The Wooden Birds * Bowery Ballroom, NYC * September 27, 2009

Sunday night we had the amazing chance to experience The Wooden Birds open for Great Lake Swimmers at the Bowery Ballroom. Okay, as soon as we found out that the band had both Andrew Kenny from American Analog Set and Matt Pond in it, we were intrigued.

The band, which is the brain child of Kenny, released Magnolia (Barsuk) back in May and have been supporting the album ever since. This is one of the greatest records I have heard all year, hands down. At their live show, the band gives even more life into the songs. Listening to the record, the first thing you notice that there are no drums on any of the tracks. A careful decision made by Kenny.

Onstage the band brings on drummer Sean Haskins to liven up the live show.  Guitarist and sometimes vocalists Leslie Sisson has one of the most beautiful voices you’ll ever hear, especially on stage. Matt Pond makes a nice addition to the live lineup, playing the new songs like an old pro. Kenny takes on the part of lead vocalist and bass player, with the most infectious bass lines you’ll ever hear. The Great Lake Swimmers had a hard act to follow that’s for sure.

Check out MORE LIVE Pictures of The Wooden Birds @ The Bowery After the JUMP

Check back later on in the week for our exclusive interview with Andrew Kenny!

 

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Let’s Go Surfing with The Drums!

Brooklyn four piece, The Drums are gaining attention faster than we can keep up with! Our writer Joe Paolucci caught up with the drummer of The Drums (try saying that 10 times fast!), Connor Hanwick at Brooklyn Bowl to find out what this buzz band is all about.

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So you guys started out playing CMJ last year, right?

No, no. We started out at Popfest. We did our first show at Popfest at the Cake Shop.

As far as attention goes, what has that been like?

 The honest truth is that we played Popfest and we played the basement party at Popfest. It’s been a snowball.

 The band is great live, you put on a great show.

 Thanks! The whole thing has just gotten out of control. People have been really receptive and we’re really grateful. Here in New York and more so in the UK, we’re like Top 40 radio. It’s Jay-Z, The Killers and us.

 ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ is a great song. You are kind of like New Order meets the Beach Boys. That’s a great description of that song.

 We don’t actually surf ourselves, but we like the whole culture, that whole thing.

 I do too. We were actually going to ask you, where do you surf in Brooklyn?

Not to get heavy but ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ was written about, well like, we have two songs…. like ‘Let’s Go Surfing,’ and we have a song that’s coming out on the full length called ‘The New World,’ solely based on Obama. Like ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ was just a reaction towards the whole idea of being free I mean the past 8 years have been kind of a mess and we kind of realized that some new guy was coming into power. It’s just like a total liberation. That’s what we felt like, we felt like ‘I want to go surfing.’

We’re you in Elkland too?

 I wasn’t in Elkland, no. I met the guys Adam, one of the guitar players and Jon. I wasn’t in Elkland, Adam and Jon were in Elkland together.

 Jon was the singer and Adam was the guitar player, right?

 Yea, the other guitarist Jacob was in a band called Goat Explosion with Jon several years back. They were an electronic band.

 Where are you guys from originally?

Ah, from all over. I’m from here (Brooklyn). Jon is from upstate, Adam is from the same town and Jacob is from Ohio.

 So you’re the only one from around here?

 Well yea, but we all moved to Florida to write the record.

 Where about in Florida?

 Kissimmee.

 Right outside of Orlando. Why Kissimmee?

 A good friend of mine gave us the house.

 That’s pretty sweet. Elkland was kind of pop-punky weren’t they?

They were sort of pop-punky but Elkland was just a good new age band. I don’t think they were really pop-punk. Their label Columbia was full of shit. They don’t know how to handle their bands. It’s old people, you know?

 How did you guys meet?

Jon and Jacob were best friends since they were like eleven. They met at like a Christian Bible camp. Jon and Adam met, well they’re from the same town and met right before Elkland started. John and I used to DJ when I was like 17, 18…

 How old are you now?

