz/ Felton, CA – 6275 Highway 9

Fri. August 17th, Atomic Cantina, 10pm
Albuquerque, NM – 315 Gold St. SW

Sun. August 17th, Momo’s Club, 8pm
Austin, TX – 618 W. 6th Street

Tues. August 19th, The 5 Spot, 8pm
Nashville, TN – 1006 Forrest Ave.

Wed. August 20th, Bobo Gallery, 8pm
Asheville, NC – 22 Lexington Ave.

Fri. August 22nd, The Center For Discovery, 7pm
Harris, NY – private performance

Sat. August 23rd, Mike Burrow’s Wedding
Woodstock, NY.

Mon. August 25th, Galaxy Hut, 8pm
Arlington, VA – 2711 Wilson Blvd.

Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight The Grownup Noise – Part I: The Band Gets a Van

It may be difficult for some to grasp the concept of a touring musical act to be focused on going green as there are sure to be many days of long distance driving, resulting in gas consumption, trash accumulation and emissions that are unmatched by the average driver. This was something The Grownup Noise was concerned with as well and as they began making plans for a 2008 summer tour, the concept of a conversion van running on veggie oil became more and more appealing. In Part I of our discussion, Adam Sankowski (Bass, Vocal) was kind enough to share some of the feelings the group (Additionally comprised of members Paul Hansen – Guitar, Vocals; Katie Franich – Cello, Keyboards, Percussion, moral support; Attis Clopton – Drums, Percussion) had with regard to their scheduled conversion and why the band as a whole is so focused on being as eco-friendly as possible.

Keep an eye out for Part II of this interview which will be the follow up detailing how the band enjoyed their tour using the converted van as well as photos of the veggie van in action!

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

Well, I kind of work two full time jobs. Both music related… I work as a music therapist at a Children’s Hospital and I play in / manage “The Grownup Noise”, which is a full time job, just not one that I get paid for. Most days start with going to work at the hospital at 8 am, I then get out around 3 pm, head off to some private Music Therapy clients or guitar students, and then have a rehearsal most nights around 6 or 7. I have a very understanding girlfriend as I am usually tied up with music all day.

Who or what influences your work and why?

Really, any artist who is creating for the right reasons. Musically, I respect any band that is in it for artistic reasons and who is passionate about what they do. That might sound rather general, but there are a lot of musicians on the national level who are just playing songs that other people wrote for them, or who are record label creations. Luckily with technology the playing field is becoming much more leveled. The veggie oil conversion is part of that. The fact that these days an independent band can hit the road without major label tour support and make it work is huge. The fact that bands don’t need a label to make art or need someone telling them what is marketable is so awesome these days.

More specifically I really like a ton of bands that are out right now from classic bands like R.E.M. to the newer pop bands from Canada like Stars, New Pornographers, or Broken Social Scene. There are so, so many great bands out there right now. And there are a ton of cool artists in Boston.

Is it your personal belief that creativity, and the ability to create art, is innate?

Yes, but you have to work at it to refine it. Children can create all day long; adults have to work a bit more at it. And as far as music goes, you don’t just wake up a good musician… well some do, but most don’t. I know I put my time in. I had my few years of not talking to many people and spending a lot of time in a practice room… or you are the guy at the party always playing guitar and trying to get people to jam with you. I think as far as song writing goes, that’s the ultimate reflection of the refinement of art. Nobody is born a great songwriter. Whenever you talk to anyone who writes good songs they talk about they wrote nothing but crap for years. And how the best songs just “come to you” but that it takes years to realize that. I can’t write songs though, I’m too self-critical. Paul takes care of that in the band… and he’s my hero. I just work on arrangements and parts. Writing a good part to a song is much the same process though. A really good part that helps to move a song along takes creativity and maturity.

Who or what inspired you to become a musician?

Some kid on the bus in 7th grade. I over heard him talking about how easy the guitar was to play (he was wrong), and I got inspired. I had always loved music from playing the trumpet from 4th grade on. Once I got my hands on a guitar that is all I did, and then moved from there to almost every other instrument at some point.

Did you think it would ever be possible to go green while touring?

