Category Archives: FEATURES

Rachel Grimes: Chamber Of Secrets

Rachel

Rachel Grimes’ evocative piano compositions willfully defy categorization

“Words get in the way of the emotions I’m trying to convey,” says pianist and composer Rachel Grimes from her home in Louisville, Ky. “I don’t feel driven by lyrics, language or verbal content. I do sing and love the idea of songs, but the thing I’m after in chamber music is expressing a complexity of feeling. I want to be generous to my audience and let them make the music their own, without language or the specificity of words.”

Grimes has been composing genre-spanning instrumental pieces since her days with Rachel’s, an ensemble that played music that was often labeled post-rock and post-classical, categories she finds confusing. “We’re living in a society where music from all previous time periods is accessible to us,” she says. “Everything in the past is post-something. All music is in reference to things that came before.”

Rachel’s played instrumentals that drew on the minimal classical music of the late 20th century. The band started when Grimes met guitarist Jason Noble. “We started messing with songs he’d written, adding and subtracting parts in a slow, organic process,” says Grimes. “We wanted to record the pieces and didn’t realize we’d become a band until we actually put out a record and started doing shows. We had no definitive approach, just ideas for sounds that could be made with piano, cello, viola and guitar. When we played rock venues, we surprised people when they heard the textures we were producing. We got a kick out of the words people came up with to describe what we were doing.”

When Rachel’s went on an extended hiatus, Grimes continued playing and composing. She wrote film scores and orchestral works, did composing and sound design for the Portland Cello Project and the SITI Theater Company. She toured Europe, playing solo and with chamber ensembles like the Amsterdam Sinfonietta Trio and Orchestra Kandinskij. All the while, she was working on the music that would become The Clearing.

The Clearing sweeps you up with its cinematic strings, jazz-influenced chordal patterns and expansive classical string arrangements. The pieces are built around the simple pulsations Grimes plays on her piano, with cello, violin, sax and oboe darting in and out of the musical landscape. The lush, ambient sounds that give the music an intergalactic aura were generated by electro wizard loscil (Scott Morgan). “Scott’s a master at finding the perfect, soothing sonic complement to the organic sound of the strings,” says Grimes. “The heart and soul of the songs are contained in the idea of a clearing, with its implications of clearing the mind or a space in the woods that allows light to come out of the darkness. When I’m composing, I listen to the harmonic relationships and the emotional quality of the sound. What’s the picture the music is painting? What shapes is it building in your imagination? Music is about following something without knowing what it is. What I’m trying to describe are the emotional states we don’t quite understand.”

—j. poet

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Coliseum: Fear Factory

Coliseum

Everyday anxieties fuel Coliseum’s impressive post-punk maturation

Coliseum vocalist/guitarist Ryan Patterson is nothing if not painfully honest. He wears his heart so openly on his sleeve that his dry cleaner long ago stopped trying to scrub out the crimson stains. For more than a decade, he’s manned the front car of the roller coaster that’s flung the Louisville, Ky., trio through a variety of rewarding and ridiculous moments. There was the time a former drummer quit the day before a tour and they found themselves teaching their then-replacement the set on van seats and headrests en route to Canada. Then, there was the time they were “arrested” for performing and filming an impromptu hometown outdoor gig in 2013.

Balancing out the hair-shirt incidents has been the steady stream of top-notch releases since 2004, as well as the group’s natural progression from rockin’ hardcore/punk band to the measured and melancholic post-punk outfit it is today. Latest full-length Anxiety’s Kiss delivers the most seamless combination of the eras thus far. The shimmery, soot-black twang of Thatcher-era Britannia, Midwest alt-rock melody and fiery D.C. punk are all stitched together with Coliseum calling cards like Patterson’s gruff voice, the steady-as-a-pacemaker rhythm section, and the sense that the band isn’t so much leaving its punk/hardcore tribe behind as pushing the goalposts back.

“While our music has undeniably changed, I don’t think we’ve changed where we are or our place,” says Patterson. “We’ve always been that band able to play with Napalm Death, then go play with Strike Anywhere, or whoever. That’s our biggest asset and biggest drawback, because people really want things to work into a niche, and if you don’t fit into that niche, then they don’t know what to do with you. It’s not about us reaching out into the world, because we’ve never really toured with bands outside of the punk, hardcore or metal world.”

