Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of Spirit Family Reunion: “Nacho Libre”

When the folks in Spirit Family Reunion raise their voices in song, they deliver an inspiring message. Their mostly acoustic approach combines elements of rock with hints of bluegrass and country music. They have a feel that approaches the fervent emotions of gospel music, but their messages stay grounded in the secular world. Banjo player Maggie Carson will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band

9NachoLibre

Carson: Jared Hess’ 2006 follow-up to Napoleon Dynamite was critically panned. But I can say this is easily one of my favorite films. With only a few friends who agree with me, I am usually trying to convince people to watch it two times, It’s hard to pick up all the nuance your first time watching. (No, I am not kidding.) Beautifully shot, with amazing dialogue, and a wonderful cast, the film is easily as re-watchable as other greats like Lebowski and Wayne’s World. I’d like to think that one day this film will get the praise it deserves or find it’s way into the cult world of the midnight movie, but I doubt it. Here’s hoping.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Spirit Family Reunion: In The Red Records

When the folks in Spirit Family Reunion raise their voices in song, they deliver an inspiring message. Their mostly acoustic approach combines elements of rock with hints of bluegrass and country music. They have a feel that approaches the fervent emotions of gospel music, but their messages stay grounded in the secular world. Banjo player Maggie Carson will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band

8InTheRed

Carson: Pretty much my favorite label, they’ve been consistently releasing amazing records for the past 24 years. Throughout the early-to-mid-1900s, there had been so many historic labels who’d time and time again put out amazing music, and it’s a breath of fresh air to see a contemporary label put so much care and passion into what they release. There is a resurgence of small labels like Daptone, Burger, Mississippi and more that are getting their name out there prominently because they consistently release great music, and people trust these labels and believe that they are not going to put mediocre music out into the world. It gives me great pleasure to know that I can walk into a record store, see that In the Red logo on the back of the record and know if I buy it, I’m in for a treat.

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From The Desk Of Spirit Family Reunion: Women + Music

When the folks in Spirit Family Reunion raise their voices in song, they deliver an inspiring message. Their mostly acoustic approach combines elements of rock with hints of bluegrass and country music. They have a feel that approaches the fervent emotions of gospel music, but their messages stay grounded in the secular world. Banjo player Maggie Carson will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band

7Carson

Carson:
“Why aren’t there more women in touring bands?”

“What’s it like being the only woman in the band?”

More nights than not, I’m asked these questions while standing behind the merch table.

I hated these questions. For one, it felt like the primary thing audiences took away from my performance was my gender, which felt degrading. It also felt like I was being asked, “So what’s it like being different from everyone else?” I found myself dismissive, resentful even, of these questions.

But after being asked these questions with astounding frequency, it becomes hard to shrug them off. Why is this something so many people are so curious about? How are my experiences different from my male counterparts simply because I’m a woman, rather than because I’m uniquely me, and they’re uniquely them? How much is gender a part of identity in live music?

What’s it like being the only woman in the band? The frequency with which I’m asked the question answers itself. To me, being a woman feels like one part of countless pieces of myself, both given and gathered, that I bring with me to everything I do. Perhaps it’s too much to get into during the brief conversations I have with people after shows … Although, maybe next time I see you at the merch table, we can ask these questions of each other—and imagine a future in which our daughters are not defined by their gender.

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From The Desk Of Spirit Family Reunion: Van Part 2

When the folks in Spirit Family Reunion raise their voices in song, they deliver an inspiring message. Their mostly acoustic approach combines elements of rock with hints of bluegrass and country music. They have a feel that approaches the fervent emotions of gospel music, but their messages stay grounded in the secular world. Banjo player Maggie Carson will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band

