If there’s ever a song that’s gotten more than its fair share of cover versions of late, it’s got to be Gotye’s catchy “Somebody That I Used to Know.” But before the Belgian G- man becomes a hit one hit wonder along the likes of Thomas Dolby or Gary Numan, lets consider some of the imaginative covers of that original. Right the Stars, a band you probably never heard of but should, rightfully nailed the omni-present tune and offer more worth hearing from their March debut Hello Yes Ok.
Right The Stars is fronted by Los Angeles singer/songwriter and producer Rich Jacques. He recently produced Kina Grannis' album Stairwells, the first single "Valentine" has 13 million youtube hits and the second "In Your Arms" has almost 7million. He’s also been working with ABC Family writing and recording songs for Tyler Blackburn including the first single “Find A Way.” Jacques had quite a lot to share when we recently spoke with him.
Can you talk about the background of Right the Stars for those of us unfamiliar with the band?
Well, it started with some writer/producer friends of mine getting together and throwing some ideas around. Eventually that became the first record and it started doing really well with licensing, so I started to look for players that were right for the music. The first member I found was BC. He had just moved to LA from Pittsburgh and we hit it off right away. After a few member changes, we found Alex who is truly one of a kind and an extraordinary bass player. With the three of us as the core, we had Mike Schmidt in the band on and off on keys and then landed with Asaf on guitar. He really brings a whole new dynamic to the band -a great guitar player with a great sound. We really started building a following at The Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. It's a really supportive venue-there's been a very dynamic scene there for the past 10 or so years since it opened.
You have a very accessible pop sound – one that makes first listen of Hello Yes Ok very easy and satisfying. Do you consciously try and grab the listener right away?
What have been some of the more favorable accolades you have gotten with the album? I'm a big fan of pop music. I love big hooks. I used to fall asleep listening to top 40 radio when I was younger, so accessible is wired into my brain. I love it when people say it sounds familiar but original.
Do you remember how some of these songs came to fruition – any stories you want to share with your listeners?
"Give it All" was a seed idea I was banging around for awhile. I attempted to finish it a number of times, but it just never felt quite right. Then, I got together with my friend Rob Giles one day and I think we finished it in about a half hour. It instantly became obvious what to do. I love it when that happens.
What songs are you most proud of and what would you choose to release as singles?
I'm really proud of "together we're never alone.” I wrote that one with my friend John O'brien who passed away last year. We always had a great time writing together. The lyrics to that one just spilled out. It's always curious where these things come from-feels much bigger than me like I didn't have anything to do with it. It reminds me of him.
What comparisons or descriptions of Right The Stars do you feel are right on?
Getting compared to Phoenix, Keane,Vampire Weekend are fine with me. I don't know if we've had a lot of bad comparisons. Usually what they tie us to, I really like.
What have you taken from being a producer and writer prior to founding this band?
Did you have a plan laid out on what would work and what wouldn’t, or did you just kind of go with it and change it up as you started to lay the foundation? Well, It's been a constant evolution. Everything I've learned writing and working with other people in the studio has definitely informed what we're doing with Right The Stars. The biggest thing I've learned producing other people is that artists have a tendency to get in their own way. And recognizing what that looks and feels like, I was able to take a look at myself and start to laugh at it instead of going down that road of self-criticism and perfectionism and ultimately getting nothing done!
Your version of "Somebody I Used to Know" is rather stunning with the "King of Pain" teases and is one of the better covers of a song that’s been covered a lot – did nailing that cover come easy and did you think it was a natural fit for Right the Stars?
That actually did come together quite easily. I can't quite remember why, but I started working on a cover version and called Kelly Rudisill to help me. It sounded pretty cool and we decided to just take what we were doing and perform it live. Once we got everyone together, it really was quite effortless. While we were running through it, our engineer/mixer Brian came in and said that the chord progression sounded like "King Of Pain"-and so we threw it in there.
You collaborate often with Kelly from Karmina – why do you enjoy collaborating with her and what does she bring to your compositions?
She's got a great support voice-it's breathy and beautiful. She's amazing with harmonies. And just a sweetheart.
On a side note, who would you most like to collaborate in music history and what song would you most like to do?
Would love to collaborate with Sting! Oh, and the Beatles.
You just recently opened for The Bangles and will be opening for the Jam in a couple months- what have been some of your more memorable opening gigs or performances so far? Who would you most like to open for? Up ‘til now we haven't done a lot of opening slots with this band. But we're excited about doing more this fall. It's a great feeling getting in front of a crowd of people who’ve never heard you and winning them over. We would love to open for Coldplay!
Where do you see Right the Stars a year from now?
I would love to see us getting radio play and touring much bigger venues. I've always wanted to break in Europe. We're starting to work "Best Days of our lives" over there on the BBC, so we'll see what happens...