Written with the goal of closing the gap on the usual three years between albums (“This is the only time in 11 years we’ve had the same lineup on consecutive records, and that was part of why I really wanted the three of us to do it right away”), Anxiety’s Kiss oozes with urgency and a shared continuity with 2013’s Sister Faith. It also has Patterson continuing to pour the most delicate and vulnerable sides of himself into the public discourse. From his raw, open-book lyrics to the emotional spigot he yanks out during his legendary between-song banter, he can usually be found introspectively peeling back layers of his fears in a scene/genre where most frontmen are concerned with rebelliously flipping off The Man or demonstrating why you should be fearing them, not yourself.

“Yeah, it has to do with me,” he says of the new album’s title. “I’ve always had anxieties and been a fearful person going back to being a kid. Sister Faith was largely about my wife’s dad and our friend Jason Noble from Shipping News dying, which was my first time dealing with mortality firsthand as an adult. After that happened, things started happening in my psyche that were difficult as a motherfucker to deal with, and I can only assume they were related. There were times of absolute anxiety from the minute I’d wake up to the minute I’d go to sleep. My wife would go to work and I’d be afraid she was going to die on the way. There were fears about things I’ve done a million times before. Like going on tour is as normal to me as brushing my teeth, but things about touring became overwhelming to where I didn’t know if I could do it anymore. So, what do you do? Write songs about it. I’ve always put periods of my life into our records, and that’s one of the things I appreciate about doing this band for so long: being able to put all that stuff into it to get it out there and deal with it.”

—Kevin Stewart-Panko

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Eternal Summers: Gold Standard

EternalSummers

Consistency—and patience—is key to Eternal Summers’ success

Nicole Yun can’t think of many bands in the same situation as her own. Coming up on eight years and four albums together, the members of Eternal Summers still live two minutes apart from one another in a cozy Virginia neighborhood. They practice for free in drummer Daniel Cundiff’s basement twice a week. It gets pretty loud, but his roommates don’t mind.

Cundiff and Yun work part-time jobs at a local food co-op in Roanoke. Bassist Jonathan Woods is able to get by without a job. “I’m not sure how,” laughs Yun. “I think he might be hustling on eBay or something.”

Even when they have downtime, the bandmates still get together and jam on the regular. They challenge one another to find their way through different musical scenarios that may or may not turn into songs. Yun says it teaches them about their instincts and strengthens their psychic/musical connection. They also spend time outdoors, riding bikes, hiking in the woods.

“A lot of times, people feel bad for us,” says Yun. “‘Oh, you guys don’t live in a major city. You guys don’t get those opportunities.’ But I think that there are other benefits that we have. Like wow, same lineup—this is our third album with the same lineup. We’ve grown and really gotten to know each other.”

Cundiff and Yun formed Eternal Summers as a duo in 2008; Woods came on two years later, shortly after the release of their spunky indie-pop debut Silver. Whereas Yun sees many of the band’s peers constantly changing lineups and direction, her group has stayed on a relatively stable path.

“Sure, a guitarist is a guitarist,” she says. “But each one is different. It’s not going to sound the same; you’re not going to have the same communication with (another) person. I take it for granted sometimes, but that is one of the best things about this band.”

In an era driven by digital hype, where artists make a massive splash and burn out just as quickly, Eternal Summers have moved at a decidedly measured pace. They gain new fans on each tour; a run with Nada Surf in 2012 yielded a cadre of followers who now come to their shows with home-baked cookies.

But sometimes it’s a little too slow for Yun’s liking; the shimmering Britpop tones of 2012’s Correct Behavior were followed up last year by The Drop Beneath, a record that was unapologetically angry, aggressive and explosive. The title track alone is a seven-minute noise-rock catharsis of Sonic Youth proportions.

“I don’t think that 2013, when we wrote it, was the best year for us,” says Yun. “We were going through a lot of growing pains as a band, not sure if we were going to be on our label or not. There were personal frustrations, too, realizing, ‘Wow, we’re in our 30s and we’re still struggling at this.’ Or maybe not struggling, but still—there was a lot of self-questioning.”

Enter the new Gold And Stone. The album is a handy cross section of sounds Eternal Summers has explored up to this point, but taken several steps further. The aching “Black Diamond” echoes the moodiness of Drop to devastating effect; the blissed-out “Together Or Alone” soars in its revisit of Behavior’s Lush-with-a-capital-L tones. Elsewhere, there’s brilliant anthem “Come Alive,” featuring Yun’s most daring and confident vocal performance to date.