6Bandago

Carson: We’ve driven our last 10,000 or so miles in a rental. When I think about renting, I think about opening a window and throwing piles of cash out of it. But with the amount of miles that we drive, and the amount of time and money that’s caused us to spend at mechanics, this is a smart move. When we decided to try renting, we had no idea how to make it happen. When we found out about Bandago, it all was easily done. Apparently, they’ve been in business for more than a decade, but we just found out about them last year, and it’s made our job of driving all over this giant country much easier. They’ve been flexible anytime we need to alter a reservation. Everyone we’ve interacted with has been real nice and accommodating. As for the vans we’ve rented, they’ve been newer than anything we could afford otherwise. They drive smooth, and we don’t have to clean or maintain them. They’ve had internet, TVs, plenty of electrical outlets and lots of room for our gear and baggage. Once we started renting, we began to notice all these black vans with California plates just like ours parked in band lots at festivals and venues all over. Enough to start playing Bandago bingo or something. It seems like this a need that has existed for a while, and it’s nice that somebody finally did something to fill that need in a way that is accessible to bands of all shapes and sizes. Thanks, Bandago, for helping to keep bands on the road, and doing it fairly.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Spirit Family Reunion: Van Part 1

When the folks in Spirit Family Reunion raise their voices in song, they deliver an inspiring message. Their mostly acoustic approach combines elements of rock with hints of bluegrass and country music. They have a feel that approaches the fervent emotions of gospel music, but their messages stay grounded in the secular world. Banjo player Maggie Carson will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band

5Van

Carson: Driving is the part of life for a touring musician that is equivalent to the shitty part of your job. Our van is your cubicle. We’ve gone through our fair share of them.

First, there was the pine-green ‘88 Chevy retired from a Navy fleet. Our first of many epic breakdowns occurred in Staunton, Va., when a kindhearted tow-truck driver of few words pulled over and offered a hand. After four days of puking in his bathroom, sleeping in his driveway, our unsightly presence attracting the scorn of his landlord and neighbors, and melting our very first seven-inch records in the sun, Buck finished the job on our head gaskets and ensured his spot as our number-one guardian angel of all time.

After we finally brought her in to the tuna-fish can factory, we found a gorgeous ‘86 tan turtle-top Ford conversion van listed on Craigslist by Dennis in Greenback, Tenn. He played in a band, too, called Country Band. This beautiful machine was clean and plush red inside with custom curtains, a removable table and captain’s chairs that turned around 360 degrees. We were riding in style, but we wound up hobbling back to that scrap yard sooner than we hoped. We had a taste of the conversion van, though, and we wanted more. So we got a dark green ‘97 Ford off a fisherman in Staten Island with a TV/VCR, retractable back bench, a built-in cooler and a stereo that worked. Sure it broke down some, but overall our best work horse. We went through a growth spurt though and sold it off to buy a 2007 Ford E-450 wheelchair-access airport-shuttle type short-bus thing. We built a loft in the back and had lots of room to stretch out and even stand up. It was our own little fucked-up version of a tour bus. Some nights it wouldn’t start up and we’d all wind up sleeping in it. We had a bed, a cooler, some mattresses and plans for solar panels and a little kitchen someday. Apparently, though, it was not meant to be ruthlessly heaved across this continent, and we ultimately wound up paying for that thing two or three times over. It was time to move on and figure something else out …

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From The Desk Of Spirit Family Reunion: Amalgamated Dwellings

When the folks in Spirit Family Reunion raise their voices in song, they deliver an inspiring message. Their mostly acoustic approach combines elements of rock with hints of bluegrass and country music. They have a feel that approaches the fervent emotions of gospel music, but their messages stay grounded in the secular world. Banjo player Maggie Carson will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band

4AmalgamatedDwellings

Carson: Oftentimes, people seem surprised to learn that we live in New York City. Something about our sound or our manner does not match their idea of a cold and heartless city, and I can understand their impression. But growing up here, I’ve found that if you look around a little just below the surface, there’s a supportive and inviting place for you. We have a long tradition of that, here in New York City.

The Lower East Side has been known as one of the city’s most cutting-edge neighborhoods for a long time. So many different scenes and movements came out of here, but now it all just seems to be upscale boutiques and trendy bars pushing out any potential innovation.

Among these fancy new establishments is one of the oldest housing co-operatives in the country. In 1930, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America funded the construction of a limited-profit building that would stand in contrast to the notorious tenements of the area. Director Abraham Kazan hired architects Springsteen & Goldhammer to create a design that would provide each and every one of the 236 affordably priced apartments with fresh air and sunlight, and amenities like a library, a nursery, a gym, a roof deck, a garden and an auditorium where a W.P.A. orchestra would come to perform regularly. In the middle of the Great Depression, they built a place where hardworking people of downtown Manhattan could afford to live with dignity.