 22. I used to DJ at a lot of clubs that Jon would go to and we used to hang out there all the time.

 Did you DJ at the Annex and all?

 Yea.

 Are you guys sad about the closing? What do you think about that?

 The Annex has done great things for us. I think they had a great venue. If you’re a shitty band and play the Annex, it’s like whatever, but we think the Annex was  good venue for some bands. We played there with the Bravery and they were amazing. (gesture) Can you get that motion on tape? (laughs)

 How is your debut album coming along?

 The debut is about finished. We have 2 songs left. We have about 12 songs written for the full length and 2 songs left to write. We already have them basically down. We have vocals left to do. They’re essentially done. The full length is essentially done and we’re looking towards the next one.

 Really? That’s crazy!

We’re very specific about what we want aesthetically, soundwise. We’re pretty close to having the full length done. 

How hard is it to create what you do in the studio, onstage? It’s pretty apparent because you’re good live.

 It’s weird because none of us our actually musicians. Every band I’ve been in has just been drum machine, weird obscure shit. The other guys, same thing. This is the first time Jacob has ever played guitar. Adam is sort of the same. We’re not musicians you know? We’re songwriters. We’re all sort of like synth enthusiasts. We all grew up on Kraftwerk, New Order. Those bands. Factory records were a big influence on us, obviously, but more of the band’s like Stockholm Monsters. All four of us separately went through a serious Joy Division stage.

I love Joy Division.

Yea, like how can you not?! The band that inspired us to make this sound is a band called The Wake. They were like a really obscure factory band and between them and a band called Field Mice, they were on a label called Sour Records from ’88 to ’92. They released a 100 releases and then kind of fizzled out.

How did the band come together?

Well Jon and Adam became friends because they were from the same town, so then they played in Elkland together. Jon’s been in New York for a couple of years now. I grew up here so I’ve been DJ’ing around since I was 16. The Drums actually started as a fictional band. We all had a blog called the Neo-Violent Boy’s Club. This band had a song called ‘Neo-Violent’ so we started this blog, full of our ideas and we started this fictional band called The Drums. Jon drew up a fictional band. We kind of made it up, we promoted it as the greatest band in the world. It was all photos, image based. So then Jon moved down to Florida to help Jacob on the record and they were like ‘Well let’s call it The Drums!’ Jon called me up, called Adam, like ‘What do you guys think of, you know, The Drums?’ We heard a few songs and signed on right away.

What were the songs?

I heard ‘Me and the Moon,’ which will be on the full length and ‘Let’s Go Surfing.’ I was DJ’ing at the time and I was playing a lot of those songs. We have a song called ‘Best Friend’ we have a remix that me and Jacob made. I was playing it non stop whenever I DJ’ed. People were really receptive and it kind of went from that.

Who are your influences?

A lot of people give us comparisions to New Order and Joy Division. We’re really more inspired by the Shangrilas, The Angles.

 No Beach Boys?

 No the Beach Boys too. The Beach Boys have this album with 13 songs that they just wrote about being in cars. That’s really inspiring to us. A guy named Alexander Rovadnick, and we like timeless classic Americana. I like the Beach Boys, The Zombies, Shangrilas, a lot of old doo wop girl groups.

 I love the music video for ‘Let’s Go Surfing.’

We have another video coming out very soon called ‘Down by the Water,’ and we’re totally ripping off frame for frame a video by the Shangrilas. They’re like 4 girls from Queens that just made amazing song and we’re totally obsessed with them. One of the girls from that group sells show now. So we went up and gave her a copy of the EP.

Where does she sell shoes?

Like 82nd Street at a really random store (laughs). Our main influences are The Zombies, The Shangrilas, The Ronettes and Timelife Magazine.

Before it collapsed?

Well yea, we’re really image based.

My old photo teacher collected those images and they’re amazing. Did you help with the rest of the album songwriting?

