Category Archives: FEATURES

Thalia Zedek Band: Down To The Essence


Eve shows off the Thalia Zedek Band’s impressive musical range

“I’ve been looking for ways to make our sound sparser,” Thalia Zedek says, describing the quiet, introspective sound of Eve, the new Thalia Zedek Band album. “I have an outlet for the louder, angular, more jarring stuff with my band E, which explores electronics, noise and unusual sounds. This band is evolving into something slightly different, with a songwriter-type vibe. It’s not mellow, but it’s more restrained than the experimental stuff I’ve done in the past.”

Zedek made her name playing her singular brand of ear-splitting, dissonant lead guitar with Come, Uzi and Live Skull, outfits known for their fierce approach to performing and recording. Her music with the Thalia Zedek Band may not be as loud, but it has the same level of emotional intensity that’s always been her trademark.

“This record is darker than the last few albums,” she says. “We’re living in an era of great uncertainty. The U.S. is less isolated from the rest of the world, and economically everything is more tied together. The internet allows people to access news and culture from around the world, and the climate has been changing radically, in both senses of the word. In Boston, we just had the hottest day ever recorded. I feel like we are on the eve of something momentous. It may be the eve of a new era, or the eve of destruction, I don’t know.”

Eve was recorded with Zedek’s touring band—David Michael Curry on viola, Mel Lederman on piano, bassist Winston Braman and drummer Jonathan Ulman. “Jonathan plays in a spare, stripped-down style,” says Zedek. “He fits the more introspective sound we’re going for. This time, we recorded a fair amount of songs that we hadn’t played live before we recorded them. When you’re writing in the studio, it lends a di erent, more reflective feel to the music.”

The arrangements on the album show off the band’s range. Hints of country, pop, blues, folk, R&B and modern classical surface as the music unspools. Zedek’s guitar ebbs and flows—sometimes acoustic, sometimes electric—giving the viola and piano room to come forward.

“We all write our own parts, and since none of us can read music, it’s all done by ear,” she says. “My only job as producer is to make sure all the instruments have enough room to allow us all to be expressive.”

Lederman’s piano introduction to “Illumination” suggests Eric Satie’s melodic approach; the subtle funk of “Try Again” opens with Zedek playing a killer guitar hook and slowly builds to a dark climax, driven by Curry’s brooding viola, while “You Will Wake” is a dreamy, country blues carried almost entirely by Zedek’s guitar and vocals; she almost croons the lyric, her singing stronger, more melodic and nuanced than on previous outings.

“I quit smoking in 2008,” she says. “I’ve also been doing more shows playing solo. You learn a lot about your voice when you don’t have to compete with other instruments to be heard. I recommend quitting smoking to any singers out there.” —j. poet

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Lisa Prank: Smells Like Teen Spirit


Lisa Prank makes pure pop for punk people

Lisa Prank plays electric guitar with an inspiring command of power and nuance. The 11 tunes on Adult Teen, her debut album, capture the insouciant energy and upbeat confidence that makes punk rock irresistible. She combines bright, infuriatingly catchy bursts of melody with introspective lyrics that give the songs a vulnerable emotional depth.

“It’s fun to be onstage and play guitar, but it’s a rare thing when everything goes right in my life,” Prank says from her Seattle home. “When I’m feeling something intensely and need to express it, I go into my room and write a song.”

Onstage, Prank often appears alone, generating the sound of a full band with a Roland drum machine and her fervent singing and aggressive, rhythmic guitar attack. With the help of a few friends, she fleshed out her sound on Adult Teen, producing one of the best punk albums in recent memory.

“I live in a house with three members of Tacocat,” she says. “We recorded the album in my bedroom, so I could sing in my pajamas and be comfortable. Tacocat guitarist Eric and I worked whenever we had free time, so it was more like hanging out than making an album.”

Prank met the Tacocat gang when she was living in Denver, playing in her first band, LustCats Of The Gutters. “My friend Alex played drums, and I played guitar,” she says. “We were both learning our instruments, and it was super fun to play with her. I’d set up gigs for Tacocat when they came through town, and they’d set up things for me in Seattle. I always thought that if I lived in Seattle, we’d be best friends and hang out all the time. When I came out here, I moved in with them, and it all turned out to be true.”

