Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of The Sharp Things’ Perry Serpa: An Intro

SharpThings

Having actually included MAGNET as one of my favorite things (and I promise that’s not sucking up, I really love the publication), you can imagine how chuffed I was at the prospect of a guest editorship. Over the past, well, several years of the Sharp Things‘ existence, Eric Miller has been a friend and an advocate, even when no one else was, so I’m honored to be able to ramble on a bit about a bunch of shit that I dig, because I want everyone to know about it and, more significantly, because it makes me feel important. ;-) Over to you, me …

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

The Sharp Things: Storehouse Of Treasure

SharpThings1

The Sharp Things honor the talent of a dear friend and founding member

Drummer Steven Gonzalez loved Rush. And that Sugar album, Copper Blue. He also dug AC/DC, Green Day, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Led Zeppelin and Three Dog Night. In short, Gonzalez’s personal tastes were, like those of a lot of intensely talented musicians, all over the map. And it was that eclectic curiosity that drew Gonzalez and Perry Serpa together when they were—to cop a line from Patti Smith—just kids, living and listening and bopping around NYC.

In the beginning, Serpa and Gonzalez were the Sharp Things. (The band’s PR material lists each player’s “member since” join date; Serpa’s and Gonzalez’s are their birth years.) The duo’s first demo recordings, cut during a trip to Pennsylvania in 1995 as a kind of experiment in crafting artfully arranged indie-pop, came off so promisingly that the bogus band name they’d concocted for that project stuck. Within a couple of years, the Sharp Things had coalesced into a full band, gigging around the East Village.

Since 2002, the Sharp Things have been releasing a series of albums mostly on the loose chamber-pop model, but accented by forays into other styles, making the band’s output a treasure trove for listeners whose tastes run to thoughtful composition and big-sound acoustics.

When Serpa found himself in the middle of a songwriting blitz around 2009, during which he composed close to 40 songs, he decided to hustle the music onto tape without worrying too much about how it would eventually see release. Serpa recorded those tracks with the rotating roster of members the Sharp Things had come to enjoy throughout its decade-long history. A loose album series titled The Dogs Of Bushwick, drawn from those sessions, began to see release in 2013 on two records, Green Is Good and The Truth Is Like The Sun. Now comes the third, Adventurer’s Inn, its title taken from a bygone amusement park Serpa and Gonzalez used to frequent as kids in their shared hometown of Flushing.

“It’s a short, sharp part of a very self-indulgent whole,” says Serpa. “Almost a mini-LP, really good for those with attention-deficit disorder. We bounce around genres a lot, and on this record, we found ourselves pushing the sides out a lot further.”

True enough. In fact, Adventurer’s Inn may be the shortest release in the series to date, but it’s the most freewheeling, aesthetically. “The Libertine” is a punchy, punkish workout, complete with distorted vocals; “All But These Beautiful Faces” mines a Summer Of Love-era Beatles vein; and the irresistible “Don’t Trust That Girl” is a flatly gorgeous Burt Bacharach-style swooner. Song by song, diverse as the collection is, each song is a standalone knockout. It’s a record for listeners who, like Serpa and Gonzalez, grew up loving all kinds of music shamelessly and indiscriminately.

Adventurer’s Inn is also an understandably bittersweet listen for the Sharp Things these days: Gonzalez passed away this year on September 11, after a lifetime battling the effects of cystic fibrosis. Gonzalez’s drumming anchors Adventurer’s Inn, as it will be the final installment in the series, due next year.

“Steve was my best friend and brother for 40 years,” says Serpa. “We grew up together. I remember him carrying all 18 pieces of his drum kit into my mother’s living room when we were 14, 15 years old. We actually played some shows as a duo before anyone else joined the Sharp Things.”

The band, as Serpa remembers it now, actually grew as a reaction to both of them sensing that they wanted to expand their scope as neophyte musicians. “That was certainly true for me, as a songwriter,” he says. “And Steve totally understood me as a songwriter. He just completely got me, all the time. It’s hard to lose him, first and foremost as a friend, but also as part of the heart and soul of this band.”

That soul is the most evident element on Adventurer’s Inn, the consistent element that binds its assorted songs. And as with the best soul, the sadness is laced with necessary humor. The final installment in the Bushwick series, Serpa hints cheekily, will be “a classic sort of Abbey Road side-two mash-up, with a big orchestral finish. Maybe with a ‘Revolution 9’ sound collage in there somewhere.”

—Eric Waggoner

Also posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

From The Desk Of The Wedding Presents’ David Gedge: At The Edge Of The Sea

MAGNET kindly asked if I’d come back and guest edit again. This year has been a whirlwind for the Wedding Present with touring, the festival in Brighton, recording the new Cinerama album, the Record Store Day singles and the deluxe reissue campaign of the first eight albums. There has hardly been a minute to sit still. So here is a little collection of little things in my life at the moment.

YouTube Preview Image

Every August, I curate my own festival in Brighton, nestled in the southern coast of England. I call it a “festival,” but it’s essentially just an all-day indoor affair at a medium-sized venue. I say “curate’” but not a lot of thought goes into it. I just pick bands I love, people I admire, old friends and former musical colleagues, anyone who takes my fancy, really. But the thing is, once I’ve pressed the start button, the thing just takes on a life of its own. I don’t mean this to sound hippy-ish or anything, but it seems to grow organically and always comes together perfectly. I’m not saying it’s easy—it’s actually quite a lot of work—but then the venue doors swing open and the first band takes to the stage with the beach clearly visible through the huge Victorian windows behind them and I will, without fail, have to choke back tears of … I don’t know, satisfaction? Relief? Either way, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of The Wedding Presents’ David Gedge: Vinyl

MAGNET kindly asked if I’d come back and guest edit again. This year has been a whirlwind for the Wedding Present with touring, the festival in Brighton, recording the new Cinerama album, the Record Store Day singles and the deluxe reissue campaign of the first eight albums. There has hardly been a minute to sit still. So here is a little collection of little things in my life at the moment.

Vinyl

I recently bought a record player because all of our albums seem to get released on vinyl again these days, and I needed to check some test pressings. I’ve not owned a record player for about 10 years, I think, and it’s certainly very nice to have one again. What is it about vinyl? Is it just nostalgia? It can’t be because I’m told young people are fueling the vinyl resurgence. Maybe it’s the sound? Or is it the look, the feel, the smell? Anyway, hello, old friend, welcome back!

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of The Wedding Presents’ David Gedge: Recording Cinerama In Spain

MAGNET kindly asked if I’d come back and guest edit again. This year has been a whirlwind for the Wedding Present with touring, the festival in Brighton, recording the new Cinerama album, the Record Store Day singles and the deluxe reissue campaign of the first eight albums. There has hardly been a minute to sit still. So here is a little collection of little things in my life at the moment.

Cinerama

This year has seen a long-held ambition of mine come to fruition. For about 15 years now, I’ve had this dream to record an album—i.e., the same collection of songs—twice. One version would be recorded by the Wedding Present and the other, with totally different arrangements and instrumentation, would be recorded by my “other” band, Cinerama. I just didn’t know how to go about it. Then I met producer Pedro Vigil from the Asturias region of northern Spain, and together we mapped out a version of Valentina (the Wedding Present’s 2012 album) for Cinerama. We then recorded and mixed it in Gijon and Cadiz, respectively, and I had a really great time doing it. It reminded me why I started the Wedding Present but also why I started Cinerama, and I’m looking forward to seeing what everybody else thinks when I release it next year.

Video after the jump.

Read More »

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of The Wedding Presents’ David Gedge: Santa Monica

MAGNET kindly asked if I’d come back and guest edit again. This year has been a whirlwind for the Wedding Present with touring, the festival in Brighton, recording the new Cinerama album, the Record Store Day singles and the deluxe reissue campaign of the first eight albums. There has hardly been a minute to sit still. So here is a little collection of little things in my life at the moment.

SantaMonica

I own an apartment in Santa Monica, Calif., and try to go there for a couple of months every year. It’s a lovely place and quite European as far as American cities go, by which I mean you can actually walk around a lot of it. It also doesn’t get as hot as the surrounding area and there’s a Swingers diner. By that I don’t mean a café where wife-swapping takes place. I mean it’s called Swingers, it’s a great diner and there’s only one other in the Los Angeles area. Santa Monica has the beach community feel of Venice Beach without the crime, the poshness of Malibu without the high rent and the ice cream of Manhattan Beach without being an hour’s drive away. And where else can you see a bulldog riding a skateboard before your moonlit, seafront dinner?

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of The Wedding Presents’ David Gedge: Genesis

MAGNET kindly asked if I’d come back and guest edit again. This year has been a whirlwind for the Wedding Present with touring, the festival in Brighton, recording the new Cinerama album, the Record Store Day singles and the deluxe reissue campaign of the first eight albums. There has hardly been a minute to sit still. So here is a little collection of little things in my life at the moment.

Genesis

I suppose this rock band should be filed in my list of guilty pleasures. In these post-punk enlightened times, I suppose we all know better now than to profess a liking for progressive-rock bands, especially those who got musically worse and inexplicably more ridiculous as time progressed. But … well … those early records! Peter Gabriel dressed as a flower singing about unifauns and selling England by the pound. What is a unifaun, anyway? Marvellous stuff, nevertheless.

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of The Wedding Presents’ David Gedge: British Christmas Telly

MAGNET kindly asked if I’d come back and guest edit again. This year has been a whirlwind for the Wedding Present with touring, the festival in Brighton, recording the new Cinerama album, the Record Store Day singles and the deluxe reissue campaign of the first eight albums. There has hardly been a minute to sit still. So here is a little collection of little things in my life at the moment.

TV

This year will be the first year in about five that I’ve been in the United Kingdom for Christmas. We usually decamp to the USA around that time of year, which is absolutely fine, but it’s nothing like being “at home.” Why? In a word: the television. For some reason Americans don’t save the best films and all the Christmas specials for the holiday. Maybe Americans have better things to do than plump themselves in front of the telly all day? But what?!

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of The Wedding Presents’ David Gedge: Driving Across The USA

MAGNET kindly asked if I’d come back and guest edit again. This year has been a whirlwind for the Wedding Present with touring, the festival in Brighton, recording the new Cinerama album, the Record Store Day singles and the deluxe reissue campaign of the first eight albums. There has hardly been a minute to sit still. So here is a little collection of little things in my life at the moment.

Driving

My wife and I decided to drive across the USA last summer. We started in Maine and ended up in California via the Outer Banks, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, the Hoover Dam and pretty much everything else in between. It took us three weeks: 20 states in 20 days of six-hour meandering drives. And every single moment of it was fantastic. We couldn’t stop being awed by the scenery, the peculiarity, the space. I can’t say that any part of it was any better or worse than the others. Each day had its own identity; each area had its own landscapes. You hear of Americans who’ve never left the USA because they think they have everything they need on their own doorstep … and I can kind of see why they say that.

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed

From The Desk Of The Wedding Presents’ David Gedge: Doris

MAGNET kindly asked if I’d come back and guest edit again. This year has been a whirlwind for the Wedding Present with touring, the festival in Brighton, recording the new Cinerama album, the Record Store Day singles and the deluxe reissue campaign of the first eight albums. There has hardly been a minute to sit still. So here is a little collection of little things in my life at the moment.

Dog

I didn’t really want to ever own a puppy again. They’re a huge commitment; they make your house scruffy, they smell, you have to tend to them at all hours of the day. When we went to look at a litter of seven wriggly guinea-pig-sized Yorkshire Terrier/Bichon Frisé crosses, I steeled myself against them and their small wet noses and begging eyes. My wife had none of these reservations. She’s more impulsive than I am. We came home with the smallest of the litter. Of course, I was melting on the inside … and I still am. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve remembered the happiness that leaks into your heart when you live with an animal. Who can not be cheered up when that little furry face looks up at you and your new friend shakes her whole body with joy when you simply walk into a room?

Posted in GUEST EDITOR | Comments closed