Saturday, January 30, 2010
Could Sky Picnic possibly be the most deliciously psychedelic band in New York City today? The answer to that question is a HUGE YES. Indeed, Sky Picnic are creating the most gorgeous, heavenly, tripped-out psychedelic songs I have heard in quite some time. I have read the term 'mind expanding music' used to describe Sky Picnic's music. I totally agree. As I write this, I am immersed in the swirls of atmospherics and the dueting, chill-inducing vocals of singers Chris Sherman and Leah Cinnamon. White Plane is playing through my headphones and I'm lost......completely tripped out for a while, letting the mellow vibe and the poetic lyrics wash over me. This is psychedelia at its BEST. Farther In This Fairy Tale, if you can tell from its title, is not only poetic and beautifully atmospheric, it's an album to listen to from beginning to end, to escape from what corners you in this world, and to make you think beyond the bounds of the typical. It is a lovely experience, a necessary one for people of our mind-set. I asked Chris Sherman about the album:
Farther In This Fairy Tale was intended to be more conceptual than an ordinary album, listened to from start to finish in order, without the outside world interruptions? Exactly. It's art. We're not just making music...anyone can make music. We're trying to give you an experience and to take you deeper into an alternate world and give you something to think about. The concept of the LP is the end of innocence and a journey to find yourself, although I hope people can draw their own meanings from there.
Universal Mind Decoder, I will say is one of the best songs I have ever heard: twelve minutes, at times big and lush, at other times hushed and calm.....a trip for the mind and the soul. Chris and Leah actually began their musical project using that song title as their name:
How did you all come together in NY & start making music?
Leah and I started as Universal Mind Decoder in mid 2005. We had a slightly poppy-er mid-60's rock type sound. That dissolved at the end of 2006. From there, we started Sky Picnic in 2007, brought in a drummer and started developing our sound closer to where it is today. It wasn't until Pete joined in Oct 2008 that we really got it together and became a cohesive unit.
When I listen to music such as Sky Picnic's, I always think of what influences these musicians, what drives them to create this art that makes me feel so good to have surrounding me. Dreamy sleep, flickering lights, mellotrons, sitars, and rainbow colors of a symphony (as a true synesthete would say, "I see the colors of the sounds.") are just a few of the things that influence Sky Picnic's music. What Chris says about their creative process:
I love the influences you list on MySpace. Can you tell me a little more about how you create your compositions?The songs usually start with an idea coming out of nowhere. I'll usually get a nice blueprint for it and THINK I know how it should go. I'll make a quick demo, send it off to the band, and we'll develop it in practice. Once it's in their hands, the song always surpasses the original vision. It's a pretty efficient process, although I really want us to get into more group writing.
I know there are alot of definitions of psychedelic music, but it seems that label gets thrown around rather loosely these days. A band who happens to use phased vocals over an acoustic guitar is automatically "the next Syd Barrett" and "very trippy" according to all the hipster blogs and mainstream media out there. And that's fine if that what they want to call it. (That just makes us more left of center.) But we are trying to give the audience a psychedelic experience. Improvisation is abound on stage, and, to an extent, on the record. Themes of astronomy, mythology, dystopian societies and life and death are the basis of our catalog. Clearly, we're not trying to become rock stars, and have no ambition to do so. We're making music we love about subjects we love, in the matter in which we want to. Hopefully that spirit alone draws people to our band.
Sky Picnic has also released a beauty of an EP, titled Synesthesia, five songs equally as gorgeous as any song off Farther In This Fairy Tale. Using sitar swirls and lyrics that make me think of Alice In Wonderland's world, this EP breathtaking. Sequence IV is a musical journey of epic proportions. The band's full discography, all available to you, is:
Synesthesia EP- 2008
Hide & Seek (single)- 2009
Farther In This Fairy Tale- 2010
The CD of EP and LP are available at all shows and via IndepenDisc. MP3's are via Amazon.
A heartfelt thank you to Chris. Photo credits are from the band's MySpace. My best to the band, hope to see you in February!
From Singapore, Stellarium has released their debut album, Self Titled. This album is a wicked thrill ride through fuzzed-out tunnels of distorted sounds, with mind-bending effects around every turn. Stellarium's songs keep the vocals on the down-low, hushed and haunted, and let the guitar effects take center stage. Taking their cues from the lusciously warped dimension that keeps artists such as A Place To Bury Strangers, The December Sound, and Screen Vinyl Image in its realm, Stellarium bring us songs meant to be played so loudly that you feel the rumbling through your body and the ripping of your eardrums. Harbinger is a song that incorporates driving guitars and drums with deep, hollow vocals, yet also has the twang of surf guitar to highlight the dark, in just the perfect spots. Signature song Fader, screams and howls with layer upon layer of lush and distorted soundscapes, yet the twang of the surf-style guitar and the drum-and-bass-style beat seem nowhere out of place within the song; in fact, this composition is so wickedly thrilling that it requires repeated plays, trust me. You WILL repeat Fader. If you break out of the Fader trance, Dead Nebula will trance you again, with its drums that vary from almost tribal, to a huge industrial expanse of beats. Summer Bloodbath, a minute and a half of quiet, a kick-ass drum-and-bass beat, echoed vocals over fuzz: I have never heard anything like this song before. What a way to end an album. Watch the video for Fader:
Order the album here.
Friday, January 29, 2010
A nice little interview with Ville, who so kindly gave me some insight into what he and Jaakko are up to with Antenna:
How long have you been involved in San Fran's music scene? How long have you and your brother been musicians?
I started playing in bands around San Francisco in 2003. Joined Dora Flood very late 2004 I believe. I’ve been playing electric bass since I was 10, guitar from the age of 14. Early bands in Finland were in various genres of heavy metal. Jaakko has played drums since an early age as well… He was in Dora Flood from 2007 until the end. And as you know, we both are in Memory’s Mystic Band these days
How many albums did you make with Dora Flood?
Two: 2007’s We Live Now and 2008’s Dream out Your Window.
From the 3 projects I know of that you have worked with (Dora Flood, Memory's Mystic Band, Antenna), all have completely different styles of music. I love this, as diversity is key in keeping your edge, and showing your talent. What direction do you want to take with Antenna?
Nothing too polished. We want to mix driving beats and/or psychedelic atmosphere with the grittiness of 60s garage rock and UK rhythm and blues. Noisy or quiet but with a certain sense of threat if pulled out right!
While listening through headphones to Antenna's demos, it's clear to me that you know how to compose a catchy garage rock groove that needs no mood to enjoy. These 'demos' sound like finished songs!
Thanks Terri! They are recorded in our studio in Berkeley , CA . I went to a recording school in Los Angeles and even though it never became a career I’ve been very interested in all aspects of recording music since.
What is important to you, and where do you find your inspiration to make music?
More than anything I think it’s important to keep going. Sometimes it feels that I just started writing songs yesterday and since I just want to get better, it doesn’t make sense to stop. You can never really master an instrument or songwriting- there’s always more to learn and enjoy. Subject-wise, one can find inspiration in most banal things like the decline of mainstream culture into one big reality TV-show and the pursuit of empty celebrity, which I find fascinating. A lot of Antenna’s songs draw from that. Still, even though they may seem cynical, there’s a good deal of humor in the lyrics. I’d like to think that it comes through.
What kind of music do you yourself enjoy listening to these days? What artists do you find inspirational to you?
Obviously it depends as there are Saturday night-records and Sunday morning-records. It’s a cliché but there’s really too much good music to mention. I love both PiL’s Second Edition and The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo but not necessarily back to back. When it comes to this particular project I’d like to think that we’ll find our sound somewhere between post-Syd Barrett, pre-Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd and The Stooges with Ron Asheton on guitar. Spice it up with some Can-esque krautrock grooves and a dash of Velvet Underground maybe? Would be great!
Spoken like true independent, serious musicians. Ville also says they have so many great ideas for songs, they'll just keep on making them as Antenna and getting them out there for us to enjoy in the years to come. Check them out, and stay tuned.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Cotton Club is a five-member band based in Lille, France. I am only beginning to get myself familiar with these guys, but it's never too early for me to recommend such a brilliant find. Go to Cotton Club's Band Camp page and listen to their EP Between Drones and Daisies. Six songs, which you just have to hear to believe: My Technicolor Dream begins the experience......all washed in reverb and tinny, scratchy vocals. The Right Moment soars to huge, dreamy heights. Two In Hell slows it down a bit, still within the dreamy, hazy realm. Trapped Inside, the huge winner among these amazingly psychedelic songs, is just a masterpiece: this song kicks you hard, and you will love it. The guitar interplay on Trapped Inside, and all six songs on Between Drones and Daisies, is intricate and hypnotic. The Breath of Drones is more sweet-sounding hazy reverb, and Standing Man With a Gun ends the EP with the before-mentioned and all-important guitar interplay that makes this music sound so big and full. Cotton Club have created music that is somewhere out there.......between drones and daisies. Enjoy it, friends. And look for more to come from Cotton Club, as they are working on a full length album. My best to them, they deserve it.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Though it's safe to say Leigh Gregory is not a new or less-known artist,as this blog usually profiles, it's also safe to say there can never be enough great press about him and his lifetime musical endeavors, as they are one of the great joys in my life, and so many other music fans' lives out there. Over the years, Leigh has made music of all different styles. Today, he concentrates on a lot of acoustic, or semi-acoustic music, by himself or with his project Memory's Mystic Band, in his home city of San Fransisco, California. If you have had the pleasure to read part I of my interview with him, last year, then you are familiar with his current work, and good for you! Let me now have the pleasure of bringing you the second part of my interview with the amazing Leigh Gregory.
Your EP you released as Memory's Mystic Band is a stunning piece of modern folk rock. Are you still working with MMB? Doing live performances? Anything else to be recorded soon?
Oh, yeah, Memory’s Mystic Band is my main project now. That project started several years ago after I had major surgery done on my spine. Mellow Drunk had kinda imploded at the time and I didn’t want to do another electric project (wasn’t very steady on my feet either!!!) so I started playing acoustic – just sitting in a chair -- at the Plough and the Stars Pub here in SF. Soon friends started joining in so suddenly there was a fluctuating band. The recordings that have surfaced are actually a couple of years old as we’ve settled into a four-piece now that is much more electric-oriented with me on guitar and vocals, Stephen Cavoretto on keys and vocals, Ville Vilpponen on bass and his brother Jaakko drums.
I was listening to Mellow Drunk the other day (every few days, a different MD album gets popped into my stereo) and wondering, would you ever do any more recordings/shows with MD as the artist name? Do you keep in touch with everyone involved with that past project?
Cool that you’re still into Mellow Drunk!!! Yeah, I’m in contact with everyone from the band. Ricky (Mellow Drunk guitar) has really gotten out there since the band broke up and I’m always amazed by how much he gets done and how many major projects he’s a part of. I can’t even list everything he’s done since the Mellow Drunk days but he joined the Triffids for their re-union shows/tours, did a record with Steve Kilbey, and plays with Liverpool’s Wild Swans (and I know I’m just scratching the surface), in addition to holding down one of the guitar spots with The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Daniel played bass on my “1973” recording, and both Patrick (drums on “One Thousand Lights”) and Sean (drums on “Never Sleep at Night”) played drums. Of course, Stephen (Mellow Drunk keys) and I are in MMB together. Sean and Daniel have also played in Memory’s Mystic Band.
As far as shows with Mellow Drunk go we’ve done a couple of short acoustic sets with me and Steven and Ricky (when he’s in town) at the Plough and the Stars but no plans for any future electric shows. (Sorry!!!!)
What direction do you want to take your music in, in 2010? I wonder about the upcoming decade and what kind of music my favorite artists will bring to me. What kind of ideas are you toying with?
Well, we’re just finishing up a new batch of songs with Memory’s Mystic Band that I’m quite happy with and I’m just striving to make music that will stand the test of time and stay relevant no matter how many years go by. With MMB I’m always trying to draw on influences from folk, blues and beyond, then trying them out to see what works in our format of guitar, keys, bass and drums.
What is your favorite song to play electric? And your favorite acoustic song to play? Have you gotten anymore guitars for your collection? New gear?
I enjoy playing other people’s stuff if I’m sitting around with my acoustic (unless it’s a new song I’ve just written that I’m still trying to work it out) and I think it’s kind of a lost art to hear a song that really affects you, then have a go at it, work it out and play it by yourself (it’s also a great way to learn how other songwriters work).
So… if I’ve got the acoustic out I might play a couple of songs by Jackson C. Frank or Townes Van Zandt. I was meaning to play Ralph McTell’s “Streets of London” or “Zimmerman Blues” for a recent Christmas show but never got to play either of them (didn’t want to muck them up ya know??). I love to play “ Clifton in the Rain,” which is an old, old Al Stewart tune and I’ll sometimes play an old Jimmy Campbell song called “Lovely Eliza Cope is Dead.” I’ll play traditional stuff such as “Angie” or “Lord Franklin.” I’ll play Grant McLennan‘s “Black Mule” a lot and do that one live. Of course, MMB’s first single on the label Edition 59 features a nice cover version of Nikki Sudden’s “Ambulance Station” (we do that one live as well), and we’re just mixing a cover of the Edgar Broughton Band’s great song “Hotel Room.”
As far as electric goes I’ve been playing to lots of Television and Hank Marvin/Shadows tunes over the past year. Over Christmas I was playing along with John Perry’s solos (the Only Ones). He’s a great, way under-rated player!!!! I think after 30 years I might have about 80% of his solo down on “Planet”!!!!!!
Sorry no new gear to report. Actually had to sell a couple of things last year to get by but that’s OK. Unfortunately my long-time guitar tech passed away last year so no mods to any guitars either.
Have you discovered any new bands lately that thrill you? Are you awaiting anyone's upcoming releases this new year?
I listen to a pretty good cross-section of musical genres. Have lots of recordings by contemporary bands (I’m lucky friends turn me on to so much stuff), but I also love to go back and listen to old folk, blues and jazz records. The one thing with being a songwriter and a guitar player is that a lot of time I’m either writing a new song or working something out on the guitar and cuts into the listening time. That said I’ve over the holidays and into the New Year I’ve been listening to an eclectic blend of recordings by the likes of Tame Impala, Charlie Parker, Wizz Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Calexico, Grant Green, Howlin’ Wolf, The Arctic Monkeys and The Walkmen.
Do you have any resolutions for 2010?
Love to get out and tour in 2010. Also want to release a really solid Memory’s Mystic Band CD out. We’ve been going though songs like crazy, recording lots and then kicking songs out trying to get a really solid set of songs together. I think at this point I’d like to lay down about five so six more songs (which would bring the recorded total up to about 20 songs) and then start picking the best tunes for an album.
Why is music so important to us? Getting a little philosophical, but we can get that way at this time of year!
You know, that is a really good question and a hard one to answer. In my case music really appealed to me when I was very young and it’s continued to be very important to me, whether I want it to be or not, throughout the rest of my life. Certain songs tend to mark certain periods of one’s life. When I hear certain songs they bring back certain memories and feelings: the places you’ve lived, the people you knew.
I think once you move from being a listener to being a songwriter it’s a difficult proposition because once you get into the flow of song writing it’s pretty much impossible to stop. I keep a $30.00 cassette player with a tape in it at all times as I know if I don’t capture an idea when it happens (and inevitably song ideas happen at the oddest times) it will probably slip away forever.
Have you read the John Lennon quote about songwriting? I think it’d be a good note to end on so here it ‘tis:
Songwriting… is like being possessed. You try to go to
sleep, but the song won't let you. So you have
to get up and make it into something… It's always in the
middle of the night, or you're half-awake or
tired, when your critical faculties are switched
off… Every time you try to put your finger on it, it
Mr. Leigh Gregory, thank you so much, for giving me the pleasure of another interview. I am really happy to be able to present this to my like-minded music fans who appreciate music the way you and I do. We wish you the best, always.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
What an amazing name for a band. And yes, they make the music to fit the name, quite perfectly. What is said about this 3-piece band from Detroit, Michigan:
"(Sisters Of Your Sunshine Vapor are a) neo-psychedelic, glam-rock band, which has recently self-recorded, produced, and mixed an 8-song LP for free download. This 8-song LP "Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor" incorporates spacey fuzz rock, cavernous reverb, haunting vocals, and a strong drum and bass backbone to lock it all together. The band draws on such influences as Spacemen 3, BRMC, T-Rex, and Joy Division."
Thank you Eric, for sending that to me and giving me the heads up on your band and its huge psychedelic sound, which is now drawing me into its world, happily. I do agree with that description, and I also add in that the vocals are reminiscent of The Black Angels, the guitars are huge, swarming, enveloping, and the songs are composed brilliantly. I will profile the band soon, but for now, get their free download HERE and if you are in New York City this coming weekend, GO SEE THEM AT LIT LOUNGE ON SATURDAY THE 16th OF JANUARY!
Sisters Of Your Sunshine Vapor on MySpace
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Tokyo Raid is a three-piece band from San Fransisco, California. Ben Utah sings and plays bass, Tim Kearney sings and plays guitar, and Mike Thompson plays drums. I came across the music of Tokyo Raid last summer, when I was following leads to good bands by finding out what ex-BJM members are doing (Dean Taylor was playing with Tokyo Raid predecessor The Mandarins a while back) when they leave The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Seeing Dean Taylor's name in The Mandarins, I listened to their songs, and they were some brilliant, catchy little rock songs, something I wanted more of, so I chased up the artist a bit more, finding that Mandarins main man Ben Utah had a band called Tokyo Raid. The songs playing on their MySpace player were from their EP Cleopatra. I wanted it, pronto. Did not find it, but did find their self-titled EP on iTunes. Indulgence and Source Inside, totally addictive songs with their fast, sharp drums and angular, punk-ish guitars. Dark Eyes, Battle of Seattle, and the biggest winner of that EP, Sunday Morning, a long, smooth charmer of a tune, make up Tokyo Raid's self-titled EP. Also now available from the band are a second EP titled When The Devil Calls, Tell Him To Take A Number, and 2 singles titled Let's Pretend We're Friends and 31, all worth getting, my friends. Great garage-style guitar rock, smart, energetic, and edgy.
I asked my favorite edgy guitar rockers a few questions, to see what Tokyo Raid have been up to:
How long have you been making music, and what different projects have you been involved with over the years? Other bands and solo stuff?
MIKE: Been playing music for 20 years this year. Had few bands in high school then formed The Big Nasty before college, played with them for 8 years, 4 of which were spent in
TIM: I started playing in bands in
BEN: I’ve been in bands since I was 17. I was in a bunch of
TIM: TR is now my main project. Most SF clubs look down on bands that play too often within the City so we try to space out our local shows to every 4-6 weeks. We're now also playing more shows up and down the west coast.
BEN: TR has been my main project since 2004. We are looking forward to playing in other cities in 2010. When we were still called the Mandarins, we had an aborted
What is happening around your home city? Does it feel energized as far as music goes? Do you fit into a scene there?
TIM: There are a lot of scenes in SF but there seems to be decent cross-pollination between them.
BEN: I have never comfortably felt like I belong to one scene or another. I think there are a ton of things happening right now, but it’s so marginalized or splintered it is sometimes hard to see if anything is happening at all, until it does happen.
What kind of guitars/amps/gear do you use? (I love learning what my fave musicians use & enjoy playing on, and I think others enjoy this too)
MIKE: Ludwig drums, Paiste cymbals
TIM: I play a Gibson hollowbody electric guitar through a 1980's Marshall head that powers an
BEN: Since switching to bass, I am playing an Epiphone Jack Casady Bass through a bass big muff and into an Ampeg SVT-3 and out a Peavey Black Widow cabinet. It’s a hollowbody as well so it gets great growl and feedback.
What artists do you yourself enjoy?
MIKE: The Who, The Clash, Motorhead, Dropkick Murphys, whatever rocks...
TIM: Some regional bands I like are The DoDos, Bellavista and The Entrance Band.
BEN: I’ve been listening to a ton of Suicide, Joy Division and She Wants Revenge lately. I am digging everything from the Black Angels right now.
TIM: We're about to release five or six songs we worked on over the Fall of 2009. The recording process took longer than expected so we've had time to write some new material while recording older songs. We'd like to crank out future songs faster using a more live recording style.
BEN: Tim’s right, we labored over most of 2009 on songs we were recording, it ended up taking more time than we expected. We should have two releases shortly…the new one plus back catalog stuff off of Cleopatra will be available online soon. Once that is available, all the EP’s will be up and online.
Is there a trip to NYC in your future?!
TIM: My last band played a show in
BEN: I would love to get out to NYC.
Where can we find your music and more about the band?
Much thanks to Ben, Mike, and Tim for taking the time to do this interview! You guys ROCK.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Psychedelic folk music. Let's just say I absolutely adore this style of music. When a new artist making music that can be tagged as 'psychedelic folk' comes into my life, I need to share it, shout about it, and praise its creator(s) for bringing it to me. In the near future, I will write more about UK artist Man On The Moon, but for right now, go check out his MySpace page and have a listen to some songs, then go to his Last.fm page and download his album Without Dreams We Have Nothing. Minimal and smooth, the songs go down so easy, you might find yourself repeating, repeating, repeating........A truly enjoyable experience in psychedelic folk, friends.