What is your name?
I’m Tim Cawley, a Boston-based singer / songwriter / guitarist / occasional drummer. Flashpot Moments is my longtime studio project.
What is your genre of music?
Somewhere on the continuum between power pop and arena rock. Either way, guitars, melody and harmony figure prominently.
Give us a little bio about you.
Grew up in NJ, massively influenced by Springsteen. Being in a crowd of 60,000 people shouting the last chorus of “Born To Run” in unison at Giants Stadium as a young concertgoer made an indelible impression on me. Played drums and sang in cover bands growing up and in college. In my early 20’s, I moved to Minneapolis, alone, in the dead of winter, not knowing anyone, and thought: Okay, I’m gone have a lot of solitude ‘til I get my social life up and running. I’ve always wanted to learn to play guitar. So I did. In fact, I made an art project out of it, called “The Days” and I’d book bar gigs playing simple cover songs – basically learning to play guitar in public. The name of the “band” changed every day I’d been playing guitar. I even made a crude tote-board on stage, and I’d rip off a number at the end of each performance, upping the total by one “day.” It became a bit of thing to go see “the guy who’s learning to play guitar in public.” Started writing songs and moved to Boston. Played places like Middle East and T.T. The Bears. Started tinkering with recording. The first Flashpot Moments record was sort of a “greatest hits” record, culled from about 60 songs I’d written and performed with different collaborators over about ten years. That album was released in early 2017 and played on over 80 college radio stations in the US, charting for 6 weeks on the Muzooka College Radio Charts.
What made you go in to music?
Camaraderie and collaboration. A creative itch that needed scratching. Plus, the folks in the music videos seemed to be having a lot of fun.
You have your single ‘Messy’ out , tell us more about it.
In this case, the title has two meanings. First, it’s about my characters, Sydney and Nathan. They’re at the local bar, a mess, but having a good time together, partners in crime, oblivious to scrutiny — a tragic love story. Secondly, I have a condition that’s making my hands increasingly unsteady. It’s one of the reasons I was so motivated to make the biggest album I could make, right now. I was never a virtuoso on guitar or drums by any means, but my playing is simply getting sloppier. As a result, I’d been relying more and more on my collaborators to play the more complex drum and guitar parts. But on this song, I just said to my producer “Screw it. This song’s a gloriously messy love story. I’ll play the drums and guitars and if they’re a little sloppy, so be it. Even if it’s a failed experiment, at the very least, it’s honest and conceptually sound.”
Describe the track in two words.
What was the writing / recording process like?
I was listening to a lot of Tom Petty right after he died, and this song was definitely influenced by “Refugee” with the broke-down organ verses and call-and-response gang vocal hook. But I didn’t want to the tune to feel TOO retro / vintage. So I added the bendy synth / guitar divebomb hook, which seemed antithetical to the whole vibe, yet somehow worked. Also, the studio where we recorded had a full-sized gong. So we put that all over the song. I was feeling very Roger Taylor-esque.
Who did you work with on the Single with?
I did the tracking with my regular collaborators at Revolution Sound in Boston: producer / guitarist Andy Pinkham, keyboard player Jamie Edwards, and organist Phil Aiken. The song was mixed by John Agnello, who made probably my favorite record of all time: Boys and Girls in America by The Hold Steady. The man’s a genius at making muscular rock songs with a melodic pop sheen (Thermals, Dinosaur Jr, Manchester Orchestra).
At the mixing session, I mentioned Tom Petty’s influence on the songwriting to John Agnello and he said he was friends with Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound who’d mastered “Damn The Torpedos.” John made the introduction and Greg ended up mastering the record for me at Sterling Sound.
We also saw a video, what was the making-of like?
For my day job, I own a small video production agency. So making a video was a given! I directed. The notion was to do something strange and narrative. I got the idea for one of those internet recipe videos, gone messily awry…with a little bit of a love story mixed in. We shot it all in a day at my friend Mark’s house (while his wife was away on a “girl’s weekend!”). Blacked out the windows in his garage with cardboard boxes and turned that into the “secret dance room.” Kyle Jones, the cinematographer, and Aaron Hwang the editor, both work with me in my day job. The girl in the video, Emily Nice, was a model in an ad for Hearts on Fire diamonds I’d directed.
