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Today Was Yesterday

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

When you have worked together for many years, you form a bond that spawns amazing creations. Having first met in 1997 when they both played in new wave, rock band The Motels, Lead Vocalist/Bassist/Songwriter Angelo Barbera and Drummer/Percussionist Ty Dennis have collaborated again to combined their extraordinary talents and make a new album as well as new band. Today Was Yesterday will be releasing their self-titled debut album on February 23rd. The album will feature several guest contributions from Rush Guitarist Alex Lifeson. There also is another track that The Doors Guitarist Robby Krieger contributes to. All in all, this is an album that rock fans will truly enjoy.

Catching up with Barbera and Dennis prior to the release of their debut album, they divulged some details about the music, a few of the songs, how their guest collaborators came to be on this record, a bit about their past, and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: What inspired your self-titled debut album?
Angelo Barbera: It was basically a bunch of tracks I had. Probably we had about twenty ideas and during the lockdown, I was just writing. I was gonna toss them and then I got a call from Ty and I said, I’m going to send you these tracks and let’s see what you think. And he says, “this is like really good material. We could work this,” but for a year and a half, we wrote and re-wrote. The record is what you hear now, which I’m really happy with.

SFL Music: What prompted you two to form this duo? You had worked together for twenty-five years before?
Ty Dennis: Yeah, exactly. We had a long history of all kinds of different bands, recording we’ve done, touring. So, we’ve known each other for a long time, so there was a lot of history there and a good connection already. We do have the same influences, so when I heard these tunes with the early versions of these songs, I already loved what I heard because Angelo and I have always been on the same page musically. That’s what kind of inspired us to try to see what we could do with these songs together.

SFL Music: You’re from L.A. and Angelo you’re from Chicago, right?
Barbera: Well, L.A. native transplant into Chicago. I came with the California clothes during winter, so that was not a good thing, but I’m used to it. I’m acclimated.

SFL Music: That’s good. Especially right now when it’s snowing and cold.
Barbera: Oh, it’s freezing.
Dennis: Not where I am. I’m in Redondo Beach where it’s warm and pretty nice.
Barbera: It’s so cold here, I can’t get the heater past sixty degrees. It’s freezing. It was like twenty-four degrees yesterday.
Dennis: Whoa!

SFL Music: It’s wonderful that Alex Lifeson and Robby Krieger are part of this project and I read Angelo, you worked with Robby. Ty, you knew Alex from playing in a house band and you drove Alex back to his hotel?
Dennis: Angelo and I both worked with Robby for a long, long time. I still play in Robby’s band, actually. Alex would come and play these charity rock and roll golf things that Robby would do. You know, you got to entice these guys with golf! So, that’s how there’s a connection with Alex is that I was in a house band for these things a few times and we got to meet that way, and play and chat and whatever. I hadn’t seen him in a while. Last year in 2022 he came out and did that again. That’s when I drove him to his hotel after a rehearsal in my car and I played him my songs, and that’s how he first heard what we were doing. That’s kind of how that started.

SFL Music: Do you feel like you have that like-minded connection musically with Alex?
Dennis: Well, I mean, yeah. He really dug what we were doing when he heard the first versions of these songs. So, he was super supportive of it and enthusiastic about it. He made me feel like wow, ok! I knew these songs were good, but it’s great to hear it from someone like that.
Barbera: He played on six of our tracks.
Dennis: Someone like that being so encouraging about what we’re doing. That makes you feel like ok; we’re doing something right. We’re just totally doing what we feel. Not chasing trends or anything like that, and he gave me a stamp of approval like ok, I knew this is good, but now I think it’s really good.

SFL Music: I heard the song “Grace”. Great song! You can hear a lot of that prog rock influence, and Alex Lifeson played on that. What inspired that song, “Grace”?
Barbera: It was actually written about the fentanyl epidemic. I knew it was a bad thing, but one day I’m downtown Chicago and I witnessed it firsthand and it broke my heart. It was just insane. Just because the way they weren’t there, and their skin was like deteriorating, and it was really bad. I said, this would be a great thing, and I didn’t want to make it preachy. Most of the lyrics you hear on the record are the old school Genesis, Peter Gabriel. They’re metaphoric to where before we had video you know; you could hear a certain syllabus and you would think the song would be different. That’s kind of the vibe I did it, and I think it represents the fentanyl thing with not sounding like a preacher, but I think the message comes through pretty strong.

SFL Music: That was a great idea.
Barbera: And you see it. You see it with the up-and-coming artists. They’re on this, and this is like the next generation of artists and it’s sad. When we went through that with jazz, with the heroin thing and all that. That’s basically like I said, I’m just going to put this out metaphorically and hopefully it gets good vibes, and the response has been great!
Dennis: Did you see the lyric video for it? There’s a lyric video on YouTube you can see it if you didn’t. It’s pretty cool.

SFL Music: Yes, I did. People should look for it. You just touched on new artists. What would you recommend to new artists?
Dennis: It’s funny because for as long as Angelo and I have done this, we’re like new artists now with this thing. I don’t feel new at all in this business, but as far as this band goes, we are new. So, all I can say is, we made these songs just for us. There was no agenda of let’s make songs that can even get a record deal. Let’s make songs that are gonna get great guests on them. Let’s make songs that are gonna be anything other than the love of the tune that we had, and doing exactly what we want to do stylistically. Making songs that encompass the influence that we had. I can only speak from my heart and say that. Just be true to yourself. That’s what we did. So, that’s the only answer I can give. That’s the only way I could do it at this stage that I’m at. It’s something that is completely true and honest to your soul. That’s what I think, if you want to have something that you can be proud of.

SFL Music: That’s great advice. Both of you have worked and still work with Robby Krieger. How did it come about that he played on “If I Fall”?
Barbera: I wrote the song. The lyrics were like really Morrison-esc, and it was really dark and there’s like jazzy chords. It’s almost like a “Tea in the Sahara” from the Police, but like a jazz version. I just kept hearing this slide, like Robby “Moonlight Drive” type thing. I didn’t want like a rhythmic guitar solo. I wanted like a moody thing that Robby does the best at. I mean, he is the best at that, and just asked him and the funny thing is, when we sent him the song, he told me and Ty “this song is really weird” (he laughed). Coming from Robby Krieger, it cracked me up. He loved it and he nailed it. The guitar on this is so beautiful. It’s reminiscent of “Moonlight Drive” and all of the Morrison Hotel slide stuff. He really did a great job.

SFL Music: What would you say that you took away from working with Robby and Alex? Ty, I know you still work with him.
Dennis: Well, the first thing is, these guys are obviously legendary in their own right. Guitar Gods for lack of a better term, and them being so into playing on this stuff because I mean, it just feels good when you get a stamp of approval. These guys don’t do that very often, guest on people’s songs. How often does that happen? Especially those two guys on the same record. So, for me, it’s a good stamp of approval when you’re doing something right, to have them be so into doing it. Alex played on more songs, so he’s more involved in the record. Like I said, it’s definitely cool that he’s been so encouraging of it. I remember one time early on, we were sending tracks back and forth and I told him, I don’t know man. This is what I told Alex. I don’t know if people are gonna like this. I don’t know what people are listening to nowadays. It is what it is. I don’t know if it’s gonna be popular or follow any trends, and he said, “who cares, man? I love it!” He said, “who cares?”
Barbera: Exactly!
Dennis: Oh yeah, good point! Never mind. I never thought that again. His career never obviously followed that kind of thinking.

SFL Music: The song title that stood out for me is “My Dog Is My God” (which also features Alex Lifeson). I love it! What inspired that one?
Barbera: That was written because I am like the biggest dog lover, dog animal rescue guy. The guy that’s had like eight dogs, and when you have to put them all down, but I always went the whole ten yards rather than a lot of people. They become inconvenient. I mean, health insurance and cancer treatments and hip replacements. I went through the whole thing, and I always saw it in their eyes that they were saying “thank you.” That’s why if you listen to the first verse, the first verse is like the owner talking and the second verse is the dog talking to the owner saying “thank you.” The song basically wrote itself. That’s what’s funny. It was just so, like emotional.

SFL Music: What would you say inspires you in general when you’re writing your music? Songs like “A Louder Silence”, “On My Own”. What would you say inspires you?
Barbera: I’ve been a songwriter since I was fifteen. Bands, record deals, all that. I have to write a song and put it away for five days, six days and come back. If I remember the melody, I’ll work on it. If I don’t, I throw it away or just put it away and maybe it could be re-written at another time. These songs, the melodies are really what I was emphasizing on, and then once the melodies came, then putting all the musicianship that we got in the simplest form. I put a post on, Tony Banks from Genesis said, “the hardest thing to write is a simple song.” We did it musically, but in a simple way. But for musicians, I think they’ll dig it. That’s my thing anyways.

SFL Music: Are there going to be any new video’s coming out for fans to look for?
Dennis: Yeah. Well, the first single was “Grace” which we talked about. The second one is “A Louder Silence”.
Barbera: That’s a lyric video too.
Dennis: Yeah, and it comes out, I believe in the middle of January. Then if things go as planned, there will be a third video for the track you were just talking about “My Dog Is My God” that will be in February to coincide with the whole record dropping.
Barbera: That will be a real video.
Dennis: Yeah, that’s gonna be a more involved.
Barbera: We’re still working the concept. We’re doing the storyboard on that because it’s just a certain way I want it, and that’s gonna be fun. That’s gonna be really hard, but it’s gonna be really fun.

SFL Music: Is there going to be any touring?
Barbera: We originally did this band, me and Ty like Steely Dan. I didn’t want a bunch of people. I just wanted two people that I’m comfortable with, a family, and you know how Steely Dan, the majority of records, they didn’t tour. So, I didn’t plan on getting a record deal with this. I just wanted to make a great record, but the management we got which is Robby’s manager, he wants to do summer festivals that would be like an open slot. No more than twenty-five minutes. I said, if it’s locally, but if it’s like touring the world, I don’t know if I can do that. I got burned out. I’ll back track a little bit. When The Doors reformed, I was their bass player for five years with Stewart Copeland and Ty. Ty was in on that, and then another band, I-94 where we did seven records and we toured constantly, and its very unhealthy. Especially when you’re getting older. I like sitting at home (he laughed), but probably a couple festivals.

SFL Music: Definitely something for people to keep an eye out for.
Barbera: Yeah, definitely!

SFL Music: Is there anything else for fans to know? Anything else coming up? Any golf tournaments?
Dennis: Nothing on the books for that.
Barbera: The response on the one song, and the preorders I guess are good. Let’s hope everybody likes it. We’re going back to writing how we grew up you know, Genesis and Rush and (Led) Zeppelin and stuff like that. Real songs.

SFL Music: Anything you want to add?
Dennis: People can find us on Facebook, and we have a website, todaywasyesterday.com, todaywas yesterdayband Instagram, TikTok, all that. So, people can see what we’re creating.

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