Monday, July 31, 2006

Pitchfork Music Festival Coverage

Check out our sister site Radio Free Chicago for write-ups and pics from last weekend's Pitchfork Music Festival out in the windiest of cities.

And come back later on today for updates on this week's shows and recently announced tour dates.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Mini-Interview: Helio Sequence

Portland’s Helio Sequence is pop music army of two made up of Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel, a duo are well known for both their bombastic live performances and super sonic EP and albums (the last on Sub Pop).

In the middle of work on their third cd and preparing for a performance tonight in Seattle, Brandon somehow found time to answer a volley of RFSL questions -- both enthusiastically and extensively. (Which is in a word? Rad.)

Hey, Brandon. How’s Portland treating you? I love that town. The people are so damn nice.

Yeah, Portland's great... Everyone knows everyone...

So, correct me if I’m wrong in my facts here: You two began playing together in a makeshift recording studio at a music store you both worked at back in tenth grade.

Benjamin and I both worked at a small independent music store in Beaverton, a suburb of Portland, called Beaverton Music. It's actually a musical instrument store, not a record store. Mostly band instruments and some guitars, basses, and drums. Our boss was a really cool guy and would let us have run of the shop after hours. It was a small store with two rooms.

We'd clear the floor of one of the rooms and use it as our practice/studio space. We'd stay up literally all night and work on music...writing, practicing, recording, hanging out. A lot of times we'd work until seven or eight in the morning and just sleep at the store for a couple of hours before opening again at nine... or maybe go get coffee and just skip the whole sleep thing. It was always kind of a coffee-fueled marathon.

Did you know each other before then? What made you start up the band?

I actually met Benjamin through his younger brother Paul. Paul and I were good friends in middle school and still are to this day. He's a drummer as well and we played in bands together. Depending on how you look at it, it's kind of an endearing or embarrassing story about how the Helio Sequence came together... I was sixteen, this was in 96... I was asked to play at a family picnic and at that time the band that Paul and I were working on kind of fell apart.

Benjamin had a keyboard project that he had been working on and really wanted to try some of the songs out in a live setting so we all sat down and worked out a couple of long "pieces" and wrote another for the show... I don't know if I'd even call them "songs" ... They were about 8 or nine minutes long and all instrumental... Paul and I played guitar, Benjy drums, and the keys were sequenced.

Benjamin came up with the idea of live sequencing, which to us at that time seemed really novel and has really been the backbone of Helio Sequence since the beginning. It was really cool and inspiring and the Helio Sequence grew from there. (Actually we weren't even called "Helio Sequence" then...the original name was "Grendel".) Paul left the band to pursue drum corps and Benjamin and I carried on. He did play guitar on a song on Love and Distance ("So Stop") though. The amazing thing is that we have a video of our first performance! Someday we'll post it on our website!! The whole thing went down at a sort of ghetto amusement park/carnival called Oaks Park outside of Portland to give you an idea of the strangeness of the event.

What music would you play there?

Well, like I was saying, Beaverton Music wasn't a record store but we did have free reign to put whatever we wanted on the big PA that served as our stereo. If you walked into the store in those times you'd be bound to hear all of the stuff we were listening to and being influenced by then blasting through the PA: My Bloody Valentine, Mouse on Mars, Talking Heads, Miles Davis, The Beatles, The Who, Aphex Twin, Stereolab, Holst, Coltrane, Bowery Electric...too many to mention all of them.

We're both music junkies and there's always something new we're listening to.

Then, after you quit the store to tour, you moved your operations to various family basements and garages. Where do you work on your music now?

It was pretty rough when we quit our jobs to start touring. In effect we lost our practice space, recording studio, and overall place of inspiration. Beaverton Music was really such an incubator for our band. When it came time to really sit down and begin working on what would be Love and Distance we were in a hard position.

We'd been touring A LOT to make ends meet and support Young Effectuals and realized that here in Portland we had literally nowhere to practice or record. We were still able to write at home but tying it all together and getting it recorded was a different matter. And we actually do a lot of writing in the studio and playing live and fleshing ideas out and there was nowhere to do this.

But events really fell together and Isaac Brock was very kind and lent us his practice space at the time. In about three weeks we recorded the basic tracks for most of the songs in Isaac's garage... most of the guitars, keys, drums. I took some of the songs home and worked out and recorded guitar ideas and vocals in my apartment. And Benjamin and I got together and finished the vocals and overdubs and all of the mixing in his parents basement in rural Washington. The album really came together in a lot of different settings and environments over a long period of time.

Going into the recording of this new record we realized that we needed a place to call our own, a home base... something more stable and conducive to our meandering sense of creativity. In March, we set up our studio in the basement of an old dance studio we've leased and have been working on the new record there since.

How do you feel like your sound evolved over the years?

In the beginning of Helio Sequence, we were very focused on texture, sonic effect and "the sound" of music. Songs were basically written over and around sonic conceptions. As time goes on I've become more focused on writing songs from a more elemental place... something where if you played it on an acoustic guitar it would have the same power as a fully arranged song... a song where the power lies not only in the arrangement and sonic quality but at the root.

I think as Helio Sequence has progressed we've become more song oriented. I've had a real awakening over the past few years listening to Bob Dylan. Music means something different to me now than before. There's just a new depth I feel. I think that both Benjamin and I are really set on bridging the idea of a big sonic sound with elemental songwriting... and although this sounds kind of paradoxical, Helio Sequence has always been about creating something from disparate sources... melding things... combining things.... skewing things... to create something kind of off kilter and hopefully new.

I imagine you guys spend a lot of afternoons and nights hiding out in the studio, experimenting with new sounds and compositions. Is that an accurate assumption? Whats your recording process like?