 I mean like, as far as I’m concerned, the drum parts are very simple, all the parts are. The whole thing is we want to do everything we want to do and confine them into three minutes.

 It’s like a pop album.

 I think there’s this whole Williamsburg thing going on right now and that’s great but we’re really not part of that whole thing.

 You guys kind of popped out of nowhere, kind of like Grizzly Bear.

 Grizzly Bear is cool. They’re good friends of ours. I love Grizzly Bear.

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 John takes on sort of a Morrissey persona when he hits the stage, he even does the whips.

 Honestly, our influences, we really don’t try and hide them. I think everybody like you and I went through a serious Smiths phase. Our band is formed based off a lot of the same bands. If John has something that seems Morrissey-esque, it’s very sincere.

 What’s your favorite song to play live?

 My favorite song to play is probably the song ‘I Felt Stupid,’ but there’s a song coming up on the full length called ‘The New World.’ We’re looking to get booked for the Olympics for the opening ceremony with the song. The lyrics are comprised completely of Barak Obama’s inauguration speech. It doesn’t sound cheesy or anything and it’s probably my favorite song on the album.

 Are you guys traveling outside of New York City and Brooklyn right now?

We’re going to London on the 14th and then have two shows here at the Mercury Lounge and then we go to Iceland for the Airways Festival and back to London and then L.A. and back to New York. By then the full length will be out and we’ll be all over.

 A lot of comments on Youtube ask this question….Why are you guys so skinny?

Well none of us eat ever. I actually read a comment on Brooklyn Vegan that said we’re all actors who had to audition for this band. To me it’s hilarious because it’s like a big studio production. We produced the whole album ourselves in our bedroom, so if people want to think we’re actors or whatever, that’s fine. It’s sort of following. Honestly we’re just a couple of good looking kids who are playing music that we want to play.

 I like it! What bands are you into?

There’s a band from Florida who’s playing in New York called Surfer Blood, they’re really amazing. Other than that, a lot of Swedish bands, a band called the Tough Lions, Air France. There’s a band we hate called The Bravery (laughs). No we just had this thing in NME which is just us talking a bunch of shit about The Bravery. It’s kind of embarrassing. We’re all still huge fans of The Strokes, I’m really looking forward to their new record. I think those guys write great pop songs. The band Chairlift, The Embassy, The Legends. We’re into Camera Obscura, Glass Vegas. We all went through that New Order/Joy Division phase a long time ago, even though we get those comparisons.

Check out more of The Drums on their MYSPACE.

Secondhand Sunday: Ryan Adams’ ‘New York, New York’


This week the most incredible and unexpected thing happened. I met Ryan Adams. Yes I was certainly afraid of what was going to happen. Would I be a totally idiot in front of him? Would he be a nice guy? Well win on both sides. He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and the fact I didn’t explode with excitement meeting my musical hero was great. I was telling Ryan how I was in a ‘creative rut’ and he suggested to me a few books to pick up and read to inspire me. Even wrote them down for me. This week’s secondhand sunday is a tribute to Ryan. ‘New York, New York,’ a song that when I first heard it 8 years ago, I ‘just didn’t like.’ Then 2 months later I woke up and felt the need to buy everything he’s ever done. Thank God for that. And Ryan.

Watch Ryan Adam’s ‘New York, New York’

Dry Your Tears, Owen is Here.

Owen’s Mike Kinsella is one of the busiest men in indie rock. Juggling musical projects and now a baby, somehow he manages to create the most interesting sound out there. Owen just released New Leaves (Polyvinyl), the newest record yesterday and there is only one word for it: Brilliant. Our writer Elissa Suh talked to Mike over the phone on September 10th and got the inside scoop of everything Owen.

Elissa: So I heard you played a show last night in boston…

Mike Kinsella: Yeah I flew back today and just sort of got up from my nap, now I’ve got the baby in a stroller.

Congratulations! I heard you are now a husband. How old is the baby?             

Thanks! She’s just over five months.

I know youve been doing a couple college shows. Do you prefer to play in smaller venues like that?

 It’s funny because yesterday the show was on the quad. But yeah in general I prefer smaller venues. The thing with college shows is they pay really good money. They just have a huge budget, so they usually make it worth your while.

 So it’s not that you hate playing large shows and large crowds?

 No, it’s more that you’ve got to fight to be quiet, so I prefer smaller shows.

 I think it’s fitting to your music and your style. I read some stuff from your Myspace page about supposed fans and haters. (www.myspace.com/mybandowen). Is that real?

Yeah, it’s really stupid, but it’s real. I think there are a couple of them that I think are genuine; people are mad at me or something, and then there’s a couple of people who just think it’s funny.

 Well we have an idea of what the Owen hates are like. Obviously some of them are misinformed. What are the fans like?

 Pretty polite. I would like to say kind of well-read… good looking, you know what I mean. You know, the cream of the crop; the best that society has to offer.

 Haha. What’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever done?

It’s just weird now with the internet. People ask a lot of random things like recently somebody wrote  “It’s my friend’s birthday, can you call up and say happy birthday? or leave a voicemail?” I didn’t even respond. I hate singing into the phone and I think it’s sort of weird. I can’t imagine when I was growing up, calling up… Morrissey and being like “HEY MORRISSEY sing to my friend!”

You have a lot of literary references. Are you well read?

 Oh, no. I’m just faking it.

 What’s the last book you’ve read?

 I usually start books and get attached to one theme or part of the plot and then most of them I don’t finish but I’ll wonder what happened to that part, or that guy, and sort of write it myself, and sometimes the reference shows up in my song. But I get way too addicted to television and sports.

So you’re pretty well rounded then.

My wife’s a high school teacher, she reads all the time.  So Id like to think she can teach me of the importance of reading and I can teach her the importance of….. 

A touchdown?

 A touchdown! Scoring more points to beat your opponent.

New Leaves comes out in a few weeks (released yesterday 9/22). I’ve heard it’s a departure as the title says, both musically and thematically, but when I listened to the title track I was pleasantly surprised to find it still retained that sort of biting quality. At some point it says “You’ll spend your whole fucking life walking”. I thought it was kind of ironic given the title, and it seems that people are expecting more heartfelt lyrics.

 I just did an interview where the kid was like,” I’ve heard you’ve totally changed in this record!” I don’t think it’s too different. I think New leaves is maybe the new perspective from which I’m writing from, which is a totally old dude, maybe. I still like to write about the same things. I think the same situations inspire me, but not the same perspective or the way I deal.  I’m still sort of critical of people. I don’t think I got real nice all of a sudden. I’m not giving anybody free passes all of a sudden. Haha.

You said you are inspired by situations, by what’s going on with you and your emotions. I guess how relevant is what you write to what you’re feeling? How reflective are they?

Most of the songs start with one or two lines. I’ll write a line or two and it might be a month later or year later that the whole song is written around it. Maybe to finish it off I’ll embellish or I’ll think of a way to make it more narrative.

 So it’s definitely a combination of how you’re feeling plus the editing process.

Yeah, it’s definitely not a stream of consciousness. I don’t fill pages and pages at one moment. It’s a song. And then there will be two lines from here and I’ll write a few more  there.  One will be third persona and one might be first person and I’ll fit them together somehow.

I understand that songwriting and making music in general can be really cathartic. Does it ever make you feel vulnerable? Or do you ever think “Hey, the person I’m writing this song about totally knows it?”

 It’s funny because I’ve been asked that because my music is pretty expressive and I usually dismiss it. But recently I realized that it is like an outlet. Maybe I don’t feel like I need to get it off my chest because I’ve just been getting it off my chest, without even realizing it. But within the past week I just sort of noticed that. Every so often a song will be about something or somebody but it doesn’t happen that much anymore. I used to write songs about girls and maybe a few times it got a little awkward but now they’re more…I don’t know if it’s more general or more specific, but they’re about things that hopefully more people can relate to without having specific information.

Alternative Press “Chicago’s most unhappy troubadour”.  How do you feel about that? Do you consider yourself a sad person?

No, I’m a very non-sad person. I think music is  a way to express the parts I’ve been down about.  I don’t think my songs are that sad. They’re mostly just critical. Maybe ten years ago I was pining over girls more but I think the situation, these are the reasons why, but it’s not sad. I think the music is sort of low-key and somber, but that’s because my favorite bands were always low-key and somber.

 You seem very observant. like you said, you’re critical. You’re not pining, you’re just able to see what’s going on in a relationship or given situation.

 Hopefully it’s just observational, and not about awkward or uncomfortable topics. I understand  certain songs, like when I read about my dad dying like, who the hell wants to listen to that? So I try to write it in a way that’s a little joke, or ironic so its not just super super heavy.

 Do you have a favorite song on the new album?

 There are certain parts. Like a guitar part I’ll play a million times and I’m like “Oh that’s so cool!” Just little moments where I get excited about it. But I don’t know if I have a favorite song. Each song I try to have a moment where it comes in and changes the song somehow.  But yeah it’s like choosing your favorite baby.

 I see I see. Not that I have songs or babies..

 Well what do you like?

 Film.

 It’s like picking your favorite movie.

What is your favorite movie? 

Right, I can’t answer that!

 What goes into choosing your set list?  How far ahead of time do you decide?

It’s not spontaneous because there’s a lot of tuning involved. So I play songs relative. What’s relative to what’s before and after. But for these upcoming  shows, I’m learning a couple off the new record that I haven’t played just because people who have seen me before don’t have to hear the same 12 songs every time.

 Are you ever surprised at the requests?

Any sort of hint that anybody’s sort of listening to the song makes me uncomfortable. I never think about the fact that once the album comes out, people are listening to these songs. Any time there’s an allusion, I get sort of creeped out. But when they request a song, depending on where I am tuning wise, there’s probably a good chance I won’t be able to play it.

 Any song you won’t play?

 You’re probably talking about ‘Never Meant’ maybe?

 Oh I wasn’t referring to anything specifically.

 I think there are two or three songs my wife refuses me to play so I sort of forgot how to play those.  I’m not really against learning some of them. Some of them are 6 or 7 minutes long on the album and it’s just me and guitar and it’s hard to keep that interesting so I think some songs are better for a live setting.

 You recently got married and had a child, while writing the last album. Did that in anyway change its content? The people thinking you’ve turned into this happy man is attributed to the fact that you’re married and settled down.

 It’s just part of the process. I definitely enjoy being married. There’s definitely a transition period like, “Oh i love this girl i’m totally married to her its awesome! I’m going to the bars and get drunk,” and she’s like “Why would you do that? we’re married,”and I’m just like, “Oh it’s what i do.” You have to figure out your new role, you know? 

 Yeah, I’ve been happy all the time.  Some of these songs are written, maybe when I wasn’t happy. There are bands that write these songs and they’re real upbeat. Sometimes that is how i’m like… oh man I don’t feel like playing these sad songs. There was a band yesterday…this band was playing this pop punk or something and it was positive and you know what? They’re forcing it too. It’s really really hard, unless you’re playing watered down bland music like Jack Johnson, to each night be in that mood, to be totally flat, and I have no interest in playing really watered down music like Jack Johnson.

 So what’s the best way to get over a breakup?

 Um. [pause] alcohol and just being social. That would be my advice.

 What new music have you been listening to?

I don’t listen to music too much. I listen to sports talk or NPR in the car. I’ve got these albums of popular bands done in a style that a baby would enjoy, like all bells and flutes. So I’ve got a Ramones album I’ve been listening to a lot, a Cure album and then the Radiohead album for babies. So I guess a lot of baby music.

Haha. That makes sense for now. What’s happens in the future now?

I think I’m in a good place. I’ve played enough and satisfied that urge, and traveled enough to have satisfied that urge. Honestly, just continue what I’m doing. Hopefully write more concise or better songs.  So maybe in five years I will have written the best song ever written… No that probably won’t happen. I’ll be doing this in the next five years. 

Check out Owen on MYSPACE

Of Montreal *Terminal 5*NYC*9-18-2009

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Making love like a pair of black wizards is never an easy thing to do. Unless you’re  Mr. Kevin Barnes, the frontman of an indie-pop band , Of Montreal with  roots from Athens, Georgia. Putting on a neurotically avante-garde show is only one of the few talents that  the band possesses.

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It’s not even 6 o’clock on a Friday night in Manhattan, but outside of the Terminal 5 music venue, an army of starving fans dressed in skittle -colored clothing are clenching their sweaty fists,while agitatedly waiting for the security to let the crowd begin its flow. The intergalactic monarch and opener of the night, Janelle Monae left the fans hungry for more of her electrically  polished dance moves and nymphet sound.

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While Monae built up the acid- trip energy for the night, Of Montreal astounded  the massive crowd into another break loose lunatic spiral. Labyrynth’s Goblin king- inspired attire, retro double-necked guitar,  gas masks, crucifix, pillow-fights, confetti, feathers, oh yes, and half-naked girls in diapers joining Barnes and the band during the act. Surprisingly enough, Of Montreal brought back their  2005 album, Sunlandic Twins.  Its  hypnotizing guitars and catchy lyrics had all the fans singing along to the “The Party’s Crashing Us Now.”  Also performed “I was never young,” “ Forecast, Fascist, Future,” “An Eluardian Instance”set off an uncoordinated, free -flowing tone that the band was touring for enjoyment, rather just for the promotion of their magnetically ingenious album Skeletal Lamping. Hissing Fauna also made quiet a number of  surprising appearances.A lthough the album presents an interpersonal reflection on the front man’s tenebrous year, Barnes’ performance says otherwise. 

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 Halfway down, “Cato as a Pun “ and” Sink the Seine” manifested the sound and kicked off any melancholic taste that the  album references to. Towards the end of the set, the show was sort of a rolling sticky ball of bizarre.  Meanwhile, Barnes’ wife, Nina and daughter, Alabee  bewilderedly danced onstage sporting splashy costumes  and wigs. The  night ended with an encore and the band performing Diana Ross’s “Love Hangover”, during which Monae and  Solange Knowles joined the jam.
By Viktorsha Uliyanova
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Secondhand Sunday: Pavement ‘Gold Soundz’

Today’s Secondhand Sunday is dedicated to PAVEMENT. Okay we are ridiculously excited, like most, about their upcoming reunion tour. We all know it can lead to more things, and if not, we all have the chance to experience them live if we missed it in the 90’s. Myself included. Though most of us thought this day would never happen, and if it did, it would be about 10 years from now.  What is totally odd about this reunion is the fact that the past couple of weeks I have felt it coming. I’ve been listening to all of my old Pavement records, and only that. Most of the Modern Mystery staff has been talking lately about ‘What if Pavement reunited? Maybe we could stalk them out and talk them into it!’ The second part was just a joke (as I didn’t think we were going to Stephen Malkmus’ house anytime soon), but we just thought it was something that should happen.

On this note, I want to tell you about a new venture we have started. As of September 22, 2009 we are starting Project Pavement on Twitter. What in the world is this you ask? Well to celebrate the countdown to the first Pavement reunion show scheduled for September 22, 2010, we are going to leak any news we can get our hands on as things are updated. Also, every day will be a new Pavement lyric to get you into the vibe of things. Ist rad.

Watch this week’s Secondhand Sunday, Pavement ‘Gold Soundz’. It just fits….Go back to those gold sounds…