No, because I figured that was something that people with a lot of money could do… by buying carbon credits or something. Then I heard about veggie oil conversions a year or two ago and my mind got going. The price of gas pushed me over the edge.

Why was it so important to go green?

Well, first there is the reality of gas prices and the fact that they make touring for a band the conventional way a money losing proposition. But the conversion is a much of money too. But then I started thinking about if I would really feel good about driving around the country when in the back of my head I knew that it wasn’t good for the environment. And the reality is that we need to get off oil NOW. It’s going to happen soon though, whether it’s because of market forces, or the other developing nations, or just the fact that we will finally realize what we are doing to our planet. So, I just decided that I wanted our band to be part of a solution rather then a problem so I got a loan and found a diesel van!

Tell me a little about your conversion from gasoline in your van, are you excited to get on the road to test it out this summer?

Yes, we are super excited but a bit nervous too. Without taking up too much space, the basic concept is that diesel engines are workhorses that can totally run on vegetable oil. In fact I think that I read somewhere that was what they were originally designed for. That’s all “bio diesel” is, veggie oil that has been thinned out with acids and other chemicals. We aren’t using bio diesel, we are going on straight veggie oil (SVO). Veggie oil on its own is too thick for the engines fuel injectors, so what we do is keep the diesel system and tank intact and then add in a separate tank for the veggie oil. Then you install a small radiator in the veggie oil tank and run some of the coolant from the engine to it. So you have to start the van up on diesel fuel and then the diverted engine coolant heats up the veggie oil in the tank and thins it out to where it can go through the fuel injectors. After about five minutes you flick a switch from diesel to veggie and you’re good to go! You also have to switch back before you stop to diesel. So you do have to buy some diesel fuel, but only about a tank per cross-country trip… not too bad.

We are installing a hundred gallon tank too so that we don’t have to stop all the time, and we can go for about 1,500 miles on a tank. That way we can get grease on our days off and not worry about making sound check. Aaron from the well known local band Pie Bald is installing the tank (he owns Angel City Motor Works in L.A.) and he does this full time for bands so he knows how to make it the least stressful and most fun for bands to tour on grease. He’s the best.

What do you think people will think when they drive behind your van on the road?

That we are cooking! I actually ended up behind a turbo diesel Mercedes the other day that was burning grease. I know he was because when it first drove by me, I was like “are those his breaks burning?” but then it smelled kind of sweet. I talked to Aaron about it and he said that all grease smells different but that our tank will be airtight and we’ll only smell it in the van at stoplights.

I’m excited about how it will smell because diesel fuel smells horrible. Some old man yelled at me the other day for “parking my smelly van in front of his house”.

What are some other ways you have incorporated green into your work (aluminum water bottles on stage, etc)?

Ah… good question. I didn’t even think about that… but we do that anyways. Our guitarist’s brother works in product development at Nalgene so there is no shortage of reusable bottles around. I’m a recycling fanatic anyways. I’m always the one cleaning out beer bottles from the practice space and bringing them home.

Can you tell me about your creative process?

Basically Paul (our guitarist singer) writes the songs and then I arrange them/ change them around with him. Then we present them to either our drummer (Attis) or our cello player (Katie) to work on next. So they go through a process and at any point they can be drastically re-worked. We are fairly democratic and our rule is to always try everyone’s ideas, no matter how crazy they may seem. You always try everything, as we’ve been surprised how things have worked out that sounded like they wouldn’t. Recently though we’ve been bringing songs into rehearsals in a more beginning form and letting them take shape with the band all throwing in ideas at the same time.

Where did your first inspiration come from?

For this band? From the moment I heard Paul’s songs I knew that I wanted to be in a band with him. I then set myself to learn the bass (guitar was my main thing before) so I could play with him because he’s the best guitarist I’ve ever met and I didn’t need to compete with him, and we didn’t need another guitar. I’ve been told that I play the bass like a guitar anyways.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

I have become really good about always unplugging EVERYTHING so that I am not draining energy from my cell phone charge, etc. during work. I bike everywhere that I can, and like I mentioned, I am the “recycling chief” of my apartment.

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?

Well, it’s just not really an option anymore. I mean, you can chose not to, but it’s always on my mind and I feel so guilty not doing my part.