I know it sounds crazy, but we work every day of the week from 10-6 in the studio. And we both have home studio set-ups at home where we can work on things during the weekends, nights, and evenings. We'll take chunks of time off to work at home on songs and stuff like that during the week too. This is a new thing... We used to work more evenings and nights. This record has been a bit different than the others in the writing process so far as well.

In the past Benjamin would have a pretty well-structured keyboard song and we'd work from there.... arranging and writing the "song" live and in the studio. For this record it's been more based on loops as far as keyboards go... a more simple repeating chord pattern/part that Benjamin will bring to the table. We'll jam on the loop in the studio until we both have an idea of what we're doing... a verse/chorus or structure idea or a couple of parts. Then, we'll make a rough recording of that loop.

I'll take that file home and put it on my computer and essentially write a song from the loop. Lay down guitars, overdubs, and vocals and arrange the song and what not. Then we'll meet up at the studio together and discuss what's working and finish the song together. This way of writing seems to lend itself more to song writing becasue if the vocals and the structure are down first you can think about how to complement and offset them with the arrangement rather than competing with what is already in the mix when adding vocals as the last thing.

Of course, this isn't the only way, but seems to be what's going on so far. There are songs that I've brought to the table fully written that we'll then work out together and the same for Benjamin. In the end, I'm sure there will be a bunch of different processes that we use to get this record done, just like in previous records.

Which do you like more: playing live or in the studio?

I don't like one more than the other. I just love music. I love listening, playing, writing, eating, breathing, living music... everything.

What’s next for you?

We're deep in the thick of recording a new record which will be coming out on Sub Pop in early 2007. Like all of our records, this one is shaping up to be different than the one before it...

Any touring plans?

Nothing definite right now, but we may go out do a few shows in fall? We're really concentrated on getting this record done first and foremost. I do know we're playing a show in Portland this September though for the MusicFest NW Festival. I'm really excited to share the stage with two people who I have A LOT of respect for and both of whose music I LOVE: Jeremy Enigk and Britt Daniel.

Last question: What current bands are you listening to these days?

Current bands... Do you mean "new" bands? Well, I'm always listening to new stuff and old stuff all at once really. I just went through a big Van Morrison kick and have been listening to Moondance, Astral Weeks, Veedon Fleece and Saint Dominic's Preview a lot. And Neko Case's new record Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is absolutely amazing. Benjamin and I went to see her when she came through Portland and she is the real deal.

Also, a friend just gave me Johnny Cash's last record American Recordings V as a gift. I love his cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" and his cool version of "God's Gonna Cut You Down." And I picked up a copy of Lou Reed, John Cale, and Nico Le Bataclan '72, a live acoustic recording from Paris...really cool. Oh and Daniel Johnston, Rufus Wainwright, Os Mutantes and Talk Talk's Laughing Stock.

And of course a lot of Helio Sequence as we sit in front of the monitor speakers and record the new record!

That's it! Thanks for your time, Brandon.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Band of the Week: Sea Wolf

“An old gypsy woman said to me, ‘You’re a wolf, boy. Get out of this town...’”

That baleful warning opens the first song I heard from Sea Wolf roughly a year and a half ago … a thoughtful slice of almost orchestral pop and the sole track listed on the band’s Myspace page at the time by Alex Church, the driving force behind Sea Wolf and one of the five co-frontmen of well-regarded, local act Irving.

I heard that song and was immediately hooked, but it unfortunately wasn’t released on cd for over a year later, when Church self-published a several track, hand-printed EP to placate fans. It’s the second that he’s put out one of these while working on a publishing deal with music companies, something that’s taken a mystifyingly long time to any of us on the outside.

I mean, I look at all the terrible bands that get recording contracts, on huge labels to smaller local ones, and can’t understand why extraordinary local acts like Sea Wolf, Division Day, Great Northern, Army Navy, and the like haven’t been signed yet.

Anyway, I caught Sea Wolf’s most recent packed show at The Echo a few weeks ago and it was pretty incredible … vaguely reminiscent of early Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, and Talking Heads, though that description still doesn’t do the group’s unique sound much justice.

The band has rough plans to play in town again at the end of August or early September and I can’t recommend going enough, because frankly Sea Wolf is one of the best unsigned bands in LA and they simply nail it live. Keep an eye out for dates.

RELATED LINK: Mini-Interview: Sea Wolf

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Quickie Album Reviews - TV On The Radio, Two Sheds, The Western States Motel

TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain - 4AD Records
With a who's-who guest list of indie rock stars in tow, the Brooklyn band unleash their second full-length on the world. While it may not contain any instant "singles" like the first, it is a more fullfilling experience in it's entirety. Strange, but swingin', TV On The Radio are still making music unlike anyone else out there. - Gabriel Burger

Two Sheds - Strange Ammunition - UnderAcloud Records
This wife/husband led act from Sacramento spin haunting portentous lullabies with surprising range and variety. A hard candy surprise -- with a hidden track cover of The Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer that steals hearts. - Joe Fielder

The Western States Motel - The Western States Motel - Firebird Field Recordings
Delicate, charming, summer pop music. Maybe not in quite the same epic compositional weight class as The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, but with a heart as similarly big as all outdoors. - Joe Fielder

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Releases Tuesday (7/25)

Jurassic 5 - Feedback (Interscope)
Ouch...I didn't think Amazon actually printed up negative reviews, but the blurb at the bottom of this release actually says, "There are a few outstanding tracks, but overall this is a hip-hop album that sounds as if it were written by a corporate committee--each song directed at a particular demographic--rather than a mini-manifesto crafted to get your fists pumping and/or your feet moving." I knew the loss of Chali 2na a while back would be a major blow to the group, but I had no idea it would turn out this bad.