Today, blocks away from the ghostly sites of CBGB and the Fillmore East still stands a much older stage, built for neighbors to gather and enjoy music together. It’s been silent for a while, but it remains. This is the stage we chose to revive for our first music video, for the song “It Does Not Bother Me.” Right in our backyard, we found a place that felt like home.

Let’s go against the grain and invite community more. The infrastructure is already there.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Spirit Family Reunion: AG

When the folks in Spirit Family Reunion raise their voices in song, they deliver an inspiring message. Their mostly acoustic approach combines elements of rock with hints of bluegrass and country music. They have a feel that approaches the fervent emotions of gospel music, but their messages stay grounded in the secular world. Banjo player Maggie Carson will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band

3RecordingStudio

Carson: Some days stick around in your life long past midnight. We should consider the day we met a bearded bicycle mechanic named Andrew one of those days. Who knows the exact date back in 2010 when we made the acquaintance of this multi-talented man. Since that day, AG, as we call him, has lovingly assisted us in all of our recording efforts in studio, at home and anything in between. He’s been able to do this because he’s the most patient human being we’ve come to know. That’s a good guy for a band to know. And it’s a shitty twist of some fucked-up bastard version of fate that tests a man of such patience.

In the spring of 2012, we were almost done recording our first full album in AG’s Park Slope studio. At the same time, we were amongst a group of friends helping to break down that studio and build a new studio of dreams on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. We helped with demolition, transportation of gear, and construction as part of our payment for AG’s recording work. By October, when the new Translator Audio Studio was ready to open, we were out on the road with our brand-new record, and we missed their opening party. We will never got to see that studio because two weeks later, on Oct. 30, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York hard and sent the filthy sludge of the Gowanus Canal gushing into the new studio—bending back the roll-up gate, smashing the doors and destroying everything. nearly half a million dollars worth of vintage equipment and brand-new construction material ruined.

Throughout trips to multiple triage storage units, the sorting of salvageable parts, dealing with insurance companies and lawyers and realtors, setting up a new studio in Coney Island, recording our new album, then breaking down that new studio, and not to mention wrenching on bicycles the entire fucking time, AG has inspired us all with his extraordinary composure. It’s hard enough paying for your life in New York City as a recording engineer, let alone when the brand-new business you just went all-in on gets completely erased in one single day. AG has done it with more grace than we can change a tire with. That’s a good guy for anybody to know.

After looking at more than a hundred spaces and submitting more than a dozen offers, still nothing. It seems that NYC is no longer a place where a few dedicated and talented recording engineer partners can build a small business. Not only has a reasonable 10-year lease on a studio-friendly space (the kind they signed in Gowanus in 2012) become impossible to find, but the Bushwick studios where AG moonlighted in between his moves are now being destroyed by bulldozers, to make room for upscale apartments. Every step that AG takes in recovering from this disaster he seems to encounter another hurdle, and he does it with great equanimity again and again. And so he has set up the latest incarnation of Translator Audio with a combination of rehabilitated gear and post-hurricane acquisitions. It’s a somewhat more covert operation for now that straddles the line between a home-studio and studio-home in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he can continue to pay for his life in New York City by making records.

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From The Desk Of Spirit Family Reunion: Les Blank

When the folks in Spirit Family Reunion raise their voices in song, they deliver an inspiring message. Their mostly acoustic approach combines elements of rock with hints of bluegrass and country music. They have a feel that approaches the fervent emotions of gospel music, but their messages stay grounded in the secular world. Banjo player Maggie Carson will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band

2LesBlank

Carson: Les Blank’s films are a treasure. He was an American documentary filmmaker who covered our country’s most essential topics: garlic, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Cajun country and gap-toothed women. His movies typically last about 30 minutes, and they are beautiful to watch. The kind of footage he captures, the intimate access to his subjects, and the way he pieces together the story all make his films truly special. It’s difficult to pinpoint what the thread is throughout his five decades of work, but there is most certainly a defining characteristic to Blank’s films. Maybe it’s the part of America that now seems extinct, as if he perfectly captured these characters in all their complex and enigmatic glory, providing them with a graceful exit as America evolved into a place where they were no longer welcome. His movies seem to connect pieces of a puzzle that you didn’t even know existed. Polka, sausage making, Mardi Gras, Zydeco, West Coast hippies, Appalachian fiddlers, Werner Herzog, all seemingly unrelated, are somehow woven together through the lens of Les Blank. Appropriately, you can visit a library or call your local art-house cinema programmer to see his films. More conveniently, you can find some clips and $30 DVDs online.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Spirit Family Reunion: Band Hosts