We also see an Album coming soon, when will we see it and what can we expect?
You know when you’re at a concert, and there’s a big, over-the-top moment in the song – a soaring vocal, a shift in dynamics, a dramatic key change, a crescendo into the final chorus – and the fireworks go off? Those little pyro cannons onstage are called “flashpots.”
That’s the vibe I’m always chasing. This album is different takes on that sonic palette. Whether it’s an acoustic song or arena-sized rocker, I am aiming for that moment of catharis and release.
Thematically, it’s actually kind of a concept album. It’s titled The Chronicles of Sydney and Nathan and will be released on May 24.
Here’s the idea: When you think of rock and roll, you think of those romantic notions of young love, freedom, debauchery and excess. I love all those notions, of course! But I’m older now, and I wanted to explore what happens to those rebel archetypes as they age. So, I got this idea: What if Sid and Nancy had survived, gotten old and soft, and moved their on-again-off-again relationship to the suburbs? Writing about these characters set me free to imagine all manner of sad, chaotic escapades. There’s “the ‘let’s party’ one.” “The jealousy one.” “The regret one.” “The reverie one.” “The ‘I’m heartbroken and I want to die’ one.” The cover art even references the classic “Sid and Nancy” handcuff photo. Except now, the punk dog collar is, appropriately, on the dog.
I wrote, recorded and mixed the album over almost two years, bit by bit, in Boston, Hollywood, Nashville, New Jersey, Portland, Oregon and Fort Collins, Colorado. And had some amazing collaborators along the way, learning a ton, and having a lot of fun in the process. Tthe release features players and engineers who’ve worked with the likes of U2, Bruce Springsteen, The National, The Hold Steady, Manchester Orchestra, Thermals, NOFX, Cheap Trick, Beck, Dandy Warhols, Rise Against, Harry Styles, Aimee Mann, REM, Neil Young, Weezer, Kelly Clarkson, Ryan Adams and Dinosaur Jr.
Do you play any instruments?
Drums, Guitars, Vocals.
Who are your influences?
Not much rhyme or reason here, other than melody / harmony / choruses / ambition.
The Hold Steady, Bruce Springsteen, Green Day, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Rilo Kiley/Jenny Lewis, Butch Walker, P!nk, The Four Tops, Decemberists, Thermals, Queen, Catherine Wheel, Beatles, REM, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, Fall Out Boy, Pixies, Beach Slang, Cars, Wings, Visqueen, the song “Walk Away Renee.” And the Guns N Roses “Paradise City” video from 4:50 on.
How do you get inspiration to write songs?
Either a phrase or lyric gets stuck in my head that I can’t shake. If it nags me long enough, I know it’s not gonna stop bugging me ‘til I write a song. Also, I watch a ton of rock documentaries. I always get the itch to write after watching a good one. “Dig” “Sound City” “Rock the Bells” “The King” “50 Feet From Stardom” and “It Might Get Loud” are some of my favourites.
Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
Exactly the same. I have a friend who’s known me for decades. He says I have “no character arc.”
When you’re not doing music, what do you do?
Filmmaking. Sports-watching. Kid wrangling.
What was the song you listened to most that influenced you to go more in to the music scene?
This is an unanswerable question! Whenever I’m referencing songs in the studio, my producers always joke that I have about 1000 “favorite songs.”
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
In the studio, sometimes it’s best to take your hands off the wheel, have no agenda, and let the song go where it wants to go. Preconceived notions rarely come to fruition. This is the same advice I’d give to any aspriring songwriter or fledgling recording artist. Enjoy the process. The journey is the destination.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
Don’t bore us, get to the chorus. (when I’m in writing mode)
If it’s worth playing, it’s worth doubling. (when I’m in recording mode)
Where in your hometown is a must go to visit?
Middle East in Cambridge for live music. Duck Boats for tourist activity. Take a walk along the waterfront from Sail Loft in the North End to the ICA in Seaport.
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget?
Picks, cords, strap, setlist with big type that I can read in the dark, gum.
Do you have social media accounts so your fans can follow you?