New York Dolls - One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This (Roadrunner)
After an ugly run in the late 80's/early 90's as lounge blowhard "Buster Poindexter," David Johansen has returned to his bad-ass punk roots and resurrected The New York Dolls...or at least what's left of them (may require registration).

Download: New York Dolls - "Dance Like A Monkey" (MP3)

Spoon - Telephone/Soft Effects(ep) (Merge)
Long out of print, Spoon's debut album from 1996 has been remastered and repackaged with their follow-up EP from the following year, Soft Effects.

Download: Spoon - "The Government Darling" (MP3)

Silversun Pickups - Carnavas (Dangerbird)
Long time RFSL favorite, if you missed last week's review click here, otherwise feast on this:

Silversun Pickups -"Well Thought Out Twinkles" (MP3)

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (or “Take the Wrong Way Home”)

Oh, The Movies, The Movies, The Movies… They’re such complete heart-breakers and life-takers, and have an onstage presence so goddamn larger than life that they sometimes spill out over the stage.

They played at The Derby last Thursday night and sounded fantastic -- the new songs off their forthcoming album, especially. If only my digital camera hadn’t been destroyed in a tragic poolside beach ball accident, I’d have shots from that night’s performance. Next time…

In Related News:
- Next Saturday is the day of tough choices: Indie pop stars Irving and Say Hi to Your Mom are playing an early show at The Echo, and Dirty on Purpose – the band who I can’t stop listening to lately -- is opening for Papa M at Spaceland, while The Slow Demise, The Soft Hands, Die! Rockers Die!, One Trick Pony, Death to Anders!, The Transmissions, Cardoza, and The Happy Hollows are all performing for free at the Central Second Collective Summer Festival.
- Wolfmother and The Pink Mountaintops will be playing together on September 28 at the Palladium. For those about to rock out with your cock out, we salute you.
- The following bands have announced shows for LA: We Are Scientists, Art Brut, The Spinto Band, Phoenix, Andrew Bird, The French Kicks, Goldspot, Deerhoof , The Black Keys, The Ettes, Darker My Love, The Sleepy Jackson, Gran Ronde, Killola, Death to Anders!, The Mates of States, Gram Rabbit, The 88, Two Sheds, The Mountain Goats, Jenny Lewis, Aimee Mann, The Sounds, The Pity Party, The Antarcticans, The Pogues, Two Gallants, Black Angels, The Strokes, Serena Maneesh, Starsailor, The National, and Lucero. (See the right-hand column for venues and dates.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mini-Interview: Cold War Kids

It’s hard to think of something to say about Cold War Kids that hasn’t already been said elsewhere and better: Original. Boisterous. Kinetic. Soulful. Flooring. Intelligent without pretension. Put any combination of those terms together and you’ll do a better job than I will, but believe me when I say that their bluesy rock sound is a force to be reckoned with live.

In between the recent simultaneous release of their two EPS Up In Rags and With Our Wallets Full and a momentary break in their extensive touring schedule, the guys took time to take part in an email interview with RFSL. And this is how it went.

Hey, guys.

Hello, this is Nathan of Cold War Kids. Jonnie, Maust, and I are trading off on questions in Montgomery Alabama. Here goes.

It’s been said that rock is at its best when it takes from different genres, instead of just feeding on itself. You guys would agree with that, right? Where does your sound come from? What influences it?

Certainly. Our sound comes from a lot of stuff that I don't totally know how to make sense of. We all listen to a wide variety of music and in some ways I think that we are just beginning to tap in to the influences that we have been claiming from the start. I remember being younger and hearing Fugazi and they would say that their sound was taken from reggae and I didn't totally understand that but I thought it was exciting and different, that they could be this sort of hardcore group that made you wanna move in a way you never had before. I hope that we can do some of that by taking a some Tom Waits type songs and really mashing Stevie Wonder in there. Genres are really simplified when you think about all good music is soul music. We feel that we are soulful.

How long have you all been playing together? How did you meet and start up?

We've been playing together for two years this July. Matt and Nathan sort of played a few years back in a different band, that never really went further than a few practices. Jonnie and Nathan started writing some songs and asked me (Maust) to join in on bass. Matt came a about a month later and we were off and playing.

Why release two EPs instead of an album?

The two Eps were recorded at different times, in different rooms, and with different equipment. As collections of songs they were intended to comprise a cohesive album and we think that you can hear those differences in both the recording situations and song arrangements. In another sense they together represent about six months of song writing for us. So in that way they fit together. We tried to represent that similarity in the artwork/ packaging.

What was your studio experience like for those?

Wallets Full was a bedroom pro tools direct mic experience. Jason Martin helped us and he was great. Up in Rags we got to experiment a bit more with mics around the room with vocals, guitar amps, percussion; which is really what makes a recording special. We're still green on the studio side of things, so Up in Rags and post, our writing and recording experience has been more learning and throwing out ideas that may be ridiculous and may work.

How was your tour with Tapes N Tapes? What was the best show?

The tour was really fast and loopy. The route was really wacky and I think there was only one day off. But it was great getting to know the tapes guys. It was only our 2nd tour so we're still learning the road lifestyle, but we had a blast. I think my favorite show was the one at Austin at Stubbs BBQ (although I had the veggie plate). We were really late at getting to the show, so we had to throw up our gear in a flash and play. For some reason there was a different twist to it because of our tardiness. It felt very southern too.

You guys have been touring pretty relentlessly this year. How you holding up?

Since late spring/early summer. I think we're learning to hold up as we go. We're definitely beginners. Lots of tea, water, fruit, and veggies. Learning to play the same songs over and over for months at a time is very new for us. Before we toured we just wrote new songs every week and played them the next week. Never the same. Touring has changed that some what. But we're working at it and learning to mature in those ways. We're enjoying the process.

Who designed your cd covers? Because they look fantastic.

