Friday, April 28, 2006

Mini-Interview: The Little Ones

LA’s The Little Ones know more about charisma than the entire graduating class of your local charm school and make music that simply induces smiles. From lead singer Edward Nolan Reyes’ catchy lyrics, to Lee LaDouceur’s playful keyboard notes (which pop out and grab hold of you at key moments), to the perpetual grin sported by bassist Brian Reyes, it all serves to turn your average indie rock listener’s frown upside down.

After the band’s recent EP release event at El Cid, we decided to check in with them to find out exactly what makes them so happy and, what’s more, why they decided to share.

Hi, Edward. So, what’s the band’s name from? I found search results on Google ranging from religious quotes like “We are the little ones God has chosen to confound the wise.” to web-sites about kindergarten classes...

Our band name is the direct result of my two pugs. Whenever my family or friends would ask about them, they would always say, "How are 'the little ones?'"

You guys all seem like you have a lot of fun playing together, so I’d guess that you’ve been friends for awhile. How did you all meet and start playing together?

We’ve been playing as a band for about two years, and we’re all friends and interconnected in one way or another. My brother Brian is in the band. Ian and I used to be in a band together. Ian is best friends with Greg our drummer. Lee, our keyboard/bass player, has been dating Ian’s sister for years. [And] Ian’s sister lives with my brother [and] Ian, Lee, and Greg all grew up in San Diego.

Yes, we definitely have fun each and every time we get together for practice and when we play shows. I think we are all just grateful to be playing music with good friends.

How would you describe your sound, if you had to pin it down? Who are your influences (past and present)?

It’s so hard to describe your own sound. I’d say that the type of music we’re creating would be called “social music.” We try to create music that entertains us and gets us excited and in turn we hope that listeners tune in and get their feet moving. I think we’re all influenced by the great music of the Motown era. I think that music created during that era was the closest pop music ever came to perfection. We are also influenced by the music of Os Mutantes and Gilberto Gil. The combination of rhythm and melody in the songs by Os Mutantes and Gilberto Gil is unparalleled.

You just released the six-song EP Sing Song. Tell me a little bit about the recording process.

We recorded our EP with David Newton, who was a member of The Mighty Lemon Drops. Working with him in the studio was a dream. He really added some great ideas to the recording process and created an atmosphere that was fun and creative. I’ve never had an experience like that in the studio. We actually recorded more than the six songs found on our EP [and] recorded off and on for about six months.

I think one of our favorite moments was when we decided to take a break from recording and ate a bucket of Popeye’s Chicken. I think that somehow really put us in a good headspace and dictated the direction we should be heading. I have to say that we didn’t have any moments we liked the least. It was a dream to work with David in the studio.

What’s next for the band? Any tour or residency plans?

We’ll playing The Echo with Kelley Stoltz and Irving on May 19th and plan on doing a west coast tour in the summer. I think doing a residency would be a fun thing to do down the line.

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

Some of my favorite bands right now are The Bird and The Bee (Inara George and Greg Kurstin), Graham MacRae, Jon Gake, and this band called Army Navy.

As mentioned above, The Little Ones are playing next at on May 19th with Irving and Kelley Stoltz on May 19th at The Echo, which is located at 1822 Sunset Blvd in the Echo Park neighborhood of LA. And to enter to win a copy of their EP and limited edition poster, visit fellow music site Rewriteable Content.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Band of the Week: Explosions in the Sky

About a year ago, I was at a show describing the Swedish band Jeniferever to some friends as being in the same post rock musical sub-category as Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky, when one of them piped up, "Are you really talking about Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky in the same sentence?!" And to me, yeah, I do. In fact, there are few bands whose music I feel as passionately about as that of the Austin-based act.

There’s no doubting that Scotland's Mogwai is an incredibly influential and talented group, but their songs can often be dirge-like and almost depressing to me, while Explosions in the Sky have the opposite effect... Listening to their music will always, without fail, pull me out of a bad mood. There’s something just pretty and uplifting about the way that Explosions in the Sky begin playing the quietest, whispering guitar chords before slowly building and crashing into huge, epic waves of sound.

The band’s first and second albums How Strange, Innocence and The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place are my favorite works from them. Both are equally incredible and lack any bad track, and it’s easy to play through either entirely and simply let start them up again. After listening to both cds for a few years now, I’m surprised that they still have the same effect on me as when I first heard them.