She says the process of taking stock to write Gold was at times perplexing. “Daniel and I used to write very poppy songs, especially in the beginning,” she says. “I don’t think I’m in the same position to write things like that anymore. But I can go back to those general sentiments and general emotional tones.”

It’s stuff that has resonated with listeners bit by bit since Eternal Summers’ earliest seven-inches. In its review of Drop, AllMusic characterized the trio as “the kind that other bands will look to for inspiration 20 years later.” A bit of a backhanded compliment, and Yun hears it a lot—“Eternal Summers: the most underrated band of the past five years” or “Eternal Summers: why does nobody know about them?”

“Maybe there is just a lot going on in the music world,” she says. “Maybe when things die down and people look at enduring music, they’ll consider us something like that.” She laughs and continues: “It’s kind of this weird combination of a really egotistical thing to say about ourselves and really self-deprecating at the same time.”

But if somebody calls your band underrated, they’re still saying it’s good. Just with a frustrating caveat: You’re good, but nobody knows. Then again, there’s another other benefit to Eternal Summers’ slow burn and creative isolation.

“We had no clue that any of this would happen,” says Yun. “We had no clue that we would ever be on a label or make more than one record. Or make any records. All this stuff was never a guarantee. And now, cool things I dreamt about when I was 12 years old are happening.”

Talk about an ideal situation.

—John Vettese

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Drug For The Modern Age: Kopecky’s Steven Holmes Comes Clean

Kopecky

In a very moving and personal essay, Kopecky guitarist Steven Holmes details how new album Drug For The Modern Age got its title

I have never been one to wear my heart on my sleeve. I prefer to keep it in my pocket or my backpack or maybe under my bed. Vulnerability is often an unnatural and uncomfortable practice, but over the last few years, I’ve learned that it is integral if you truly want to share this life with the people around you. Kopecky (formerly Kopecky Family Band) has been an enormous part my world for the last eight years. We have grown into adulthood together, and have seen one another in our best moments and seen each other through our worst. During the years we have spent traversing the country together, we’ve made discoveries about life that may have taken decades otherwise. Despite the somewhat ambitious and ambiguous title of our latest collection of songs, Drug For The Modern Age, is about real life—walking through the fire, keeping your chin up and letting your guard down when there are no options left. This record was inspired by personal experiences of finding love and losing it, unexpected death, addiction and illness. And healing. It’s a record about learning how to keep getting up when you fall, and leaning on your friends when you are too weak to stand on your own. We each have our own story to tell, and each tale relates uniquely to what drove us forward throughout the writing process.

This particular story is mine.

I quit my job late in the summer of 2011 to embark on the first legitimate tour of Kopecky’s career. Over one month of unbridled adventure and music and seeing the world! All of my romantic ideas of what “being in a band” was supposed to feel like would soon be destroyed and resurrected simultaneously. Many nights on the road were spent losing track of time, doing our best to find rest in our 15-passenger van; waking in a sweat or drifting in and out of dreams, lulled by the rattle of our humble van and trailer easing down the interstate. On the other nights, we would find ourselves on a dark stage, tearing our chests open for a new crowd of strangers to give them a glimpse of what was inside; every morning, we carefully stitched ourselves closed again. Admittedly, that is one of the more grandiose sounding lines that I’ve ever written in regards to being a touring musician, but it is also one of the most sincere. Our first tour was an utterly exhilarating and exhausting introduction to life on the road, and I fell deeply in love with all of it. Seemingly as soon as we began, our maiden voyage ended and we were headed home. The final sprint was a 36-hour drive from Las Vegas to Nashville, not quite knowing when we would set our sails next. What happened to me—or in me—during the seven-week jaunt changed life in a way that nothing ever has before, and I was blindsided.

A crippling darkness woke me on my first morning back home, sleeping in my own bed. Sunlight washed the bedroom in gold and yellow, though I could only seem to see black and gray. Without warning, nothing about life felt the same—nothing about myself felt the same. This room that I rented became both refuge and prison, and I suddenly had no desire to go anywhere or to talk to anyone. Phone calls were ignored, invitations were declined. I felt infinitely sad, yet had nothing to mourn save for the sadness itself. Time passed. We played more shows, went on more tours; the darkness remained.