I (Maust) do all the artwork for the band. Lately, I've really been getting into a lot of the Futurist Poetry type stuff as of lately. It's had a big influence on a lot of the artwork that I've been making lately for the band. Actually, I have an exhibit coming up in November in the SilverLake / Echo Park area in which I'll be displaying many of the art pieces which will contribute to the up and coming cwk releases.

What’s next for you?

We have been recording with a guy that we like a lot in LA and we'll be touring. We are started tour with Sound Team last night in New Orleans and ends in Chicago at Lollapalooza. Out of nowhere festivals in Norway and Iceland in the next couple months will be some fun adventures.

Last question: Who are your favorite bands in LA right now?

Easy! Richard Swift.

That’s it. Thanks for your time, guys.

Cold War Kidsare playing next on August 8th with The Editors at The Avalon and then are headlining The Troubadour on September 8th.

RELATED LINK: Band of the Week: The Cold War Kids

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Band of the Week: Bedroom Walls

Bedroom Walls are the sort of reward you sometimes get when you go out to see a show in LA and hang around to hear what the other bands are like. At least, that was the case when I went to see Division Day at El Cid two weeks ago and luckily caught these guys afterwards.

Bedroom Walls call what they do “romanticore,” but I call it “pretty” and “fun” ... some of the most instantly endearing music I’ve come across yet. Each song was a pleasant surprise.

I mean, really, I’m a sucker for songs that use organ and Bedroom Walls not only do they have a stellar keyboard player, but often have someone on xylophone and sometimes even a triangle. On top of all that, the group switched instruments frequently in the effortless way that former long-standing members of high school band seem to be able to fully carry off.

In between numbers once, 70’s suited lead Adam Goldman called out requests from the audience and when someone jokingly yelled “Bob Seeger!” busted into a quiet but amazing rendition of one of his works that shut everyone up quickly. (“That’s a goddamn lot better than any Bob Seeger song I’ve ever heard…” I heard someone say nearby.)

By the time it was all over, I’d made plans to come back and see them again before their Tuesday night residency in July at El Cid was up. And after looking into it more, next week when they play with similarly precious pop act Let’s Go Sailing sounds like the perfect night.

RELATED LINK: Let’s Go Sailing Mini-Interview

Quickie Album Reviews: The Silversun Pickups, Be Your Own Pet, Thom Yorke

The Silversun Pickups "Carnavas" Dangerbird Records
The long-awaited full-length from L.A.'s current best live act is quiet-loud-quiet indie rocking at its near finest. Those used to the band's earlier demo recordings might scratch their heads at the reworked versions of some of their old favorites, but the album's excellent new material delivers in its stead. Perhaps not quite full potential for SSPU, but still not to be missed. - Joe Fielder

Be Your Own Pet "Be Your Own Pet" Infinity Cat Recordings
So their parents are all well-connected, there's a major label logo on their spines, and they sound more than a little like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. None of these things can hold back and the brash unbridled energy of this strikingly good debut. Distilling down adolescent momentum into bubble gum sticky punk, these Tennessee teens tear through every song with a welcomely unrehearsed and refreshing recklessness. - Josh Berquist

Thom Yorke "The Eraser" XL Recordings
The most surprising thing about the surprise solo offering from Radiohead's frontman, is the sense of hope it contains. While still chock-full of common radiohead themes (despair, paranoia) it actually contains what can only be called love songs. A mostly electronic affair with a few natural touches, it approaches the quieter moments of Kid A while not suffering from the meandering that that album did by maintaining its focus and keeping the songs tight. It's not going to change the world, but for late-night alone time, Thom Yorke remains a good friend. - Gabriel Burger



Tuesday, July 18, 2006

New Releases Tuesday - 7/18

Golden Smog - Another Fine Day (Lost Highway)
The "Midwest Supergroup" returns for another batch o' alt-country/pop/rock jams. Rocking this current line-up of the Smog are Gary Louris (Jayhawks), Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum), Marc Perlman (Jayhawks) and Kraig Jerrett Johnson (Run Westy Run).

MSTRKRFT - The Looks(Last Gang Records)
Debut full-length from MSTRKFRFT, the dance-tastic side project from Jesse Keeler of DFA 1979 and his producer pal Al-P.

Psalm One - The Death Of Frequent Flyer (Rhymesayers)
Southside Chicago native Psalm One has been reppin’ the Windy City on the mic since 1998. A cross between Lauryn Hill and Devin The Dude, Psalm stands ready to follow in the footsteps of fellow Chi-town greats Kanye West and Common, while taking her place next to up-and-comers like Lupe Fiasco. The self-proclaimed quirky B-Girl and former chemist ushers in a new breed of "Rapper Girl" with the release of her Rhymesayers debut, "The Death of Frequent Flyer." -Amazon.com

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (Or "Act Like A Cat, Everything's Intentional, Even When You're Dumb")

The other night I thought it would be an excellent idea to write words on my knuckles … you know, like LOVE and HATE from Meatloaf in Rocky Horror … but I decided that those words weren’t quite dumb enough for my purposes, so I started to write DON’T and STOP, instead.

I had my fists turned to face me, so wrote DON’T on my left hand’s knuckles, then realized I’d screwed up -- not quite the equivalent to being in high school and writing SID LIVES on your jeans facing you and then discovering that it was upside down to everyone else -- but that it was funnier that way, so continued putting STOP on my right hand.

For the rest of the day, anyone I disagreed with got two fists of STOP! DON’T! in their face. (And pretty much anyone else, too. I wasn’t really picky.)

Anyway, that’s what passes for a column intro around here today, I guess. Normally, I’d try to tie it into the topic, but again… It's probably better just to run off at a right angle and write about last week’s shows, which were amazing.

