Respected in the rock scene in their own right, Walt Lafty and Nick Perri (who played together in Silvertide) know what it is to rock out. After parting ways to conquer the musical world, they reunited with drummer Shane Rozum to form Sinai.
I talked to Walt about this crazy industry, the effect of the web on his job and what Sinai hopes to accomplish as a unit.
Kristina Villarini: What is the inspiration behind Sinai?
Walt Lafty: Sinai is everything that Nick and I wanted to be.
KV: When did you realize you wanted to make music for a living?
WL: (Laughs) Well, I don’t always make a living from my music, but I knew that I would never be happy unless I was writing songs for the rest of my life around age 14.
KV: How hard is it to make music for an audience while being true to yourself?
WL: It’s easy. I make music for myself and my fans just have a like-minded view, sense of humor, etc. The old “If you build it, they will come” idea.
KV: Do you think the Internet killed the music industry?
WL: No, but I believe the Internet temporarily kidnapped all the ammunition from the major labels and at the same time created an over-saturated war zone where crappy bands, indie bands, rock bands, folk bands, pop bands and horrible wannabe 80′s bands (You know, the kind of guys who wear leather pants and eyeliner to the supermarket) all fight for the same audience… Even if the audience doesn’t want to listen to it. The music industry just hasn’t found its new role yet, but I’m confident that it well with time.
KV: Who are some of your musical inspirations?
WL: My personal influences change weekly but here are a few of my staple favs: Billy Joel, The Clash, The Violent Femmes, Wilco, The Rolling Stones, Tori Amos, the Sex Pistols, Spinal Tap.
KV:When is making music the hardest job in the world?
WL: When the band you’re in gets into a fist fight because you disagree over a bridge idea while working on a new song, or perhaps when you’re in a van driving for 36 hours straight pumping yourself with coffee and other stimulants in an attempt to get to South Dakota in time for some shitty show. Or opening up for a traveling puppet show while doing 90 mph with a trailer attached behind you, praying to the God you may or may not believe in, asking him or her to help you not be the unfortunate recipient of a flat tire, horrible accident or worse.
KV: Do you think you’re harder on bands or music you don’t like because you’re also a performer?
WL: I used to be even harder on bands, but then I finally realized that it all comes down to opinion and what I may dislike, another person may love. Another lesson that taught me this were The Clash. I hated the Clash and most late 70′s punk for most of my teenage years. I called them “wannabe rock bands” and stupid insults like that but then this funny thing happened, about 4 years ago I was at a friends house late in the evening and I heard the song “Know Your Rights” and by the 4th bar of the song I realized that not only had my mind changed, but that the Clash had just become my new favorite band.
KV: What is the ideal environment for creating music?
WL: One that changes constantly
KV: What kind of music do you make? What’s the best genre to describe Sinai?
WL: I would guess ‘rock’ but to be fair and honest, I don’t think we can really answer that properly at this point in time. I’m not sure that we even know what we are, or what we will be. We are just starting to test our limits and swagger things a bit more and we’re really just beginning to actually own this band. Remember that we’re only about 6 months together, so it’s hard to tell. Sinai is hands down the most capable and proficient band musically that I’ve ever been a part of. We have all the technique that bands take decades to identify and perfect and we are very aware of this internally. Now we just need to discover what our limits are and then destroy those limits, you know? Build it, then break it just to see what our strengths and weaknesses are and improve.
KV: Do you find inspiration in abstract things or moments, or is it all based on your life and your experience?
WL: Most of the concepts I write about are simple stories that I create in my head. I try and keep things more about the story or theme of the song. Sometimes my stories reference personal experiences, discoveries, fears and mistakes, but in the end the song has an uncanny way of reminding me that the tune is more than me. It’s not meant to be about me because it’s meant to be something larger. If it wasn’t then I would never write them to begin with and I’d just let them swim and haunt my thoughts until who knows when. In the end, it’s really the songs that inspire me, like an older woman guiding me into unknown sexual territories. I lay back and just listen to the impulses and vibrations because she knows best, not me.
KV: What is your worst fear as a musician?
WL: That I’ll go deaf and be forced to commit suicide because I can’t read sheet music and I’m nowhere near as talented (or as sexy) as Beethoven was.
KV: Do you like that there are more and more people making music today than ever before, or do you find some of it is distracting?
WL: I must say that I love that you built both answers into the question itself and I would have to reply both, and for good reason. More and more music will always be a great thing because it creates diversity and more importantly, acceptance. I know this may sound strange but hear me out on this… In a society, such as ours, where we are sadly torn apart on all levels and even worse, a society who try to condemn any of us who don’t fit in with the “social norms,” more and more music is fantastic. It not only creates blurred lines and gray areas in specific genres while connecting people who normally would not be friends, but it also forces every artist to become more and more creative on all levels within their own musical styles just so they can stand out from the crowd.
The fans now have one thousand more options within smaller and more style-specific genres, all while the bands attempt to have there own signature sound, to help fans know who is who. Translation: More sub-scenes are created inside different cities and connected via the Internet building awareness and tolerance GLOBALLY. This is of course, the upside and we may not even feel the positive effects of this for another generation or so in my opinion. The down side is that we have an over-saturated library of musical choices because everyone thinks that their band is great because their mother and aunt Susan said so. Not to mention all these bands are sharing the same platform which means you have 20,000,000 bands all yelling through the same microphone at the same time for your attention. This creates a massive traffic jam on sites like Facebook and Twitter and then people can’t tell the difference between which bands are actually trying to tour and become successful, and which ones are weekend warriors that want to look cool in high school because they don’t know how to start a conversation with the person they want to get naked with.
KV: How do you feel about your fans?
WL: I love my fans. I wouldn’t be able to write music without my fans and I sure wouldn’t be able to pay any of bills without them. They are my lifeline and my patrons and for the most part, I have more in common with my fans, than I do with the people who grew up on the same block as me. My fans remind me that I’m human, and more importantly, to listen to them and allow them to tell me what my purpose is on this earth. They guide me just as my songs do and without them, I would have no real reason to hang out on earth any longer.
You can find more info on Sinai on their website, and catch them tonight at SXSW!