As I tried to wriggle away from the awful emptiness that I had fallen prey to, I only found temporary solutions to a problem that I couldn’t work out alone. I made an appointment to see a doctor, desperation outweighing skepticism, and was treated for depression and social anxiety. I left the office with a prescription that was, in theory, going to chase away the rainclouds in my head and turn my black skies to blue. Being honest about my condition and my feelings (Or lack thereof) was intensely difficult for me, even with the band—people that I spend the most of my waking and sleeping hours with. However, I was determined to be forthright with them. Transparent. I explained that I had been wrestling with depression and anxiety for several months, and that I would be taking medication to even-out an apparent chemical imbalance in my brain. I told them that I was inexplicably sad, but soon I would be happy again. I would be myself again. I ached so badly to be myself again—to feel like myself again.

I endured several months of the take-one-pill-a-day-before-breakfast-and-the-other-pill-only-when-the-storm-is-blowing-in routine, only to find myself in a hole that felt oddly similar to the one that I had woken up in on that first fateful morning. The darkness was eerie and familiar, and I felt less like myself than ever before. Perhaps the chemicals had indeed been balanced in my brain, but it certainly did not feel like the balance that my brain needed. In my crazed quest for wellness, I began a self-medication regimen of my own invention. And so began a nearly endless night.

Over the course of nearly two years, I created a destructive, self-perpetuating system that allowed me to escape myself almost entirely, and by the time that I understood that I was in a dangerous place, it was too late. In my efforts to free myself of the sadness I was feeling, I had inadvertently chained myself to it. I was addicted to the consolation and numbness that I had found, and was terrified and the prospect of anyone knowing. What would my friends and family think of me if they found out the state I was in? The stigma that is branded onto addiction and abuse is one that scared me witless. As far as I knew, my struggle was in secret, and I thought that it had to stay that way—just me and my demons duking it out until one of us had to throw in the towel. In reality, my struggle had become painfully obvious to the people closest to me—most of all, the rest of the band.

After a long, blurry, and awfully disorienting streak of abuse, a light found me—a strong hand shook me out of my stupor. In August 2014, I was pulled out of a downward spiral that could have become my demise. As fate had it, this was also as Kopecky was entering the studio to begin tracking Drug For The Modern Age, the first week of which I was not present for. I spent a much needed time of rehabilitation with my family in South Carolina while the rest of the band began the process of piecing the new record together.

Step One in the process of recovering from this addiction was one of the most important to me: It was simply the act of leveling with myself, and knowing that I didn’t have to live in a shadow of guilt or fear for feeling the way that I did. It’s OK to have weaknesses, it is OK to struggle, and it is OK to hurt. It is also OK to mess up, to fall down, and at times, to not feel like getting back up. As I came to terms with this concept, more light began to emerge around me. Human beings are born broken—we all have an Achilles heel—each different from the next. I found myself stepping back from my immediate situation and began to see it next to the conflicts that my bandmates had faced in recent months and years, and I understood that while the circumstances varied, there is essentially one solution for all of us in the end: Open up. Share the weight. Everyone is hurting, and no one can heal alone.

This is not, by any means, an everything-is-great-and-the-world-is-beautiful-so-suck-it-up-and-smile philosophy. There is nothing to gain by pretending that pain doesn’t exist or that we can always skate around the potholes in the road. Sometimes life gives you lemons and sometimes it tosses you lemon-shaped hand grenades. Bad things happen to good people. Often, it seems like bad things only happen to good people. Drug For The Modern Age isn’t about sweeping the tough issues under the rug—it’s about sweeping them out from under the rug and into the light of day. It’s finding peace amidst turmoil; dancing even through the sad songs.

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

MAGNET Feedback: Allen Stone

AllenStone

Seattle-based pop/soul upstart Allen Stone continues to impress on his recently released third album, Radius (Capitol). Whether he’s subtly bemoaning materialism or diving headlong into songs of unabashed devotion, Stone is fast establishing himself as not only a vital modern voice, but the coolest of cool locals. He hand-picked some of his favorite up-and-coming Emerald City bands to open a five-show record-release homestand. Take leadoff singles “Upside” and “Freedom” for a spin as you check out Stone’s impression of 10 tracks we sent his way: a mix of new releases and old standards that are right up his alley.

My Morning Jacket “Compound Fracture” from The Waterfall
The drums sound as big as Nicki Minaj’s tutti frutti. I dig that. This song makes me feel like doing illicit things in the freezer at a BK. I like that. Although I did have a compound fracture when I was a child, which I did not like. I give this song a win.

The Tallest Man On Earth “Dark Bird Is Home” from Dark Bird Is Home
Dig this tune. Makes me feel light. I enjoy songs that have dark lyrics, but yet make me feel good. It’s like a veggie burger. Is it meat? Kobe beef? Nope. It’s quinoa, bro. I wish I was a bird.

Alabama Shakes “Don’t Wanna Fight” from Sound & Color
This is the jam! I love this track. Mad pocket. Brittany’s voice is a force. Also the sickest of sick intros. The message is needed as well.

Sharon Van Etten “I Don’t Want To Let You Down” from I Don’t Want To Let You Down
Love the harmonies. I don’t want to let you down either, Sharon Van Etten. Meow. Played right after Sharon at BottleRock a couple years back. She slays.

Father John Misty “I Love You, Honeybear” from I Love You, Honeybear
“Fuck the world, damn straight.” Father John comes correct. Love this song and record.

Bob Dylan “I’m A Fool To Want You” from Shadows In The Night
Haunting. Follows you home at night. Steals your mail, but then replaces it with coupons for IHOP. Don’t turn this song on at a party or a wedding reception. Or do, actually.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings “Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In” from The Dynamic Sound Of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Love this version. This is one of the best songs ever. It is really easy to ruin this song. They succeeded at making it their own, but remained respectful to the original.

Stevie Wonder “Living For The City” from Innervisions
I opened for Stevie last year in France. He played this song, and it’s still as relevant today as the day he wrote it. The musical breakdown is my favorite part of the song.

Hall & Oates “Sara Smile” from Daryl Hall & John Oates
Oh yeahhhhhh, Hall & Oates. Those are the dudes. I toured with Daryl and Sharon Jones a couple years back, and we did this song. His delivery on the first chorus is timeless. So smooth. Like a cold beer at a Mariners game. There’s a sweet story behind this song as well.

Björk “Stonemilker” from Vulnicura
Björk is a pioneer of mushroom songs. I like this track. I think the full effect is experienced on hallucinogens, though.

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

The Weather Station: A Two-Way Street

WeatherStation

The one-woman whirlwind behind the Weather Station learns to take it and dish it out

“You don’t expect to get respect. Then you do, and you’re like, ‘What does this mean?’”

Canadian singer/songwriter Tamara Lindeman, principal member and guiding light for the Weather Station, is on the phone. Loyalty, her debut for North Carolina label Paradise Of Bachelors, has been four years in the making. She is wrestling with the odd nature of indie success and the self-imposed expectations that come with being a perfectionist.

“It was this funny experience where I made this record in a basement with my friends,” says Lindeman, referring to her unexpected 2011 breakout album, All Of It Was Mine. “I didn’t think I was a good songwriter or a good anything, and I wasn’t expecting anything. People were like, ‘This is amazing,’ and I was like, ‘What?’ But then I became very intimidated by it. Why did everybody like that record? I went through the classic thing: why, why, why?”

And while the Daniel Romano-produced All Of It Was Mine was modestly successful (“It’s not like I sold a million records”), its effect on Lindeman was profound.

“I went through a silly phase where I was overthinking everything,” says Lindeman. “I felt like, ‘Ugh, I’m never gonna make another record,’ and maybe I should just stop. Then this thing fell into my lap to make a record.”

This ‘thing’ was a block of time in a mansion-turned-studio outside of Paris with Afie Jurvanen of Bahamas and Robbie Lackritz of Feist. The result, Loyalty, is one of the year’s most stirring and understated folk records, a masterful collection of humble, ethereal and introspective music.

“Really, the main challenge was putting that silliness behind me and recognizing that I just gotta do it and dive in,” says Lindeman. “Then I did it, and it was great. Totally fine.”

—Sean L. Maloney

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Wolf Alice: Cool World

WolfAlice

Wolf Alice shrugs off growing pains, shoots for the moon

As Clint Eastwood once opined, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Londoner Ellie Rowsell learned hers early on, back when she first stepped in front of a crowd at a local singer/songwriter competition—and tanked. “I did one song, but my guitar playing was just incredibly poor at the time,” sighs the tall, angular brunette, kicking back before a recent soundcheck with her much-buzzed-about quartet Wolf Alice. Its scruffy punk-grunge debut, My Love Is Cool, streets this month. “So, I thought, ‘I’ve got to find a guitarist to help me.’ And I didn’t really have the confidence to ask anyone I knew, so I decided to go one of those guitar forums.”