I'm certainly not able to go to every great show in LA each week, but I lucked out last week, between indie rock originals Division Day and romanticore dreamboats Bedroom Walls at El Cid, the even-better-all-the-time Great Northern and experimental-but-accessible Pity Party at Silver Lake Lounge, and lazy pop superstars The Western States Motel at their cd release show at Tangiers last night. It was three for three for fantastic last week.

And this week looks like it’ll turn out as good or better.

On Tuesday night, Great Northern – who now have a new line-up and are performing some great new songs – will play The Echo with Sea Wolf, the other band that Alex from Irving is in and one of my favorite live acts in town. Seriously, not one to miss.

Meanwhile, Bedroom Walls continue their Tuesday night residency at El Cid. After catching their completely frigging endearing set last week, I’d really recommend seeing them live. (Myself? I have to miss for Sea Wolf, but I’ll be back again when they play with Let’s Go Sailing next week.)

On Thursday night, the Beach Boys-flavored harmonic pop band The Explorers Club from Charleston, South Carolina arrive at The Silver Lake Lounge. And the local indie pop/rock legends The Movies play at The Derby. I’m going to try to catch both.

There’s a lot more going on that that – including Camera Obscura, Midnight Movies, The Raconteurs, Minor Canon, Imperial Teen, Blue Cheer w/ Goblin Cock, and The Like (see the right-hand show column) – but those are the shows I’m most looking forward to this week.

Expect more show updates soon. A lot has been announced recently.

RELATED LINKS:
Sea Wolf Mini-Interview
Let’s Go Sailing Mini-Interview
Division Day Mini-Interview
The Movies Interview

Friday, July 14, 2006

Mini-Interview: Fred Thomas

Let me start this with the lyrics to the Fred Thomas song Get It Together, since the best introduction to a conversation with him is very likely a musical one.

I can’t ever get it together and I just can’t let you go. I knew I wanted to be with you forever a long, long time ago.

But you’re always changing you mind. And everyone’s asking me why. But nobody knows you like I do and they can’t see how you shine.

When the springtime comes, I’ll write you a letter about everything I love. We’ll stay up listening to records until we see the sun.

There could nothing more true than the time that I’m spending with you. I couldn’t love you more than I do.

You can’t ever get it together because you like the both of us. I understand that but whatever the choice is obvious.


Now, go listen to the song here.

Are you back now? Okay.

Earlier this week, I interviewed Fred over the Interweb. I tried not to gush or anything, but honestly? I can’t think of a current singer-songwriter who I’m more impressed by than him.

I think he’s scary talented. (He also just finished a new album and likes writing in all caps.)

Hey, Fred. How are you doing today?

PRETTY FANTASTIC. I SLEPT REALLY LATE AND WE'RE ABOUT TO WALK OVER TO THIS VINTAGE STORE AND TRY TO SELL A BUNCH OF CLOTHES.

What’s the weather like in Michigan right now?

I DON'T KNOW FIRSTHAND, I'M IN BROOKLYN RIGHT NOW DOING A RESIDENCY AT THIS SMALL GALLERY. IT'S RIDICULOUSLY UNBEARABLY HOT HERE, AND I'D IMAGINE THAT IT'S REALLY HOT IN MICHIGAN BUT IN A DIFFERENT WAY. MORE TREESEY.

My friend Paul refers to your music as being “pleasantly melancholy.” I think that’s because it often hits the kind of notes in the listener like when you look back endearingly about a failed love affair and smile even though it’s a little sad. (Or similar sorts of, I don’t know, magnificent heartache.) Is that intentional?

I'M NOT SURE HOW TO RESPOND TO THIS QUESTION BECAUSE I GET THAT ASSESSMENT FROM A LOT OF PEOPLE, BUT IT'S CERTAINLY NOT INTENTIONAL BY ANY MEANS. I REALLY APPRECIATE "PLEASANTLY MELANCHOLY" MUSIC, BUT I NEVER SET OUT TO MAKE MUSIC LIKE THAT OR LIKE ANYTHING REALLY.

I’D FEEL SO FAKEY TRYING TO MAKE SOMETHING THAT WAS HEARTBROKEN SOUNDING AND TRYING TO HONE IT UNTIL IT WAS JUST HOPEFULLY DOWN ENOUGH, OR STRUCK SOME SORT OF CHORD LIKE THAT, YOU KNOW?

I'VE NEVER LOOKED BACK AT ANY FAILED LOVE AFFAIRS OF MINE OR ANYONE I KNOW AND SMILED, SO MAYBE THAT'S SOMETHING WEIRD ABOUT ME, OR SOMETHING A-SIMILAR TO A LOT OF PEOPLE, BUT I ALWAYS GET PEOPLE LISTENING TO MY MUSIC AND HEARING 100% BREAKUP SONGS OR FAILED ROMANCE ANTHEMS AND I NEVER THINK ABOUT MY SONGS IN THAT WAY. I ALWAYS APPROACH MAGNIFICENT HEARTACHE LIKE "OH, OK, THEN WHAT? WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THAT ACHING AND WHY AND WHO CARES?"

THERE ARE OTHER THINGS TO SING ABOUT AND I GUESS IT JUST SEEMS LIKE I'M SINGING ABOUT THE USUAL, THOUGH IT SEEMS SO DIFFERENT TO ME.

What’s your song-writing process like? You seem to put a lot more work into each song than a lot of writers. I mean, a track like Friends and Parents is packed with these amazing lines that keep coming, while a lot of bands seem to just focus on having a catchy chorus.

I DEFINITELY FOCUS ON LYRICS AND THE INTRICACIES AND POETRY OF LYRICS. MUSICALLY SO MUCH OF WHAT ENDS UP BEING A SONG IS JUST KIND OF IMPROVISED OR THROWN TOGETHER IN A DEMO FORM, AND VERY JAGGEDLY FILTERED DOWN UNTIL IT'S A FINISHED PRODUCT TO FRAME THE LYRICAL CONTENT OR MAYBE TO HIGHLIGHT A SPECIAL SOUND OR INSTRUMENT, SO THE SONG-STRUCTURES GET KIND OF WEIRD OR ALL OVER THE PLACE.