— j. poet

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Mick Harvey: Not Lost In Translation


Former Bad Seed Mick Harvey brings you his love for Serge Gainsbourg once again

About 20 years ago, Mick Harvey put out two records of Serge Gainsbourg songs, 1995’s Intoxicated Man and 1997’s Pink Elephants. The multi-instrumentalist was firmly entrenched in the Bad Seeds, the band he started with Nick Cave after the end of the Birthday Party, and had just begun working with PJ Harvey, joining her for 1995’s To Bring You My Love. The Gainsbourg records were his first solo albums.

Since then, the 57-year-old Harvey has released four more solo LPs, some of cover versions, some of his own songs. He ended his 25-year tenure in the Bad Seeds in 2009, but he’s continued to work with PJ Harvey: He coproduced 2000’s Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea and 2011’s Let England Shake. When MAGNET caught up with him to talk about Delirium Tremens, his new album of Gainsbourg covers, he was in London in rehearsals for the world tour for her new record, The Hope Demolition Project.

Two decades ago, Serge Gainsbourg, who died in 1991, was lesser known outside of his native France than he is today. Harvey became fascinated by the depth and breadth of Gainsbourg’s work when a friend passed along a compilation tape, and he set about translating the lyrics into English and recasting songs such as “Bonnie And Clyde” and “Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus.”

“They are covers in the old sense of a cover version, where you actually record the song in a similar way to the original one,” he says. “I always thought I could justify doing that because I’m doing a translation. But the European terminology is ‘interpretation.’ I think that’s the better term. After I’d done the first couple albums, I’d done what I wanted to do at that time.”

In 2014, Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants were reissued as a double LP, and Harvey, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, played a few shows of Gainsbourg numbers.

“It turned out to be fun and kind of ridiculous, just getting up there and playing music as some sort of entertainment, which is quite unusual to me, as opposed to getting up there and doing something as a difficult artwork, which is what I find myself doing or what I think I’m doing,” he says. “So that turned into thinking about doing more work.”

He revisited some of the songs he considered the first time around and ended up delving more deeply into tunes that Gainsbourg wrote for other artists in the ’60s. Then began the time-consuming process of translating the lyrics. Harvey wanted to do translations that were faithful to the originals in meaning as well as in rhyme and meter, and that was often a challenge. “He’s really quite clever, what he’s doing with words,” says Harvey.

Once he got started, he ended up with enough material for two albums, Delirium plus a second, which is slated for later this year. Harvey says it seemed “absurd” to just do one Gainsbourg album after 20 years: “That would have felt out of proportion, in some way.”

Asked which Gainsbourg album he would recommend to a neophyte, Harvey hesitates. “His material changes so much over the years,” he says. “I think something from the late ’60s. He was in a very creative and musical stage because of the nature of what was going on at the time in rock music and pop music.” He finally settles on 1968’s Initials B.B. (for Brigitte Bardot): “That’s probably the album you want to get.”

—Steve Klinge

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Band Of Horses: One Of The Girls


Fatherhood and writer’s block fuel Band Of Horses’ new homebody opus

Sharing a living space with five females can do weird things to a guy.

It can compel him to say things like, “I’ve got a lot of love in my heart,” to a theater full of 1,200 frothing fans. It might also prompt the same father of four girls to issue a conciliatory ultimatum to the ranting dickhead who’d just reached onto the stage and quaffed his drink mid-song. “You paid good money to come here, man. Just be cool, and you can stay,” urged Band Of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell.

Security guards had other ideas, escorting the irate fan out of Wilmington, Del.’s Playhouse on Rodney Square to chants of “Asshole, asshole” from the rest of the crowd.

“Sorry, ya’ll,” said Bridwell, ever the Southern gentleman, as the band quickly re-harnessed the positive energy of its first full-scale, plugged-in performance in quite some time. “Seriously, ya’ll are great.”

In a May 21 dry run for their summer tour, Band Of Horses kicked things off with the first four songs from their new album, Why Are You OK (Interscope/American). Reserved seating quickly became a moot point as the audience rushed the stage, prompting a wide smile from typically stoic guitarist Tyler Ramsey. A half-dozen songs into the fierce 90-minute set, everyone in the group—Ramsey, Bridwell, multi-instrumentalist Ryan Monroe, bassist Bill Reynolds and drummer Creighton Barrett—was grinning from ear to ear.

It was three weeks before the release of Why Are You OK, and a few fans were already screaming for the first single. Catchier than a norovirus on a Disney cruise, “Casual Party” could be considered the domesticated sequel to “Weed Party,” from the group’s 2006 debut. “‘Weed Party’ is really the same song as ‘Laredo’ and ‘Casual,’” says Bridwell in a backstage interview before the show, nursing a bottle of Miller Lite and tugging on his beard as he responds. “I forget that I’m rewriting the same chord structures over and over—but I’m grateful for it.”

Bridwell has never been shy about acknowledging his limitations or when he’s been pushed beyond them. That, by and large, is how he describes 2012’s Mirage Rock, BOH’s minor fiasco of a classic-rock experiment with storied producer Glyn Johns—an album that alienated some fans. “It’s currently the black sheep (of our catalog). We were gearing the material to what he liked, whether we knew it or not,” says Bridwell of the collaboration with Johns, whose many credits include Who’s Next, Desperado and Led Zeppelin’s debut.

The whole experience did a job on Bridwell’s confidence, and he found himself at a creative impasse when it came time write his next batch of tunes. “I was gun shy as hell from the last record,” he says. “I was going for the clever wordplay before I even figured out what the story was.”

Produced by Jason Lytle, nudged toward the finish line by Rick Rubin and mixed by Dave Fridmann, Why Are You OK is a return to form for Band Of Horses—the point of reference being the epic wistfulness and exacting studio craft of 2010’s Grammy-nominated Infinite Arms. Like that record, just about everything on Why Are You OK was fretted over, reworked, refined and fretted over some more. Curiously, one of its best tracks, “In A Drawer”—with its guest vocal from J Mascis—is actually an extensively revised leftover from the Infinite Arms sessions. “We were tweaking this album until the very end,” says Bridwell.

But while Infinite is lush, layered and tightly honed, Why has an airy open-endedness befitting its title. Melodies meander and textures unravel as Bridwell mulls the duality of fatherhood and the samey nuances of the homebody lifestyle. One minute, he’s reveling in the boredom and predictability of domestic life on the album’s ambling bookends “Dull Times: The Moon” and “Even Still”; the next, he’s contemplating an untimely exit (“Barrel House”) and questioning his sanity (“Throw My Mess”).

“It’s about the balance of family and this crazy life I’m living,” says Bridwell. “It’s just busy as hell at home. When I’ve been away awhile, my wife will throw a baby at me as soon as I get in the door. I can’t be askin’ to go spend a week in a cabin to possibly write a song or something.”

Uncertainty in the face of mounting obligations is a common thread running through the tracks, most of which were written by Bridwell at home during the off hours between carting around his girls, changing diapers, fixing meals and generally carrying his own weight as a husband and dad. “We built this home in Mount Pleasant, just across the river from Charleston,” says Bridwell. “All the houses have to be on stilts because of the floodplain, so there’s this big garage. I just found a corner and hung out down there quite a bit,. There’s a whole lot of real life in this album— and even if that sounds boring, it’s not boring to me. It’s fuckin’ crazy.”

—Hobart Rowland

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The Posies: Let It Grow


Creative regeneration has sustained the Posies through 30 up-and-down years

“We haven’t broken up yet. But if we broke up today, we might disappear.”

Such were the sentiments of the Posies’ Ken Stringfellow in an interview with yours truly that’s exactly 20 years old this month. Back then, he and Jon Auer were at the end of their tenure with Geffen, frustrated that the label was doing little in the way of promoting 1996’s Amazing Disgrace. The two would part ways in 1998, only to reunite several years later.

“I think our fans are impressed that we’ve kept going,” says Auer, as he and Stringfellow prep for a secret gig in support of Solid States (MyMusicEmpire), the Posies’ eighth album of original music in 30 years. “People are still quite shocked that we still put as much energy into it as we do.”

In about 45 minutes, the two will join drummer Frankie Siragusa for an exceedingly loud set heavy on new material for an audience of about 60 fans in an out-of-the-way recording studio in the upper-middle-class borough of Haddon Heights, N.J. Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different from those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Auer, who, like Stringfellow, now lives in France.

Life-changing events aside, Stringfellow cites key differences in the creative process that led to what Auer describes as some of the Posies’ most “adventurous” material. “We didn’t track this record with a band at all; it’s totally ‘put together,’ in a sense,” says Stringfellow, as he tinkers with the wiring below the keyboards he’ll be hammering away on during the show. “It’s a jam-free album— and people only have issues with that if they have some sort of fantasy about what we should be doing.”

“Honestly, we weren’t going to use any real drums at the start,” says Auer. “But then we did a series of shows as a duo, and we missed that visceral quality.”

Solid States features contributions from ex-Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock and U.K. soul singer Gizelle Smith, along with Auer’s wife, Tiz Aramini, and Stringfellow’s 11-year-old daughter, Aden.

Keyboards figure heavily on the album, to the degree that it’s been described as a significant departure. And it is—sort of. The Posies’ classic melodic sensibility and pristine harmonies filter through the busy, tightly constructed fabric of the songs, providing a template that’s fresh yet familiar. “Even when we try to do something different, it winds up sounding like us,” says Auer. “We could do a reggae record and put our vocals on top, and people would still be calling us power pop.”

Also not lost on the Posies: The realization that they’ve basically come full circle in the 28 years since their debut, Failure—which was recorded at Auer’s home studio in 1987 and 1988—or the seismically ridiculous differences in the industry that have occurred since their first and only official breakup in ’98. “There was a lot of waste in those days,” Auer says. “The money was there.”

To be exact, the Posies spent a quarter of a million dollars to make Amazing Disgrace, says Stringfellow. By comparison, Solid States cost 50 grand. “And that includes manufacturing and publicity,” he says. “And there’s one more factor: We’re so much more adept in the studio now. We get to the heart of the matter way quicker than back in the day.”

—Hobart Rowland

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Bat For Lashes: Wedding Crasher


Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan says “I do” with The Bride

It might be the cheesiest of all showbiz clichés, but for Natasha Khan, the words ring uncannily true: What she’d really like to do is direct.

Ever since this Renaissance woman hung out her shingle as gothic-edged alt-rocker Bat For Lashes with 2006 debut Fur And Gold, she’s mastered every artistic medium she’s attempted, including one full-length foray into psychedelic covers last year as Sexwitch, a band she formed with Dan Carey and the group Toy. She studied modern dance, then utilized its rhythms to compose and choreograph elaborate routines and videos for her last, and third, effort, 2012’s The Haunted Man. Recently, her keen eye for fashion led to her own breezy daywear collection for YMC. “I was more into the patterns of the fabric, because I just love making things,” she says.

Naturally, the Brit decided to shoot—and star in—a mini-movie to accompany the collection Under The Indigo Moon, with a soundtrack she composed with Beck. Khan has also penned a short-film script, Gotcha, which she plans to helm once she wins her studio argument for final-cut rights. Then there’s her first official 15-minute featurette, I Do, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, a Joyce Carol Oates-ish fable of a fiancée who impetuously rides off with an inviting stranger on her wedding day.

“He represents the ghost of someone she’s lost in the past,” she says. “It’s quite surreal and set in the English countryside.”

But I Do isn’t directly connected to The Bride, Khan’s most ambitious undertaking to date, which is at once her fourth album, the operatic soundtrack to a full-length feature she’s writing with plans to direct, and a deep, philosophical musing on the tradition of marriage itself. Song by song, it documents a woman waiting at the altar for a groom who never arrives—he dies in a car crash, en route, sending her on a journey of self-discovery that begins with the opening harp-plucked “I Do,” ends with an optimistic “I Will Love Again,” “In Your Bed” and “Clouds” and even includes a tryst with an alien lover (“Close Encounters”).

Bat For Lashes has already begun staging The Bride in churches like London’s Union Chapel, wherein she walks down the aisle in a blood-red wedding dress and throws a bouquet of flowers to the congregation/audience (who are urged to wear formal attire) before playing nearly all the album, followed by a second set called Treats that includes catalog classics like “Marilyn,” “Horse And I,” the Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” and her Ivor Novello Award-winning breakthrough hit “Daniel.”

The singer had such a panoramic vision in mind, she knew exactly where to gestate her Bride. With producer Simone Felice, she retreated to a mountaintop house in New York’s Catskills and converted it to a studio. “We cleared out all of the furniture and brought in a big mixing desk, vibraphone, celeste, harmonium, drum kit, guitars, everything we needed to play,” she says. “And there was a big fireplace so we could make fires and get the candles out, and a huge dining table so I could cook for all the musicians that came by. And there were deer all around, and forests and fog and chipmunks and squirrels. It was peaceful, and the perfect setting to invite people in to the world of The Bride.