That’s where the then-teenage vocalist found edgy axeman Joff Oddie, who had just moved to her city for college. Choosing the moniker Wolf Alice from an Angela Carter short story, the initially acoustic duo began touring Britain’s “toilet circuit,” sniffs Rowsell, now 22. “Tiny rooms in tiny pubs on open-mic nights, playing to people who are just chatting and drinking,” she says. Again, she recognized her problem and fixed it: “We thought, ‘Maybe if we play louder, people will listen to us,’ so we went electric.” And then added drummer Joel Amey and bassist Theo Ellis, for extra oomph.

Now Rowsell has matured so swiftly, she views with a certain detachment energetic Cool cuts like “Bros,” “Fluffy” and kickoff single “Giant Peach,” a Roald Dahl-inspired celebration of her surreal life in London. “The stuff I wrote from 15 to 19? Well, that’s when your brain is the craziest, the most introverted, so the tiniest thought becomes immense,” she says. “But I feel like I’m changing now, really finding my feet as a songwriter.”

Ultimately, Rowsell proudly accepts her limitations. “I never gave up—I always thought, ‘One day I’m going to get the confidence to do this,’” she says. “I just didn’t get that confidence until I was 20!”

—Tom Lanham

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Dawes: Dawesian Blur

Dawes

Taylor Goldsmith and Dawes learned to trust their instincts

Taylor Goldsmith has experienced slightly rising levels of anxiety with each successive Dawes album since North Hills, the band’s 2009 debut. The goodwill generated by his previous band, Simon Dawes, seemed to naturally carry over to his new project, and yet in some ways, Goldsmith is still waiting for the other shoe to fall.

“Those early years for a band, that definitive time, it’s almost like they can do no wrong or something, and as time goes on, those records are used as a barometer for the new stuff,” says the L.A.-based Goldsmith. “As the band, we’re always happiest with the latest thing, as it should be, but I don’t ever want to get to a point where it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is cool, but man, our second record was so much better.’ So, it’s good to hear people like it. It’s the first fourth record we’ve ever made.”

To date, Goldsmith and his Dawes compatriots—drummer/brother Griffin Goldsmith, bassist Wylie Gelber, keyboardist Tay Strathairn—have maintained plenty of forward momentum, a string that remains unbroken with the release of All Your Favorite Bands. As with the first three Dawes albums, All Your Favorite Bands sighs with bittersweet ’70s folk ennui while maintaining a contemporary pop/rock edge. The difference this time out is that the group was determined to make Favorite Bands considerably less mannered and studio-massaged than its predecessors, 2011’s Nothing Is Wrong and 2013’s Stories Don’t End, and perhaps even closer to the ramshackle verve of 2006’s Carnivore, Simon Dawes’ only full-length release.

“It wasn’t a reactionary thing against Stories Don’t End; we love that record and we love playing those songs,” says Goldsmith. “But with every record you make, you learn a little more about when you’re at your best. Despite the joy it was to make Stories Don’t End, there were obstacles that had nothing to do with anything other than us being, in our estimation, relatively inexperienced in the studio.”

All Your Favorite Bands might have turned out very differently if not for the amazing string of life and career experiences that took place in the wake of Stories Don’t End. Their 2014 trip to Rwanda had a profound effect on all of them, as did their opening dates for Bob Dylan (perhaps to a slightly lesser degree), but the most potent wild card in the deck may have been the Goldsmiths’ participation in T Bone Burnett’s New Basement Tapes project, which led Dawes down completely unexpected paths.

“It really opened my eyes to what we could do,” says Goldsmith. “There would be days where we would cut five or six songs a day, and I’d get a nod from Elvis Costello or Marcus Mumford to take a solo, when I didn’t even know if there was going to be one. And right there, I’d have to hit it, and then I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s actually one of my favorite solos I’ve played. Maybe I should stop and think about that.’ Griffin was part of those sessions, too, and the more Dawes talked about it, we realized we’re most comfortable in those spontaneous circumstances where we really have to think on our feet. We finally realized we need to stop being scared to just play together and start trusting ourselves. I can sing this song. I don’t need to get meticulous over some vocal take; I can just sing it with the band. And that’s what we did.”