I USED TO JUST START PLAYING AND SINGING AND EVERYTHING WOULD COME OUT ALMOST SUB-CONCSIOUSLY. IT WAS REALLY NICE TO JUST EXPEL WHAT I WAS FEELING, AND I GOT LUCKY A FEW TIMES WITH SOME REALLY FANTASTIC SONGS TO GO ALONG WITH THOSE FEELINGS, TOO.

How many instruments do you play?

I COULDN'T SAY I PLAY ANYTHING BESIDES GUITAR, AND EVEN THAT NOT TOO WELL. I JUST KIND OF DICK AROUND ON EVERYTHING AND PLAY LESS WHEN I UNDERSTAND IT LESS.

You’re a part of a few different bands. How would you describe the differences in their sounds?

I PLAY IN SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME AND BY MYSELF SOLO, AND SOMETIMES I PLAY WITH HIS NAME IS ALIVE OR THE TRANZISTORS, AND MY BAND FLASHPAPR SOMETIMES RECONVEINES, THOUGH WE ALL ARE SCATTERED ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

I NEVER THINK OF IT AS DIFFERENT BANDS, SOMEHOW, BUT MORE LIKE A COLLECTION OF PEOPLE I REALLY BELIEVE IN AND WHO HAVE A GREAT UNDERSTANDING OF EACH OTHER'S INTENTIONS AND FEELINGS. I PLAY WITH WHOEVER COMES TO MY HOUSE TO RECORD MUSIC, AND HAVE TOURED WITH IDA, KELLY JEAN CALDWELL, BEN AND BRUNO, NOMO...

A BUNCH OF DRASTICLY DIFFERENT SOUNDMAKERS, AND THEY ALL MAKE SENSE TO ME AS THE SAME VIBE OR INTENT.

How do you decide what gets recorded under, say, Saturday Looks Good to Me or your solo act?

AGAIN, THERE'S NO DEFINITIVE PROCESS OR WORKING MODE. A LOT OF SONGS HAVE BEEN RECORDED IN DIFFERENT VERSIONS FOR DIFFERENT BANDS I'VE BEEN IN. IT JUST SEEMS LIKE THERE'S A TON OF SONGS AND THEY COULD GO SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS AND NEVER BE FINISHED EVER, SO WHY BOTHER TRYING TO FIND A CONCLUSIVE TAKE?

How long have you been working on this current solo album? What was it like recording it?

THERE WAS SOME WORK DONE ON IT ABOUT A YEAR IN ADVANCE, LIKE ONE OR TWO SONGS THAT WERE KIND OF WRITTEN AND THROWN TOGETHER OR DEMOED, BUT THEN AROUND OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER OF 2005, THERE WAS A PERIOD OF INSANE, UNREASONABLE, UNNATURAL JOY AND INSPIRATION AND THE ENTIRE PROJECT AND RECORDING PROCESS TOOK SHAPE. IT WAS REALLY ONE OF THE BEST FEW MONTHS OF MY LIFE.

I REMEMBER WORKING CONSTANTLY ON LYRICS AND RECORDING TONS OF DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE SONGS, AND EVERY PART OF THE PROCESS MADE EVERYTHING FEEL SO NEW.

EVERY TIME I SMOKED A CIGARETTE OR DRANK A CAN OF COKE IT FELT LIKE I WAS FOURTEEN YEARS OLD AND EXPERIENCING LIFE FOR THE FIRST TIME, STEMMING OUT FROM HOW EXCITED I WAS ABOUT MAKING THESE SONGS AND WHAT I WAS TRYING TO DO WITH THEM. WHERE OTHER SOLO RECORDS I'D MADE WERE GOOD OR FUN OR WHATEVER, THEY WERE KIND OF COBBLED TOGETHER AND JUST KINDA THERE, BUT THESE SONGS HAD SUCH PURPOSE AND REAL DRIVE BEHIND THEM. IT WAS AMAZING. I THINK OF THIS COLLECTION AS THE BEST RECORD I'VE EVER MADE.

Your previous two solo works Turn it Down and I Heard the Angels Sing are some of my favorite albums from the last few years. How can people track them down?

I'VE ONLY EVER MADE CD-RS OF THOSE RECORDS, MAYBE ABOUT 400 OR 500 COPIES OF EACH HAVE BEEN CIRCULATED. I STILL PRESS UP CDRS AND HAVE THEM AVAILABLE THROUGH MY LABEL YPSILANTI RECORDS, BUT IT WOULD BE GREAT TO SOMEDAY HAVE SOMEONE RE-ISSUE THEM AS REAL LIVE CDS.

What’s next for you?

SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME IS FINISHING OUR NEW RECORD, AND IT'S A LOT DARKER AND WEIRDER THAN ANYTHING WE'VE DONE SO FAR. I'M REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT AND I THINK IT COULD BE A REALLY IMPORTANT SOUND TO A LOT OF PEOPLE.

Last question: Who are your favorite current bands?

I'M NOT SO SURE ON CONTEMPORARY BANDS OUTSIDE OF MY SCOPE OF CONSPIRATORS. ALL THE MUSIC THAT I'M SURROUNDED BY WITH THE LABEL I LIKE A LOT, NATURALLY.

ODD CLOUDS, GENDERS, DEAD MACHINES, HIS NAME IS ALIVE, LITTLE CLAW, HUMAN EYE, BEN AND BRUNO, THE ROUGH BUNNIES... ALL THE BANDS I TOUR WITH OR PLAY WITH.

