Sunday, May 31, 2009

Music is What Feelings Sound Like, A Chat with Julie Peel

Life, longing, love, loss: the four L’s, if you will. Everyone goes through them, and, more or less, they are the focus of what musicians write, play and sing about. But it’s a special occasion when you listen to an album that leads you on a sonic path that so well addresses, portrays and makes the listener feel every bit of the emotion involved with the “L’s.” Julie Peel’s “Near the Sun” does just that. Julie is a special artist, musician, lyricist and singer, so much so that the album had to be turned off while writing this because Julie has an uncanny ability to lull the listener into such a sense of self-awareness.

It’s not a
sappy journey, but all-too-real. She doesn’t pull punches, but wears her heart on her sleeve, crooning about quixotic happenings and heartbreaking event in a way that few artists have done. The album isn’t a concept album, but a series of wonderfully crafted novellas, each lifts, bends, carries, and yes, breaks, the listener. The album is whole: a sunny drive with the top down, a box of tissues, an insightful reflection, a pick-me-up, a smile and a tear. It’s life through song on a level that is seldom experienced.

It’s a joy for me to present to you Julie Peel, who will be gracing her “third home” of New York twice this week: June 3, 9:00PM at Pianos, and again June 5, 9:00P at Bar 4 Bar 4 with Dylan in the Movies.

OAN: Jules, as always, it’s a pleasure. I said third home, because you’ve had quite an international journey to end up in Montreal and, to an extent, in New York (I’d personally still like to see you make that move permanent, nothing against the good people of Montreal.) Talk about your journey to get here, what led you from France to Quebec, and how you ended up joining forces with American Laundromat Records for your first full-length release.

JP: Joe (from American Laundromat Records) found me on MySpace, in 2006 I think. He offered me to be part of the Neil Young tribute (Cinnamon girls) and that’s how it all started. We talked about releasing the album through the years, but, it didn’t happen until now for
different reasons. Last year, I decided to move to Canada. I was sick of Paris and needed to get away from Europe for a while. So it all came together, me moving closer to the U.S, and Joe wanting to release the record. For some reasons I got lots of replies from NY/Brooklyn venues, and very good feedback on my music, which is great! I love the city, and I met some brilliant musicians there. Maybe I’ll move there someday [she adds with a smile.]

OAN: The album, “Near the Sun,” is something you should absolutely be proud of. Every song is a powerful movement, whether it’s a high or low moment. How much of the material is drawn on a personal experience, and how much is a story? I ask because you’ve covered so many emotional bases, it seems as though it’s written over the
course of many years. It seems as though you give a lot of yourself up through song, so how did you finally decide on the final content? Did you try to tie the work together in any way, or was it a matter of “these songs say the most about me and are the strongest?"

JP: As much as I’d like to be able to write fiction lyrics, it hasn’t happened yet. Even if I’ve been writing songs for maybe 9 or 10 years, the songs ending up on the album are pretty recent. The oldest are “The greatest story” and “The piece of my heart”(2004-2005), and I guess you can see the difference, in the sound of course, but also in the songwriting. I didn’t want my first record to be obsolete in term of who and what I am, now. Most of the songs on the ablum were written between last year and the beginning of this year. I think I just chose my favorite songs at the time. If I was to re-record it today, I’m pretty sure it would be totally different! When you write songs, your last one is always the best song you’ve ever written, and then, a few week later, you think “whatever," but sometimes it stays one of your fave.

OAN: What is your process for writing the words and music? Do you start with a guitar, and pad and paper? And for that matter, I know you reach for you guitar first; what other instruments do you play and/or like to build your melodies around?

JP: For this record, the process has been pretty much the same. Strumming the guitar, finding a nice vocal melody, and then writing the lyrics for it. I did compose 2 songs with the Ukulele though. But I mean, it can happen with any instrument, like the bass guitar or a piano.

OAN: Something I like to ask of every artist: what do you do in your off-time, stepping away from the music to keep the creative juices flowing in another regard, or give yourself a break from hammering away at writing, playing, mixing, etc.

JP: I like to walk for hours, in any city, with my ipod on. Watching people is one of my favorite thing to do!
Movies movies movies! I wanted to be a movie director when I was younger, and it’s still affecting my music a lot.