In retrospect, Khan reckons she was always headed toward cinema. At 16, the avid Kubrick/Polanski buff started making arty home movies with her boyfriend at the time before turning her attention to nature and shooting footage of snow-sprinkled Canadian geese on the lake near her Hertfordshire home. By 18, and at her professor’s urging, she was making triptych films in art school.

“Then, I guess I always kept at it through doing music videos,” she says. “I’ve always had a very strong involvement in the film treatment and always collaborated quite closely with the directors to make sure I got what I wanted. And it kept me going for a while.”

With the multimedia Bride project, the auteur is taking that Hollywood cliché and running with it. “My desire just got too strong, and I had to get back to film,” she says. “I want to make a feature, work on shorts and animation, and really get back into that visual language again.”

—Tom Lanham

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Deerhoof: Fresh Born


By not changing anything (or changing everything), Deerhoof has made The Magic

After two decades of crafting noisily compelling avant indie art rock—or other silly record-store divider-card descriptions—while disregarding the prevailing sonic trends or studio protocols, Deerhoof approached its new album, The Magic, by defying its standard modus operandi. A neat trick, considering the band doesn’t have one.

“We operate by consensus and never do anything that any one of us doesn’t agree with, and if we can all be satisfied by something, that’s saying a lot,” says drummer Greg Saunier, the band’s sole remaining original member among the longstanding lineup of vocalist/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki and guitarists John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez. “We don’t complain about an idea or song if the source doesn’t conform to some previously fixed notion of our band’s system. We don’t have a system. We’re very lucky to have each other.”

Deerhoof’s first Magic steps were inspired by a cattle call for song submissions to HBO for the show that became Vinyl. The band’s licensing company, Terrorbird, forwarded HBO’s request on a Friday; the deadline was the following Monday.

“There’s no way we’re getting a contribution together in two days. We were like, ‘Forget it,’” says Saunier. “The next morning, I thought, ‘It’s too bad, because I’d probably do something like this’ … Before you know it, I’m plugging guitars into the computer and getting together a rough demo. Sunday night, I sent it to Terrorbird and cc’d my bandmates. To my shock, I get an e-mail from John and he’s recorded a demo; a half hour later, Ed sends a song he’s been working on. The original call was pretty specific about the style HBO was looking for. The songs we did are completely different from each other and show the extent to which we seem to be incapable of understanding instructions or imitating musical styles.”

With those three guidepost songs—Dieterich’s “Dispossessor,” Rodriguez’s “That Ain’t No Light To Me” and Saunier’s “Plastic Thrills,” rejected by HBO—along with demos Matsuzaki had done alone, Dieterich rented abandoned office space near his Albuquerque home, where the band convened for a week to shape new material. “Once the band gets their hands on it, all bets are off,” says Saunier. “You really don’t know how things might take off in a different direction.” For The Magic’s wildly diverse stylistic mashup, Deerhoof’s members brought songs that tapped into sounds from their individual childhoods, channeling their inner music fan from a time when adrenaline was a vital mixer for a rock cocktail.

“Old-school rap kept reappearing, and hair metal,” says Saunier. “It was a certain kind of ‘hit’ feeling that we remembered from when we were younger that could inspire you or pump you up.”

Subsequently, The Magic is a wildly varied and brilliantly unhinged soundtrack to a movie played upside down and edited inside out, which still makes a sort of hallucinogenic sense; imagine a round-robin scoring session with the Pixies, Pere Ubu and the Flaming Lips.

There isn’t a hint of compromise in The Magic, but the album could transcend Deerhoof’s loyal fan base and reach a broader audience. Saunier makes it clear that any accessibility on Deerhoof’s part is strictly accidental, other than the intentional part.

“We’re always trying to be accessible, so it’s not more than usual,” he says. “I think this time we let our guard down with each other. Since we’re no longer living in the same city, it’s becomes even less predictable what somebody might present to the band, but it was never predictable when we did live in the same city. Somebody would say, ‘My song goes like this,’ and you’d go, ‘How is that even a song?’ It’s utterly confounding. There’s a process of figuring out what the others are thinking and to make sense of someone’s dream report.”