I LOVE DEVENDRA BANHART'S LAST FEW RECORDS AND I GET REALLY INTO LITTLE WINGS AND THE MICROPHONES. THOSE BANDS BLOW MY MIND.

That’s it. Thanks for your time, Fred.

RELATED LINK: BAND OF THE WEEK: FRED THOMAS

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Band of the Week: The Little Ones

I hope this doesn’t come off badly, but when I first saw The Little Ones play – first at one of Division Day’s residency nights at The Echo and later at their EP’s release event at El Cid – I was more into their recorded music. It sounded a little tighter, a little sharper, a little more polished. Live they had a lot of charisma on stage, but were kind of loose at times.

Flash forward to last Friday night at The Echo and … wow. Their set was incredible, flawless, and fun. I’ve called them “smile merchants” before and it’s hard not to reuse again, because they played their sing-song brand of pop that night with such sincere intensity that everyone in the audience grew huge grins across their faces. And it was impossible to stand still. The show was such a charmer that it even made me go back and pay attention to songs on their EP that I’d barely noticed in the past.

Consider it perfect timing that The Little Ones have become one of LA’s finest live acts, what with their free Monday night residency coming up soon. Outside of something like the loss of a limb, I think there’s little excuse for you not to attend one (or more) of those dates.

Go, just go.

The Little Ones will play every Monday night in August at Spaceland, which is located at 1717 Silver Lake Blvd in the Silver Lake neighborhood of LA.

RELATED LINK: The Little Ones Mini-Interview

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Video Free Silverlake: The Russian Futurists

Album reviews will be coming back to the site next Wednesday, I promise. In the meantime, check out this fantastic video for The Russian Futurists' song, Paul Simon.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

New Releases Tuesday - 7/11

Thom Yorke - Eraser (XL Recordings)
Guess Thom was as bored waiting for Radiohead's follow-up to Hail to the Thief as the rest of us.

Peaches - Impeach My Bush (XL Recordings)
Back and raunchy as ever, Peaches 3rd release features guest appearances from Joan Jett, Josh Homme and her old roomie, Leslie Feist.

Muse - Black Holes and Other Revelations (Warner Bros)
For you rockers out there still waiting for Radiohead's return to rock ala The Bends, this new Muse record will probably hold you over better than Thom's solo release. Check out the new single, "Knights of Cydonia" here.

Rhymefest - Blue Collar (J-Records)
The debut record is here...hopefully now Rhymefest can finally drop that annoying "guy who co-wrote Jesus Walks" moniker.

Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche (Asthmatic)
I'd like to nominate this record for most obnoxious album cover of the year so far.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (Or "Why Don't You Show Us Where Your Heart Is?")

This week looks like a pretty good week for people who can’t stay home. I mean, there’s the super-energetic Happy Hollows at Il Corral tonight. On Tuesday, there’s high quality co-billing of Division Day and The Bedroom Walls at El Cid. On Thursday? Ship Collective members Great Northern and The Pity Party -- who I don't know, but they're managed by one of the guys from the sadly defunct Green and Yellow TV -- at The Silver Lake Lounge. And on Sunday, The Western States Motel (who we interviewed last Friday) are having an album release event at Tangiers.

The other days? I’m afraid you’re on your own. (I hear Superman Returns is okay.)

The following bands have announced show dates for LA (see the right-hand column for details): Sufjan Stevens, Final Fantasy, Shiloe, The Like, Let’s Go Sailing, The Bedroom Walls, Helen Stellar, Harvey Danger, and Oh No! Oh My!.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Mini-Interview: The Western States Motel

Wake up, wake up, you’re sleeping the day away, sings The Western States Motel’s Carl Jordan in the first few moments of his band’s debut cd, due out later this month. A million mysteries, they whisper your name.

They’re lines like many on the album -- lyrics with images of broken playa above the city at night, views of a small town with nothing to do, an ocean in your eyes, and being so high up you never want to come down – which when they hit just right, imbed themselves in your brain and make it clear they have no intention of leaving.

It’s pop music at its most unabashed, without pretension, all heart, and catchy as a mother-fucker.

We recently talked to Carl, figuring the best time to ask him about the construction of The Western States Motel was right now on the eve of his album’s release and upcoming show at Tangiers.

Hi, Carl. So, where you from? How long have you been making music?

I’m originally from Monterey, CA. Spent a few years in Santa Cruz, and now I live in LA. I started playing an acoustic guitar when I was thirteen, but for me, just as exciting was spending every dollar I had on my first 4-track.

How did you start The Western States Motel?

I found myself without a band for the first time since I could remember, and for whatever reason, I thought I'd just try working on some songs by myself. I started in on some recordings I intended to use as a score for this short film that was bouncing around my head, but I eventually ditched the film idea, and slowly shifted my focus to actual songs with vocals and all that. I recently enlisted a couple of friends to play the songs live, and now were a band.

How long have you been working on these songs?

Wow. A few of the songs on the album began to take shape as long as three years ago. A good portion of it was created within the last few months though.

Who or what are your influences? (I’d have to guess driving in the desert and sleeping on the beach would be at least part of the latter.)

Yeah, I love being out in the desert for sure, and definitely get a lot of inspiration from any sort of uninhabited expanse. It’s funny that you mention sleeping on the beach, though, because thats probably going to be the plan for some of these out-of-town shows we’ve got lined up later this year.

And the album is done now, correct?

Yes. Though I’m waiting for it to be delivered. I’m hoping it shows up before we drive to San Francisco.

You mentioned to me before that you’ve got a tip of the cap to a well-worn old blues line in the song, Southwest Planez. What was it again?