OAN: I want to ask you about the cover you did of one of the Cure’s better (old school) songs, “A Night Like This” which is featured on
Just Like Heaven – A Tribute to The Cure. So many times, covers leave a lot to be desired, but you made it your own. Did you pick the song yourself? Are you a fan? Was it at all intimidating to do a classic song for a tribute album? And do you have any urge to play it live?

JP: I knew Joe was putting this project together, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it. So I didn’t ask him to be a part of it right away. I had a period of time when I was a teenager where I was a huge fan of the band (I still love them very much, but not in a “I’m wearing black clothes only and having Robert Smith’s same haircut” way) [again, flashing a smile.] I’m not a big fan of live recordings, but I love “The Cure: Show”, and the “A Night Like This” version on it is dreamy. (I’m not a big fan of the saxophone on the original version). That song has always been my favorite. I tried like 4 different ways to cover it. But I wasn’t happy with it. I think I wasn’t even happy with it when I sent it to Joe. But he said he loved it, and that was good enough for me. I actually listened to it when the cd came out, and thought it was good. But kind of an alien on the tribute! People have asked me to play it live, but I never did. Maybe I will someday.

OAN: Speaking of playing live, do you have a preference to playing with other musicians or doing solo acoustic sets? And which will you be doing next week? The studio tracks obviously have a lot of layers to them, but you doing a solo live set (and I’ll find this out for myself soon) must give an even greater personal feel to already intimate material.

JP: I prefer to play with musicians, ‘cause like you said, it’s already intimate material, and I don’t really like to be the center of the attention. But I have to admit that playing by myself is teaching me a lot. I never really did that, and I think that’s the best school to learn how to be more confident, and a better musician. You don’t rely on anyone else but yourself. It’s one thing to be able to play a lot of instruments and record by yourself, but it’s another thing to be standing up in front of people you don’t know, in a city you don’t know, just you, and your guitar. it’s a sick feeling (in a good and a bad way!)

OAN: You worked in a field that is seemingly about as far away from being a musician as one might think: a computer engineer. When and what happened that gave you the confidence in yourself to make the leap?

JP: I kinda had what people call a “nervous breakdown” last year. I’d say breakthrough! I’ve been recording my music for 4 years now, learning how to mix, how to record instruments and vocals properly (thing that I’m still learning!) and I knew at some point, I would have to make the jump and try things with my music. I’m not making a living out of it yet, and maybe I won’t. but I had to do it. So many people settle for a life that’s not what they want. Just because they think that’s the way it is ‘cause of society and that at some point you have to stop “dreaming”.. that’s precisely when they lose their “innocence”, when they become grown ups... I don’t know. But I want to believe that anything is possible if you give yourself the time and the energy, you’ll create opportunities. You can do anything and become whatever you wanna be. I have to believe in this. For me, life’s not worth living if you don’t give the best you’ve got to make great things happen.

OAN: Anything else you want to reveal about yourself? Maybe something they’d never imagine about Julie Peel?

JP: I’m kind of an open book. What you hear is what you get when you meet me I think. But, hey! You’ll tell me!

OAN: And I love that about you. Jules, you’re an absolute joy. Thank you for your time and apologize for being a professional throughout the course of this interview. Can’t wait to see you croon away.

Listen: Julie Peel - Unfold (Remastered Version,) from the forthcoming "Near the Sun"

Julie's Music Loves and Influences:

Listen: Coconut Records - West Coast
Joni Mitchell - River

Listen: Bruce Spingsteen - The Ghost of Tom Joad
Aphex Twins - Avril 14th
A Camp - Algebra
Aimee Mann - Wise Up
Broken Social - Lover's Spit (Redux)
Air - Alone in Kyoto
Bob Dylan - Positively 4th Street
Smashing Pumpkins - Ugly
Neil Young - I Believe In You
Elliott Smith - Angeles

Julie's Official Site
Julie Peel on MySpace
Purchase and Pre-Order Julie Peel from American Laundromat Records
American Laundromat Records Official Site

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Weekender Concert Calendar - 5/28

An action-packed last weekend in May blesses the greater New York area, so let's get to it.