What challenges have you had in your work?

Getting anyone to listen. Getting booking agents to call/ email me back. People are listening now, but booking agents are still the bane of my existence… but I love them too and they do a thankless and amazing job for all of us though.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

The Internet rules! First off the fact that you can book an entire national tour via MySpace is amazing, and you really can. That’s all we use to book. Craig’s list postings do the scouting for us, and once we find our venues we just MySpace them. It’s great for cutting down on paper and being environmental. I can’t imagine how they did it in the 80’s, 90’s or even early 00’s, sending out CD after CD, press kit after press kit, hoping that somebody was listening, and then calling and calling. Now you can blast an email to every club in a city with the dates that you are looking for. They can instantly go on your MySpace and see if you’re cool, and then book you.

Plus, we have met so many great people who simply stumbled upon us via MySpace, who now come out to shows and who came out during our last tour. This blog and article is a great example of the internet as well. The Internet is the main thing that helps level the playing field for all artists and musicians. Yeah, yeah, people don’t buy Cd’s anymore… but if our band existed in 1991, and we weren’t on a label, then no one would be “stealing music” but there would also be no way for anyone to hear about us. The internet is really the best, and the musicians in bands right now are SO lucky that it’s hitting its stride and that “social networking” is really working well right now while we are all around trying to get our name out there right now.

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

To do this as a living while remaining true to the art. And to release a couple of truly great and lasting records… even if it’s only a limited number of people that hear them. Great art lasts… there have been so many great records that have been discovered well after the band ended or they stopped promoting. Truly great art spreads by word of mouth the best. Just look at Neutral Milk Hotel. They are indie rock legends now and that album (in the airplane over the sea) is ten years old. Most of my friends that are into them just heard about them in the last few years, almost a decade after the band was done.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

Well, we are always writing. We just released our latest album; self titled “The Grownup Noise”. We have more than half of the tracks for that written and the basics (drums and bass) tracked for it in the studio already. Our biggest stuff right now is just promoting the record through the tour with the veggie van.

What are your long-term career goals?

Just what I already mentioned. To make a living at this without becoming “cheesy” or making artistic compromises.

Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?

Like I said, anyone who is creating for the “right” reasons. The bands that I listen are endless…

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?

Be really nice to everyone… nobody wants to book someone who is full of themselves. Just be really, really nice. And make sure the music is really good… it’d like to think that we put in our time on that part the most…. you can have all the promotion and money to promote in the world. But if your music isn’t engaging live, and interesting, nobody is going to care. It’s an old term, but it really is about the music! Once that is locked up though, then worry about promotion. It seems like some do it the other way around.

Also, the one practical tip I have is. Don’t play a thousand smaller shows that you have to promote. Play a big one, once every few months and really make a big deal/ fun night out of it. It makes everything more memorable. But play absolutely every other random show and coffee house that you don’t have to promote before that to practice playing live… you aren’t above playing ANY show.
And try and tour as much as possible (with your veggie van of course)

What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?

Your bike. Especially in Boston. It’s pretty safe to bike around here if you aren’t in a hurry and aren’t crazy. And nothing can save you money faster or the environment more then not driving.

What is your best “going green tip”- for example turning off lights, or eating one meatless meal a week?

Oh, I didn’t even think about vegetarianism as an environmental thing, but of course it is! Being a vegetarian myself, I’d say go for it! There are so many convenient products and soy food out there now… they all are yummy and there are plenty of “bad for you” veggie food as well. Just try veggie for a while. But I’d say getting the habit of unplugging and turning off all your electrical stuff when you are out, would be a great place to start. Not that I am perfect about it, but I really try to be. It’s so funny how most environmental stuff turns into a direct savings too, so turn it off, turn the heat down and save some money!

How would your friends describe you?

(I hope that they would say) Nice, dedicated, passionate, funny (when you get to know me), caring, always busy, driven, and when I say that I’m going to do something I do it.

Do you have a website or online presence?

Of Course!!!!!
The Grownup Noise on MySpace
Official Website
Check out our Tour Dates on either! Tell your friends in far away places! Support independent artists trying to be green and come out to a show!

Smart Energy Technology: