Tuesday, December 22, 2009
On the quiet side, introspective and lovely, Chatham Rise are working on music to make you love long winter nights. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the winter nights are indeed cold and long, Chatham Rise are making songs with names like Here, Gone, and Air. Do you get a feeling instantly, just from hearing the song titles? The band's name, their song titles, and their artwork do convey a feeling before you even hear a note.
Chatham Rise's debut EP opens with Gone, a wistfully gorgeous piece of sound, which begins with strummed guitar and slightly sad vocals, then thunders into big guitar and drums. Autopilot uses tribal, pulsing beats to pull along the drone, and the chanting, ghostly vocals. Border Crossing is shoegaze at its finest: a calming, sweetly sad melody with barely-there vocals, just enough to warm you a bit. Fans of Chapterhouse and Slowdive will love Border Crossing. Here closes the EP with a sparse guitar, and almost no percussion, light vocals, and a feeling of hope and high, above the melancholy. This self-titled debut EP is self-produced by the band, and I am honored to have special copy of it in my collection. Sad yet uplifting, quiet yet inspirational, Chatham Rise indeed make you feel. Check them out on MySpace, friends.
Friday, December 18, 2009
UK artist Lucifer Sun makes music that can be seen as a study of opposing forces: light and dark, high and low, invigorating and calming, truth and secrecy. I find all of these elements in the songs of Lucifer Sun, and how they have been woven into the fabric of the sounds is something to be amazed by and appreciated. Long songs, sometimes VERY long, meander through a druggy haze, like a moment in time that seemingly lasts for hours and hours, are what comprise Lucifer Sun's debut recordings. The songs appear minimalist upon first listen, but command more listens with deeper inspection. I asked Chris and Tom, the members of Lucifer Sun, some questions to find out what lies behind the compositions they create, and what drives them to make their art.
You have so many diverse things that you cite as influences for your music and art, from wood to entheogens to road trips to William Burroughs. Can you tell me a bit more about how you see the world and how this drives you to create art?
Tom - Without sounding too negative we’re not really impressed with the way the world is today, and has been for a long time. The topics and values the majority of people have, seem to be pretty worthless to me, for the most part. The world is full of distractions to keep people happy while the bullshit is allowed to go on all around them.
It’s not all bad but I do wish more of the world would be switched on to more important issues, and would generally relax. The world feels like a very uptight place. Our world and the art we creative is in some way a release for us. A way to vent frustrations and tensions but also to glorify everything good and free-thinking. We’re constantly told that we live in a free world, but if you don’t fit into the boxes that the masses and society would like, then you do tend to feel it’s not quite as free as we’re all led to believe.
Chris - We get angry at how things are shown to us, drug laws, our 'rights' as human beings, the supposed 'freedom' we have in the west. The whole issue on how the media feeds us a particular line on a story, the story we are 'sold' about global warming, economics, etc. I think it's easy to get totally down about it all, but hidden among all this, there are great, beautiful things. I'm a strong believer that the use of entheogens and other substances can make you a better person. You know they open your mind, to how things really are on a far greater level than we could ever understand. The idea that we are insignificant and part of an ever-powerful, continual cycle of life. I think that's important. There are ancient cave paintings of mushrooms, man has been ingesting this stuff for thousands of years; we worshiped the sun, the idea that religions are essentially stories passed down over generations. Man worshiped the sun for a reason: without it we will die, it brings food, warmth etc. So it's kind of from those ideas how we approach our music, trying to create something that has a positive impact in some way on people.
I love how you write your blog entries. You come across as many things: educated and erudite, edgy and energetic, open-minded and ambitious, and of course, talented. What have you been working on lately? What types of medium are you using?
Chris - The blog is just stuff that I come across, stuff we've done. It makes much more sense to get it out in a public domain than have it sitting around, even if someone reads it, listens to the music, and doesn't like it. The Poppy Tea Demos are all hand made, stenciled using guitar body paint, and we are working with friends who are photographers, our drummer's at Art College, etc...
Tom - At the moment we’re trying to not tie ourselves down to simply writing songs in a bog standard conventional way. Right now we’re working quite well without having too many premeditated thoughts about what we’re about to play/write. We’re using visuals and ideas provided from other people and friends to create a really different feel about our music. Definitely working with other people is something we’re really interested to explore a lot more seeing as it expands the spectrum of the final piece.
The music you are making is definitely NOT for the masses, and that is a huge compliment. Your songs are long, and best appreciated loud and through headphones. The type of music fan who is going to appreciate what you are making, we are definitely a niche. That must be a great feeling! What are your thoughts on whom you want to reach with your music?
Tom - Who ever gets it really. We’re fully aware it’s not for everyone. Not everyone gets the concept of a song that last more than 3 or 4 minutes and has one or two chords throughout the entire piece. The music we make sounds the way it sounds and lasts as long as it lasts depending on how we’re all feeling when we’re playing it or recording it. It feels and sounds good to us and knowing other people enjoy hearing it is great. Previous bands we’ve played in have had a very rigid, certain number of bars, segmented sections…etc. With this band we wanted to be far more open and relaxed about just letting the songs play themselves in a way.
Chris - Yeah, You know I don't think I've ever really thought who I want to reach. Anybody and everyone. I don't want our music to be restricted. I want it to be enjoyed or hated by everyone.
Are you jamming when you record, or is everything planned out & executed precisely?
Tom - Right now a lot of the recorded stuff is very spontaneous and on the spot kind of thing. We don’t tend to write a whole song and then bring it to the rest of the band and say here this is how it goes. It’s either a rough idea, chord sequence or whatever, or we’ll just have a drum beat going that we dig and pretty much make it up as we go along and if we like the sound of it then it’ll make it to a song we keep.
Having said that, we are still in the early stages of this band and recording ourselves with what equipment we either own, or can get our hands on, so it’s pretty stripped down in both the recording equipment and our actual sound.
Chris - Recording our jams etc...is great cause we can use them as a springboard to work off...you know: that section is great, that part needs work...what the hell was going on in the last bar, that's shit, How can we improve on this, etc.
Amplifier Mantra is 16 minutes long. I absolutely love this. It’s so long, yet never bores, actually quite the opposite. It constantly intrigues me, right up until the end. It’s not complicated and intricate, but it has a vibe that I ride the entire time it’s playing. And Dopamine Blues (So Low), the clue in the name: SO LOW. I also love this. The sound for the first 4 ½ minutes is so low, is it even a sound? Then when the almost-blues-y guitar kicks in…….another amazing ride. What went into composing these songs?
Tom - Amplifier Mantra was another song written in another improvised situation. We usually setup some microphones and record our entire practice sessions just in case we come across anything we really like but might forget by the next practice. We actually didn’t manage to record the first time we played it due to some technical hitch which we were a bit pissed about, but we did our best to do it justice with the second attempted recording we do have. Aside from Come On, a lot of the recordings and songs are still in their very early stages and we’ve since written more lyrics and have various other ideas, adding more layers to songs and focusing on certain parts of the recording. It’s quite an interesting way to work because even when we’re really happy with a recording and we hear good things from other people who have listened, we know there is still more we can do with those songs as they evolve over time.
Dopamine was a really relaxed recording. Earlier in the day we’d recorded a couple of nice takes of The Year Of Our Death and Amp Mantra, and felt pretty good playing Dopamine, which has been around a little longer so it was a fairly confident take.
Chris - I've always been interested in drones and repetition in music, and creating a vibe on record or at a gig, etc...taking the listener on a journey. It's meditation, self healing. The fact that a lot of what we do is all improvised and comes from an initial chord or riff, interests me. You know, it's like on a higher level of understanding. Your role as an instrument within a band...when to come in, when to let the song move on. We've still got a lot to learn. It's interesting what you mention about Dopamine blues and the 'SO LOW' cause I've never noticed that myself: if you turn the volume up during that part, you can hear us playing. (Ed. note: YES, at very high volume, you hear music playing within the first four minutes, and it is sublime).
I like how the dynamics on that track are so wide, because I'm so fucking fed up of the massively compressed shit that we are forced to hear. It's all record company/radio driven and it's got to do with the "loudness wars". You know when you open up a track in some audio software and it just looks like a brick, where are the dynamics in music? The reason everyone goes on about how older recordings sound so great, is because there is dynamics in there:there's a vibe, they experimented with sound, they were concentrating on the performance, they let quirky things in, they had to make final decisions about the recording throughout the process. Now it's left to be fixed in the mix. The Poppy Tea Demos were recorded with two dynamic microphones capturing our sound in the room. The reflections off the walls. It's documentarist, archival. Your capturing a moment in time. How many mistakes do you hear in released recordings anymore? None at at large commercial level, that's for sure. It's like everyone's forgotten that it's OK for recordings to have a quirk to them. That's what makes music and recording so beautiful.
Also, I was just listening to Come On! Extended Mix, and it's at once soothing, and exhilarating. Like a hot shower while on Ecstacy. This song provides a feeling to get hooked on. What are your thoughts on that song?
Tom - I find it hard to put into words my thoughts and feelings about some of our songs. I know for me personally it’s more of a vibe and feeling that I get when we’re in the studio playing around with the song. I guess the song sounds the way it does depending on our emotions and the general vibe at the time of writing and recording. One thing I would say is that the sound of our songs definitely reflects the way we feel as people these days.
Chris - Definitely, it's almost a stream of consciousness way of working. The extended mix works with the idea that within every song lies a thousand new songs. It's all about the vibe, Meditation music.
You're in your early 20s? I assume you have been into music and art for much of your life? What artists do you listen to, and what authors do you enjoy reading?
Chris - Yeah, me and Tom are both 22 and our drummers 16. When I was 12 I started to get into guitar and I'd record stuff I've done on this huge black tape player, using an old headphone set as a microphone that I would gaffer tape to my amp or to the wall. I remember when I first watched A Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner. Those days are great because for the first time you're shown this whole world outside of anyone's control. You're not getting any edited or moderated versions from parents etc: you're free to explore all these paths. Tom spent years playing guitar, listening to old records, staying up all night just improvising, it's things like that, which later pay off. At the moment I'm listening to the Dead Skeletons, lots of stuff off Type Recordings, Singapore Sling. Reading William Burroughs - Naked Gun, Hells Angels by Thompson. Tom's got Velvet Underground's early demos on vinyl, I think it's just Reed and Cale, it's great. You can hear the sound of the apartment loft they were recording in.
What are you currently working on? Are you collaborating with anyone?
Tom - Just trying to get our thing together. We’re quietly confident and pleased with the material we’re coming out with so far, but we know there’s a lot, lot more to come as we hopefully expand the number of people we work with and play with. Having more musicians to add to the core group of Lucifer Sun is something we’re looking at doing when ever we come across the right people.
What projects lay ahead for Lucifer Sun in 2010?
Tom - Something we’re very much looking forward to doing is writing the music for a short film one of our good friends is making. This kind of thing really interests us. There is a huge difference between writing music for the purpose of itself and writing music to accompany another form of art.
We also plan to release a lot more stuff this year. Rather than taking too much time writing and recording we want to get as much material out there and heard as possible. The concept of an almost continuous flow of projects, art and music is what we’re looking to do. We’re making up the artwork for the new demo ourselves which we hope people will enjoy having as much as the music itself.
Another thing we’re looking to do is move into a work space unit where we can live and work on Lucifer Sun from and we think a lot more stuff will start happening once we sort that.
Chris - We're playing the Buffalo Bar on January 27th for Goo Nite. Otherwise, booking more gigs throughout the year. Like Tom said, working with our friend Wade on his film, he's very much an extra member of the band. I'd also like to do a series of recordings working with another friend of ours Per, Spoken Croatian vocals, with drones by us. It's exciting.
Exciting? Yes, I would definitely say what Lucifer Sun is doing is quite exciting indeed. They are true artists, and they are everything this little blog stands for. They are what is important and meaningful in music today. When you step away from the big-corporate-run machines, you find treasures like Lucifer Sun. I hope you all enjoyed this profile on the band as much as I enjoyed presenting it to you. Go listen to and experience Lucifer Sun, they are giving you their music to check out, you can NOT miss this opportunity to experience them:
Raw Meat Demo
Poppy Tea Demo
Watch and Listen on Youtube
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The title track, Beware The Autumn People, kicks in with carnival-like keys, which slide into a stomp of drums and guitar reverb, and lazy vocals, slurred over the stomp. Strange Transmission, with its unmistakable Doors-vibe, is just brilliant: from the deep, slightly ominous, Morrison-style vocals, to the organ keys in the background, to the imagery of a spiral staircase leading you to a midnight splendor. This song meanders its way through image to image, hypnotically. Tangerine is two precious minutes of space cadets and sweet dreams, set to a lovely little organ melody. Wooden Hands is.....a mysteriously dark, unique, quite catchy....love song?? Not your ordinary love song, I assure you! Enochian is a spooky little minute of whispery effects over possibly a sermon. Girl I've Been Taken, with its sly-sounding vocals and little organ jam at the end is probably the grooviest slice of psychedelica I have ever heard. No One Sees Her comes on as a happy little jaunt, with horns over plucky guitars and light, bouncy drums, but still......something dark lurks in the background......
The members of Strangers Family Band seem to have been born to make music. Scott (bass) and Rick (guitar) are brothers who have been playing music as long as they can remember. Rick and Juan (who plays drums) played music together in high school, and Scott and Ates (vocals) became song-writing partners in college. Kevin, their bloody brilliant keyboardist, was the last addition to the Family, and completes it oh so well. The band name, well, that just seemed to fit perfectly as they are truly either blood or close enough to it, and strange indeed, intriguingly so.
Currently on heavy rotation in the Strangers' house is music that comes from some of the most creative minds of the 60s and 70s, albums that take you on theme-park rides through their concepts, albums by The Kinks, The Pretty Things, The Beatles, early Donovan, 13th Floor Elevators, and Syd-era-Floyd, to name just a few. Conceptually, Strangers Family Band is planning on taking us on their own musical-mind-trip beyond the Beware The Autumn People EP, with the full-length they are currently working on. Scott cites some interesting influences that go beyond even obscure psychedelica or concept albums: Balkan folk music and Carnatic music. This is one band who is so left-of-center, I have to admire and love it!
Somehow, Strangers Family Band take their talent and their love of so many different styles of creative, interesting music, and make their own quirky, hypnotic, darkly enthralling music. Besides the requisite drums, guitar, and bass, Strangers Family Band utilizes Hammond organ, sitar, electric sitar, ukulele, upright bass, quattro, and tablas. On the upcoming album, a multitude of local musician friends of the Family play guest. For now, go to their site and download Beware The Autumn People. What are you waiting for?! Go check out Strangers Family Band!
A big, warm thank you, to Scott from Strangers Family Band, for enlightening me about the band, and big thanks to the whole band for making this amazing psychedelic music and sharing it with us!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Much to this fan's delight, Pilot Cloud made their way from Philly to Brooklyn on Friday night, October 9, to play a set at Bar Matchless. The set was forty minutes of the most blissful, heartbreakingly gorgeous shoegaze that you could possibly ever hear. I have been playing their album In Transition at home on my stereo for weeks now, and it did not even prepare me for how these songs translate to the stage. Equal parts blooming, soaring soundscapes, and subtle, quiet flutters, Pilot Cloud's songs both explode with force, and then calm the storm. Songs played were Dead Satellite, Leaf, Map, Star Redoubt (complete with the bird songs at the end, like on the album!), In Transition, Diaspora (not on the album, but available to listen to on their MySpace player), and the closer of the album closes their set: Ex Astris Scientia. Pilot Cloud is most certainly a band who have the talent to take their stunning recorded arrangements to the stage and make them better. That is quite a feat, and if you have been lucky enough to acquire the album In Transition and then see them live, I am sure you would agree.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Take some time today and visit the musical world of The Flower Machine.
This is music for a sunny day. Or any day, for that matter.
I have been listening to their album pictured above, called Marmoset Meadow, and I keep thinking they are from England, but no, they hail from Los Angeles, possibly from another time, another dimension, here now to offer us some of the most acid-drenched psychedelic tunes I have heard thus far. Syd would be so proud.
Check out the tunes, and follow the links from their MySpace to further explore the psychedelic heaven that is Trip Inside This House's music blog. The Flower Machine have donated their sublimely sweet and infectious tune called Traveling By Trampoline to a not-to-be-missed compilation album you can download for free. The album's songs were compiled and made available to us by the creator of Trip Inside This House. I give him many thanks, as the songs from his Summer Solstice II compilation (there is also a Summer Solstice I, yes, from 2008) have been playing in my house and brightening up my days, for the better part of this week now. I hope you all find the time to grab your tambourine & enjoy the magical little cloud-world of The Flower Machine!
Monday, September 14, 2009
With their musical beginnings sown in the form of the band Hans The Double, Justin and Nick paired off after that band split up in early 2008. What is important here, is that they felt the need to create their own original and exciting music, and now they are sharing it with us.
I asked the band a few questions, to get to know them a bit better:
So you are doing it! Making and producing and distributing your own music. I read that you guys did not actually plan this out, but rather it just came together, song after song till you had enough for In Transition to be a full album. I have brought your music to quite a few peoples’ attention, people from all over the world, and they all absolutely love it. Do you feel now, like you are gaining a bit of a fan base, a year after In Transition’s release?
When we had the album finished and ready to distribute, our only real M.O. was to submit to as many blogs as possible and see if anyone would run something on us. Things started to pop up here and there after that. A bunch of places just listed us as a band to check out, didn’t really say anything about us. As more people listened, the features started getting bigger.
With the internet, we’ve been able to pop up anywhere and everywhere. An Italian blog wrote a real nice review of the record. People on Last.fm started tuning in from places like
Regarding an actual fan base, it’s been easier to connect to people playing shows. When we play, we have everything in front of us to let people get to know us. However, it’s been great to use the internet as a way to get a foot in the door. We just played in
Have you guys always lived in Philly? How is the music scene of your hometown? Would you say there is a ‘scene’ there that Pilot Cloud fits into?
We’ve been scattered throughout the tri-state area. I, Nick, have spent my whole life living in different suburbs of
There’s not a tight-knit scene that Pilot Cloud is in with, but there’s definitely some interesting psychedelic, ambient, and shoegaze bands in and around the area like Arc in Round, Cloud Minder, Streaks of Light, and Ports of Call. If there’s any organization amongst bands, we certainly haven’t been privy to it. We spent most of 2008 immersed in basements writing “In Transition”, so we’ve adapted to the hermit lifestyle, but we would definitely love to be able to be a part of a handful of bands that have themselves together to essentially create a scene of our own
What kind of guitars/amps/other instruments do you guys use? What is the key to bringing an expansive sound such a Pilot Cloud’s to the stage with just 2 people?
We wouldn’t really say there’s much of a trick to us having such a big sound. Justin plays an Epiphone Les Paul guitar through a Vox AC15 amp. I play Gretsch drums and Zildjian cymbals. Nothing major there. The real key is that we play alongside the bass tracks and supplementary guitar layers onstage. We’re not playing more, it just sounds like we are. The guitar layers are likely what do the trick.
Have you always been involved in music? What are your inspirations?
We’ve each been playing our respective instruments since the late 90s. With the difference in age between us (Justin is 28, I am 21), it has taken up more of my life than Justin’s. I took up drums at age 9 after a failed stint at trumpet, while Justin took up guitar likely to impress girls when we went off to college.
Both of us stay motivated and inspired by the music we like. Pilot Cloud started out of wanting to make music we would want to hear. We knew why we liked the bands we did, and we thought we could put our own hat in the ring to stand alongside music we already listened to.
You are coming to
When you are done touring to support In Transition and have given away all your copies of it (I still think it’s worth a TON of money!), what is next for Pilot Cloud?
We surpassed a lot of our own expectations since we released “In Transition”. We toured behind it, made some cool new friends, got some kind reviews, and even had some money tossed our way. Unfortunately, the physical copies of the record are disappearing before we can order more pressings. We’ve gone through close to 300 free copies since last Christmas.
But all that being said, we have really missed the writing process over the last year, so we’re going to get working on a follow-up EP to “In Transition”. We’ve written one new song (which has been assimilated into the live set) called “Diaspora”. Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
Thanks to Nick for the interview! And thanks to Pilot Cloud (check their MySpace and listen to some tunes from In Transition) for the amazing music. Pilot Cloud's songs are songs that reveal more and more with each subsequent listen. Upon first listen, Leaf, Map, Sounds of an Era, and the title track all sound like the perfect mid-to-up-tempo shoegaze-style compositions, but keep listening. The real charms of the songs are to come, and that is the mark of some quality song-writing and talented arranging.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I wanted to know what Black Market Karma have been up to this past year, and Stan, their singer and guitarist, was kind enough to let me know. Here are his answers to my latest ten questions:
You have a new member in the band now? Who is he and how did this come about?
Yeah, Sam’s just joined and we’re a 5 piece now. We’d been looking to get a new member for a while. We like to get a lot of textures and sounds into our recordings, but we couldn’t quite pull off all the parts live without another player. We needed things like extra percussion, keys and also a 3rd guitar on some tunes. Sam’s been a good friend of the band for a while now and he’s a good musician. I was jamming with him one day and it just clicked in my head; “Why don’t we get him I the band?” We broke him in with 4 gigs in 3 days and that was it. He fit in with us instantly, it’s been pretty cool.
I have seen all of the videos you post on YouTube. Are all of these songs recorded for your upcoming album?
Yeah, pretty much all those tunes are recorded / half way done or “to be recorded.”How is the summer festival tour going? Which festivals have you played? Which was your favourite?
Summer’s been ace. So far this year we’ ve played Create festival, T-fest and Lounge on the Farm. We had a great time at lounge, proper good fun. We turned up on the Friday and camped till Monday morning, playing Sunday evening and just generally digging the festival lifestyle in-between. We were buzzing all weekend and the gig itself was top drawer, got a real good turn out. We’re looking forward to being on the bill for that again next year. As for this year we’ve got one more festival this weekend which is a Woodstock 69 tribute just outside Paris and we’re all pretty psyched about it. There’s a truckload of 60’sesque bands heading down so it should be awesome.
Whom have you been gigging with?
We’ve been all over the shop with gigs, and to be honest I forget most of the bands we play with. One group that stood out for me were Daylight Frequencies, the Horrors' new tunes were good too when they played at LOTF. The are another good band too.
How is the song-writing, the recording, and the production of your music going? Is the debut full-length nearly ready to be released?
It’s going swimmingly. We’ve got around 2 and a half tunes left to record so it’s on track! Once we’ve got the artwork sorted we can send it off to be pressed and we can start getting it out there.
It seems you have had a pretty exciting year! How has this past year shaped your music?
I’d say doing so many gigs has changed the music a bit. When you’re playing the same tunes every night you start to improvise to keep it fresh and some really good stuff has come from that. All the sound-checks have given us time to jam together too and a few new song ideas have come out that way.Dami is quite a dancer. Did he train professionally?! Who else in the band can dance like that?!
To be honest, I think he just looks at himself in the mirror doing dance moves and that’s where that came from. I can’t dance for shit. The only other guy that could have the potential to dance is Sam, cos he’s half Spanish. It’d be cool if he could Flamenco Dance, but I ain’t seen evidence of it yet.
What guitars have you added to your collection lately?
We recently trekked it to Manchester and picked up an Epiphone Elite Riviera 12 string guitar (I think that’s the full name). It sounds mega and we’ve already used it live a few times and on the new recordings. It’s a beast.
What bands would you faint if they asked you to be their touring partners for the next 3 months?
I’m not sure I’d faint over anyone really, not my style! I’d love to play with the BJM or Black Rebel though. I reckon we’ d go down pretty well with the Warlocks or the Black Angels, too? If the Velvet Underground were still about, that’d be awesome, ha!What do you have planned for the rest of 2009, and looking even more forward, for early 2010?
The initial plan is to get the album finished and out there. After that we’re just gonna plug it everywhere and get it heard as much as possible. We’ll see what happens!
Thanks for taking the time to update us, Stan. Keep on, you've got a lot of fans waiting for that album!
Friday, August 7, 2009
Oblisk, a band from Detroit, Michigan, has released their second album, titled Weather Patterns, and are in the midst of touring to support this amazing piece of work. I got the chance to see the band perform in Brooklyn at one of the best small places to see live music, Public Assembly. I also got my copy of Weather Patterns, which is now on heavy rotation.
Oblisk's debut album, 2008's Tune In/Tune Out, was a ride through back streets, late at night, not knowing what lay around the dark corners, feeling a bit nervous to find out. The songs had a jittery quality paired with vocals that were a bit moody and hollow, just enough to make you wonder what the ghosts were, and this made for an engrossing debut album. Now with Weather Patterns, Oblisk keeps some elements that are signature: the deep, ghostly vocals and the themes of situations unknown and a bit dangerous and disturbing, but the instrumentation has grown to include layers of guitars that create waves of sound that swell to intense highs. The drumming is tighter, less skittish now, and the bass lines, though also retaining a signature Oblisk sound, are deep enough to be the undertow you must watch out for within those waves. On Radar uses some shoegaze-style-guitar feedback perfectly. Epicenter picks up the pace to a frenzy of post-punk style guitar, reminiscent of Wire. Silent Passenger utilizes the undertow of bass to carry the song, which tells of a chance, and of course, possibly dangerous, encounter with a stranger. The psychedelic reverb of the guitar on Overcast is perfectly paired with a choppy drum that stomps its way through the song.
Oblisk live is something you should see if you live near the cities along the Eastern half of the U.S. where they are currently touring. On Radar, Tunnel of Phoenix, and Overcast are phenomenal live. Nick Baran's an ace guitarist, really something to watch. Check out Oblisk on MySpace to see if they are coming to a city near you, and buy Weather Patterns. If you liked Tune In/Tune Out, you will really love Weather Patterns. The production is tops (album was produced by Isaac Betesh from House Of Fire), the songs are guitar-heavy trips to nowhere and back, and the CD artwork is simple, yet perfectly represents what this album is all about (very nice work, Dave).
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Mellow Drunk makes music that I hold near and dear to my heart. I am never not in the mood for Mellow Drunk songs, and each song is its own lovely little individual gem, no song sounding like another, each song layered with lots of guitars, catchy melodies, and Leigh's distinctly breathy vocals. It's Leigh's style of singing that makes his songs so easily identifiable: at the same time cool and understated, and yet energetic enough to add the final strengthening tie to wrap each song up, the perfect little musical gift, from Leigh to us.
As a gifted songwriter and sought-after collaborator, Leigh Gregory is obviously quite busy, always, so it was a thrill for me when he graciously agreed to answer some questions. He's been interviewed many times before, so I tried to probe him with a few different questions, after I asked about his current projects and work, of course! Here they are:
You are currently finishing a solo project (which I am quite excited to hear), an album called 1973. How will this be different from other projects you have created over the years, such as Mellow Drunk albums or your two previous solo albums?
Well, the people that have heard 1973 have mentioned it has more of an Always Be Drunk vibe to it, I suppose ‘cos I played lots of the instruments on it. However, just about everyone from Mellow Drunk and the solo recordings contributed to 1973 so it’s kind of nice to have just about everyone I’ve worked with on one CD. 1973 is a full-on story CD about a boy growing up in the year 1973 so the songs are arranged for a whole band. Both Patrick Harte and Sean DeGaetano (who both played with Mellow Drunk) are playing drums on the songs, then Daniel Dietrick from Mellow Drunk is playing bass so you’ve got two of Mellow Drunk’s rhythm sections (one from Never Sleep at Night and one from One Thousand Lights) on all the tunes.
I've spoken to some musicians who tell me most of their songs just seem to write themselves. How do you go about crafting your songs?
That ‘tis true. Lots of times songs do just write themselves and that’s magical. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes I’ll just think up titles for songs and maybe a rough lyric, then let the music reflect whatever the title suggests. 1973 was sketched out in a bar while I was having a drink before heading off to a non-alcohol vegan restaurant in San Francisco. I wrote down about twenty-five titles and then started writing songs around those titles. To advance the story along I figured the recording should ultimately have twelve songs to reflect the twelve months of the year and that the main character who is growing up in the year 1973 would go though a change into maturity by the end of the CD.
As far as the folk stuff goes the challenge for me is presenting a song in a very minimal setting (vox and guitar) that can reflect either an emotion state (melancholy to euphoria), a time of day, or maybe a season or month of the year. I remember I was lying on the couch last September, warm late afternoon sun coming in though the blinds, light reflecting off our green carpet, sounds of the outside world coming in and I just felt like I wanted to try and capture that somehow in a song. Well, I actually wrote a poem instead but that’s what I’m after in the folk recordings, if that’s possible.
Do you have a most favorite Mellow Drunk song? A most favorite Leigh Gregory song?
Well… tough one there. From a fan stand point Angela and Where the Time Goes are probably the most well-known and requested Mellow Drunk songs. Steven Cavoretto and I were doing a late night set at the Plough & the Star Pub here in SF last Wednesday and sure enough someone requested Angela right off. I haven’t played Where the Time Goes live over the past year because as a stripped back song it gets a little bit long. I guess they are also my two favorites from Always Be Drunk, though I’ve always liked Long Drawn Sunday Night (the cover of the Orchids song) and I still play that just about every time during the acoustic set. I reckon my fav song from Never Sleep at Night is Shone on Everyone. Maybe my fav song from One Thousand Lights is Everything & Nothing.
My favorite Leigh Gregory song is Rainy Season Never Ends.
What types of guitars do you play? Which one is your favorite to play?
I’m somewhere just below a guitar geek so this question could take a long time to answer!!! Briefly, live for the acoustic stuff I usually play a cutaway acoustic made by a guy named Yuris Zeltins. I bought it from my guitar teacher in 1976 and have had it ever since. It’s pretty worn in at this point so I don’t have to worry about it getting beat up. I also have a beautiful pre-war Santa Cruz OM acoustic that I record with. That guitar has become too valuable to take out live very often though, but it plays really nicely. I used my 60 Re-issue Les Paul (how else are you going to go for the Mick Ronson thing??) for most of 1973, but I always pretty much play my Telecaster for the more recent band stuff. I think a Telecaster is my fav guitar. Love them because they are so simple and if one is a singer it’s so easy to control the volume with your little finger to turn up for solos and down when one is singing. Oh, yeah, I didn’t mention that I’ve been working with a new band!!! Post-Memory’s Mystic Band… can’t say I haven’t been busy!!!
When you began making music for Mellow Drunk, did you have any goals in mind about what you wanted to achieve? Have you achieved those goals?
You know, I didn’t really have any specific goals. I’d recorded god knows how many songs on my four-track between, say 1996 and 1998, and it dawned on me that I could do a full-on CD, so I got an ADAT from my friend Rick Wilson (who was a recording engineer at Black Eyed Pig Studios) and started working up the four-track songs to eight tracks then to CD. I think it was around that time that I did a Steve Kilbey cover (Pretty Ugly, Pretty Sad) for what was suppose to be a Church covers CD and from there I really decided to do Always Be Drunk. At that point I just did a bunch of tracking at home on the ADAT, then I’d go into the studio to do the drums. My friend Jeff Crandall had moved to Minneapolis and we’d get together several times during the course of the year back then so we did the drums, cello and his backing vocals at a studio there, then I’d run the tapes to Rick Wilson and we’d combine my home tracks with the tracks we’d recorded in Minneapolis to put together the record. I’m still making music so I suppose I’ve achieved something but I’m still very much unfulfilled and would like to do much more as far as recording and touring goes.
What are some of the bands YOU listen to and enjoy today? Are there any new artists you really love, and is there anyone you feel a kinship with, music-wise?
Well, I kinda go back and forth across the musical spectrum as I feel like I’m a folk as well as alt-rock guy. Currently I’ve been trying to write a lot for the new as yet unnamed project so I haven’t been listening to as much music as I was about a month ago. That said, on the acoustic side of things I’ve been on a Wizz Jones, Mississippi John Hurt, Towns Van Zandt kick over the past few months. On the rock side I’ve been listening lots to Untitled #23, esp. since the Church are touring and we’re going to catch them a couple of times, then, probably because I’ve seen them live of late, been listening to the new Neko Case CD and the new Doves CD. Also recently saw the Walkmen and they completely blew me away. Their new CD You & Me pretty much to me achieves the nearly impossible: as a contemporary band they actually have their own unique sound. I was also diggin’ the new Peter Doherty CD but I fear I’ve mis-placed it!!!!
I really don’t know with whom I share a kinship with music-wise at this point in my life. Seriously I’ve no idea. One artist who probably isn’t that well known in the United States who really impresses me is Ned Collette, a young man from Melbourne, OZ. I’ve esp. had his CD Jokes & Trials in pretty heavy rotation for over a year now.
I know you are working on yet another project, other than Mellow Drunk or your solo music. Can you give a sneak-peak of what we can look forward to when you are ready to release that?
I did a series of concerts last year with a project called Memory’s Mystic Band, which was essentially a revolving group of friends taking some of the acoustic songs to a more electric setting. Of late I’ve been working with a four piece electric band (guitar, bass, drums and keys) and if that can get off the ground I hope to be playing out again by late August. In that band I’m much more concerned with being an electric guitarist again and trying out some more unpredictable stuff. Don’t know… maybe somewhere between Television and the early Triffids??? Leonard Cohen meets Love??
Do you have any plans for any kind of tour to support some of this new music you're creating? I'm hoping you'll come back to New York, hint hint!
O… I’d love to come back to NYC anytime to perform. I had Sean and Steve, along with Ville Vilpponen, with me last spring playing in New York and Ville (who’s playing bass in the new project along with his brother Jaakko on drums) and I were just taking the other day about what a blast it was to play NYC. I hope to be back soon – promise!!!!
And lastly, what female singer do you think you might sound great singing with?
You know thinking that one over I’d love to do a duet with Natasha Khan. Whatcha think??? Don’t know the new CD very well but saw Bat for Lashes a couple of times on their first US tour and she’s great!!!!
Leigh, I would definitely agree on that last answer! I love Natasha's voice and her creativity with her music, and I am a big fan of her second album, the new one, Two Suns. You are spot on with that thought: the two of you would make mind-blowing music.
A million thanks to Leigh Gregory for doing this interview. Time for me to go play some Mellow Drunk CDs. Never 'not in the mood' for that.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The Young Sinclairs are a five-piece band from Roanoke, VA, and are also members of a music-and-art collective called The Magic Twig Community. I mention this because John, the band member I spoke with after their set, told me that the guys I just saw perform that jangly, twangy, early 60s-style guitar rock and roll were all part of different projects back in their home base of Roanoke. This particular grouping from the collective, The Young Sinclairs, features John, Sam, Jonathan, Sean, and Daniel. By only reading the song titles, you might get the idea that these guys are a bit combative: titles like Push Down On You, I'll Get Even, and Tough Face may seem out of place for the actual sound of the band. But these songs are short and sweet, melodically strummed, and lovingly sung (much of the time in harmony). Songs are also accented with keys from a Moog.
Since their set was so much fun, I bought 4 of the whimsically-decorated albums The Young Sinclairs were selling (for a newer band, they certainly have recorded a lot of albums): Feel Bad, Tough Face, Indian Winter, and O Bummer. They will be for sale on The Young Sinclair's MySpace page very soon. And if you live near NYC, catch them at Death By Audio on June 20, or Cake Shop on July 22.
Monday, May 4, 2009
I adore The Lovetones. To have the chance to see them perform in front of me at Pianos, in New York City, was an enormous joy, and I should admit,
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
To paraphrase a very famous saying, Truth, the brand-new 6 song CD release from New York's Dead Leaf Echo, is most certainly beauty, and love, wrapped up in a swirl of shoegaze-style dream-guitar........the theme of the 6 songs is easy to understand: Truth, do you seek it? Is it even there for you to find? The more you want it to exist, and the harder you look, the more obscure truth becomes until it vanishes all together......
Awash in dreamy layers of sound, Dead Leaf Echo's songs do not follow an old tenet of shoegaze-style artists: let the words blend in with the music, as another instrument might do. Instead, LG's lyrics are understood to be as integral a part of Dead Leaf Echo's music as any guitar riff might be. Act of Truth, released ahead of the album, is the perfect song to represent the entire set of six: at once conveying longing, caring, strength, and the ongoing search for what gets lost between us but remains infinitely important to us.
Dead Leaf Echo on MySpace
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Black Veil on MySpace
Garage rock & rollers Black Veil are in the process of getting their act together in my beloved city of New York. The roots of this band lay in Hastings, in a flat rented by Jack and Luke, where the two honed their skills learning Stones songs on the guitar. After mastering their idols' music from the 60s, and feeling confident and ready to take on the London music scene, they moved there to begin the hard work that comes with the territory of starting your own band. Lousy day jobs, lots of different band members, some different band names, all the usual dealings of an up-and-coming, do-it-yourself-and-keep-it-real band, were the early experiences of the boys in December's Children, the name they adopted so they could gig properly.
After, shall we say, many ups and downs, starts and stops, and more lousy flats were under their belts, the boys split up, Luke staying in London and Jack making a daring move to New York City. The young Englishman in New York is currently getting his musical act together with Black Veil, his new band. Worthy of the buzz in the garage-rocker's circle, Black Veil are currently recording an EP to showcase their roots-y, Brian-Jones-Stones-era-tinged rock and roll for us. I highly recommend you check out their MySpace songs, where you can hear Black Veil's simple and charming demos, some with lyrics, some intrumentals. I'll be updating in the future on Black Veil's whereabouts, doings, CD releases, and gigs I may get to see.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Atmosphere performed live: there is no better way for me to start a night of live music off than that song. Stephan's opening guitar riff is unmistakable, one of my favorite riffs ever, as it rings through Pianos' band space. I secretly wish that song could go on a lot longer, but all of Audn's songs are just fantastic to hear performed in front of me. Stephan is Audn's cheif songwriter, and probably one of the best young guitarists out there today. He is heavy into the New York City music scene, busy with Audn, dj-ing, and running Vanishing Point Studio as a venue for new bands and artists. Hopefully very soon, within the next few months, Stephan, along with drummer Jessie (she is amazing on drums), bassist Matt, and singer Sabrina, will be heading into the studio to record some songs for proper release. That's music to my ears. Audn's brilliant take on big shoegaze sound will not remain New York's best kept secret for much longer.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I have seen this band three times in recent months, so it is overdue that I write about The Vandelles, the ex-California-Coast kids, current Brooklyn darlings, whom I am thrilled to call fellow New Yorkers. Their gig at Pianos in downtown Manhattan showed me once again why I love this band so much. The Vandelles exude coolness. It's really as simple as that. They look cool. They play cool. Their songs are cool. They just ARE cool. For a band who has not released a full-length album yet, they have already gained quite a following, and have played support for fellow New York City guitar-abusers A Place To Bury Strangers, on New Year's Eve at The Mercury Lounge, no less. There is plenty written about The Vandelles, and their style of sand & surf rock & roll, but I'm sure a little more good press won't hurt.
There really is nothing to not love about The Vandelles. They have two hot chicks and two cool cats in the band. They take a style of good old guitar rock and give it their own modern roll. This is exactly what I was talking about to a friend, and fellow Vandelles fan, the other day: we love when a new band creates excitement for us by taking an old style we already love, and expands upon it. We love 'desert hell' and 'surf paradise' themes. I'm from the suburbs, but listening to songs that evoke the waves and the boards, I can't get enough. It's just a bit of escapism, I suppose......some good tunes can do that for ya.
Setlist (Thanks so much, Jason!):
bomb the surf
fever of the beat
dash n dive
swell to heaven
die for it cowboy
Monday, February 16, 2009
...and blew me away with their live performance, this past Saturday night, at Pianos in downtown Manhattan. I only recently discovered this band. I knew I had to listen up when I saw Screen Vinyl Image was playing a gig with 2 of my favorite New York City bands, Audn and The Vandelles. Serendipitously, a friend sent me a preview of their new album, Interceptors, thinking of me when he heard it. He thought it would be my kind of music. Turns out he was spot on like nobody's business. I listened to the album and liked it straight away. When I listened to Screen Vinyl Image's earlier release, their 5 song EP called The Midnight Sun, I was even more impressed and a little stunned. These songs were from somewhere within the realm inhabited by artists such as Nine Inch Nails, A Place To Bury Strangers, Liars, and The December Sound. The songs come from a place, another world, where layers of synth and guitar distortion (from make-them-yourself pedals and equipment) form soundscapes that are deep and metallic. Each song pulses and brims with hypnotizing beats riding on waves of feedback coaxed out of evil guitars. Hollow, echoed, sometimes ghostly, sometimes whispered, vocals top Screen Vinyl Image's songs.
Screen Vinyl Image on MySpace
Friday, February 6, 2009
The Lea Shores on MySpace
If you don't know the UK's The Lea Shores, you need to take this chance to have a listen, and become a fan. My favorite song by them, called Rise (can be heard on MySpace link above), is a just-mellow-enough, lush, layered, melody with inspiring vocals that can hook you in an instant. The songs The Lea Shores have composed are nothing short of amazing. Beautiful harmonies sung by the Webb brothers (twins, no less) over dreamy guitar riffs, sometimes with a haze of violin in the backdrop, are what the songs of The Lea Shores are made of. For those of you who already know and love this music, read on for some fantastic information from Nick Webb, singer for The Lea Shores, who was extremely kind to answer some questions this rabid fan threw at him!
When did you form The Lea Shores & where does the band's name come from?
We formed about 4 years ago in under a railway arch in Peckham, South East London
We took the name from one of our favourite songs written by David Crosby for 'Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young' called 'The lee Shore'. It's a nautical term for a sheltered shoreline. We liked the idea of a place that can be close to but protected from stormy weather. Then changed lee to 'Lea' - to make it more pastoral and British sounding!
Who is currently in the band with you?
Simon Webb (twin brother)
and a new drummer called Nick foot
Where are you from & where is the band based?
I grew up in North London and Birmingham but now live in South London in Peckham - where all the band lives.
What got you into making music?
Seeing Richie Haven's perform on the Woodstock film.
What are you working on now?
Releasing our album as a ltd edition 3xEP box set and writing and recording some new tracks that are blowing my fucking head off!
Are you playing any gigs soon?
Not for a while - we may book up some dates in April...
Whom have you played with (I have read the BJM amongst others, wow)?
Yeah, we toured with the BJM around Europe a while back which was great - apart from our bass player being hospitalised in Vienna after being beaten up in Peckham before we left! One of his broken ribs had punctured his lung and his chest had slowly filled up with blood on tour. Ricky from the BJM kindly stepped in to complete the tour. Our first gig without Gabs was in Stockholm where i first met Andy bell who became a good friend and fan of THE LEA SHORES - a mental tour - very much in the spirit of all things BJM...
Will you release an album this year?
Yes - but we'll have to be a bit patient!
Nick Webb, thank you so much for answering those questions, and I do hope the Lea Shores fans out there get to read them..........great information, indeed! We'll be impatiently awaiting the new album, trust me. Everyone I know who loves The Lea Shores is waiting!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Oblisk on MySpace
Oblisk on Last.fm
The Bavarian Druglords music