One of these days and it wont be long, you’ll look for me baby, and I’ll be gone. It’s a line that’s probably been around since the very beginnings of blues music and eventually appeared in different variations in songs by Zeppellin, Johnny Cash, Velvet Underground; I’m sure there’s tons more. I listened to a lot of blues when I was first learning guitar, so over the years, as I discovered those other bands, I realized they were all using that same line. Cash only uses the first half, but it’s sung the same way you hear it in those other places.

You’ve got a few dates up the California coast in support of the albums release. What’s next for you after that?

I think we’re just planning on doing as many little trips around the state as we can, trying to get the album out there. There are already some new songs to record, but that process probably won’t get going for a few months. I’d love to do some music for a short film, but not that one I was talking about earlier.

Who are some of your favorite bands in LA right now?

There’s these guys I’ve seen play at El Compadre a couple of times while eating dinner. I don’t even know if they have a name, but they rule.

That's it. Many thanks for your time, Carl.

Thank you, Joe.

The Western States Motel will play on Sunday, July 16th at Tangiers, which is located at 2138 Hillhurst ave in the Los Feliz neighborhood of LA.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Band of the Week: Big Black

When someone shouted out requests for Steve Albini's old act Big Black when he played with Shellac at The Echo last year, he told the crowd that someone needed to let go of the 80s.

That guy certainly wasn’t me – there aren't many things I hate more than 80s music – but I find that there are few bands from that era that hold up as well as Albini’s Big Black

Even with the act's ancient Roland drum machine beats, you could listen to any of their albums today and find that they retain a razor sharpness. Albini was in prime satirical form with the band, with tongue-in-cheek songs about slaughtering livestock, the power of independent trucking, being so bored where you live that you set yourself on fire, and more.

It was quick, witty, loud, offended all the right people, and I credit it with influencing fellow Chicagoan Al Jourgensen to stop singing with a fake English accent with his band Ministry and start playing extremely loud. I used to play their album Songs About Fucking incessantly while driving back in my high school, though I was too young to see them perform live before they broke up.

Albini went on to engineer/produce albums by The Pixies, Nirvana, and PJ Harvey, create new bands like Shellac, and poke fun at concert-goers who wanted to hear his older material. But last week, Touch & Go Records announced that the band would re-unite to “play a few songs” at the label’s 25th anniversary celebration on September 8 – 10 in Chicago.

So, I guess the dates for my next trip home just got decided...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

My Favorite Music Sites (Or "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog")

Sure, Pitchfork is a fantastic music site, but it can’t be all things to all people … and shouldn’t be. Here are some of my other favorite music sites and blogs, both local and national.

You Set The Scene – Duke does a great job covering LA’s live music scene, with a detailed look at each week’s show options.

Rock Insider – Sometimes it seems like Jax attends every single concert in LA. She writes about what’s coming up and what’s she’s just seen, complete with mp3 samples.

Gorilla vs. Bear - Simply put, one of independent music’s premiere MP3 sites.

Little Radio – News, reviews, and interviews from scads of blog sites, along with a little radio to boot.

Inflight at Night – More quality concert coverage for kids in LA.

3hive - This MP3 site got me into Jeniferever back in 05 and I’ve been singing its praises ever since.

Rewritable Content - Another great music site focusing on shows here in LA.

Radio Free Chicago - What music site list would be complete without a shout-out to our excellent sister site out in the Windy City?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

New Releases Tuesday - 7/4

Johnny Cash - American V: A Hundred Highways (Lost Highway)
You can't get any more American than Cash, so I guess it's appropriate that his last release comes out on the 4th of July. Once again under the guise of Rick Rubin, the vocal tracks for American V were cut in the months prior to his death in September of 2003, but the musical arrangements weren't worked out until last year. Cash's posthumous backing band includes Beck pal/side guitar pro Smokey Hormel, Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, Matt Sweeney of Chavez fame and Ekoostik Hookah percussionist Johnny Polansky. Includes the usual batch of covers and spirituals, as well as the last song that Cash ever wrote, "Like The 309."

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (Or “My Kingdom for a Bomb Pop...”)

Welcome to the days of stuffy summer shows, as evidenced by last Friday’s fantastic but incredibly crowded Band of Horses performance at The Echo. The choice between moving up close to the stage or hanging back under the cool breeze of the fans was like the little boy picking between the ball and the sword in Koike and Kojima’s Lone Wolf & Cub: We sweat it out like ronin.

As far as this week’s show options go, if you haven’t gotten tickets to see Belle & Sebastian play the Hollywood Bowl – with the LA Philharmonic backing them and The Shins opening it all up – there’s always The Silversun Pickups at The Hammer Museum at UCLA, Great Northern and Fielding at The Echo, and more.

And Friday sees the quality line-up of Hawthorne’s bad gods Dios Malos and local smile merchants The Little Ones, along with Submarines and Peter and the Wolf, at The Echo, while Saturday sees Petra Haden w/ The Sell-Outs and Lavender Diamond delivering a double-dose of pretty-sounding music at Safari Sam’s.

In Related News:

- Guess I was wrong about you not being able to see The Silversun Pickups or Cold War Kids in LA any time soon. SSPU are playing this week (see above) before leaving on tour and then on August 17 at The Troubadour upon their return, while the Cold Wars Kids are opening up for The Editors here at Tuesday, August 8.

- From the helm of the Ship Collective, Earlimart report that “well we're really close to finishing the new record. mixing as we speak.”

- The following bands have announced show dates for LA (see the right-hand column for details): Sea Wolf, Division Day, Space Mtn, Bedroom Walls, The Church, Marjorie Fair, Great Northern, The Minders, Mew, Roger Joseph Manning Jr, Let’s Go Sailing, Papa M, Dirty on Purpose, The Sleepy Jackson, Black Heart Procession, Birdmonster, French Kicks, Headlights, The Subways, and The Black Keys.