The Helio Sequence at the Music Hall Of Williamsburg
Listen: The Helio Sequence - Hallelujah

Those Dancing Days, and Mancino at Union Hall
Listen: Those Dancing Days - Those Dancing Days
Listen: Mancino - L'amour (Or Less)

Grizzly Bear, and Here We Go Magic at Town Hall
Listen: Grizzly Bear - While You Wait for the Others
Listen: Here We Go Magic - Fangela

Pet Ghost Project's CD Release Party with Special Guests Quiet Loudly and Dinosaur Feathers (read a full post here)

Au Revoir Simone, and The Antlers kick off their national tour at the Music Hall Of Williamsburg
Listen: The Antlers - Sylvia (An Introduction)
Listen: Au Revoir Simone - Don't See The Sorrow

The Black Hollies at The Bell House
Listen: Black Hollies - Whispers Beneath the Willows

Cake at Terminal 5
Listen: Cake - Daria

X, and Steve Soto And The Twisted Hearts at Bowery Ballroom
Listen: X - Year 1

Phantogram at Rockwood Music Hall
Listen: Phantogram - When I'm Small

Screaming Females, and Shellshag at Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Listen: Screaming Females - Bell
Listen: Shellshag - Little Birdy

1990s at Southpaw
Listen: 1990s - Everybody Please Relax

Tortoise, and The Hood Internet at The Bell House
Listen: Tortoise - High Class Slim Came Floatin' In
Listen: The Hood Internet - I'm Good, I'm Ghost (Lykke Li vs Holy Ghost)

Pelle Carlberg at Union Hall
Listen: Pelle Carlberg - 1983 (Pelle & Sebastian)

They Might Be Giants Le Poisson Rouge
Listen: They Might Be Giants - Havalina (Pixies Cover)

I Was A King, Mercury Landing, Rural Alberta Advantage at Mercury Lounge
Listen: I Was A King - Norman Bleik
Listen: The Rural Alberta Advantage - Four Night Rider

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Hardest Working Ghost in the Business - Pet Ghost Project's CD Release Party!

Pet Ghost Project CD Release Party
Where: Fontana's
When: Friday, May 29, 2009 at 7:00pm

It's a pain-staking, birthing process to write, record, rehearse, produce and distribute an EP or an LP. To do one of each simultaneously is, at the very least, a daunting task. To have each be breathtaking, and breathtakingly different from one another, is, well, I'm not sure a word has been thought of for it. (Maybe by the end of this post, I'll have come up with one.)

But that's exactly what Justin Stivers has accomplished. My affinity for Justin and his Pet Ghost Project is no secret, as a musician, composer, and friend. Since the release of "Cheer Up ~ It's Raining" in the latter part of 2008, Justin has been quietly but furiously working away, going about his business of playing (with live ghosties Justin Gonzalez and Jake More,) composing, and crafting music that coerces the listener through new sonic boundaries, coming out the o
ther side eyes a bit wider, ears a bit shell-shocked. His latest two efforts are, dare I say, his most adventurous and best yet. They are stunning movements each, "Idiot Brain, Genius Heart" an exploration into Justin's darker, more chaotic side, and "The Wordless Conversation" a 7-track instrumental LP where Stivers flexes his musical muscles, unraveling every reverberating fiber of his being.

So with that, I'm not sure there is anyone out there who deserves a party more than Justin and his crew. And they won't be alone. They'll have the support of friends of quiet Loudly and Dinosaur
Feathers, two fantastic acts that round out a bill that promises to be a spectacular show. See you at Fontana's on Friday! (Oh, the best word I could come up with is "momentous.")

Listen: Pet Ghost Project - Death in a Pixel (from the forthcoming 'The Wordless Conversation')
Listen: Pet Ghost Project - Wires from the Ceiling (from the forthcoming 'Idiot Brain, Genius Heart')

Special Guests:
Listen: quiet Loudly - Over the Balcony
Listen: Dinosaur Feathers - History Lessons

Purchase Pet Ghost Project from CDBaby
Pet Ghost Project's Official Site
Pet Ghost Project on MySpace

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday 8-Track, Memorial Day

This is Memorial Day Weekend in the U.S. It's a long, holiday weekend set aside to honor the men and women who have fought for our freedoms and protected us from harm. And so, this is a bit of a tribute to thousands in our armed forces, police, fire brigades, and emergency rescue that watch over us, keep us safe, and, all too often, are taken for granted.

Happy listening, all.

Army Navy - Saints
MP3: The Magnetic Fields - Heroes (David Bowie cover)
MP3: Faces on Film - I'll Sleep to Protect You
MP3: The Morning Benders - Worth the Fight (Daytrotter Session)
MP3: Betablokka - Scared (The Difference Between)
MP3: ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead - Worlds Apart
MP3: Adorable - I'll Be Your Saint
MP3: Swimming in Speakers - Serve Them Well

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Weekender Concert Calendar - 5/21

There's just a ton going on this weekend, including what I think is the concert of the year thus far in our fair city. May 21, Bower Ballroom, White Rabbits, Cymbals Eat Guitars, and The Antlers. Of course, it's sold out, so if you have your ticket, consider yourself blessed.

Disgustingly great night with a bevy of shows to choose from.
White Rabbits, Cymbals Eat Guitars, and The Antlers at Bowery Ballroom
MP3: White Rabbits - Company I Keep
MP3: Cymbals Eat Guitars - What Dogs See
MP3: The Antlers - Sylvia

Vampire Weekend, Pat Mahoney, and Hercules and Love Affair at Music Hall Of Williamsburg
MP3: Vampire Weekend - Ladies of Cambridge
MP3: Hercules & Love Affair - This Is My Love

Her Space Holiday and City Light at The Bell House
MP3: Her Space Holiday - Sleepy Tigers
MP3: City Light - New Kid Revival

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, and Lightning Dust at The Apollo
MP3: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Cursed Sleep
MP3: Lightning Dust - Listened On

Holy Fuck, A Place to Bury Strangers, and Crocodiles at Music Hall of Williamsburg
MP3: Holy Fuck - Lovely Allen (Daytrotter Session)
MP3: A Place to Bury Strangers - Ocean
MP3: Crocodiles - Here Comes the Sky

Kaki King at Glasslands
MP3: Kaki King - Life Being What It Is

Sundresses at Trash Bar
MP3: Sundresses - An American American

Straylight Run, and A Million Years at the Knitting Factory
MP3: Straylight Run - Existentialism on Prom Night
MP3: A Million Years - Cat and Mouse

Kingsbury Manx at the Cake Shop
MP3: Kingsbury Manx - Well, Whatever

Sunday (it being a holiday weekend and all.)
Junior Vasquez at Cielo
MP3: Daft Punk - One More Time (Junior Vasquez Earth Mix)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Saturday 8-Track, One Day Early

Your Saturday 8-Track is going up a day early as I'm going to be busting out of this joint for the weekend. I'll be blipping and tweeting and all of that jazz, but for the most part, doing my own thing for a change. Theme? Hodge-podge. Fitting for the past year of my life.

MP3: Pet Ghost Project - Death In A Pixel
MP3: Cause Co-Motion - You Lose
MP3: Wheat - Hey, So Long (Ohio)
MP3: Glad Hearts - Nothing If We're Not Moving
MP3: Phoenix - Girlfriend
MP3: The Hush Now - Hiding in Corners
MP3: Deer Tick - Still Crazy After All These Years (Paul Simon Cover)
MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth - I Won't Be Found

In other news, I reluctantly started a group on Facebook for this little blog. If you're on Facebook and want to get updates as posts happen, join here.
Happy listening!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Weekender Concert Calendar - 5/14

Better late than never. I'll throw in a Sunday to make up for my lack of timeliness. Most of you don't even live here, anyway. =)


Thao & Get Down Stay Down with Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers at the Bowery Ballroom
Mp3: Thao Nguyen & The Get Down Stay Down - Fear And Convenience
Mp3: Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers - Devils in Boston


quiet Loudly, Sammo, Akudama, and Peephole at Spike Hill
MP3: quiet Loudly - Over the Balcony

Cymbals Eat Guitars at Sound Fix
Mp3: Cymbals Eat Guitars - Indiana

Dan Deacon, Future Islands, and Teeth Mountain at Danbro Brewery Warehouse
Mp3: Dan Deacon - Snookered

Halloween, Alaska, and Jack Terricloth at Joe's Pub
Mp3: Halloween, Alaska - In Order

The Ghost Is Dancing at Fontana's
Mp3: The Ghost is Dancing - The Running Song

Rodriguez, and The War On Drugs at Bowery Ballroom
Mp3: Rodriguez - Sugar Man
Mp3: The War On Drugs - Buenos Aires Beach


"No Fun Fest" at Music Hall Of Williamsburg
Mp3: Blank Dog - No Compass
Mp3: Black Pus - Body On The Tide


The Dexateens, and The Features at Union Hall
Mp3: Dexateens - Can You Whoop It
Mp3: The Features - The Drawing Board

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dead Leaf Echo - Ethereal Movements Through Time

Dead Leaf Echo has been written-up more times in the past few months than most New York bands get in a year. With good reason. What LG, Mike, Liza and Ana have done is simply re-created the shoegaze sound for the modern era. You know, shoegaze: that UK-founded, skirting on post-punk subgenre of alternative that started with Jesus & Mary Chain, ended with Adorable and saw the likes of Ride, Lush and My Bloody Valentine in between. Not an easy task. To take on the great shoe-groups of the 80s and 90s is a daunting task at best, much less equal or better them. And though it’s probably inaccurate to say that Dead Leaf Echo is the sole-proprietor of this re-invented movement, they are certainly the new chairpersons.

They have quietly and subtly reached back in time, crafting a sound that rings with familiarity of creatively noisy guitars blended with that complementing croon of LG’s. But there is so much more to Dead Leaf Echo than a simple re-invention of a classic sound. LG knows exactly what needs to be done to modernize and re-introduce the genre to a new generation, as well as people like yours truly who long for yesteryear’s sounds. He has more than a list of influencers. He has gone out his way to tap into their minds and hearts to find out what made them tick, listened closely to what they did, worked with some of the greats, and, with his bandmates, crafted a crashing sonic onslaught that reverberates your mind and body to the core.

OAN: LG, let’s talk about the shoegaze movement for a minute. You and I have talked and shared some thoughts about it. Relay in your own words what shoegaze is and means to you.

LG: It's a funny word word isn't it? Once something of degradation is now worn with pride by many. Almost purely a British colloquialism 15+ years ago. I remember they called Ride - grunge here in the states when it came out. But now it's made it's big comeback especially with MBV last year and everybody loves dropping that word on anything. Any thing with reverb now on it is Shoegaze isn't it? Use delay? Oh! Shoegaze band. Press buzz word eh? But how many people really know what it references? Sure more people now than ever, but still if you asked somebody on the street, they'd probably wouldn't even look at you. Remember the old saying about the Velvet Underground? How nobody really bought their records but everybody that did started a band, it's kinda of like that with Shoegaze. There's more bands than there are fans. Are we a shoegaze band? No. Sure people say we wear our influences on our sleeves, whether you want to call that dream-pop or etherial post-punk or Regional Mexican is up to you.

OAN: There is an air of mystery about Dead Leaf Echo, meaning, you have indeed very quietly gone about your business, remained focused, created fantastic work and let it speak for itself. You’ve had two pressings of “Pale Fire” sell-out completely which is quite a feat. “Faint Violet Whiff” as well. You haven’t done many interviews, but have very much been showered with the attention and affection of the media and fans. If you would, talk about the attention your two releases have gotten (not to mention the hype coming from the soon-to-be-release) and enigma the mystery is purely incidental or crafted a bit. And are there thoughts of re-printing the first release?

LG: Well as to re-printing the 1st release- no. Because I don't feel “Faint Violet Whiff” is what it could have been- I don't much care for it, sonically and feel that some of the songs on there should be given the chance to be re-birthed under different circumstances. As far as the mystery part of it, I just think we're very private people who haven't put that much of ourselves out there, not that we've really been thrown under any spotlight or anything.

OAN: LG, Dead Leaf Echo is your creation, your passion, and clearly the band shares in your enthusiasm and creativity in what you play, but how much collaboration is there in writing and composing each song? Do you construct by yourself then tap into them to expand? Or are there concept sessions where each member brings ideas to the table?

LG: I am the carrier of the torch for this band, but it would simply not exist without the passions and drive of everyone involved, period. Mike DiLalla has been there since the beginning and has encouraged me and helped throughout all the struggles that we've faced. What Liza has given has also been tremendous, and they have both have stamped their own distinct personalities on the songs. Ana in the last year has given so much of her time to helping us out in anyway she can that I'm forever indebted to her. Regarding the song, they all grow organically from the root up and continue to evolve even after they have been recorded live.

OAN: What does it mean to you to be in New York and having this kind of passionate atmosphere supporting you. Do you think you could do this anywhere, or is the character of New York and the music scene here a big influence? I ask because your sound just seems to fit here.

LG: New York awakened me to many things, and gave me a much needed ass-kicking. It's very hard here but for good reason, if you can survive here you will position yourself well in the world. As far as the music scene here being an influence that would only extend to certain friends in my close circle, as I feel there's always an extraordinary amount of extraneous waste you have to wade through on a daily basis. Of course there's not really any one scene here, its way too big for that, that's the conflict right? Everywhere else nothing to do, here too much on your plate. And no I don't think we could pull off what we're doing here in most parts of North America, I think New York or maybe parts of the West coast are the only places that could accept it. Europe on the other hand I think would take to it with open arms.

OAN: I actually might take those as words to live by. Thanks.
Your contacts, your collaborations, your work with outside personas is a must-discuss. We’ve talked about your conversations that you’ve had with Piotr Fijalkowski (Adorable). And you’ve worked with both John Fryer and Ulrich Schnauss. Describe what your experience in working with some legends has been like and how it’s affected your music.

LG: Well I've only spoken to Pete briefly over email, but he's a major influence for me and I hope to cross paths with him one day. I've been extremely lucky to work with both John and Ulrich. Especially with Ulrich- he's like no one else I've met. He's most the most supportive person I've meet in regards to this crop of new artists that are coming into focus now.

Are there any other creative outlets you explore to kind of step away from music? I ask because you have some very interesting album art. So perhaps photography is something you dabble in? Or do you leave that to better hands?

LG: The complete visual image is of integral importance to the band. Vision+Sound is a complete package especially when in regards to Dead Leaf Echo. Album artwork is very important to the work whether I'm designing it or working with someone else on it, and then there's moving images. Live we use original visual projections on the band created both from digital and celluloid formats. The 1st three videos we released were shot all on Super 8. We're now working on a new video for 'Half-Truth' shot on 16mm.

Anything else you want to tell the fans? Anything at all?

LG: Vinyl! We're gonna bring it. Hopefully a 7 inch first. But really the band hasn't even really started yet, everything up to this point has purely been experimental in terms of exposition. We've only done these small collection of pieces so far, but the band has to grow first as a unit in addition to outside factors stepping in to elevate the band to the next level on both an artistic platform and as a functioning entity.

OAN: LG, my friend, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions and letting myself and everyone get some wonderful insight into someone who is truly passionate and frighteningly well-versed about what they create. I thoroughly enjoyed the show at Public Assembly and am looking forward to many more. Cheers!

MP3: Act of Truth - from "Truth"

MP3: Pale Fire (Ulrich Schnauss Mix) - from "Pale Fire"

LG's Mix-Tape

MP3: The Moon Seven Times - Her House
MP3: Orange Yellow Red - Into Your Arms
MP3: The Mary Onettes - Dare
MP3: Adorable - Vendetta
MP3: Her Vanished Grace - Sirens
MP3: New Fast Automatic Daffodils - Bruises
MP3: The Boo Radleys - Alone Again Or
MP3: The Durutti Column - Believe in Me
MP3: Kitchens of Distinction - Elephantine

Official Site
Purchase "Truth," First Pressing

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturday 8-Track

Today's 8-Track is about beginnings and beginning again, idea courtesy of friend C.C. What better way to celebrate that with some fantastic demos to kick off life, rebirth, or whatever you feel needs to be revamped in your life.
Go get 'em, Tiger.

MP3: Drink Up Buttercup - Gods and Gentlemen (Demo)
MP3: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Statues (Demo)
MP3: Swedish for Beginners - This City is Not For Me (Demo)
MP3: Say Hi - Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh (Demo)
MP3: The Velvet Underground - I Found a Reason (demo)
MP3: The National - Forever After Days (Demo)
MP3: Sunny Day in Glasgow - Best Summer Ever (Demo)
MP3: Grand Archives - George Kamisky (Demo)
Bonus MP3: The Jesus & Mary Chain - Just Like Honey (Demo)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Making Tiny Changes to Earth, A Chat with Frightened Rabbit

About two years ago at this time, I was given three tracks from a self-released album off home-grown label “Hits the Fan” by a band quirkily named “Frightened Rabbit.” It took one listen for me to run to anyone who would listen proclaiming “you gotta hear this.” I was not the only one who took notice. Fat Cat Records quickly reeled in the talented Scott Hutchinson and brother grant to polish the not-quite-demo, not-quite-studio first full-length LP for release in Autumn 2007, which I quickly devoured and again put into the ears of anyone who would listen. A most unique holiday track was released a few months later. Then, Frightened Rabbit went into the studio and recorded one of the most inspiring, gut-wrenching collection of songs these ears have heard, “The Midnight Organ Fight.” It’s an album that thrust them into the limelight of music rags, new adoring fans, and won over critics the world over, none of whom could get enough of Frightened Rabbit. And they were happy to oblige, putting out a live track-for-track show of “Midnight.”

OAN: Scott, you, Grant and Billy are playing like mad and very busy, so I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to sit down and chat. Let’s start with Midnight: we seem to be coming into an age of a rebirth of the concept album, an album that tells a complete story. Do you consider Midnight to be one, as it seems to tell a very personal story from a moment of time in your life.

Scott: It wasn't conceived as a concept album, but when we put the tracks together, it became quite plain that there was a story there. I am a fan of albums that take you somewhere, start to finish, and feel like a slice of someone's (or a group's) life. There is definitely that aspect to the MOF. When I grab on to a subject, I often become rather obsessive, and explore it to its bitter end. That's really all that happened there.

You write with a unique mix of poetry blended with plain language. How do you conjure the words and combine it with a truly uncommon instrumentation? Which comes first, your endearing Scottish croon, or the twangy, catchy melodies

Melody is always first. If you don't have that to hang the words on, then I don't think you have a song. One of my favourite responses to our music is when people say they have been singing along to our tunes for days or weeks before they realise what they are singing. The content kind of creeps up on them, because before they were simply enjoying the melody and the beat. This may sound weird, but when I listen to other bands, I'm not really a lyrics person. Its always something else that draws my ear in first, so that 'other' draw will always be a high priority.

OAN: Let’s talk about your relationship with Fat Cat and how influential they were in promoting your work, putting that much time into Sing the Greys and carefully marketing your assault on the music world. Your relationship with them seems to be completely symbiotic. But clearly, they were a big propellant for your current success.

They have been incredibly supportive from way before anyone else (perhaps even our families!) knew that Frightened Rabbit existed. Our relationship spans back about 4 years now, from the day they put our Tascam demos up on their website, then we began emailing, then they put us on a FatCat showcase at The Great Escape in Brighton, even though we didn't sign to the label until about 18 months after... They're the only external force that has always been there, and that is a really wonderful thing.

OAN: Something a bit different now: I’ve seen you perform four times. And your on-stage persona is, well, quite a bit different from the material you sing and play. On stage you are this warm, joking guy who has been known to crack a chuckle while playing some of the most woeful material out there. Is it a mind-set you have to prepare for? The contradicting personas you have within writing his songs and performing them?

I feel really at ease in front of a group of people. There's an element of control when you perform for an audience, which i really love. Its another, very seperate skill to presenting a live show that many bands seem to ignore. I quickly found that, even if we sounded like shit, a few wry observations would set the show on the right track. Its a fucking life-saver some nights.

The live album really shows if off. Why did you decide to record a live version, track-by-track, of Midnight. And though I haven’t been a personal witness to it, why did you decide to occasionally cover “Fake Empire” as a prelude to “Backwards Walk?”

Scott: The label were keen for us to perform the whole record, as a kind of bookend. Lots of people really took to that record in a rather intense way. It was important that we recognised that by playing the show in our hometown. The disc is essentially a souvenir of that for ourselves and those who were there, if nobody else. As for Fake Empire, I fell in love with that song and with that band, and played it for that reason really. Plus they are both in the key of C, I think.

Album art has to be discussed. I know quite a few people impressed with your diverse artistic talents. Is illustrating something you’ve always had an interest in? And what else do you do to stimulate that creative charge?

Illustration is the only thing I'm actually qualified to do. I studied for 4 years at the Art School in Glasgow, got my degree and then didn't draw for around 2 years. I'm drawing more regularly now for the sleeves etc, but its always interested me to give new things a go, things that I have no training in, to see if I'm any good at them. Might give astrophysics a bash after this record...

OAN: Too funny, Scott Hawking. Are you working on any new material or are you just enjoying playing live for right now? What are some of the most memorable shows you’ve done (I ask because you play some very intimate venues and have a lot of personal interaction with the audience. Surely, there has to be a great story or two in there.)

The new album is pretty much written, and I've demo-ed it up with the exception of the drums. I prefer this aspect of the band to the live stuff. The touring can feel a bit mechanical and draining. That said, some of our shows have been the most memorable times of my life. I'm not much good at anecdotes... The ones that stick out for me at this point were our recent London show at the Scala, and our shows in Chicago and Ann Arbor during the last US tour. Specific stories escape me now. I'm not very funny when I'm not on stage. Sorry!

You're too humble. I hear a bevy of sounds that emanate from your guitar and keyboards, not to mention your brother’s percussion. What are some of your biggest influences, either genres or bands or songs. I hear everything from twangy American southern soul to flat out rock-n-roll. But it all has that Frightened Rabbit twist, no pun intended.

Its all in there. Our influences are pretty wide, which hopefully keeps it fresh. I don't care for sounding like just one band, but as far as the next record goes, I think there's a fair bit of The National, TV on the Radio, disco, Jens Lekman, Death Cab, LCD, King Creosote and the usual dose of country and Dylan nad The Band (mine and Grant's greatest obsession). I'm a total thief when it comes to carving out a sound, but hopefully the pieces I've taken and put together originated far enough away from one another that it doesn't come through too obviously in the final song.

Anything else you want to tell the fans?

Scott: Eat three pieces of fish a week.

Heading out for sushi now. Scott, again, thank you for your time. I look forward to your next trip over to the States and whenever you release shiny new material. I owe you a beer or three when you come to New York City next.

Square 9 - Sing the Greys
Old, Old Fashioned - Midnight Organ Fight
Fast Blood - Liver! Lung! FR!
Be Less Rude - Live Acoustic Session

Scott's Mix-Tape

The National - Fake Empire
TV on the Radio - Wolf Like Me
Death Cab for Cutie - Your Heart is an Empty Room
Bob Dylan - Lay Lady Lay
The Trammps - Disco Inferno
LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends
King Creosote - No Way She Exists
Jens Lekman - I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You
The Band - Up On Cripple Creek


Official Frightened Rabbit Site
Frightened Rabbit on MySpace
Fat Cat Records
Buy Frightened Rabbit on iTunes

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Weekender Concert Calendar

A little something I will try to do every Wednesday, but as you know, in the New York Metro area, there's a lot going on all the time. So these are some personal highlights.

at the Bell House:
These United States opens for San Fransisco visitors Vetiver and Papercuts.
MP3: These United States - First Sight

at the Music Hall of Williamsburg
Drop the Line opens for Fischerspooner
MP3: Fischerspooner - Emerge

at Roseland Ballroom
Born Ruffians open for Franz Ferdinand
MP3: Born Ruffians - Badonkadonkey

at Mercury Lounge
U.S. Royalty opens for Cut off Your Hands
MP3: U.S. Royalty - Raincoats
MP3: Cut Off Your Hands - Turn Cold

at Cameo
The Antlers open for Drink Up Buttercup
MP3: The Antlers - Two
MP3: Drink Up Buttercup - Sosey and Dosey

at Bowery Ballroom
Shaky Hands open for The Thermals
MP3: Shaky Hands - Summer's Life
MP3: The Thermals - I Called Out Your Name

at Bell House
Joe Pug opens for Horse Feathers
MP3: Joe Pug - Hymn #101
MP3: Horse Feathers - Curs in the Weeds

at Mercury Lounge
The Giraffes and Freshkills open for Adam Ezra Group
MP3: The Giraffes - Haunted Heaven
MP3: Freshkills - My House

at Public Assembly
True Womanhood throws a CD release party with Dead Leaf Echo and Dinowalrus, among others.
MP3: Dinowalrus - I Hate Numbers
MP3: Dead Leaf Echo - Pale Fire (Ulrich Schnauss Mix)
MP3: True Womanhood - The Monk

Have a rockin' weekend, peeps.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Belated 8-Track

Normally, the Saturday 8-Track would be reserved for Saturday. But I was a tad busy, so better late than never. The theme is basically about the weekend: Eight bands in four nights, with lots of beer. Lots.

mp3: Guided by Voices - How's My Drinking?

But man, what a blast. So, here's your mix, from Friday to Monday.

Friday night, new friends Coyote Eyes played a stellar set at Cameo.
mp3: Coyote Eyes - Clumsy

Saturday, I went to check out Fires of Rome (a friend's brother's band) at Church Lounge.
mp3: Fires of Rome - Dawn Lament

Sunday, The Antlers, Papercuts and Vetiver at Bowery Ballroom. I don't think this show needs any further commentary.
mp3: The Antlers - The Universe is Going to Catch You
mp3: The Papercuts - You Can Have What You Want
mp3: Vetiver - More of This

Monday I went to see friends Phantogram bring it at Santos, and had a couple pleasant surprises.
mp3: Phantogram - Voices
mp3: Big Bang TV - Hollywood
mp3: Free Blood - Grumpy

I'm exhausted recapping that.


PS - New segment tomorrow!