Somehow seeing the band live has always eluded me however, either due to their shows quickly selling out or Ticketmonster screwing up my order. At one point it was rumored that they were set to appear at this year’s Coachella – which I would’ve bought tickets for just on the strength of them and Wolf Parade being on the bill – but it ended up not being true, as the group is currently hiding away to work on a new album and not playing out.

I guess there’s something funny about citing a group that’s been around for years in a "Band of the Week" entry, but they’re such an essential building block of any music collection to me that if you haven’t been listening to them already, I needed to share.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Quickie Album Reviews: Wolfmother, Parts & Labor, and Mogwai

Wolfmother - Wolfmother (Interscope)
With an album that opens with the hum from a tube-amp turned all the way to eleven, followed by a bombastic Bonham drum blast with dual-riffing guitars in tow, it must be time to turn the black light on, spark a doobie, and launch into stoner rock nirvana. Steeped in the rich traditions of Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Deep Purple, Leslie West, and JRR Tolkien, this cd is as the first track claims, "Colossal."

Parts & LaborStay Afraid (Jagjaguwar)
P & L are the new loud ... a happy intersection of bands like Oneida, The Wilderness, and The Boredoms ... an album so cacophonous and yet so smart as to force a lecture hall full of MIT grads to spontaneously sprout devil’s horns and begin speaking only in L33T.

MogwaiMr. Beast (Matador)
The fact that many of Mogwai’s dirge-like post rock imitators are quite good doesn’t take away from it being the perfect time for the band to reinvent itself. Cue the entrance of Mr. Beast, an album that’s often so different from the Scottish act's past works that it’s surprising. Quiet, often pretty, rarely rocking, but still a welcome departure from the norm.

(Wolfmother review by Gabe Burger.)

New Releases Tuesday - 4/25

Eleventh Dream Day - Zeroes and Ones (Thrill Jockey)
First new record in six years! The 11th Dream crew of Rizzo, Bean, McCombs and Greenberg will also be embarking on a full tour across the States this summer.

Tom Verlaine - Around (Thrill Jockey), Songs and Other Things (Thrill Jockey)
Not one, but two new records from the former Television leader. Songs and Other Things is a pop record with the "soaring guitar and poetic lyricism of his past efforts." Around is an instrumental record inspired by postwar noir film scores.

The Streets - The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living (Vice)
On his debut album, Mike Skinner boasted, "you won't find us on AltaVista...cult classic, not best seller." For better or worse, those days are long gone for this Birmingham geezer, and now comes the inevitable album about being famous. The Fork gave it a respectable 7.0, but The Guardian wasn't nearly as forgiving.

Also out this week...

Elf Power - Back to the Web (Rykodisc)
Rakes - Capture/Release (V2)
Starlight Mints - Drowaton (Barsuk)

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (Or "The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over That One Hill in LA")

Damn, but there have been a number of pretty promising show announcements in this last week. For instance, the excellent and woefully unsigned Sea Wolf have finally announced another Los Angeles date. They’ll be playing on Friday, June 23rd with Devics at The Troubadour. Then, when SF 60’s pop lover Kelley Stoltz comes to town at The Echo on Saturday, May 19, local favorites The Little Ones and Irving will be there to meet him. And last, but not least, Austin’s Sound Team and Springfield MO’s Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin will return to town together on Thursday, June 15th at The Troubadour.

Here's a list of other bands who have recently announced LA shows. (See the right-hand show column for locations and dates.) Petra Haden & The Sellouts, The Raconteurs, Kool Keith, Quintron, The Secret Machines, Miss Pussycat & Harry Merry, Spank Rock, Be Your Own Pet, Peter Walker, Great Northern, People Under the Stairs, The Legendary Pink Dots, Mellowdrone, Monsters Are Waiting. Prefuse 73, Liars, The Apes, Rabbits, The Fall, The Talk, Fielding, Winter Flowers, The Explorers Club, Ninja Academy, Minor Cannon, The Advantage, Totally Radd!!, 14 Year Old Girls, 8Bit, 8Bit Weapon, Super Mario Opera, and Kewl Kids Club.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Mini-Interview: Army Navy

Indy pop superstars Army Navy are among the hardest working bands in Los Angeles, having played here with such varied acts as Irving, The Arctic Monkeys, Wolfmother, and Cut Copy, not to mention being nearly finished with a month-long free Monday night residency at local uber-venue Spaceland.

We’ve seen the band live several times and have been listening to the songs on their EP for months now. Still, we had questions. Questions only that lead singer Justin Kennedy could answer...

How long has the band been together now?

We have been a band about two years and a half years. But about two years at this current lineup.

You started out with a four-song EP, which you recorded with Mitchell Froom, who’s worked with Suzanne Vega. How did that come together?

We actually recorded it at his home studio and used his amazing engineer David Boucher to engineer and mix it. Mitchell has been a friend and a supporter of the band and was amazing for letting us have the keys to the studio!

So you’ve had tracks from that appear on the TV shows NUMB3RS, Weeds, The Mountain, and The O.C., right? How did that happen?

We found out who did the music placement for those shows and sent them some CD's and I guess the right people ended up listening to the EP and liked what they heard!

You’re work on currently recording new songs with Steve McDonald, who founded Redd Kross and has worked with Beck and The White Stripes. Is that right? What’s the process been like there?

We actually recorded with Steve last summer and early fall at his rehearsal space/studio. He's such a fun person to record with! He has so many funny stories and has been in the business for years, so he has a lot of knowledge of the music business and the recording process. We recorded five songs with him and then mixed them again with David Boucher.

What’s the status of those songs? Are they going to end up on a full-length or another cd?

We have an EP that is available on our website and on Itunes and it has three songs from our first EP and two from the Steve Mcdonald sessions.

What’s next for you after the residency at Spaceland?

We want to play as many shows with great bands and hopefully working on getting a deal so we can go record our debut album!

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

We love The Tyde, The Little Ones, The Like, and Giant Drag.

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

Army Navy will play their last free residency night next Monday at Spaceland, which is located at 1717 Silverlake Blvd in the -- no surprise here -- Silver Lake neighborhood of LA. Doors open at eight and Youth Group and Glovebox are also on the bill.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Band of the Week: Voxtrot

You’d think that after having already written that Voxtrot "continues to prove that they're willing to work harder for your satisfaction -- both musically and lyrically -- than nearly every other pop band out there today" and that "lead singer Ramesh Srivastava’s voice is as clear and full as a frigging church bell, and sounds just as strong live as recorded," I’d probably be hard pressed to continue to find nice things to say about them.

But, you’d be wrong... because while the Austin band only has two EPs worth of material to their credit so far, they’ve packed those cds with more likeable material than most acts put into their full albums. And it’s such upbeat, smile-and-dance-inducing pop music that I keep coming back to it again and again.

Recently, they’ve been touring the country in support of their second EP with the likes of local indy pop darling Irving. When the band hits LA next at the end of May, they and LA’s finest The Silversun Pickups will be playing before Elefant at The Wiltern, marking an instance where the openers are stronger than the headlining act.

Voxtrot will appear at The Wiltern on Friday, May 26 with The Silversun Pickups and Elefant. The Wiltern is located at 3790 Wilshire Boulevard, tickets are $20, and doors open at eight.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Quickie Album Reviews: Molecules, Essex Green, & The Little Ones

Molecules - 23 Factory Slaves (Self-Release)
The LA-based Molecules’ recipe for success involves harmonizing male and female vocals, heavy use of organ, samples from old news broadcasts, and almost psychedelic moments of pure jamming. When these elements come together just right, they’re a force to be reckoned with, such as on stellar tracks Get Out of the Car and DNA Forever.

The Essex GreenCannibal Sea (Merge Records)
With three singer/songwriters in this Brooklyn-based band, it’s no surprise that it this album goes off in a few distinct directions, some with more of a folk flavoring, some more country rock, but all with a pure pop heart. The upbeat track Don’t Know Why stands out as the easiest to immediately embrace, while the other songs warm up more slowly.

The Little OnesSing Song EP (Branches Recording Collective)

They might not have invented infectious indie pop, but, geesh, sometimes it seems like The Little Ones should at least share the trademark for it. If songs like Lovers Who Uncover and High on a Hill off of this six-track EP don’t make you want to smile and hop around, your heart could very well be made of stone.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

New Releases Tuesday (4/18)

Spank Rock - YoYoYoYoYo (Big Dada) For an act that had a spazzy hit single titled "Put That Pussy On Me," it would be easy to discount these guys as novelty club track one-hit-wonders. However, this album is actually quite solid and it's not all 140BPM booty house. There's still plenty of raunch, but overall YoYoYoYoYo is a relatively subdued hip-hop album that you don't have to be crunked up at 3am to enjoy. Of course, the emphasis here is on relatively, as there's still plenty of Baltimore club flava here to move the dance floor...especially on tracks like "Bump" and "Rick Rubin."

Richard Butler - Richard Butler (Koch)
Not to be confused with the former guitarist from Suede, Bernard Butler, the voice of the Psychedelic Furs and Love Split Love, Richard Butler releases his debut solo album.

Erasure - Union Street (Mute)
Hmmm...a new organic acoustic CD from a band synonymous with the electronic synthesizer sound of the 80s? Most likely a "true fans only" release.

Also this week...

Cities - Cities (Yep Roc)
Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia (Roadrunner)
Elefant - Black Magic Show (Kemado)
Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea (Fat Possum)
Frog Eyes - Bloody Hand (Absolutley Kosher)
Lovely Feathers - Hind Hind Legs (Equator)
Secret Machines - Ten Silver Drops (Reprise)
Stereophonics - Live From Dakota (Vox Populi)

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (Or "Whistle While You Work It")

Last Saturday night, I saw Califunya: The Most Beautiful Show That Ever Lived, a musical “peace comedy” put on by Becky Stark from our favorite fairy princess folk act Lavender Diamond at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood.

What was it like? Imagine attending a third-grade school play where the kids are really big or watching a more sedate, less prop-heavy episode of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. It was full of costume changes, musical numbers, magic bubbles, love rays, and child-like wonder, and was charming, silly, ridiculous fun.

I’d sound like a complete music nerd to add that I’d have liked it even more if Becky had sang something off of her solo album, but I guess there you are. Maybe next time...

In The News:
- So this week brought with it both sunnier weather and news that Frank Black/Stephen Malkmus lovechild Tapes n Tapes and LA blues/rock band Cold War Kids are headed back to town together on June 16th at The Echo. Indie psych rockers Film School will also be coming down from SF again on June 9th to The Echo. That’s great news for people who love fun.
- Some of the show highlights of this week include another free Army Navy show at Spaceland tonight, the Little Ones cd release party at El Cid on Tuesday, a Division Day show at Club Moscow on Wednesday, and The Silversun Pickups at The El Rey on Saturday night.
- Something that came up last night over dinner with friends... If you’re worried that your favorite band is only playing Coachella in the coming months and skipping LA completely, realize that he folks that put on the event likely don’t want them announcing their LA shows until their little festival is over. So if you can't make the Coachella, you might not have to necessarily start making plans to fly to Seattle to see Mogwai or Wolf Parade. (For a revised look at all this summer's music festivals, go here.)
- The following band have announced LA show dates: The Constantines, Kelly Stoltz, Parts & Labor, The Streets, Lady Sovereign, Caspian, Shiloe, Moving Picture Show, The Willowz, The Court & Spark, and His Name is Alive. (See the right-hand column for more information.)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Mini-Interview: Great Northern

For fans of director David Lynch, the name “Great Northern” likely brings to mind thoughts of a sturdy, old backwoods hotel, a slice of cherry pie and "a damn fine cup of coffee," and the immortal words that began the melancholy, early 90s TV series Twin Peaks, "She’s dead. Wrapped in plastic..."

Great Northern vocalist/pianist Rachel Stolte suggests that the words also evoke images of "vast, open, far off places, where you wear big warm jackets to keep you safe."

But us? We tend to think of a combination of dusky dual male and female vocals and playful use of keyboards, all draped over a solid, well-built foundation of guitar, bass, and drums.

Admittedly, that’s probably because we’ve recently seen Great Northern play live here in LA, have been listening to their five-song EP, and decided to check in with Stolte to find out more about the band and where they’re headed.

So... hi. Let’s get all the basics out of the way first. Who would you say are the band's influences? What are you out to accomplish, musically? (Sorry, that’s the worst question ever...)

Basically, [we’re] massively eclectic! [We have] so many influences, really. We tend to draw on the old stuff though. Classics like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Blur, ELO, and Barry Manilow... (Just kidding.) But really anyone who inspires you to write better, like PJ Harvey and Elliot Smith.

I guess musically we would like to accomplish a lot... To keep getting better and writing and evolving... To have our sound be consistent, yet grow and change and evolve...

How did the band start up?

The band started by [guitarist/vocalist Solon Bixler] giving me a bunch of tapes on 4-track and saying, “Hey, do you want to sing on these and make up some piano stuff?”

We talked about doing music together for a long time, and then he gave me the tapes and I loved all of it. From there, we would each record separately and pass the tapes back and forth from 4-track to 4-track.

It wasn't until about eight months later that we actually got in the studio together for the first time. And we've been going ever since. That was about three years ago and we put the band together about a year ago.

How would you describe The Ship collective that you guys are a part of?

The Ship collective is a bunch of people who all play music and who all are friends. [It’s] like a support system for your habit. Which happens to be music.

So, members of the band are or were in fellow Ship act Earlimart. How is that, exactly?

Davey, who is our bass player extraordinaire, used to drum for Earlimart, but is no longer in Earlimart. And Ariana, who is our keyboard genius, still plays in Earlimart.

We’re lucky. They rule.

And we have Ed as our drummer and he was never in Earlimart, but he rules, too.

What’s next for you, show-wise? Any residencies planned?

We play with Ladytron at The El Rey on May 2nd and then again with them on May 3rd in Pomona at The Glass House. We have some other shows in the works. Possibly the 23rd at The Silver Lake Lounge and the 30th in the LBC.

You have the EP out. Is a full album currently in the works?

The EP was something we wanted to put out as a tool to get us to the next step. We have a lot of songs and a lot are already recorded, but we really wanted to get some help and someone behind us – A label or some super wealthy person who gives us millions... Ha, ha... – to get some momentum.

We’ll probably put out a full-length next year, but in the meantime this we'll have the EP.

Okay, last question. Who are some of your favorite bands in LA right now?

Well, I never really know if they are from LA or not, but favorite bands... Spoon, PJ Harvey... Just saw Band of Horses [and] thought they ruled. Radar Bros. are pretty great. Still love Elliot Smith... Wish he was still here... and love The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

That's it. Thanks for your time, Rachel.

Great Northern are opening up for Ladytron on Tuesday, May 2nd at The El Rey Theatre, which is located at 5515 Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Band of the Week: Lavender Diamond

It took me awhile to get into Lavender Diamond. I first saw them play a free residency show at The Echo on Halloween and, while I could admit that singer Becky Stark had an incredible voice, I just had a hard time standing still that night. I’d gone because my friend George -- who always seems obsessed about three or four bands I’ve never even heard of before -- said that listening to the indy folk Lavender Diamond "makes me happy." Instead of hanging around to hear why, I followed my impatient friend Kelly out to the smoking area and didn’t give the band a proper chance.

But recently, I saw them open up at the Irving album release party at King King in Hollywood and they blew me away.

I don’t know what it is... I guess it sometimes can hard to simply let yourself go and enjoy listening to something that optimistic and pretty – maybe it’s some cynical aspect of yourself or some jaded, self-conscious side that make it’s tough – but that night, Stark’s voice was transfixing. She came out on stage like some sort of magical princess of Oz, singing songs off the band’s Cavalry of Light EP and her own solo album Artifacts of the Winged, and melted away any resistance I had.

And pow. Not only did it suddenly just click why so many of my friends had been talking about them, but I found that I strangely couldn't stop smiling during their set.

If that sounds like I've joined Lavender Diamond's cult, then I guess I've drank the Kool-Aid because I can’t wait to see them play again.

Unfortunately, they have no shows announced. I've heard some talk around town about how they were recently signed to some offshoot branch of a major label, but can't find any confirmation of that online, and don't even know if they're working on new recordings or not.

I'll do my best Nancy Drew and see what I can turn up...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Quickie Album Reviews: Islands, Irving, and Eagles of Death Metal

IslandsReturn to the Sea (Rough Trade)
As playful as Diamonds’ previous venture The Unicorns, but somehow a bit easier to take seriously. Though solid, the album could still use a few more tracks as strong as the track Rough Gem ... a song so good you’ll never want it to end, but just keep getting increasingly louder and more insistent.

IrvingDeath in the Garden, Blood in the Flowers (Eenie Meanie)
While Irving’s previous fare was made up of clear-cut, highly charismatic pop charmers, the tracks on this album are instead full of subtle little moments that win your love slowly over time. There’s a lot to like here, and you’ll constantly reevaluate your favorite song on it.

Eagles of Death MetalDeath By Sexy (AntAcidAudio)
A second helping of hedonism from Jesse "The Devil" Hughes and Josh (Queens of the Stone Age) Homme. This time a tighter, more-focused ball of ass-shaking, irreverent, mustachioed rock and mother-effin' roll. Hide your sister, put the top down, and play it loud.

(EODM review by Gabe Burger.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

New Releases Tuesday (4/11)

Built To Spill - You In Reverse (Warner Brothers)
Doug may be getting old, but he can still kick out the jams! A little eye problem has put him on the bench for a while, but he'll be back to rock the masses in no time.

Calexico - Garden Ruin (Quarterstick)
Hot off last year's collaboration with Iron & Wine, the Calexico boys are back on their own with the proper follow-up to 2003's Feast of Wire.

Eagles of Death Metal - Death By Sexy (AntAcidAudio)
The Dream Boys dynamic duo is back. This Joshua Homme produced album sounds exactly the way God intended live rock and roll to sound: raw, sleazy, and spiffy. It's more hook laden than your old job at the bait shop. Put your dancing shoes on. (
Whaaaa? This is got to be the lamest promo copy I've seen in quite some time. Hopefully this record doesn't suck nearly as bad as this sales pitch.

Lots more goodies this week...

Aloha - Some Echoes (Polyvinyl)
Crystal Skulls - Outgoing Behavior (Suicide Squeeze)
Gotan Project - Lunatico (XL)
Josephine Foster - A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing (Locust Music)
Ladytron - Extended Play (Rykodisc)
Lambchop - The Decline of Country & Western Civilization, Part II: The Woodwind Years (Merge)
Mono - You Are There (Temporary Residence LTD)
Parts and Labor - Stay Afraid (Jagjaguwar)
Pretty Girls Make Graves - Elan Vital (Matador)
Josh Ritter - The Animal Years (V2)
Peter Walker - Young Gravity (Dangerbird)
Imaad Wasif - S/T (Kill Rock Stars)
Wilderness - Vessel States (Jagjaguwar)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (Or "Sharks' Tears Get Lost in the Ocean")

Tonight’s show with San Francisco’s Citizens Here & Abroad, Australia’s Youth Group, Germany’s Robocop Kraus, and LA’s own Army Navy at Spaceland should be well worth your time.

Especially since it’s free...

In The News:
- So you were already considering selling plasma to be able to afford to buy tickets for the posher seats for when chamber pop overlords Belle & Sebastian play The Hollywood Bowl on July 6th with a full backing by the LA Philharmonic, right? But did you catch that The Shins are opening up for them?
- The following bands have announced new show dates for LA: The Flaming Lips, The Silversun Pickups, The Arctic Monkeys, Irving, Essex Green, The Antarcticans, Sabrosa Purr, Space Mtn, Band of Horses, Os Mutantes, Thievery Corporation, The Western States Motel, Indian Jewelry, Daniel Johnston, The Eels, Snow Patrol, Von Iva, Little Ones, Happy Hollows, Death to Anders!, Sunburned Hand of Man, Morningwood, The Vacation, and Meho Plaza. (See the right-hand column for details.)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Mini-Interview: Irving

You know that trick where you talk to your pet Golden Retriever in an excited voice – you know, the one usually reserved for questions like "Who wants a treat?" or "Do you want to go for a WALK?!" – but say terrible or misleading things, instead?

You’d realized that you could sneak most comments past him by just saying them in an upbeat, animated voice. ("Who wants to go to the vet and get neutered?!" "You do?!?" "Oh, good boy! Let's go!!")

Local indy pop act Irving pull off the musical equivalent of that routinely, singing sad songs couched within the happiest of melodies.

This time, you're the dog and might miss the line about how "I think I know what they meant when they said you were gone" or "I wish my brain had a map to tell me where my heart should go" because you're too distracted bopping your head back and forth to the music.

The band first perfected this with their debut album Good Morning, Beautiful, then further refined with their I Hope You’re Feeling Better Now EP, and again most recently with their new album Death in the Garden, Blood on the Flowers, which they’re touring in support of right now with the likes of Voxtrot and Essex Green.

And you know what? Like any obedient Golden Retriever, we love them for it.

We recently sent a few questions to three out of the five Irvings – specifically, singer/bassist Alex Church, singer/guitarist Brian Canning, and singer/keyboardist Aaron Burrows – about what brought them to this point and the process of recording their recent album.

When did the band first start? How did it come together at first?

Alex: The band started in 1999. Brian, Steven and I were friends and had been messing around together for a while, making 4-tracks and whatnot. Had aspirations of having a real band someday. A friend asked us to play at her art opening. We had no idea what we were doing, but it came together somehow and the show was so well received it sort of pushed us to continue. Brent came along month later.

And a couple of years later came Aaron, replacing our original keyboard player.

What bands inspired you originally? And more recently?

Alex: I think I'd have to say the biggest early influences were Belle & Sebastian, Pavement, Yo La Tengo, the Beatles, the Kinks, Velvet Underground... But it's a lot more eclectic now. We're a bit older and more experienced so we don't idolize bands so much. I think now we're more inspired by ideas here and there, but not so much any particular band...

How long have you been working on the new album? How is it different from your first album and EP?

It was about a two-year process. I would say that it is similar in the sense that we still write sad songs that are dressed up with a happy melody, but other than that this album is much different. Every album we make will be different from its predecessor. We would never want to make the same album twice.

Aaron: The process we adopted in the making of this record was new for us. Each member of Irving would spend time writing songs on their own and recording them as demos at home. We would then bring all of the material together for a listening session. Typically we would have about ten to fifteen songs contributed by all members of the band.

We would spend a week listening to each other’s work, getting familiar with the sounds and writing. Then we would vote on our favorite tracks that we wanted to work on for the record. This would typically yield four to five songs. At this point we would rehearse and then go in and record the tracks. We did this process three or four times for this new record.

We also adopted the mentality that we weren't going to rush things in the studio. We did a lot of producing and part writing while in the studio. So, while the whole record writing and recording process took about two years, I think we all really enjoyed the new approach and learned a lot from making this record. But just as Irving's song writing evolves, I think our approach to creating music will also evolve. We've already discussed the possibility of making the next Irving record more under a more immediate and spontaneous way.

The sound of this record differs from the earlier material in part because of the process we adopted. There are more intricacies in some of the part and melodic writing and we spent time developing new sounds. Overall, I think it's a little darker and edgier than earlier material. But it still maintains it's pop focus.

I just saw your video for Situation. Nice. Is it your first? How did it come together?

Brian: Yes, this is our first music video. We had this idea to do a black and white contrast video for "Situation", and when Steven started to sing the words would come out of his mouth. Then Josh Forbes contacted us to do a music video and we told him our idea and he liked it and then he had the idea of shooting us playing in front of a green screen and then adding in the artwork of Max Micelli. We were a big fan of Max Micelli, so we agreed. We were very fortunate to work with both Max and Josh, they are very creative and really nice guys.

Alright, last question: What's your favorite band in LA right now?

Alex: Lavender Diamond and Silversun Pickups.

Brian: Sea Wolf and The Movies.

Aaron: Silversun Pickups and Earlimart.

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

Irving return to town on May 7th to play with Essex Green at Spaceland, which is located at 1717 Silver Lake Blvd in, um, the Silver Lake neighborhood of LA. Tickets are $10 and the show starts at 9.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Band of the Week: The Russian Futurists

There are times when you simply need to find something completely new and different to listen to, something that doesn't sound anything like what you’ve been hearing lately. Like that time when you ended your Norwegian church-burning, black metal kick by buying the Pet Sounds boxed set or gave up your weird Einstürzende Neubauten obsession to start exploring the early works of Leonard Cohen.

For me, one of these moments came about six months ago when I was in the midst of burying myself in 60s French music and went to my friend Jaime, an indy pop princess living in the wilds of Milwaukee, for help. She turned me onto Toronto’s The Russian Futurists, a band headed by a one Matt Adam Heart, who sings heart-burstingly happy pop over a collection of fast dancey beats and horns, all the while armed with enough sincerity and enthusiasm to kill a lesser man.

Jaime started me out with the band’s second album Let’s Get Ready to Crumble, whose eponymous title track quickly achieved "new favorite song" status for me. Soon after that, I saw the band play at Spaceland, opening up for Junior Boys and Manitoba in support of his equally animated third album, Our Thickness. (See the video for its stellar track Paul Simon here.) It was such a fun time that I tried to catch him the next week when I was in Chicago, but he’d made the mistake of crossing back over into Canada for a show and border officials famously decided to bar him entry due to a paperwork problem.

More recently, Hart announced that a best of collection named Me, Myself and Rye....An Introduction To The Russian Futurists will be coming out June 12th on V2 Records. He seems to currently be doing a lot of remix work and has no announced plans to tour right now, but that could always change as the summer (and the cd’s release) approaches.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Quickie Album Reviews: Tapes N Tapes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The Flaming Lips

Tapes n TapesThe Loon (ibid records)
Several songs recall moments of The Pixies, Wolf Parade, and Broken Social Scene, but without biting off any of them. One of the best recent albums, if not at first, then it will surely grow on you.

Yeah Yeah YeahsShow Your Bones (Interscope)
Lacks any straight-to-the-heart charmers like Fever to Tell’s Maps, Modern Romance, or Y Control, but contains a few solid tracks, excusing the Tegan and Sara-like Golden Lion.

The Flaming LipsAt War With The Mystics
(Warner Bros.)
A return to a more song-based, instead of concept-based, album, while retaining all the major Lips themes. A headphone masterpiece. Syd Barrett would be proud.

(FL review by Gabe Burger.)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

New Releases Tuesday (4/4)

Irving - Death in the Garden Blood on the Flowers (Eenie Meenie Records) Sophomore release from RFSL favorites Irving. The LA Times sez: "This could be the Beach Boys scoring a Hitchcock movie." Look for an interview with the band on the site this Friday and our own review of this already well-worn cd shortly thereafter.

Morrissey - Ringleader of the Tormentors (Sanctuary)
The California sun seems to be reinvigorating Morrissey as he's back with yet another new album of Mozzy mope anthems. Recorded by Tony Visconti, this one's supposed to "rock" more than previous releases and the press for the album even claims that it's "the most musically disturbing record Morrissey has made since Meat is Murder."

The Flaming Lips - At War with the Mystics (Warner Bros.)
Another much-heralded "return to the rock" from a veteran act, At the Lips' 12th record and first in four years. I heard this record in its entirety in February, but it was like at 5am at a friend of a friend's house after a long night of drinking. It seemed like it sounded pretty cool?? But let's be honest, at this point Wayne Coyne could cut of record of himself belching the alphabet and I'd still probably buy it, so I'm probably not the best judge of this record.

Also this week...

American Princes - Less and Less (Yep Roc)
Rahim - Ideal Lives (French Kiss)
Rainer Maria - Catastrophe Keeps Us Together (Grunion)
Soul Position - Things Go Better with RJ and Al (Rhymesayers)
Subtle - Wishingbone (Lex)
Various Artists - The DFA Remixes: Chapter One (DFA/Astralwerks)

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (Or "How to Beat the Flu Through Conspicuous Alcohol Consumption")

Last week's first blush of spring in LA brought with it a pretty amazing number of quality shows. Too bad I had to miss about half of them due to having teh sick most of it.

I mean, I hear that at the final Division Day residency night at The Echo last Monday, they had balloons and cupcakes and projected Princess Monoke up on the wall during the show to celebrate the self-release of their album Beartrap Island... besides the fact that local space oddities The Movies came out of hiding and apparently killed it on-stage before seeing their shadow and going back underground again.

Then, last week’s interviewee Film School came down from SF to play The Troubadour with LA indie pop act Space Mtn and NYC's The Cloud Room on Saturday night. Missed that, too.

But there was the Irving cd release party at King King on Thursday night with the almost "Monsters of Indie Rock"-like line-up of Lavender Diamond, Great Northern, Army Navy, and Irving and last night's solid, acoustic performances from The Silversun Pickups and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at Spaceland as part of a benefit for the Rose Scharlin Nursury School. Those? I gratefully all caught.

Some show highlights this week include The New York Dolls playing their sold-out early show at Spaceland and a free Army Navy residency night at Spaceland at 11 tonight, growing LA favorites Cold War Kids with SF's Two Gallants at The Troubadour on Tuesday, a free in-store by SF indie pop act Citizens Here and Abroad at Sea Level Records on Sunday, and local indie psych rock band Molecules CD release event at Spaceland on Sunday night.

In The News:
- The Silversun Pickups confirmed last night that their first full album is coming out on Dangerbird Records in early July. Expect the band to play out again around that time, as well.
- Alex Church from Sea Wolf reports that, "The SF show on May 30th has been scrapped. There's still a chance we'll play up there around that time, as well as LA. There's also talk of a west coast tour for the end of June." Still no word on the album release.
- Belle & Sebastian are set to come back to town on July 6, this time eschewing The New Pornographers in favor of ... The LA Philharmonic Orchestra? Yeah, seeing the Scottish chamber pop act with full orchestral backing at The Hollywood Bowl pretty much boggles the mind, doesn’t it?
- The following bands have also recently announced LA show dates: Pinback, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Shiloe, Calexico, Eagles of Death Metal, The Dresden Dolls, Gram Rabbit, Gris Gris, Islands (w/ former members of The Unicorns), John Vanderslice, Laura Veirs, Helio Sequence, Mellowdrone, and Sonic Youth. (See the right-hand column for details.)