When the folks in Spirit Family Reunion raise their voices in song, they deliver an inspiring message. Their mostly acoustic approach combines elements of rock with hints of bluegrass and country music. They have a feel that approaches the fervent emotions of gospel music, but their messages stay grounded in the secular world. Banjo player Maggie Carson will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band

1BandHosts

Carson: One of the greatest experiences for a band on tour is getting to stay with an awesome host. People who go out to see live music and offer to put the band up are a special kind of people.

When we first started to tour we always found a place to stay, never a hotel. We wound up sleeping in some rough spots, but we always got a sense of where we were, and we made some friends who we still hold dear. Nowadays, we’ll sometimes wind up in a hotel, and when you’re there you could be anywhere. You get a hot shower and a place to lay, but you don’t get to know someone who was inspired by your music. You don’t get the good breakfast-spot recommendation. You don’t get to make a friend you can visit the next time through.

You can tell when someone has done it before—either hosting or touring. There’s mention of clean towels. There’s a late-night hang with some good records and a round of drinks, or a good hot cup of tea and “see you in the morning.” There’s a few couches, some air mattresses, maybe an empty bed or two, or just lots of blankets on the carpet. Wake up and make a big breakfast, or “I gotta leave at seven but stay as long as you want just shut the door behind you.” You’re in a strange condition when you’re on tour and you can tell when somebody gets it, and when somebody gets it, it means a lot.

It’s easy to feel unworthy of such warm hospitality. But it’s nice to trust that anyone who makes this offering feels that it’s an even exchange. It’s good to know that someone connects with what you’ve given through your music, and they just want to give back to complete that connection. We are so lucky that we sometimes get to deal in this kind of trade based on experience rather than dollars. That’s the way we should be interacting with all people who we don’t know but we’re too frightened. Something about music seems to break this wall down and bring out the generosity in people. No heavy hotel curtains or “Do Not Disturb” signs can beat the experience of a new friend’s generous hospitality. Here’s to appreciating all the great band hosts out there.

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Spirit Family Reunion: Secular Spirituals

SpiritFamilyReunion

Spirit Family Reunion throws away the gospel and bluegrass rulebooks

When the folks in Spirit Family Reunion raise their voices in song, they deliver an inspiring message. Their mostly acoustic approach combines elements of rock with hints of bluegrass and country music. They have a feel that approaches the fervent emotions of gospel music, but their messages stay grounded in the secular world. The title of their debut, Hands Together, suggests both praying and applause, a contradiction they enjoy.

“I love gospel music, but I can’t sing those words genuinely,” says guitarist and songwriter Nick Panken. “I relate to the sentiments in gospel music, so we made our own version of it. Martin Luther King, Jr. took the faith he got from religion and delivered it to us in a way that made it a human message anyone could relate to. The sentiments in gospel music can reach beyond the range of people who go to church.”

Stephen Weinheimer, the band’s washboard player, agrees. “Gospel is powerful because gospel singers have the passion of unwavering belief,” he says. “Gospel is amazing music. I think we have a similar passion, but without the God part.”

The music on Hands Together is folky Americana, but with a unique sound. Maggie Carson’s banjo fills the space usually occupied by a lead guitar, giving the music an old-time feel, despite subtle touches from amplified instruments. “Maggie has her own style of banjo,” says Panken. “We think she sounds more like Keith Richards than anyone else. As we developed our sound, we thought, ‘We’ll give the lead to whoever sounds most like Keef.’ I’ve always felt like we’re a little more country than bluegrass, because we don’t play that precisely. We like traditional bluegrass that follows the rules, but we don’t. We tend to be a little bit sloppy, a little more all over the place.”

—j. poet

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