—Brian Baker

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The Figgs: Somewhere Under The Radar


Hiding in plain sight, the Figgs demand your attention

“Gimmicks,” a tune from the Figgs’ new On The Slide (Stomper)—the prolific trio’s 13th album—finds guitarist/songwriter Mike Gentwith rock ‘n’ roll poseurs in his caustic crosshairs: “Looking like a bunch of pricks/Another schmuck with a new shtick/Your tattoos are fading, your eyeliner’s running.”

But if the target is anyone specific, Gent’s not telling.

“Some of it’s probably aimed at myself,” he says from his Boston home. “Who’s not a sucker for a good gimmick?”

While never resorting to ploys or fakery, the Figgs have rightly been angling for greater acclaim since the band’s 1987 formation in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The group began as a trio with Gent, bassist/songwriter Pete Donnelly and drummer Guy Lyons; Lyons left in 1989 and was replaced by Pete Hayes, only to return as a guitarist in 1992 before permanently departing after 1997’s Couldn’t Get High.

Breaking up then was a possibility, but one not seriously entertained. “I think everyone was expecting us to, but I knew our best years were still ahead,” says Gent. Instead, the threesome soldiered on and has continued to craft an outstanding catalog full of pub-rock, power-pop and soul-inflected nuggets blemished only by the occasional sound of crickets greeting it.

“It’s frustrating when we’ve been doing this for almost three decades and certain magazines have completely ignored us from the start, and late-night TV has no interest in having us on,” says Gent. “You see a new band come out and get a ton of hype, then after a couple of years, or even months, they’re kaput. But it really doesn’t matter. We have a great, little fanbase that loves and supports the band. We make records and play shows for them. It would be fun to play on TV again, though.”

On The Slide arrives just more than a year after 2015’s Other Planes Of Here; the original plan was to follow it up even sooner—in six months, à la Elvis Costello’s 1986 Blood And Chocolate and King Of America. Much of Slide was cut during the same sessions, and an early version, dubbed Smartest Of The Dumb Ones, was mixed, but Gent and Donnelly decided to continue shaping the LP with additional tunes.

The duo doesn’t follow a strict “my song then yours” policy when sequencing records, unlike, say, Hüsker Dü (maybe because they don’t hate each other). But even when it turns out that way, the results are seamless thanks to how the pair now works together. (Hayes also writes, but not lately; his “Je T’Adore,” off 2004’s Palais, was featured in a ubiquitous 2013 Lexus commercial.)

“The last few records, there’s been a lot of writing and collaborating while in the studio,” says Gent. “On the earlier records, each member would come in with a group of their songs pretty much finished, and we would pick the ones that we liked the most, rehearse them and play them live for a bit, then record them.”

More new stuff has already been tracked— we did say they’re prolific—and another Figgs album will likely be released in 2017, the band’s 30th anniversary. There’ll be some nostalgic celebrating as well, followed by some well-earned rest.

“It’d be nice to do something special—maybe record and tour a little bit with Guy,” says Gent. “There are some really cool reissues and other archive releases being discussed. After that, I want to take a full year off and recharge. We deserve it.”

—Matt Hickey

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Anna Vogelzang: Declaration Of Independence


Anna Vogelzang continues to do it her way

According to singer/songwriter Anna Vogelzang, she had no alternate career path.

“There was no other option,” she says from her home in Madison, Wisc. “Everybody in my family is musical. I’ve been playing guitar and singing my whole life, first in a punk band in high school, then as a performing songwriter. ”

Vogelzang has just returned from SXSW, where she gigged, saw a lot of inspiring music and participated in the Artists As Labels symposium. “I spoke about being on my own label,” she says. “What artists can do to remain independent and when it makes sense to move on to being with a label.”

Her latest album, Hiker, is her 10th for her own label, Paper Anchor. It was recorded live, in one week, with bass player and producer Todd Sickafoose (Ani DiFranco, Andrew Bird) and drummer Shane Leonard (Field Report).

“Before this, I always produced or co-produced my records,” says Vogelzang. “It felt good to let go of the reins and surrender to the songs. We had one day to rehearse and work out arrangements. We made notes with ideas about instruments and tempos, then played together, each in our own booth, looking at each other, like a live gig. There are little imperfections in the music, but that’s what makes the album special. All three of us were in the moment, capturing the emotions of the songs.”

Hiker has a wide-open, expansive sound, with layers of acoustic and electric guitars, bass, kalimba, banjo, percussion and keyboards weaving a sparkling sonic tapestry to support Vogelzang’s warm, silky vocals.

“The songs explore the animal nature of human beings and our drive to keep moving forward, despite the obstacles in our way,” she says. “I wanted to make music that puts you in visual space, surrounded by the sounds and sights you experience outside of the city.”

—j. poet; photo by Anda Marie

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The So So Glos: The Glos Of Adulthood


The So So Glos get back to basics but mature philosophically with Kamikaze

The past four years have been a whirlwind for the So So Glos. The Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, pop/punk foursome—brothers Alex Levine (vocals, bass) and Ryan Levine (guitar, vocals), childhood friend-turned-stepbrother Zach Staggers (drums, vocals) and pal Matt Elkins (guitar, vocals)—recorded breakthrough album Blowout in 2013, gigged relentlessly behind its release, then experienced a long, dark teatime of the soul to emerge with latest triumph Kamikaze.

“It was a really big growth period, creatively, spiritually, emotionally, artistically,” says Alex Levine. “Some of us spent time in medical institutions, some of us had bad break-ups, there were natural disasters—Hurricane Sandy, in particular—and there were a lot of trials and tribulations within the band and individually. I think this record is a reflection of that. It feels like a mid-to-late-20s record, when reality hits you like a brick wall to the face. That’s what this record is to me.”

Where Blowout found the Glos concentrating on the punk side of the equation, Kamikaze accentuates the pop side, albeit with the band’s signature unbridled fury and un-varnished honesty.

“It was a tough record to make, and it came out sounding tough,” says Levine. “It’s a hardened record, but the quiets are quieter. A song like ‘Sunny Side,’ I wasn’t ready to write until it happened. But it’s still a party. There’s always going to be a bittersweet element to our music, which is my favorite type of art, the kind of stuff that makes you laugh and cry at the same time. I hope that comes across—these poppy, melodic things and underneath there’s a darker subtext.”

Indeed it does. But the fact remains, although the band went through a good deal of personal transformation to arrive at Kamikaze, it was preparing for those shifts immediately after Blowout.

“‘A.D.D. Life’ and ‘Dancing Industry’ were written about three days after Blowout was finished, which was about a year before it came out,” says Levine. “It was very organic; it just started up right after. Some songs we brought back from a couple years ago, some songs were written two days before we recorded.”

One big hurdle that the Glos had to surmount was the expectations surrounding Kamikaze after the acclaim heaped on Blowout, which generated a lot of top-albums-of-the-year attention. That’s a buzz that can distract from the next task, but the band remained focused on the present and future.

“I like the Bright Eyes quote; ‘Ambition I’ve found can lead only to failure/I do not read the reviews,’” says Levine with a laugh. “You have to get to a place of not giving a shit, and I think this record is really like that. There are certain expectations you have to let go of, especially after making a record that some people liked. You’ve got to throw that out.”

The Glos are never far from the gang vocals and swaggering intensity of the Clash and the Ramones, but Kamikaze—produced by Rocket From The Crypt/Hot Snakes frontman John Reis, who, Levine notes, “whipped the band into shape and helped us cut some of the fat”—shows an increased depth and versatility; the string arrangements on the aforementioned “Sunny Side” suggest similar explorations by the Suicide Machines, and Levine’s lyrical phrasing is reminiscent of art/pop eccentric Martin Newell. Now that the So So Glos have notched five releases over the past nine years, there’s a sense that they’ve evolved beyond directly accessing their influences.

“I think everyone starts out on the backs of someone else,” says Levine. “We definitely have influences, but I don’t think about them when I’m starting something. I think the band’s found its voice. There’s nothing new under the sun. Stuff that Joe Strummer was saying was basically stuff that Woody Guthrie was saying, which was basically stuff that Jesus Christ was saying. You just hope you’re in the right tribe, that you’ve fallen under the right timeline and that you influence like-minded people, like people who have influenced you. I just like to be a part of the conversation that’s been going on forever. Maybe we were meant to be born in another time, but a band like us is very much of this time. Our message is what’s going on now.”

—Brian Baker

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