The other significant factor in the sound and structure of Favorite Bands is the presence of producer David Rawlings, best known as Gillian Welch’s performing/recording partner, but quickly gaining a reputation as a savvy boardsman. Recorded at Rawlings’ Nashville studio, All Your Favorite Bands is a solid document of musicians looking to make some changes, and a producer willing to let them.

“We would play the song four or five times, and he’d be like, ‘Cool, I think we got it, let’s move on,’ and we wouldn’t even listen back,” says Goldsmith. “We didn’t hear any of the songs we recorded until we were seven or eight songs in. So, when it came to editing or picking a certain solo section, that was all Dave. That was really cool for me, because this is how we play, this is what we sound like, so that process of having Dave construct and edit the tapes without us being a part of that helped the experience in a lot of ways.”

—Brian Baker

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

R.I.P. Ornette Coleman (1930 – 2015)

Our 2007 feature on the jazz legend:

Ornette

Having spent more than five decades challenging convention, changing the shape of jazz and blowing everybody’s minds, 76-year-old Ornette Coleman still isn’t satisfied. By Mitch Myers

There he is, dressed impeccably in a tailor-made suit, holding court at J&R Music World in Lower Manhattan, signing copies of his latest CD for devoted fans. Earlier in the day, he taped a segment for Black Entertainment Television and made an appearance on local public radio station WNYC. There he is again, engaged in a face-to-face listening session with a New York Times reporter and, later, doing an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition.

No, we’re not talking about some veteran rock star or hip hop’s latest mogul/producer. We’re referring to Ornette Coleman, one of the most influential jazz artists to emerge in the last century. And he wants to connect with you—right now.

Read More »

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Jacco Gardner: Behind The Wall Of Sleep

Jacco

Psychedelic pop auteur Jacco Gardner crafts a compelling wakeup call

The video for “Find Yourself,” the first single from Jacco Gardner’s illusory new album, Hypnophobia (Polyvinyl), could easily be misconstrued as anti-drug propaganda. In it, a frizzy-haired teen, apparently in a fit of TCH-induced psychosis, guns down his equally weed-addled likeness in a cloud of smoke. Is it murder? Is it suicide? Is it a horrific hallucination? Whatever the intent, it is a disarming—and disturbing—counterpoint to a catchy, synth-washed baroque pop tune.

And you’ll get no argument from the song’s creator. “When it was finished and I saw it, I was like, ‘This could be one of those educational videos,’” says Gardner. “It seems like I’m warning people, but I’m totally not. I love weed.”

Mixed messages—and mixed realities—are pretty much the norm for the Dutch producer and multi-instrumentalist, who first emerged as a proper solo artist with 2013’s Cabinet Of Curiosities, an admirable stab at finding an otherworldly context for his wide-ranging flights of fancy grounded in old-school technique. “I love pop music,” says Gardner. “I’ve always been fascinated by using common song structures in my own way.”

Recorded at Gardner’s Shadow Shoppe Studio in his hometown of Zwaag, Hypnophobia conveniently conjoins his techie obsessions with a collector’s passion for vintage instrumentation—Wurlitzer, mellotron, harpsichord, Optigan, even a Steinway upright piano from a local church. The result is sort of akin to what it might sound like if Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker had embraced Syd Barrett, as opposed to John Lennon.

“The dad of a good friend of mine showed me Syd Barrett, early Pink Floyd and Soft Machine,” says Gardner. “Before that, I’d heard some records my parents owned—Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, Peter, Paul & Mary—very structured, kind of square stuff that also was really beautiful.”

As for the title of the new album, hypnophobia—or an irrational fear of sleep—is an actual condition with which Gardner has had a few run-ins. “I’ve experienced it about five times, first when I was flying back to Europe from the United States,” says Gardner. “It’s kind of like getting stuck between a state of unconsciousness and consciousness—reality and a dream world—and being a little too aware of it happening. I looked it up and discovered that there’s actually a name for it. You get to the point where you’re aware of the things that you lose control over, which is a very scary thing.”

Scary, as in blowing away a dude that looks an awful lot like the guy pulling the trigger? “That was mostly the director (Bear Damen),” says Gardner, in his continued defense of the “Find Yourself” video’s macabre themes. “He had this idea of filming it in the mountains of Belgium. I played this phantom in a yellow car, and there was lot of waiting involved. It was super-cold, with all this ice and snow. The way it turned out, I really like it, because it has this cinematic vibe, and that’s basically what the new album seems to have. But initially, I thought the concept was way too badass. I’m not that tough.”

—Hobart Rowland

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed