What's On The Hi-Fi Interview with Bertrand Burgalat
Bertrand Burgalat is a truly impressive figure. He is at once a musician, producer, soundtrack composer (LES NUITS FAUVES), remixer, founder of the fabled French label Tricatel, and recipient of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Cultural Ministry in recognition of his contribution to the arts. All the while, Bertrand has an immediate warmth and a refreshing sense of humility and approach to music and the world that surrounds it.
We met Bertrand at the buzzing Tricatel office to talk about, among other things, his current record TOUTES DIRECTIONS, his collaboration in the 1980’s with Laibach, the icon that is David Bowie, the adventures of running an independent record label, and how the loo might just be the best place to listen to Madonna’s latest single.
“The more that time goes on, the more I try and be clear and sharper. I am using the same tools. What changes is the way that people perceive my music.” This neatly encapsulates Bertrand’s approach to his music, from the more romantic pop sounds of THE SSSOUND OF MMMUSIC (2000), the more electronic PORTRAIT ROBOT (2005) to the more rock based production of CHERI B. B. (2009). With TOUTES DIRECTIONS, Bertrand brings these sounds together, embracing the post-modern and futurist. While remaining true to his songwriting, TOUTES DIRECTIONS marks an evolution to a tighter and more concise approach to music. “Maybe, because it’s the first album recorded in a proper studio. Because most of the time, I recorded in places that were not treated acoustically. I put more energy in trying to find the right sound combinations.”
The new record also marks another departure for Bertrand, that of standing back in the process and working with a sound engineer (Séphane Lumbroso). “This is the first album of mine that I did not mix myself, and I think that is why it sounds better.” Laughing,Bertrand adds, “I am a very bad mixer, especially for myself. He succeeded in making the record sound powerful in a way, but with an intelligent use of compression.”
This overuse of compression [reducing the volume gap between loud and quiet sounds] is an approach that Bertrand set out to avoid on TOUTES DIRECTIONS, an album on which he wanted to give the sounds the space to breathe. “I think it completely kills the dynamics. I think a lot of records over the past 10 years will be hard to listen to because of this compression. I was in Brussels the other day doing interviews, and I went to the loo. I was pissing and listening to Madonna’s new single on the radio. It actually works really well in the loo – there is nothing – there is a voice and a snare kit. And I was thinking that I still have a lot of progress to do. I don’t think my records would sound that sharp in the loo. The guy who makes that is probably the trendy engineer of the moment, a guy in LA with probably 200 compressors, and it sounds so bad.” He laughs, “yes, I am still far from Madonna’s standard.”
The conversation shifted to his various collaborations, and in particular with Slovenia’s multi-disciplinary artists Laibach. “It is probably one of my most interesting experiences, and probably my first real experience like that. It brought me so much in many ways because we were very different. They are not real musicians, they are more conceptualists. And they were involved in something which was to me wonderful, which is hard for people here to understand. They had guessed what was going to happen in Serbia, and they had a role -- a role of very intelligent, and witty provocation. Using all of the elements of the Titoist word and turning them in the most absurd and totalitarian way, but only using elements from the uniforms and speeches. Their graphic artist went to jail. There was a contest every year for the poster for the day of peace, and the graphic artist had won. Three months later, a minister noticed that the poster was from the Third Reich. They had just changed the eagle and swastika and swapped it with a dove. These idiots had taken a Nazi poster without knowing.”
“They [Laibach] were free with music and technology. Where I would say that I like or don’t like and artist, they would say that an artist is interesting for this or that reason. A lot of the freedom that I try and have in the studio comes from that time. That was a really good education. Very disappointing to return to France and see the local scene that was a bit dull.”
As to whom Bertrand admires the most musically, one name immediately springs to mind. David Bowie. “To make records that are both ambitious and understandable by a lot of people, that’s fantastic. For a musician, that’s a dream. And with Bowie, I like his use of influences. He is someone who has never hidden his influences, and because of that, he did something very different. Like when he was quoting Kraftwerk, but never did anything at that time that sounded like Kraftwerk when he was in Berlin. Even the B-side of LOW, these instrumentals which are beautiful and don’t sound at all like Kraftwerk or any German rock of the period. It’s a masterpiece.”
Bertrand never set out to create a label. Tricatel was originally born purely out of practicality, providing a way for Bertrand to be paid for work he was doing in London with the likes of Mute in the early 90’s. It was only after he returned to France, and as part of an unplanned progression, that the company transformed into a label beginning with an album with actress Valérie Lemercier.
He had said a few years back that he was going to write a book about how not to run a record label. “This label, I think in France we have really been ahead. Ahead in bad sales, ahead in the catastrophe. So, I think this makes us stronger. Why are we spending all this energy to sell so few records? So, let’s keep the energy to make music. But, then let’s consider that the record sales have no more importance than the sales at newsstands for fashion magazines. So, that’s the idea that everyone has now. The problems that we have, we share with lots of other labels.
Bertrand doesn’t think in terms of taking risks. “Maybe because in France this is a word that is very over used, ‘this actress took such a risk by doing that role.’ The thing is that this is a label. And maybe it’s a mistake. But, I never, never planned anything. Every time that I am doing things, I say that I am going to stop after that. So, I say that I have to stop before I do something good. That is the thing that pushes me. In 1998, we did the first Tricatel compilation in France, and I thought that that was the end. We couldn’t find any distribution. But, we have not been badly welcomed enough to stop. That is the problem. For this album, I think that my secret dream would have been to sell 20 copies. That would be fantastic. Even maybe one would be sent back. Then I could stop.” Bertrand laughs, “but, yesterday we had already sold 200 copies on the first day. That is much too much.”
TOUTES DIRECTIONS is available through Tricatel. You can check out the video for BARDOT’S DANCE here.
Tricatel Facebook - Tricatel Twitter - Tricatel
What's On The Hi-Fi Interview with Here We Go Magic
We recently sat down with Here We Go Magic’s passionate front man Luke Temple on his trip through Paris to talk about the formation of the Here We Go Magic project, the majestic new release A DIFFERENT SHIP, and working with Radiohead producer / “sixth member” Nigel Godrich.
Having studied visual arts in Boston, Luke moved to New York City to pursue painting. However, becoming disenchanted by the painting culture and its financial realities, he began to explore music. Luke began performing at open mike nights on Mondays at the East Village’s Sidewalk Café, alongside the likes of Kimya Dawson, Jeffrey Lewis and The Moldly Peaches. As to switching his focus to music, Luke explains that “[y]our brain doesn’t notice the difference between any creative pursuit. It thinks that it’s doing the same thing. [It’s] the same process in a way. Writing a song, writing a record – it’s painting. It just kind of took over.”..read more
What's On The Hi-Fi Interview with The Innocence Mission
The Innocence Mission have been creating exquisite music for over 20 years, honing their distinctive sound over the span of 10 studio albums. At the heart of the project are Karen and Don Peris, partners in life and in the band, who have been joined by various collaborators over the years, including founding member Mike Bitts on bass. Drummer Steve Brown rejoins the band for the band's latest release called My Room In The Trees, out on Badman Recording Co.
The Innocence Mission are rare in their ability to create songs which, both lyrically and musically, connect on an emotional level with listeners -- like walking into a room filled with your favorite people, everyone laughing and catching up, immediately comfortable and bright, bringing the warmest of smiles to your face.
We caught up with Karen who shares with us about My Room In The Trees, on hearing songs from earlier albums, working as a partnership, upcoming projects and what's on the Peris hi-fi.
Listen to "Rain (Setting Out In The Leaf Boat)" MP3
The band’s latest studio release is My Room In The Trees. Could you tell us a bit about how this release came together and what inspired it?
It came together gradually, over the past couple of years. Mostly what inspires the writing, and then the sharing of the songs is just wanting to, or even needing to, communicate in some way. I always feel tongue-tied in conversations. I am much better at listening to someone else speak. So writing -- the luxury of being able to take the time to work with words and sounds and colors, not to mention the joy of just playing and singing, discovering melodies and they way they move over chords -- it is something I never get tired of, something I'm always grateful for.
The self-titled debut for The Innocence Mission came out back in 1989. What goes through your mind when you listen to these songs now? How do you see your sound as evolving?
To tell the truth, it is painful for me to hear that album, so I avoid it. While the experience of making the first two albums was a happy and exciting one for us, I am embarrassed about the writing and the singing. I was young enough to be trying to sound like someone else, and if I were to hear those albums it would be hard to recognize myself in them. The records we have made since then -- since Birds of My Neighborhood onward -- I still feel close to those songs, and the way they sound is probably true to what we are still striving towards.
We have always been struck how many songs appear to capture a certain closeness, both lyrically and musically -- songs that seem to welcome you into a personal and relaxed setting. Is that part of what you look to create?
I'm glad that you think this about the songs. I always have the feeling that writing songs is like joining in a conversation with other people. I've been glad for the experience of feeling a connectedness in reading or listening to someone else's writing. I'm happy if someone who hears our songs can feel that way.
When you close your eyes, where do you imagine your songs being listened to?
I don't know. The letters and e-mails we've received are written, in the kindest voices, from many different places, which never stops being a surprise to me.
What it is like to work with your partner?
It is something that is so natural. I never have to question it, but I am grateful for it, to be able to work with Don. I think it is a great help to have the energy of two people, two friends working with a shared purpose.
If you could create any type of music with complete anonymity, would you create something completely different?
Maybe not completely different. But it would be an adventure to make a wholly instrumental album. Or the reverse, an album that has very ambient group singing, with a large group of people.
What artists do you see as currently creating particularly creative or inspiring music?
Sufjan Stevens, Fleet Foxes, Mark Kozelek, Yann Tiersen
Can we expect any solo projects in 2011?
Maybe something from Don. I am working on another children's album, not lullabies this time, but I don't know when I'll be able to finish it.
Where have you been most surprised to find inspiration?
A tube of watercolor paint, the name of the color was geranium lake, which I thought was the most wonderful, visual name.
What is on your hi-fi?
Van Morrison, the song "Fair Play" from Veedon Fleece. This is one of my very favorite songs / recordings, and I just have to hear it at least from time to time. This is a very moving piece of music, and it has a quality and a space that I can't put into words. And the lyrics of this song, too, are so visual. I hold them up as an ideal.
The Rachels, Music for Egon Schiele. This is such a beautiful record, and I listen to it a lot with my kids, who play violin, viola and piano, the main instruments in this band, along with cello.
Pablo Cassals, "Song for the Birds", from the 1961 concert for President and Mrs. Kennedy. Don found this recording this week, from a news story about this concert, and we have been listening, mesmerized by this, all of us.
Vashti Bunyan, "Train Song". This always affects me strongly. It is the beauty of her voice, and also the great atmosphere of the recording.
Music from the film Amélie by Yann Tiersen. We play this at our house at least a couple of times a week. I love this music. I love the simultaneously melancholy and joyful sound of the accordion-based songs and also all of the piano. I have wanted to play the accordion, especially out of love for this album. Don gave me one for Christmas, and I am trying to play it. Right now it is a bit less like playing and a bit more like a wrestling match (the accordion is winning).
Official | Badman Recording Co.
What's On The Hi-Fi Interview with Anoraak
As a follow-up to some stellar singles including “Nightdrive With You,” French electro artist Anoraak (a/k/a Frédéric Rivière) has released his excellent debut album Wherever The Sun Sets (on Grand Blanc and Naïve). The Valerie collective member continues to deftly play with retro electronic sounds and romantic grooves. The album’s first single “Above Your Head” is available as a free download from the Anoraak MySpace page.
Listen to “Above Your Head” MP3
Wherever The Sun Sets has been spending a lot of time on our hi-fi of late, and we were happy at the chance to catch up with Frédéric to talk about the new release, the influence of retro American pop culture and, of course, the unrivaled Mr. Miyagi.
Wherever the Sun Sets is your first album, but by no means a first release. Could you tell us a bit about how you got started as an artist (including the excellent Nightdrive With You EP) and about joining Valerie Collective?
I've actually been playing music in bands for 15 years now, so it's not a new interest. Anoraak is about 8 years old now and was born in Paris. I kept it as a "bedroom project" for a couple of years, and thanks to MySpace and the cheering from many random people, I let it grow outside my little student room. When I moved to Nantes 5 years ago (on the French west coast), I met all the guys from Valerie, and we started it as a family of artists, helped by the blog. Nightdrive With You came out in that period.
Were you surprised by the reception to the track “Nightdrive With You”?
Definitely yes, especially because at this time, the music scene was all about banging beats and saturations!
You have described your sound as “romantic” in a larger sense, a sound which draws upon various influences from the late 70’s and 80’s. Is there an attraction to American pop culture?
You've got it. American pop culture is definitely my background as a kid. I was born in 1980, so I grew up in a world taken by American music and movies. And I have a special crush for this late 70’s culture. I'm really into old school disco and funk music: I've got that feeling of a time where simple things were cool. Romantic is a way to explain my love for good feelings, sunsets and a little bit of melancholy.
Sally Shapiro and Siobhan Wilson make guest appearances on this album. How did the idea of working with these artists come about?
It really came about spontaneously. I’ve worked on a remix for Sally in the past, and her voice fits the tracks perfectly. Siobhan is a friend of friend, and when I saw her live once. I just thought we should sing one together. She liked the idea, so we did it!
We hear you are a fan of Karate Kid. You won’t find any argument from us. Any reason in particular why it is a favorite?
Aha! It's always tricky to talk about that movie, but I just love it. It's so funny, and I think it's one of the only "karate movies" that really describes perfectly (but in a funny way) the spirit of karate. I must say that I did practice karate for a certain time, maybe it helps. And I love Pat Norita (Mr. Miyagi in the movie).
Any plans to head over the US in support of the new release?
Nothing to talk about yet, but it's getting planned. More news about that really soon!
If you close your eyes, where do you imagine Wherever the Sun Sets being listened to?
On a Sunday morning, in a car going to the seashore, in a plane.... I hope it can fit many situations!
Who do you see as creating particularly interesting music at the moment?
The new Ariel Pink is amazing. I really love everything about it.
Do you see France currently holding its own on the international music scene?
I don't really know. I guess I don't have the step back to see that from a distance, but French music is exporting much better now.
What is on your hi-fi at the moment?
- Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today [my album of the moment]
- Minnie Riperton - Adventures in Paradise [always with me]
- Luke Million - Italo Journey [I've just discovered this Australian guy, creating new Italo Disco crazy tracks]
- You! - Battles [a new French band people forget to talk about, amazing]
- Cut Copy - the whole discography [because it's Cut Copy!]
MySpace | Valerie
What's On The Hi-Fi Interview with Team Ghost
Team Ghost is the new project fronted by Nicolas Fromageau, co-founder of M83 with Anthony Gonzales. The two co-wrote M83's first two releases M83 and Dead Cities, Red Sea and Lost Ghosts. Before the release of M83's third album, Nicolas and Anthony parted ways, seeing Nicolas moving to Paris from the South of France. It was there that he formed Team Ghost, joined by multi-instrumentalist Christophe Guérin and producer / manager Jean-Philippe Talaga (founder of Gooom Disques). Nicolas and Christophe also formed a production team called Kiss Me First.
Against this backdrop, Team Ghost has released their first EP You Never Did Anything Wrong To Me next month on the UK's Sonic Cathedral Records. Along with being available as a digital download, the release is also be available as a limited edition black and white 10-inch vinyl.
We caught up with Nicolas who shares with What’s On The Hi-Fi a bit about how Team Ghost came together, making a move to Paris, the decision to release You Never Did Anything Wrong To Me as an EP, and late night bedroom listening sessions.
Listen to "A Glorious Time" MP3
Could you tell us a bit about how Team Ghost came into being and how you all met up (Nicolas, Christophe and Jean-Philippe)?
Christophe and I created Team Ghost in 2007, we are friends since we were 15, and it's a pleasure to play music with him, as he's such a great musician. Jean-Philippe used to be the manager of M83 and, as I've been working with him for years, I trust him so much! His advice is always so helpful -- he's a great producer!!
You relocated to Paris from the south of France. Looking back on this now, what do you make of the move?
Oh, I really enjoy living in Paris -- it's a great city! In France, it's easier for a band to find gigs or a label when living in Paris. Of course, I miss my friends and my family, but I love big cities. Paris is quite a perfect place for living.
How did the production team Kiss Me First come together?
When we started recording for the EP, we had no label yet, so the three of us needed to create Kiss Me First.
Your EP You Never Did Anything Wrong To Me is out now. Could you tell us about the decision to make the release an EP (as opposed to a long player)?
Oh, we wanted to start with an EP, even if we already had many songs. It's cheaper to release and, for me, it's a good start. Now we are working on an LP!
"A Glorious Time" is one of our favorite tracks from the new EP. The track seems to speak of a certain nostalgia, a feeling which (to us) also appears to run through other tracks. Is this off the mark?
That's true. This song is about nostalgia, and about leaving the people you love when you move from your hometown. Most of my lyrics are about melancholy, feeling lonely, missing someone, etc. But I'm quite a funny guy in real life (well, I hope so)!
When you close your eyes, where do you imagine your music being listened to?
In a bedroom, at night, with your (boy/girl) friend. Oh, and with a big joint, it's perfect.
What do you get most out of playing live? Any cities that you particularly enjoy playing?
I love playing live! No matter where in fact. When we do a good gig, it's always a perfect moment for me, I love it!
Is there any artist who you see as creating particularly creative and innovative music?
Superpitcher! He's my hero, and I want him to remix one of my songs someday. His song "Irre" changed my life, and now I'm really into German minimal house music.
What is on your hi-fi at the moment?
Slowdive Slowdive Slowdive Slowdive Slowdive Slowdive Slowdive! Oh, and the new LP of Crystal Castles, some tracks are incredible! Joy Division and, well it's kinda weird, but I'm into punk rock these days like The Clash's early recordings, Ramones' "Rocket to Russia", The Damned's first LP, and The Stranglers.
MySpace | Sonic Cathedral Records
What's On The Hi-Fi Interview with The Ruby Suns
Maybe it’s the album’s infectious and hyper blend of tropicalia and modern pop, or the synth riffs and warped beats, or the exciting change-up unpredictability. Whatever the reason, we find ourselves coming back to bask in the melodic sunshine of the new release Fight Softly from New Zealand’s adventurers The Ruby Suns.
Fight Softly is out now on Lil’ Chief Records,Sub Pop, and Memphis Industries.
Listen to “Cranberry” MP3
We caught up with the band’s frontman, songwriter and producer, Ryan McPhun, who shares with What’s On The Hi-Fi what got him excited about making music, how the new release took shape and a few of the tracks which are now making the rounds on Ryan’s hi-fi.
Is there any particular album that you heard growing up that made you excited about making music?
I loved Michael Jackson when I was a kid. My sister and I used to dance on top of our upside down laundry baskets. I also loved Phil Collins and Hall and Oates. When I was about 9 in the early 90’s I started getting into gangster rap, funnily enough. I think the funky drum beats attracted me to them. I started playing drums a couple years later.
We understand that you are originally from California and moved to Auckland a few years back. What brought you to New Zealand?
I'm an New Zealand citizen, so it has always been an easy option for me. I had been going to university in Los Angeles, and I'd had enough of it and wanted something new so I headed to New Zealand. I also had started seeing someone from New Zealand who I'd met on a prior trip there so I wanted to hang out with her some more.
Could you tell us a bit about how the band’s third album Fight Softly took shape? Were there any particular influences or motivations?
It was a pretty long process. I started a few songs in '08 that were sort of a continuation of what I was trying to do on Sea Lion . The ones with a little tropical flavour. But when I went to write the bulk of the songs, I wanted to do something a bit different to that. I wanted the songs to be a bit more pop, while still being challenging in some way. There are definitely touchstones throughout the album. I was listening to Tango In the Night (Fleetwood Mac) a bunch and was getting really inspired (again) by Bad by Michael Jackson. I was also getting more and more into heaps of different dance music.
How did you approach the engineering / production of Fight Softly?
I used a lot more samples this time around. Whether it is drums from sample sets or little snippets of songs. So a lot of the tracks have a more electronic base to them. I mostly would plug synthesizers and keyboards and even guitars straight into my sound card, and I would effect them in my recording program. My friend Bevan Smith (signer, ex-Ruby Suns) also helped a bit with production and sound ideas. I would send him demos, and he would tell me what he thought. In some songs he added some sounds or instruments, and for 'two humas' he even wrote the outro vocal melody and lyrics. He's been writing, producing music with Signer, Aspen, and Skallander for years, and he's one of my favourite producers around.
You are out now on a busy tour schedule (including 15 May at Point Ephémère (Paris)). Any stops that you are particularly looking forward to playing?
Definitely looking forward to the Paris show. I was nervous about the New York show ‘cause it's a big venue, but it ended up being sold out, and we went bowling at the venue (also a bowling alley) ‘til they closed at 4am. Amazing. I'm really looking forward to coming back to Europe though. There's a few festivals we might be doing that look amazing.
We read that you enjoyed spending some time off in Paris last year. What is it about Paris that appeals to you?
I actually haven’t spent too much time in Paris. But the time I've spent there has been great. The coffee and food and wine blow me away every time. Our last show there was with some friends of ours from the States, and we had the best time.
What is the most ridiculous question you get asked about New Zealand?
I think a recent question was: So, where is Hobbiton?
What is on your hi-fi at the moment?
Alicia Keys, “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart”: Such an amazing song. I love her voice in this track and I love the melodies and the ascending synth chords.
Oh No Ono, “Eleanor Speaks” (Caribou Remix): I like the Oh No Ono album, but this remix by Dan Snaith (Caribou) blows me away. Its got such an amazing techno swing to it. The sounds are incredible. I wish I could produce like that guy!
Smith and Thomas, “Even If You Try”: One of my bud Bevan Smith's projects. This track has a nice housey feel to it and beautiful melodies.
Arthur Russell, “Springfield”: I've listened to this track so many times, but i'm still not sick of it. He's one of my very favourite vocalists and a big influence on my singing, especially for Fight Softly. It's a long jammy track but has the most amazing keyboard riffs ever, with perhaps Russell's best vocal melodies.
Michael Jackson, “Another Part of Me”: listened to this track pretty much on repeat while making Fight Softly.
Dizzee Rascal, “Tongue n’Cheek”: Don't know why I haven't listened to this album until fairly recently, but I really love it. The production is really great, and the songs are great. The track where he talks about getting blowjobs from complete strangers is particularly, uh, interesting.
MySpace | Lil’ Chief Records | Sub Pop | Memphis Industries
What's On The Hi-Fi Interview with Liars
Listen to “Scissor” MP3
We had the chance to catch up with Liars' Angus Andrew on his recent trip to Paris for a quick chat about the upcoming release Sisterworld (to be released 8 March 2010 on Naïve).
Asked about what we can expect from the upcoming release, Angus explained that he and his band mates Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross are known for taking tangents, and that this album is no exception. Sisterworld forms a natural progression from the band's earlier work, arguably taking a darker path, and incorporating layers of orchestration for the first time.
In order to prepare for their earlier release Liars (2007), the band went back and immersed themselves in sounds that they liked as kids, bands such as OMD, The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees. However, this time around, the band looked closer to home. Angus explained that they looked to their current home of LA, with an eye to trying to understand how it works -- getting a view of the city's underside. A city, which Angus explained, has its share of rejected people. And if there is a theme which connects the songs on Sisterworld, it is about being uncomfortable in one's own place and looking for an escape -- what Angus calls a "Sisterworld".
In the past, the band has spent stretches of time living and working in Berlin. Angus explains that he was attracted to Berlin since it provided a certain alienation, having moved there from NYC. In Berlin, Angus was removed from media sources and able to focus on creating music. At the same time, Berlin presented various difficulties - not knowing anyone or the language, a place where even buying a guitar string was a particular challenge. And now, the band is really enjoying LA. As Angus puts it, LA is like coming home and recording in your parent's bedroom.
As to the group's appeal, Angus believes that part of this attraction may relate to the band's integrity. For Angus, Liars are not about placating anyone - they are making music for themselves, regardless of what others might be saying.
Liars will be heading out on tour next month throughout the US and Europe. Check the group's official website for tour information here.
What's on Angus' Hi-Fi?
PJ Harvey, "My Beautiful Leah": A track which has been personally influential for Angus. There is a bass sound on this track which Angus has tried (and continues to try) to replicate.
Bauhaus, "All We Ever Wanted": A spooky classic.
Psychic TV, "Just Drifting": Angus loves the lyrical content, and, well, the weird sense of drifting.
OMD, "Waiting For The Man": This version gives the original Velvet Underground classic a new lease on life.
Blond Redhead: "In an Expression of the Inexpressionable": This is a track which Angus first came across before he started to make music. For him, this a track which makes one realize the possibilities of song craft, the idea that songs can be more of an idea -- providing the inspiration to think of possibilities.
Sisterworld - Reinterpretations Tracklist
Scissor - By Pink Dollaz, Lance Whitaker & Transformation Surprise
No Barrier Fun - By Duetonal (Alan Vega / Suicide)
Here Comes All The People - By Atlas Sound (Bradford Cox)
Drip - By Kazu Makino (Blonde Redhead)
Scarecrows On A Killer Slant - By Tunde Adebimpe (TV On The Radio)
I Still Can See An Outside World - By Boyd Rice (NON)
Proud Evolution - Thom Yorke 500qd Remix
Drop Dead - By Fol Chen
The Overachievers - By Devendra Banhart & The Grogs
Goodnight Everything - By Melvins
Too Much, Too Much - By Carter Tutti (Throbbing Gristle)
Liars (Official) | MySpace
What's On The Hi-Fi Interview with Beach House
Baltimore, Maryland indie rock group Beach House has lived a charmed existence. For singer/organist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally, it is a much-deserved success.
After just one year of playing together, the duo’s first single “Apple Orchard” caught fire when they were included on Pitchfork’s Infinite Mixtape in August 2006, and their subsequent full-length release Beach House garnered enthusiastic praise from alternative music fans and media alike.
When their second album Devotion was released in February of 2008 on Sub Pop Records, Beach House grew in popularity and acclaim, but more importantly, the band made new strides in their song development adding more expansive organ material and guitar.
Now with the release of their third album, Teen Dream, the group seems poised to breakout onto a new playing field and are even toying with a subtle pop sound on their fantastic new single “Norway”.
Victoria Legrand spoke to the Hi-Fi about Beach House’s upcoming release Teen Dream (released on January 26th), Baltimore and her love of Bobs.
Listen to "Norway" MP3
Victoria Legrand spoke to the Hi-Fi about Beach House’s upcoming release on January 26th, Baltimore and her love of Bobs.
How has the sound on Teen Dream developed from your first album Beach House and your second effort Devotion?
V: Beach House self-titled was recorded in two days and Devotion was recorded in little under three weeks. We had a lot more time to concentrate for Teen Dream. Devotion was written in gaps between tours; Teen Dream was written almost entirely once we had ended touring for 2009. The energy and the conviction behind Teen Dream reminds me alot of the feelings we had while writing the first Beach House record. I'd say Teen Dream has more of a hi-fi sound than the previous records.
Could you tell us about your single “Norway”? What is the song about? We noticed the lyric “in the season of the sun”. Is that a reference to Jacques Brel’s “Le Moribund” (also a 1974 hit by Terry Jacks)?
V: "NORWAY" is a song we started writing in Norway. It's probably the pop-iest perhaps. A lot of the visuals in the song are inspired by the landscapes of the country but then I abstracted them of course. To me it's a song of fantasy and longing. There is an icy imaginative quality to it. I didn't know the Jacques Brel reference, oh la la.
V: There are alot of bands in Baltimore and there are some bands that say they're from Baltimore but they don't live there anymore. It's a very supportive community, laid back and free. For how small the music community is, there is a really healthy variety of stuff. I don't think people are missing out on the scene in Baltimore because it's always going to be there. That's because there are no threats to the quality and purity of the energy going on in the community. Baltimore isn't a flashy destination for hordes of people to move to so I think and hope the community will retain its sincerity and innocence.
You are going to visit Paris on your 2010 tour. (Victoria lived in Paris before the band got started) Is there anything particular you look forward to when you play the city of lights? How are the fans different from the UK and the US?
V: I just love being in Paris. It always feels surreal to me because of how beautiful it is. I did live there before I moved to Baltimore. Someone once said that in the US, you can get alot of fans quickly but then they'll drop you and that in Europe, it takes a while to get fans but when you do, they last forever. I don't think that's true for us. I feel our US fans are wonderful and energetic and we're really just starting to uncover the wonders of European fans.
If push came to shove, how would you describe one another?
V: I don't know. I guess he's a push, and I'm a shove.
What’s on your hi-fi at the moment?
V: Bob Marley's "Reggae on Broadway" and Bob Dylan's "Day of the Locusts". I'm just Bob-crazy.
Official | MySpace | Subpop Records | Bella Union
What's On The Hi-Fi Interview with David Grellier of College and founder of the Valerie Collective
Hands down, the Valerie Collective is responsible for some of the very best original electronic music now coming out of France. And no, these sound are not coming from Paris as you might expect, but from further afield in Nantes in western France.
After starting his own brilliant musical project College in 2005, David Grellier went on to found Valerie (a name which resounded with David from the 80's). David created Valerie as a way to foster musical talent, by providing opportunities for collaboration and taking advantage of the Internet and blogs. The Collective is now home to artists such as Minitel Rose (a reference to adult services/sites provided on the French precurser to the World Wide Wide), Anoraak (responsible for the excellent track "Nightdrive With You"), English producer Russ Chimes, The Outrunners and Maethelvin. These artists share a common retro-futurist thread that is the hallmark of the Collective, bucking the French musical mainstream and seducing us with their romantic blend of 80's inspired electro.
We are excited to share with you an exclusive and yet unreleased College track "Blue Camera" (also, watch for it on our next podcast).
Listen to "Blue Camera" from College MP3
David spoke with What's On the Hi-Fi about the origins for the Collective, its influences and identity, the Paris-centric music scene and those artists which inspire him.
(Answers translated from the French)
Could you tell us about the philosophy and your inspiration for creating College and the Valerie Collective?
College was created in 2005 - I wanted to synthesize into my music the emotions of my childhood. During this period, I discovered the amazing opportunities offered by blogs, an excellent means by which to extend my universe and to share my visual and musical references, and thus, Valerie was born in 2007.
Is there a particular sound or outlook which unifies each of the artists of the Collective?
I think that today there are various groups of projects within the Collective. The Outrunners, College and Maethelvin, for example, represent a more instrumental branch. The Collective exists to stimulate creativity and to help artists present their projects. In addition, with New York Collective member Freedanger, we have produced a new 7" with the participation of Stephen Falken (member of the Outrunners) and Maethelvin (available at the Valerie on-line store:).
American 80's pop-culture references seem to run throughout the Collective. What are some of the most significant influences of the Collective and its artists?
Maybe to be more precise, we would ideally need to ask each project since the references are so varied. As for me, College is primarily influenced by 80's soaps and an aesthetic which I particularly like: color, images, silvery films and the sun - images of Los Angeles, Chicago and all of the other cities that I discovered through my television and which continue to fascinate me.
How did you decide upon the graphic feel for the Collective's identity?
I believe enormously in artistic collaborations which are facilitated today by various media such as MySpace and blogs. Thanks to this amazing development, I was able to contact The Zonders who have created a number of our album covers to date. Beyond this working relationship, a real passionate relationship (which is essential for me) has developed and that is what guarantees our creativity.
There is certainly an artistic and media "microcosm' in Paris, but all of that doesn't really interest me, and its rather sterile from a creative point of view. The internet has exploded this little word and allowed underground projects to emerge and given a wider audience access to music, and that is very good thing!
Do you see any particular differences in the way that your music is received abroad?
We have a particular resonance in the U.S., and that means a lot to me.
What artist (apart from those of the Collective, of course), do you see creating particularly inspiring work which genuinely excites you?
I have had the chance to play with The Hasbeens and Alden Tyrell in Holland, and I must say that this is the live performance that has most impressed me - for its beauty as well as its melodic power - a rare moment … marvelous!
What artist would you love to see join the Collective at a Valerie Party?
The Hasbeens, Alden Tyrell.
What can we expect next from the Collective?
Beautiful productions, and perhaps, for some, a coming together with the world of film, and as always, the blog which is at the center of our artistic compositions. I also hope to still produce releases as my finances allow and highlight talented artists like Stephen Falken and The Outrunners.
What is on your hi-fi at the moment?
"You and Me" - The Hasbeens (for all of the reasons above)
"Cruising" - Stephen Falken (if a track could sum-up the spirit of the Valerie collective, this would be it)
"Hound Dog" - Elvis (because on Sunday, listen to Elvis. It's perfect.)
"Silent Running" - Joan Baez (I recently discovered the film, and love the slightly hippie side of things)
"Playback Fantasy" - O'Gar (an older Spanish / Italian track, poorly sung and not quite right, but all this fragility creates a rare, melodic and emotional equilibrium)
"Ich habe dich gesehen" - Schwefelgelb (the last German group with Electronic Body Music - also great live)
Valerie (Official) | Valerie (MySpace) | Twitter: valerie_friends | College (MySpace)
What's On The Hi-Fi Interview with Thieves Like Us
Listen to "Really Like To See You Again" MP3
“Music for outsiders. Or I should say pop music for outsiders.”, is the way that Andy Grier of Thieves Like Us succinctly describes the group’s musical universe, a sound which refuses to slot neatly into any particular style.
Hailing from the US, Andy (vocals) met Swedes Björn Berglund (keyboards) and Pontus Berghe (drums) while living in Berlin. As a counter to the ubiquitous electro / techno scene, they started deejaying together, spinning a cross-over mix of tracks (to the befuddlement of Berliners) from Krautrock, Italo Disco to French filter house. They then formed Thieves Like Us and released their critically successful debut Play Music. This unconventional electro-pop soundtrack is often glacial and minimal, but tracks nonetheless resonate with a certain empathetic intimacy, side stepping becoming uninviting or aloof. With their latest EP Really Like to See You Again and work underway on their next long player, Thieves Like Us continue to develop their modern sound.
Andy talks to us about working together across cities, dissatisfaction with cultural harmonization, the group’s sour relationship with the Kitsuné label, musical innovators and what we can expect the group to deliver next.
All three of you subsequently moved to Paris -- what was behind the move? What do you make of Paris in terms of sparking / fostering creativity, particularly as compared to Berlin and NYC?
I think Paris is pretty bad for actually creating something. The atmosphere was inspiring -- the buildings and streets -- the Parisian people and such. But, to find time and space to actually make music there was pretty difficult. It is too expensive. New York and London are equally bad.
With ‘Globalism’ and all, cities and youth culture are becoming the same everywhere. Same clothes. Same parties (thank you very much Vice Magazine and American Apparel). I think some slower rustic town like Porto or Val Paraiso in Chile would be better for us to record in. I want to make a record in Antarctica, but I think the two Swedes would freeze to death. So, Berlin is better somehow, for slowing down and taking time to make something.
You have all since moved to separate spots. How does this affect working on new material?
We recorded our new record, Again and Again in Paris. So with that being finished, we can live in different cities again (for a little while). We try to record new ideas independently and then work them out into songs when we meet up.
How did you come together with the label Kitsuné?
Kitsuné . . . mmm. They suck actually. They have some say for hyping bands. But then they are incapable of releasing full lengths. They f**ked around a lot with us . . . promised us a lot. [They] [m]ade us wait one year and didn’t release our record . . . Gildas [Kitsuné co-founder] . . . makes the label for fashion purposes. Not music. C'mon, they sell blue jeans for 300 euros and sweaters for 800 euros . . . think about it. In December, when we released our record Play Music on a small independent (Sea You Records), he tried to sue us and block its release, claiming that he owned the masters. . . No, we do not share their beliefs or aesthetics. We would like to expose the company as being -- soulless!
The debut album Play Music received a lot of (well-deserved) critical attention, and particularly the brilliant track "Drugs In My Body". Could you tell us how the latest EP Really Like to See You Again follows from and departs from the debut release?
Well. We were still learning how to produce when we made Play Music. “Drugs In My Body” was recorded in our living room in one evening. There is kind of a dislocation in Play Music. Some songs we began in 2005 but did not finish until 2007. Really Like To See You Again is kind of a preview to our next album. I think it is more solid.
When can we expect the next long player? Any surprises in store?
It has lots of backing vocals. And it is more organic. Lots of guitar. I think it is more catchy than the last record. It is still pretty psychedelic in that space rock kind of way.
Could you tell us a bit about the imagery you gravitate to for you videos (for example, the video for "Program Of The First Part" features clips from the classic (TRON)?
Well, I saw a lot of these films late at night on television when I was a child. The film stock and lighting maybe reminds me of my childhood. There is a purity to these films that is missing in new cinema I think. The characters are mostly outsiders / people running away. We are going to try to produce some videos for the new record. Hopefully they will turn out good too.
Who do you see as being particularly innovative in music right now?
Mikey Bones. He has got a story to tell. Nobody is really telling stories anymore.
If you close your eyes, where do you imagine your tracks being played?
I think it is played in a variety of settings to a variety of people. Morning, day and night. At home or in the car. Probably by some confused people.
What's on your hi-fi at the moment?
Scott Walker, “Best Of Both Worlds” (from Scott 2, 1968)
Sade, “Why Can't We Live Together” (from Diamond Life, 1984)
Sam Cooke, “Feel It” (from Live At The Harlem Club, 1963)
Pat Metheny “Phase Dance” (from The White Album, 1978)
Michael Nyman, “Fish Beach” (from Drowning By Numbers, 1988)
What's On The Hi-Fi Interview with Frànçois
Frànçois is an artist (both musical and visual) who deftly melds the influences of his native France with those of his adopted home of Bristol. His lo-fi indie pop is at once warm and intimate and often unabashedly joyous. There is a welcome unhurried and ambeling feel to his naive songcraft and a soft reassurance in his reserved vocals, combining to lay out landscapes often plucked from Frànçois' passions and memories, as is the case on the beautiful EP Her River Raves Recollections. A true delight.
Look for Frànçois' releases on Stich Stich Records, Lejos Discos and Talitres Records.
Listen to: "Royan" (opener from the EP Her River Raves Recollections) MP3
You are originally from Charente-Maritime (the South-West of France), but have been based in Bristol for a few years now. How did this move come about?
I got offered a job as a French assistant at the Bristol Cathedral School. I was very pleased to move to Bristol; I liked the atmosphere of the music coming from there (Crescent, early Tricky, Portishead).
How does growing up in Saintes play into your music and lyrical imagery?
Saintes was a boring city for the teenager that I was. It's very calm especially at weekends. When my friends took me on the back of their scooters to go skateboarding on Sundays we would be riding in deserted streets. There is a feeling of melancholy and desolation in the air.
It's exactly the type of city described in Dominique A's song: "Je suis une ville de chantiers ajournés, de fetes municipales de peu de volonté".
How would you describe Bristol to friends back in France? How did you become involved with the local music scene?
All my French friends who visited Bristol loved it. It's a very easy city to love. The underground art scene is dynamic and friendly. It's easy to get involved. There's no snobbery. Crusty hippies and trendy hipsters work together in volunteer run cinemas and cafés.
By meeting friends. By involving whoever is available amongst the people I get on with. The Atlas Mountains is just the name I give to my backing band, but its members change all the time and are from different group of friends. A few examples: Rory Pilgrim was a pupil at my school, Victor Crespi and Amaury Ranger are old friends from Saintes, Rozi Plain is my girlfriend, Rachael Dadd is a singer I met at an open mic night, Rob Hunter is my flatmate, etc.
One of our favourite tracks is "Tracy Emin" from the Brother release. Could you tell us a bit about this track dedicated to the Turner prize winner?
It's a dream I had one night. She was keeping people locked up to make them go crazy and filming their reactions.
You are also passionate about painting and filmmaking (the artwork on your releases is often that of Frànçois himself). How do theses passions weave into his music?
I see it as one big body of work. My stage name is also my artist name. Frànçois the painter = Frànçois the musician. It's a different way to express my vision of the world and explain my way of life. I think they join. I think my music and my drawings have a common feel. I rarely lie when I do art. It's very honest most of the time. Sometimes I use a bit of effect here and there, but the intention is always to be direct and true.
How do you choose between writing / singing in French or English?
Poetry comes to me in both languages. I think French is a beautiful language. I can't get enough of reading poems by Baudelaire or novels by Camus and Vian. But at the same time English is very playful and funky sounding. I need both to express feelings and create imagery.
The tracks from your EP Her River Raves Recollections and the long player Plaine Inondable [Out 14 September on Talitres Records] were recorded in an array of locations. Could you tell us how these recordings came about and your approach to the releases?
Her River Raves Recollections is a sort of collection of songs recorded at different places and times, but they have in common the feel of water. One side of the vinyl is the River Side, and the other is the Sea Side. I need to go in the water very often. If I don't swim in the sea or the river for a long time, I start feeling confused … All the songs on the EP refer to that feeling in one way or another. It's an intimate affair - a lot of it was recorded on a 4 track that fits in the palm of my hand. So when I recorded it, it was like talking quietly to someone. I recorded a lot of it outdoors, picking up the surrounding sounds.
Plaine Inondable was recorded in one place: Saintes. The songs talk to the city and its surrounding, the fields along the river Charente that gets covered by the water every winter when the rain makes the river flood. It's got melancholy in it and also more foreign rhythmical backgrounds that express the desire to move away from Saintes, the will to travel to Africa (calabash beats), California (70's guitars) or Eastern Europe (Bulgarian female vocals harmonies), etc. Sound wise it is more produced, the ideas are more developed and the sound is richer.
It has been said that you are not particularly influenced by contemporary acts? Is this the case, and if so, what types of music are you the most attracted to?
I like some modern things, and I love watching bands live. At the moment I enjoy listening to hip hop and R&B artists like Kanye West, Clipse, Lil' Wayne. But it is true that a big part of my influences is music from the 70's (Arthur Russell, Philip Glass, music from Mali, Nigeria and Ethiopia recorded in the 70's), and also composers from previous centuries (Debussy, Satie, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Bach).
"The Balled of Dorothy Parker" - Prince
Because I just found out Prince is a giant. I love the way he combines the profile of a superstar who looks and acts cool and an artists who spends all of his time in his studio experimenting with funky ideas.
"Two Weeks" - Grizzly Bear
An example of how modern production can create purity of sound and make simple pop songs that don't sound dull.
"Silver Boat" - Ladybird
He is my friend and a constant inspiration. The simplicity in his music and its intentions move me.
"Mr. Me Too" - Clipse
Because it's pure groovy.
"The Lady With The Braid" - Dory Previn
A lesson in songwriting. Better than Dylan because she's not a poser. I discovered her through my friend Tracyanne Campbell from Camera Obscura, so I also like that song because it reminds me of her.
Frànçois (Official) | MySpace
What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...White Denim (Part Two)
Our continuation of White Denim's interview.
James, did you rebel and become a music playing, beer drinking, smoking teenage nightmare on purpose? Do you keep fit, and is fitness and athleticism a priority?
At the time when I began playing music I was a pretty serious athlete. By the end of that year my interest in organized athletics had waned significantly, and I began to dedicate more and more of my time to the practice of my instrument. When I was an awful musician, my parents perceived my behavior as rebellion, but as I improved over the years, they understood that I was completely dedicated to a new thing. My goals had simply changed. I learned what I know about practice and dedication and focus through playing sports.
Yes, but I wish I were more fit. Getting older and the touring lifestyle can make it slightly more difficult to stay in good shape.
At what age does touring and the physicality of touring become a complete pain in the ass?
Depending on how you behave on the road, any age can probably feel like fifty. The bar is my workplace, and there is a bit more temptation at my job than there would be at a typical office. I just try to remember that there are consequences to every action.
Do you get anxious about the hotel you are staying in before you see it?
Yes. A nice hotel room can make a positive difference in your well being while on the road. Bad hotels and bad food can make you dislike an entire city.
How many really incredible ideas or music riffs and parts have you not been able to put down because you didn’t have a pen or paper or a guitar on you at the time or have forgotten, and have you ever tried to obsessively, like really tried, to remember one and does that ever haunt you?
I believe that 99 percent of my ideas are lost. I also believe that I only have had twenty or so ideas in my life. So I am not missing that much really I guess. Some nights I do have trouble sleeping because it feels like a flood of awareness of missed opportunities occurs in the moments before I drift off. I imagine that is a pretty common behaviour though.
Are you cut throat ambitious as musicians?
No. Music is personal, communal and it has a life of its own. Being a musician is not like being a lawyer or a politician. I would however, like to be successful. though success is measured differently when it comes to creative endeavors.
We have never hired a roadie.
Being in a band is a collaborative exercise, do you have to be an amazingly good diplomat?
You have to be sensitive when you live and work with anyone. At any given time you could find yourself playing peacemaker or any number of roles. "Indie rocker" can be an occupation with a varied list of duties.
Do you wish you could sing like Jeff Buckley or like an opera tenor?.
Jeff Buckley has a nice voice but it seems like opera training would open up more musical possibility for the singer. So I would rather be an opera tenor.
If you were an artist and you were to compare your voice to an artist who paints, makes contemporary art, etc., who would that artist be?
I would hope to be compared to someone like Andrew Wyeth. I enjoy his line drawings and water coloring. I think that the line drawing could represent a set of changes, and the water coloring could represent the melodies, arrangements, and instrumentation in a piece of music. An artist who respects tradition but has an identifiable and distinct vision of his own. This is what I hope to become.
What is on your hi-fi at the moment?
What is it about playing bass that you like? Is it the size of the strings, the fact that there are only four strings, the sound of the low tone on the base?
I guess I like to groove and there's something about the bass that makes me groove harder.
You have a sound that is bit in the vibe of Jean Jacque Bernel. Do you like the crunchy heavy sound?
Crunchy and heavy is where it's at. Round and soft is cool too, but it's harder to feel like a badass when the tone isn't all gnarled up.
You've never heard a bass solo? Get with the program! Youtube it.
Do you get nervous about the girls outside?
I am not nervous about the girls outside because I have a wonderful and beautiful lady at home in my house to look forward too.
Do you care about your graphic representation or do you leave that to other people?
I care and I leave it to the other people. We are talking about fonts right? I like seeing myself represented in typewriter font.
What is on your hi-fi at the moment?
Right now I have a Ralph Records sampler on. It has the Residents, Tuxedomoon, Fred Frith, MX80 Sound, Snakefinger, Yello and other greats on it.
White Denim (Official) | MySpace
What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...White Denim (Part One)
Austin-Texas rockers White Denim have put together a brillant and uncompromising sophmore release with Fits. The trio continues to move the goalposts from their 2008 debut Workout Holiday; playing with an amalgum of disperate sounds and rhtyms, agilely shifting (often mid-track and without warning) from garage rock, to blues, country, punk to psycadelica. Recorded in their trailer, tracks reel with howls, gigantic riffs, impressively tight and explosive rhtyms and reverberating inventive energy. It should be a complete pileup, but instead, it makes for a wonderfully chaotic and heady mix.
The album opener "Radio Milk / How Can You Stand It" bolts out of the gates with reverberating beats, wailing guitar and a dizziying change-up, eventually shifting gears for the catchy and jolty single "I Start To Run" and the swirling, moody instrumental "Sex Prayer". Flip the record for the mellower half of the album for the sunny grooves of the likes of "Paint Yourself" and "Regina Holding Hands". But the real highlight of the album is the excellent "Mirrored And Reverse".
Once the dust cloud settles, the sheer cleverness and subtlety of Fits becomes clear, rendering this album such a compelling listen.
"Fits" is out now on Downtown (US) and Full Time Hobby (Europe). White Denim will be playing at Point Ephémère (Paris) on 9 September - check their MySpace page for updated concert dates. In the UK, pick up "Fits" from Rough Trade Shops and get a bonus mix CD put together by the band here.
Josh, is drumming noise or does drumming become not noise when accompanied by guitars and vocals, keyboards, etc.?
I’m not sure it’s ever just noise, or maybe it’s always noise. I try to remember that melody, by very simple terms, is harmonic ideas moving left to right. If that’s the case, it makes it difficult to peg ‘drumming’ as the barbaric instrument you make it out to be in that question.
Do you play by feel only?
Yes, and I bathe in a river, and rode a horse to school every day.
How do you go about creating a rhythm for the other guys to play to? Can you describe your process in a song like "Shake Shake Shake" which is very drum commanded?
We all try to represent each other in our own playing. That being the case, I’m thinking about what the other guys hear in their parts. Sensitivity towards the other players is very important. That song is pretty easy to describe. Steve (bass) and I locked on to a groove very quickly, and I stripped my part back to the bare essentials. After that, I rebuilt my part based on the space and tonality of James’ guitar parts.
Is it possible for an over 70's active age group to dig your vibe? Would you ever consider playing a gig in an old folks home?
Yes, and heck yeah.
How do you think you will view your music when you are 70 if you live that long?
I hope that we’re producing work that I will always be proud of.
Have you ever worn white denim while drumming?
What is your worst injury from drumming in a complete state of drummer ecstasy on stage?
Is it possible for you to flirt with sexy girls while drumming, and are you successful afterwards?
No. I look like an imbecile when I play. I’m only successful when I go to a different bar, and someone pities me for not speaking the language.
What's is on your hi-fi at the moment?
Dynastie Crisis’ Singles ("Vivre Libre", "Faust 72", "Rock’n Roll Dans la Rue", "Réveille-toi" , "Jesahel" and "Le Monde Eclate")
Check out part two our White Denim interview on Thursday featuring James Petralli and Steve Terebecki.
What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To The Antlers
The Antlers are like the little band that could. Sneaking in the back door of success, as frontman Peter Silberman puts it. As the follow-up to their 2007 effort In the Attic of the Universe (though they also released 2 EPs – Cold War and New York Hospitals in 2008), Hospice has been making the rounds and garnering accolades from critics and fans alike.
Originally a bedroom project of Pete Silberman, The Antlers have come of age as a 3-piece band of unquestionable talent and merit. The songs are like long runways with huge take-offs. They cram a ton of melody into songs that drip of heartbreak and loss and manage to make this heavy subject matter “hummable” (if that’s even a word). The first time I heard the song “Two”, I had to go back and hit repeat multiple times. It’s like Silberman suggests in the lyrics, “… this all bares repeating”.
The Antlers are an impressive band and have put together an album that matters. It's a soundtrack to watch the falling of the autumn leaves.
Pete and co. took some time out of their busy touring and writing schedules to answer some questions for us here at What’s On The Hi-Fi.
We came together rather randomly, around the time I was looking to stop doing all this by myself and start including other people, working with other people, exchanging ideas with other people. It wasn’t necessarily an easy transition - I’d gotten used to working by myself, and things started escalating soon after more people joined. But, I think we had a relatively easy time compared to a lot of other solo-projects-turned-full-band. Ultimately, becoming a band was the best thing we could have done.
‘Hospice’ seems to be getting a lot of love from both fans and critics alike. How are you dealing with all the attention?
It’s weird, I sort of feel as though we snuck in through the backdoor. It’s been sort of backwards the way everything’s happened, but there’s been time to settle in to whatever it is that’s going on. There’s been very surreal, intense times throughout the past couple of months, but at the moment, I think we’re in the middle of it. I don’t think we’ll necessarily understand until we’re out the other side.
Originally you self-released this album. Now you guys are going with Frenchkiss. How did that come about?
We’d reached the limit of what we were able to do ourselves. It was fun running our own little operation -- assembling CDs and mailing them out, taking orders, being our own everything. But, it got to the point where the time wasn’t there. We were playing ten times the shows we were used to and wanted to focus on that, and eventually, writing and recording new things. The more things picked up, the less able we were to do this all ourselves. Around that time we met Frenchkiss, and it felt like a perfect match.
The subject matter on the album is pretty heavy. Can you talk about how this project came to be and the imagery behind the songs (i.e., Sylvia Plath, Kettering, hospitals, etc)?
A whole mess of things came together at once to make Hospice. It was a lot of things, events, people. Unexpected parallels between fiction and reality. Hesitation.
We’re leaving for tour soon, for about two weeks, then we’re going to keep doing that for a long time I imagine. Leaving and returning and leaving and returning. We’re starting to write songs again, after a long writing hiatus.
What’s on your hi-fi at the moment?
I’m listening to The Runners Four by Deerhoof right now, and I’m suddenly loving it. Been really into The Rural Alberta Advantage’s album too. For the most part, though, I’m only listening to The Temptations. I’m not really sure why.
What's On the Hi-Fi Talks To...Original Folks
Original Folks is the French indie folk / pop project headed by vocalist and guitarist Jacques Speyser who has been performing under more or less personal aliases like Grand Hotel for the past 15 years. The sextet's well-received debut release Common Use has had a long gestation period -- 12 fleeting tracks which have been recorded piecemeal since 2006, mixed this past winter, and released this May on the French indie label Herzfeld. Nevertheless, Common Use has a marked coalescence, while allowing the songs to reflect an independent evolution.
While Common Use is the result of a collaborative effort, Speyser brought most of the album's tracks (whether as finished demos or broad outlines) to the group when it formed. Nonetheless, the release shows Speyser exploring the opportunities presented by working with a group. Speyser explains that "[m]y first musical projects took place without a fixed group, each time on specific and limited occasions On the other hand, Original Folks is a real group, which has taken a bit of time to stabilize. The first album, Common Use, reflects the evolution of the group until 2008, with many of my own musical fantasies. Since then, with a set and active line-up, the work of the group overrides my own wants. Each one of us is an influence and a driving force. I had always wanted that with Original Folks."
Original Folks pairs indie folk inflections with, at times, a decidedly French pop sensibility. Speyser is a self-taught musician, and the album reflects his attraction to simple musical structures and unpolished vocal harmonies. The lyrics are in English, a choice made by Speyser based, in part, on the musicality of the English language as well as considering the important influence that US / UK artists continue to play for Speyser and the group. The lyrics and welcoming melodies of Common Use evoke abstractions of travel and wanderlust, of simply changing where you are -- a sense of being less confined.
The album opener "Daze" sets the tone for the album, a delicate, shimmering track for the blissfully happy (featuring Speyer's long-time collaborator Franck Marxer on guitar). This effect is reflected on the down tempo "Holy Ghost" as well as on "Six-Wired Bird of Paradise" (Part II), a beautiful unfurling instrumental, reminiscent of Matt Pond PA. "Modern Drive", as featured by the French daily Libération on its 28 May LibéLabo playlist, does not shy away from current French pop. And on other tracks such as "Golden Age" and "Well", the group explores an ambling, poppy, indie-Americana sound. However, the group comes into its own on "Gone With The Weather", the album's strongest track, which is an upbeat, jangley guitar, sing-a-long affair.
In any case, Original Folks' is keen for the music from Common Use to reach an international market, "if our French-pop (obviously quite influenced by US / UK artists) can reach an American audience, we would be honored!".
What's on your hi-fi?
Bill Callahan, Hall and Oates, Grizzly Bear, Sébastien Schuller, Sexton Blake, Great Lake Swimmers, Buggy, Ashes of American Flags from Wilco, Beach Boys and Tim Hardin.
Herzfeld (Label) | MySpace
Listen to “Gone With The Weather” MP3
Listen to “Holy Ghost” MP3
What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Mark Daumail of Cocoon
You could be forgiven for thinking that the title of Cocoon's first long player, My Friends All Died in a Plane Crash, was chosen for little more than dramatic effect. Sadly, the album as well as the formation of the group, was born out of darker stuff. The group's founder Mark Daumail explains that "the album came when I lost most of my friends and family a few years ago. I needed to sing this story, so I created Cocoon." Mark began Cocoon as a solo project in Clermont-Ferrand in south-central France, writing and posting songs on the internet. In late 2005, Mark sought to collaborate with a female vocalist and met Morgane Imbeaud, who to Mark was a natural and seamless fit.
The duo set out to develop a shared sound, creating seemingly carefree and serpentine folk harmonies, with Mark on vocals, guitar and ukulele and Morgan on vocals and keyboards. The duo's first EP, From Panda Mountains, reached France's Top 40 charts, and the group went on to win Les Inrocks' CQFD award for best new act in 2007.
Although neither Mark nor Morgane have yet been to the US (a trip which Mark admits is a bit of a French fantasy), the tracks from My Friends... owe a lot to current indie-Americana music. Several of the tracks recall the uplifting jangly melodies of Sufjan Stevens (particularly on the gentle folksy duet of "Hummingbird") and the folk/rock sensibility of Elvis Perkins -- both of whom the group has cited as influences along with stalwarts Pentangle and Fairport Convention. Not only are all of the songs sung in English, but there is a distinctively strong affection for Anglo-Saxon influences and culture which runs throughout the album. Theirs is a romanticized view of Americana, of vast and wild landscapes - a nostalgia for an invented bygone era.
It seems more than ever that a growing number of French artists are releasing albums entirely in English, despite various obstacles to doing so in France (for example, French law requires that radio playlists contain a certain proportion of French language music / programming). Mark has said that, personally, this has not really been an obstacle. For Mark, it was natural to sing and write in English given that "all of our musical and artistic culture comes from the US and the UK. We’ve always preferred to read English authors, to watch American movies…." Its a decision which has worked for the band, garnering them recognition as one of the leaders in the English-language radio movement in France.
Having only been playing together for a few years, Cocoon have continued to tour and play increasingly large venues (the 3 recent dates in Paris sold out) and festivals, and the latest album continues to be released to a broader audience to critical raves. "We are so grateful for everyone coming to our shows. We know it is kind of hard now to find tickets, but we think we have to keep on playing in 2000-people-sized venues, to respect the audience and the music." Keep an eye out for the duo's first visit Stateside this September for what Mark has dubbed the "Great US Panda Force Tour 2009".
On tour, Mark and Morgane like to throw the odd cover into the mix, like the beautiful "The Lakes of Canada" from The Innocence Mission. Other covers make less sense at first, but somehow the duo pull them off, like "Rehab" and "Kung Fu Fighting". We have it on good authority to expect, in the very near future, a cover of Motorhead's "Ace of Spades"!
A lot of the charm of Cocoon has to with the fact that these two are visibly in love with what they do and, simply put, are just having a great time making music.
What's on Mark's hi-fi at the moment? "The last albums of Elvis Perkins, Grizzly Bear, Great Lake Swimmers, Horse Feathers and The Tallest Man On Earth. I love them all."
Listen to “Chupee” MP3
Listen to “On My Way” MP3
What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Team Waterpolo
Brit indie-pop band Team Waterpolo has had a charmed and busy few years. Since forming in the city of Preston of Lancashire in 2007, the group has made some huge leaps ahead of the pack. Their accomplishments include a debut single “Letting Go’” garnering NME’s ‘Single of the Week’, tour spots with the Black Kids and Supergrass, becoming a MySpace featured artist of the week, signing to Sony’s Epic Records in August 2008, playing Glastonbury last summer, and finally recording their debut at the countryside studio used by Alex Turner.
Now why does a young, relatively unknown band get such accolades, breaks and success so quickly: because they are so good in so many ways. On their debut album (currently untitled) the band, consisting of singer
Fred Davis, DJ Ruggero “Ruggi” Lorenzini, guitarist Nathan Standlee and drummer Lex Dunn deliver one catchy, clever, upbeat and fresh sounding song after another including lead single "Room 44."
What’s On The Hi-Fi got some insight from lead singer Fred Davis about the band, their tour and the upcoming album due to drop on May 19, 2009.
Oh yeah, it's been a while since we last toured and we're dying to play live again, Our first stop is Glasgow, we always have an amazing time in Glasgow, the crowds are crazy and so is the nightlife, so we are really looking forward to that one.
You’re from Preston in Lancashire, England, which is famous for producing athletes especially footballers and cricketers. Is this why you have a sports themed band name? And are any of you avid sportsmen / footballers?
HAHA good question. Our drummer has played quite a bit of American football he played for the Lancashire Wolverines, none of us are really avid sportsmen though. We did all go to schools where you have to play rugby and cricket, in fact my debut for the cricket B team was quite the event. I ran two of my team members out and then tripped over and fell into the wickets, The next game I played I opened up the batting and was bowled out on the first game of the match. They call that a Diamond Duck. I haven’t picked up a cricket bat since. The Team Waterpolo name was random and was created by Nathan, he wanted to put two random words together and he liked the idea of having Team in the name. He is American so maybe that's where the "Waterpolo" came from.
Previously, you have supported bands like Supergrass and Black Kids, but you will be out on your own headlining tour beginning April 30 in Glasgow (including a stop at Glastonbury this year). Any added pressure being “the” band on the marquee?
Not really, we’ve done headline tours before. It's cool because when it's your show you know everyone there has come to see you.
Always a boon. MySpace started everything for us, they featured us a few weeks after we started and it got us loads of attention from the industry and fans. We love Twitter Bebo MySpace etc. If I had to give one piece of advice to bands starting up it would be take full advantage of those sites, they can change everything overnight, they did for us.
All right, which one of you will be the first to marry a supermodel and join a cult?
Well obviously I will be the first to marry a supermodel and we have all already joined cults. I can't tell you which cults though, sorry.
Do you have any plans to get across the Atlantic for some gigs? Maybe CMJ in NYC in October?
No plans yet but oh my God yes! Please, we would love to.
What’s on your hi-fi at the moment?
At the moment I’m listening to Seasick Steve, Passion Pit, Dizzie Rascal. Oh and I’m listening to a lot of Jackson 5, but it changes with me from week to week.
Listen to “Room 44” MP3
What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Stuck In The Sound
Since forming in 2002, Stuck in the Sound have succeeded in forging an indie-rock sound which is a rarity in French music. With their sophomore release, Shoegazing Kids, the group have solidified their critical and popular following with their energetic brand of hook-laden tracks and coaxing riffs. There is no mistaking Stuck in the Sound's strong 90's anglo indie influences, however, the group is careful to distil these references and explore their own sound.
Shoegazing Kids takes its cue from the universal adolescent experience and shows the group broadening and polishing their sound from their debut release Nevermind the Living Dead (the single "Toy Boy" appears on the tracklist of Guitar Hero World Tour). The band’s understated technical deftness and developing style is particularly evident on the driving melodic tracks “Utah” and “Dirty Waterfalls”, “Ouais” with its mid-tempo change-ups, and the album’s unfolding melancholic bookends “Zapruder” and “I Love You Dark”.
With the release of Shoegazing Kids, there has been quite of bit of buzz that Stuck in the Sound is the “one” to watch on the French indie rock scene. What is the band making of all this attention and has this put any extra pressure on the band?
We’re very honored if people are interested in our band. We don’t really feel any pressure about it -- we just keep on doing our stuff and trying to do it the best we can!
The indie rock sound of Shoegazing Kids is frankly pretty rare in French music and more akin to the sound of American and British indie bands (past and present). How did the group’s sound come together? Why the decision to sing in English and what has the reaction been?
When we formed the band, the four of us had quite different tastes and influences, although we were all essentially “rock” fans. We didn’t have one single common idol or band we all wanted to sound like. We never played any covers until very recently.
We only tried to create and play music that would please the four of us. It’s something we have in common to think that rock music sounds better in English. There’s never been an actual “decision” to sing in English -- it came very naturally, we never really considered the other option (French). This “non-decision” didn’t make things easy for us in France in the first place -- to make a long story short, singing in English for a French band means seriously lowering your chances of getting played on the radio, but thanks to the internet and lots of gigs, we managed to have some success here anyway.
When we started working with Nick, the album was completely recorded, and we had a quite precise idea of the way we wanted it to sound, a direction that had influenced the way we recorded the album. So we tried to explain it to Nick the best we could, and we seemed to understand each other very well! His approach to mixing is a very musical one. We’re so happy with the way he mixed the record. It was a great experience for us, coming to Brooklyn and following Nick’s work step by step. He gave the power and unity we wanted for the record -- the way he handled the guitars is beyond our expectations, and on top of that, we had a great, great time!
What do you think of the French indie music scene? Is it still fairly Paris-centric?
There are great artists all across the country. Still, since most major media and record companies are in Paris, a Paris-based band or underground scene has a better chance of getting noticed and released at a national level, and this convinces a lot of provincial artists to move to Paris to look for their break. That’s the case of Bordeaux’s indie rock band Adam Kesher for example. Reims’ (the city of Champagne) electro scene is very hot these days too, with artists like Yuksek or the Shoes, and the most exciting young rock band in France, the Dodoz, comes from Toulouse. Of course, Paris has great bands too, Hey Hey My My, Nelson, Syd Matters, or the young and crazy I am un chien!, to name a few . . . .
Stuck in the Sound has an incredibly devoted fan base. What is the secret to the band’s following?
It’s true that we feel very close to our fans and they to us! It’s probably due partly to the influence that MySpace has had on the development of our band -- we communicate a lot through that medium, chatting directly with the fans. A big part of that special bond we have is also due to endless touring, sincere “play it’s like it’s the last one ever” shows, and meeting the audience in person after the gigs. And of course, we also hope it’s due a little bit to the fact that people relate to our music -- get moved by it.
The band will be playing several dates throughout France (including the Bataclan on 6 May) and Germany in the coming months. What is it like now for the band to play in Paris where it all started to happen for the band? Any plans yet to promote Shoegazing Kids in Britain and the US?
It’s very strange because, before the band got signed, we played in Paris like, every two weeks. And since we have records out and started touring seriously, we play in Paris only once or twice a year, in bigger places, and only during tour periods. It was very frustrating at first. I guess we got used to it, and it sure makes our Paris gigs particularly exciting. Still we miss that “club action” of the early days, and we intend to rock every club in New York, London, or anywhere, the way we did in Paris!
What is the biggest challenge now for Stuck in the Sound?
We have a lot of cool gigs and festivals ahead of us, and we want this tour to continue as awesomely as it started, and we hope it’s going to expand to many places we’ve never been before. On top of that, our biggest challenge is to stay inspired in spite of an endless tour, and write, record and release new exciting stuff in the months to come!
What’s on your hi-fi?
Metronomy, Pantera, French hip hop artist Sefyu, Michael Jackson and John Coltrane.
Stuck In The Sound (Official) | MySpace
Listen to “Ouais” MP3
Listen to “Shoot Shoot” MP3
What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Sara Lov
Rarely are Wikipedia pages as immediately intriguing:
"Singer / songwriter Sara Lov was born in Hawaii and later was raised by her mother in Los Angeles after the divorce of her parents. At the age of four she was kidnapped by her father and taken to Israel. Sara Lov lived there with an international fugitive from justice until a decade later when an uncle brought about her repatriation to the United States."
Against this rather harrowing childhood backdrop, Sara grew up in LA and went on to form the dream-pop duo Devics in 1996 with Dustin O'Halloran. After several critically acclaimed releases (released independently and through Bella Union), both Sara and Dustin decided to put Devics on hold to pursue solo projects.
Sara's first solo effort, Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming (Nettwerk), is a confident release of stripped down beauty. Sara has said that her sound is "simple and sad with a shot of scotch", a description which does not betray the warmth of Sara's heady melodies which, upon closer listen, often belie a clever lyrical bite.
It's been a very wonderful and liberating experience. I think somewhere inside myself I'd always wanted to do something on my own but never thought
I could. I do have a lot of help from some wonderful musicians and also the amazing Zac Rae who produced this record and is very much a big part of how it sounds so in a way I'm not really alone, but still, it's been a very great experience.
There seems to be a certain sense of nostalgia on the new album. Is this off the mark?
I'm not really sure. I have been hearing people tell me that my writing is somehow different or changed, but for me it doesn't feel so. I always just write about what I'm feeling. I don't try to write things specifically. Sometimes I write about dreams, and sometimes the music inspires a certain feeling or mood, and I try to bring it out in the words. I think I have always had this nostalgia. I do realize that my writing could be seen more clearly by someone other than myself, so I am open to the comments.
Your duet "Animals" with Alex Brown Church is one of the standout tracks from the new album -- not because it is the only duet, but because it unexpectedly pairs a jaunty naive melody with a direct lyrical darkness ("What kind of animal are we? I should have never let you into me.
But I never, never learned to swim, until you came around and pushed me in"). Could you tell us about this song?
I don't really like to interpret my lyrics. I feel that it ruins it for the listener. I would rather hear what it means to others. I will say that it is a break-up song and it means a lot to me. As for the rest of the parts, I really wanted to do a duet and I really wanted it to be with Alex. He is a very dear friend of mine, and I am absolutely in love with his music and voice. I asked him, and he said yes before I had even finished writing it. I think I finished all the lyrics the night before we went in to record it. I love duets especially when they play on the male vs. female perspective. I wrote the song very simply on the guitar, and the finger picking was actually Dustin's idea.
You are out on tour until early May, joined on certain dates by Audrey, throughout Europe, including shows at Bardens Boudoir in London on 22 April and Café Zapata in Berlin on 27 April. Along the way, you have been posting "Behind The Music" videos of the tour (including a video shot in the plane with you and Scott Mercado telling the trying tale of the overweight piano). Are you actually having as much fun on tour as it looks?
Yes! I love touring. There have been some difficult moments too, and I don't always have the camera on. But for the most part we are having an amazing time together. Audrey are incredible people, and we have become great friends and have been laughing a lot. It's a treat to hear their beautiful music every night as well. Tomorrow is Toulouse (18 April), and our last show with Audrey, we are all really sad about it.
It started just for fun. I am a huge music fan after all. It's music that inspires me the most of anything. It brings me the most joy, and after doing the Arcade Fire and Beck covers on my EP a lot of people started emailing me suggestions of other songs I should do so I thought why not? There will be a lot more to come but for now we haven't had much time on tour to do anything like that. I have some fun ones planned for when I get back. Also, while I am in Berlin if Dustin has the time we may do one together.
What's on your hi-fi at the moment?
My current favorite is Middle Cyclone by Neko Case. She is one of my favorites of all time, and I think her new record is pure perfection. The lyrics are beautiful, the songs and their arrangements are perfect. I have no other word to describe it but perfect. It's also a really fun record to sing along to.
Ane Brun's Changing of the Season is wonderful, it's not new, but I listen to it daily. Also the new Grizzly Bear I am falling in love with.
Sara Love (Official) | MySpace
What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Panther
Discreet? No. Uncommon and outspoken? Yes. Honing their skills in Oregon since 2001, funk-electro outfit Panther is taking their raucous stage presence to the mild mannered venues of Europe. Led by the inspired guise of Charlie Salas-Humara the duo seek to change, divide and improve on their freshman effort Secret Lawns and conquer new fans on 14kt God.
The music from Secret Lawns had a more experimental feel to it, as if you were playing around with sounds trying to find your voice. Did you make a conscious effort to direct the music in a more linear, focused structure on 14kt God?
Yeah, 14kt God was influenced by Cuban music -- the music I heard in my house growing up -- that and no wave, kind of a meld between the two. We have a new one coming out, its super different, sure to alienate any past fans we may have had.
You have teamed up with Joe Kelly on drums on this album. How has the new collaborative Panther been working?
It rules! It’s so much fun working with another person and we are looking for a third member.
Your live shows have quite a reputation for their spontaneity and your kinetic stage persona. Has the new lineup and more structured songwriting changed that at all?
No, we are still f***d up live. I play more guitar though, so less dancing. It’s more focused now, again, sure to alienate. People are still reviewing us as an electro band in the states. WTF!
You will be touring in Europe extensively. How has the international response been? Any stop on the tour you are looking forward to?
It has been incredible here. People are so amazing. They are really digging it and we never worry about people not showing up. Its different here, they really suss out the music and are not getting their culture from p4rk alone, you know?
Yeah, we just did “Metal Machine Music.” We wanted to cover that newish Beyonce song, but the lyrics bummed me out. This anti-feminist b******t."If you like it you should put a ring on it.” Come on ladies, you don’t need that s**t!
We saw the video of you “floor dancing.” Can we expect that dance form to sweep the country and end up on Dancing With The Stars and in the next Madonna video?
To quote heavy metal parking lot "Madonna, she’s a d**k.” No, it was a joke. I was really high when I did that. I am too old now to do that dancing. My bones ache. (Click here “Floor Dancing”)
What’s on your hi-fi at the moment?
Oh s**t, ok, been listening to Goblin, Ennio Morricone (Dario Argento horror box set) Osana, Badfinger, Alexander Spence, Grateful Dead, African Scream Contest. I have been really into Ethiopian music from the 70’s as well as a lot of classics. Badfinger is so great and underrated. I will always like the Grateful Dead. It’s hard to like a lot of the new stuff, not a lot of soul to it. Everyone makes the same record two and three times. We definitely don’t and we are chastised for it. Music is art for f**k sake!!!
What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Matt Pond
While his collaborators may have changed since the group’s beginnings in the late ‘90’s in Philadelphia to its current Brooklyn-based line-up, Matt Pond remains solidly at the heart of the ever-evolving group that bears his name, Matt Pond PA. At their very best, the band’s hook-laden tracks sparkle with a lean indie-pop clarity.
As work continues on the next full-length release, the group has released a 9-song EP entitled The Freeep, available as a free download on the group’s site.
Matt talks to What’s on The Hi-Fi about The Freeep, work on the next full-length album, the unique energy of New York, slaying cynicism and grabbing at the past.
Chris and Dan and I wanted to do something for the sake of doing it. No expectations, no grand exclamations. Something as modest and pure as our modern, tainted hearts could allow.
The idea was simply acceptance -- of oneself and of those around. These days everyone wants to mold themselves into the idea of what they think they should be. With edited profiles and pictures, we hardly communicate what we haven't polished. We seldom truly speak.
The EP was a release from fear--from our own, and for anyone else who wanted to listen.
You have included multiple instrumentals on the EP (including our favorite "#3"). Is this a new direction or something that just made sense on this project?
Those instrumentals are actually the work of Chris Hansen -- maybe I should say that a little louder, ‘Christopher Morgan Hansen’!
We wanted several non-verbal threads running through the narrative. Wordless explanations. Somehow from being stuck together in a cabin for months, he was able to convey the meaning of the thread without a vocal melody or lyrics. Chris is a champion.
The Freeep is the forgiveness. The next is the non-religious sense of seeing the light. Or it can be religious. Sacred or secular -- songs can be interpreted however the listener likes.
We've been working on the next album for a couple years. We're trying to ‘get it right’. I don't know what ‘getting it right’ means. It could very well mean ‘screwing it up’ or ‘making a mess’. We certainly have enough songs for a proper mess.
There is a lot of focus on Brooklyn (your adopted home) now as a hot bed for new music. Why do you think that is? Is there a sense of a musical community?
I love Brooklyn. It fueled three albums. Maybe too many songs. There's an energy inside New York unlike anything else. Almost like the taste of a fully charged battery.
To be completely honest -- I love music, but I'm not always keen on the larger groups. Perhaps it's a form of mental claustrophobia. The necessary basis for me to participate in a community is a certain sense of altruism. Sometimes, lately it seems to be missing or amiss.
To be completely true -- I tend to keep to myself. It's a struggle to slay cynicism and bite off bitterness.
These days I spend most of my time upstate in a cabin, following packs of roaming deer with their seasonally thick fur. Irresistible in my exile. And yet they hardly seem interested in my embraces.
The image of an axe figures occasionally in a your videos and cover art (in your hands, casually propped up against a wall). Any particular significance there?
The axe isn't for the outside world. The axe is for me.
It's completely unnecessary to attack the beliefs of others to get anything done. All those glorious ghosts on the internet being so damned hateful. It's a curious time. Makes me question whether we're moral without an imperative. If there's no repercussion or ruling written in stone, is it acceptable to hurl senseless vitriol onto message boards, anonymous posts? Yes? Ok. I'm fine with missing the target.
I believe in fighting for what I believe. Self-struggle, self reliance, personal triumph. The only way to please ourselves is to please ourselves (please take that bit in the least carnal way as possible).
I might have weaved some of these questions into my constant distraction. Ultimately, I believe our existence is incredible. Axe or no axe.
You recently set off to explore Barcelona. What brought about the trip?
Sometimes I get stuck on surviving instead of living. The most massive mistake.
I'd been in Barcelona last September, and I'd never felt more alive, never more inside of a moment.
Even though it's a bad idea to try to relive the past, I went back to grab some more.
This time somehow surpassed the last. I wandered everywhere. I walked, ate, drank, slept, wrote and walked. Repeat. From the hills down through the cavernous alleys, criss-crossing myself and constantly, blissfully lost.
The strangely optimistic outcome of this financial crisis is that we can do everything to work and struggle and invest in a future -- and yet that future may never arrive.
What’s on your hi-fi?
Listening to . . . Lykke Li's Youth Novels, a perfect piece of gentle intention and sweet, sweet production. Brooklyn bands such as Weird Owl for psychedelic revolutions and Ratatat for dance revolutions. She Keeps Bees should be much more widely known. She's like a bluesy Woody Allen. I know it sounds wrong and strange -- instead it's raw and beautiful.
Right now I'm stuck on the latest Lily Allen. Over and over and over. I would marry Lily Allen and accept a life of derision. I would.
And always a heaping of Mahler. Because of his beautiful huge heavy handedness. (please take that last ‘hands’ bit as devoid of any deeper meaning).
Matt Pond PA (Official) | MySpace
Listen to “Hearts and Minds” MP3
What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Jenn Grant
Recently, we caught-up with Jenn Grant, whose world is suddenly bustling with the release of her album Echoes released earlier this month on Six Shooter Records. The Halifax, Nova Scotia - based singer / songwriter is riding a comet of well-deserved buzz which has landed her a showcase spot during Grammy Week in Los Angeles. Often departing from the whimsical and dreamy sound of her debut release, Orchestra for the Moon, Jenn's new release highlights her growing confidence as a songwriter. Moreover, the analog recording and mixing of the album provides her with the perfect platform to explore the natural brilliance and warmth of her voice and renders the songs all the more intimate and immediate. With her stellar sophomore effort, Jenn is ready to reach a broader audience, ensuring that she will no longer be one of Halifax’s best-kept secrets.
When we were ready to record, the band and I met at an analog studio at a farm in Ontario. They learned the songs in the studio, and we recorded them live just after we came up with what felt right, so that the magical feeling of making music would remain.
The recording and mixing of Echoes was all done on analogue, lending the recording a particular depth and warmth. Was this part of the overall view of the new album?
Yes, the analog process was an important part of the making of Echoes. I really wanted it to feel less treated and more organic than any recording experience I'd had to date.
You grew up on Prince Edward Island (eastern Canada) and later moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. How do these places shape your songwriting / music?
Always having lived close to the ocean, I have a very beautiful outlook on how the world can be. I crave open spaces and skies, and when I write, these are the kind of places I sometimes like to include in my writing.
I am having a great time! LA was amazing. That is a city I love. It was great to go to the beach and to perform at such a glamorous event. I am feeling very lucky for my life these days.
You are about to head out on tour for a few dates in Canada and then to England with Kevin Hearn (including 25 February @ the Macbeth in London and 27 February in Brighton (venue to be announced)). You are then back to play at SXSW on 19 March as part of the Six Shooter Records showcase. Are you ready to set out in support of Echoes? Any chance of a tour in the rest of Europe later in the year?
I hope so! I love Europe and my some of my best friends even live in England. I'm hoping to head over to France again as I really loved it when I toured there before with The Heavy Blinkers.
What’s on your hi-fi at the moment?
I love Fleet Foxes. I love the way it sounds. And I've always loved Radiohead, Wilco, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Jeff Buckley . . . to name just a few.
Jenn Grant (Official) | MySpace | Six Shooter Records
What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Horse Feathers
Without hesitation, Horse Feathers’ second album House With No Home is one of our favorite releases of 2008. The group is led by Idaho-native / Portland-based Justin Ringle, who sings, writes and plays guitar, and he is joined by brother/ sister Peter and Heather Broderick on strings and vocals.
Justin writes songs which are delicately crafted and nuanced -- songs which on first blush may simply appear sparse until they build only fleetingly before (and often suddenly) disappearing. The tracks “Curs in the Weeds”, “Working Poor” and “Road to Ruin” are stand-outs of this ebb and flow style, each song slowly growing, layered carefully with textures of cello, strings and vocal harmonies. Other tracks like “This is What” and “Albina” bound along, pausing briefly, at a pizzicato clip. And suspended over it all are Justin’s vaguely weary and haunting melodies.
Horse Feathers has succeeded in creating an album which is best enjoyed as a whole, allowing Justin and his band to tell, in their time, their uniquely evocative and melancholy tale.
Justin talks with What’s On The Hi-Fi about the band’s new release, the move to Kill Rock Stars and his upcoming tour dates in Europe.
The overall sound of House With No Home appears to be more sweeping and broad than that of Horse Feather’s debut album Words Are Dead (2006). Could you tell us how the group’s sound has developed and how you approached the new album?
It was kind of a natural progression in a way from the first record. I really wanted to flesh out this record with more orchestration to fill in some of the spaces in arrangement from Words Are Dead. I had started playing with Heather Broderick since the first record and by having the cello being more of a consistent voice in the record certainly added to the broad sound you are talking about.
Could you tell us about the move to Kill Rock Stars (renowned Northwest US independent record label, notably home to some of the best 90’s underground indie / punk releases from the likes of Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney)?
It is kind of a dream come true. I still pinch myself thinking that I really couldn't be on the same label that had put out so many great records that I had listened to growing up. I am originally from Idaho, and I was always keen on all of the Northwest regions labels since I was a teenager. It's kind of a home town pride thing especially now that Kill Rock Stars is based out of Portland. I really respect them and what they do.
Where does Horse Feathers’ music come from? What are your influences?
I don't really know precisely where it comes from. I pick up a guitar, and I sing and put ideas together. I play with accompaniment. In between those things, I swear it comes out from the blue. Past experiences and fictional accounts of different situations are usually my starting points.
I have definitely been influenced by geography, and I think where I live sneaks into the music on an emotional level. The Pacific Northwest isn't necessarily the brightest place, and for me that has had an effect on the music I write. I love words too . . . the way they can have such an impact as single ideas in a song interests me. Poetry has been influential for me as well, particularly, in how it can focus on the aesthetic function of language and words.
Your songwriting often takes on weighty themes, which sometimes only seem to reveal themselves upon closer listen, such as betrayal and alienation (“Curs in the Weeds” speaks of familial alienation; “Working Poor” which begins with the opening lines “We are young, we are weak / just as blank as we are bleak”). Could you tell us about your choice of subject matter and how you approach songwriting / arranging?
I try to put myself inside subjects and themes that draw me in emotionally. They are just ideas and threads of stories that make me feel something. I am just putting those feelings into the form of a song and not much more than that. Some things are autobiographical but in a round about way. I take memories and experiences and try to twist them around until I feel like there is something there on a visceral level that expresses something. If people relate to it and can somehow make it something subjective, in the end it makes it that much better, but I don't think about that while I am working on songs.
Have you been surprised at all by the critical and popular reception of House With No Home?
I have always been surprised by the reception of both of the records. When you take songs that you have written in your room and then put them out there, when people like it, yeah, it always feels surprising. I am glad people enjoy the music.
We did some UK dates this fall with Jose Gonzalez and one show in Brussels. I am really excited to do more continental dates this time around and to go to more places in the UK as well. I am excited for all of it really!
What’s on your hi-fi at the moment?
Robert Johnson’s King of the Delta Blues Singers
Neil Young’s On the Beach
Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger
I have been listening to the old stuff lately . . . .
What's On The Hi-Fi Talks To...Goodnight Monsters
Chalk it up to long Nordic summer days or a certain wistfulness brought on by winters that last just that bit too long. Whatever the reason, Turku, Finland-based Goodnight Monsters have a clever knack for creating infectious, summer-inflected, indie-pop songs. The tunes are bright and blissfully uncomplicated and lack a certain polish, and they are undoubtedly all the better for it.
The group was formed in 2004 when Valtteri Virtanen and Matti Jasu began playing music together and released their debut album of home recordings in 2005 called The Brain that Wouldn’t Die. The duo later joined with bassist Markus Jalonen and drummer Jussi Rantanen, forming the band’s current lineup.
Valtteri and Matti talk to What’s on the Hi-Fi about their well-received 2008 album Summer Challenge, the band’s (new) direction and touring, and their blessed hometown under siege.
How did Summer Challenge (the group’s first studio album) come together?
Valtteri: At first, we tried to record it the same way we did our first album, DIY style. It didn’t work out that well for some reason, and we completed it in a real studio with producer Petteri Rajanti. The process of making it was kind of long; we started the first recordings in the summer of 2006 and finished the last mixing in early 2008. That doesn’t mean we were sitting in the studio all that time -- the album came together little by little in short sessions. At first it sounded more raw and guitar-driven, but with Petteri Rajanti’s touch it ended up sounding more sophisticated.
The lead-off song’s namesake is the exceptionally affable, clever, loyal and energetic (Black) Labrador. As a first impression, what does that tell us about the album?
Valtteri: Originally the song had lyrics that mentioned a black Labrador. Then it transformed into an instrumental, but the title remained. We put it as the first track because it sounded like a nice intro for the album -- it introduces the upbeat rhythm and the spacey organ sound that kind of goes through the whole album.
I think Labradors are the kind of dogs that don’t seek your attention all the time. They just lie down peacefully and make you like them in their own, lazy way. Maybe that goes for the album as well, or at least for our approach to self-promotion.
When you’re writing, do you set any ground rules in advance, or is it just a gradually evolving process?
Matti:You shouldn’t think too much when writing. Don’t try to please other people, just write the music you like.
Who would you want to play a show with?
Valterri: It would be cool to support some great veteran act that we like, Neil Young or Yo La Tengo, for example. It would also be interesting to play a show with an extended version of our band, like with a horn section or something.
Any plans to strike out on tour in the US / Europe?
Valterri: No current plans at the moment, but we really wish something like that happens soon. So far, we have played some gigs around Europe, and it’s been a lot of fun. We definitely are looking forward to touring again.
Is a new album in the works? What can we expect?
Valterri: Yes, we are rehearsing new songs at the moment and hope to get to record them soon, and do it a little bit faster this time. So far, the new songs sound a bit more loud and raw than the older stuff, but there’ll also be poppy numbers. One of the songs is kind of loungey. One has a Bo Diddley beat. Expect some long guitar solos too.
How would you describe your hometown of Turku (which apparently is subject to an annual onslaught of swarms of youths from the feuding city Tampere, who all jump in Turku’s market square in an attempt to push the city back into the sea)?
Matti: For a start, Turku is a much better place than Tampere! [laughs]
It’s a nice town with a nice river flowing through it. There are lots of clubs and record shops and parks and stuff like that. The live music scene is also lively. It’s one of the oldest cities in Finland.
What’s on your hi-fi at the moment?
Valtteri: Goldfrapp’s new album. It sounds like a mixture of some misty 60’s folk and Saint Etienne, great stuff. Then some Stooges. RIP Ron Asheton. And Luna, I love their late night sound.
Matti: I’ve been listening to Nina Simone’s whole catalogue -- top stuff. Also, some Neil Young, mostly Zuma and the latest album, Sugar Mountain. And I just found a bunch of cheap vinyl from a flea market, including records by Henry Mancini and The Association.
Goodnight Monsters (Official) | MySpace | Klicktrack