How did you initially come up with your band’s name?
1. New Monsters Collective- Spaceland
2. The ACB’s – Stona Rosa
3. Nerves Junior-As Bright As Your Neon Light
4. Double Wedding
5. The North Decade- What You’d Give Up Tomorrow You’ll Pay For Today
6. Telekinesis- 12 Desperate Straight Lines
7. Lonely Forest- Arrows
8. Ha HA Tonka- Death of a Decade
9. Yellow Ostrich- The Mistress
10. Dolfish- Your Love is Bumming Me Out
(#4 is a song I recorded with some 3rd graders at an elementary school songwriting camp)
Best thing that happened to you in 2011:
I went to the dentist for the first time since 9/11/2001 and the Pujols trade.
What you’re looking forward to in 2012:
Dragon Inn 3 (my nu thang)
Ghoul School (a new movie by Brook Linder)
Truth and Justice for the 3 missing women
When Vitamin Water buys out Pitchfork and Yeltsin headlines VitaminWaterFest
Best Holiday memory from when you were a kid:
I got a dope David and Goliath action figure set one year.
Music We Liked From This Year:
Mike Quinn – Magico
Key Losers – California Lite
Generationals – Actor Castor
Langor – Ladyblade
They Might Be Giants – Spoiler Alert
Music we liked this year that came out in another year:
Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Al Green – Tired of Being Alone
Sybylle Baier – Tonight
Raymond Scott – Soothing Sounds for Baby
John Prine – In Spite of Ourselves
The Would-Be-Goods – The Camera Loves Me
Nina Simone – Little Girl Blue
Pic-Nic – Callate Niña
Konono Nº1 – Congotronics
Billy Meshel – I Blew It
Best thing that happened to you in 2011:
I lived through 11/11/11 the last fully binary day of our lifetime (when you write out the date). also, I found out that every year 11/11 is national corduroy appreciation day. – nick
What you’re looking forward to in 2012:
Releasing our new album, Shy Pursuit and all the fun stuff that comes with that.
Best Holiday memory from when you were a kid:
Eating cookies my mom makes, some are little meringue things, others are balls that have powder sugar on em, and some are just sugar cookies. now she has started making springerle cookies…which are the best holiday cookie ever created. i’m learning how to make em this year…so that will be nice. – nick
1. Phantogram – “Don’t Move”
2. YACHT – “I Walked Alone”
3. Blood Orange – “Champagne Coast”
4. Class Actress – “Weekend”
5. Discodeine – “Synchronized”
6. Grimes – “Oblivion”
7. Holy Ghost! – “Hold My Breath”
8. Drake – “HYFR”
9. Slowdance – “Les Reines”
10. Beyoncé – “Party”
#1 has to be “Rolling In The Deep.” Though thanks to modern American
radio playlists, I’ve heard it so many times in the last year, I’ve
developed a strong hatred for it. But there is no denying it’s one of the
best songs in the past few years. Great production, great songwriting,
great execution….and of course, a tremendous vocal.
Bon Iver – “Holocene”
The Strokes – “Gratisfaction”
Foo Fighters – “Rope”
Tally Hall – “A Hymn For A Scarecrow”
Young The Giant – “My Body”
Noel Gallagher – “The Death Of You And Me”
Foster The People – “Pumped Up Kicks”
Beyonce – “Love On Top”
Britney Spears – “Till The World Ends”
Best thing that happened to you in 2011: Only having a few chipped teeth
as a result of diving into shallow water.
What you’re looking forward to in 2012: More touring…stateside and abroad!
Best Holiday memory from when you were a kid: In 1989, it snowed in
Florida a couple of days before Christmas. It was the first and only
white Christmas I’ve had in Florida to this day.
ARMS (Todd Goldstein)
1. Wild Beasts – Smother
I was initially suspicious of Wild Beasts’ new album – too much space, too few “songs”, the weirdness of their past albums somehow lost… but somewhere in there I fell in love. Smother is sexy and strange and immaculately produced and arranged – it’s also ineffably sad, and it’s that just-out-of-reach tone that kept me searching the sound, coming back to this album over and over again this year.
2. Nicolas Jaar – Space is Only Noise
3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
4. Richard Buckner – Our Blood
5. Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow
6. Sandro Perri – Impossible Spaces
7. Robag Wruhme – Thora Vukk
8. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
9. Liturgy – Aesthethica
10. James Blake – James Blake
Best thing that happened to you in 2011: After months of work and struggle, we self-released our new album, Summer Skills. I just got a new tattoo to celebrate!
What you’re looking forward to in 2012: Touring, and writing more songs.
Best Holiday memory from when you were a kid: The absolute, all-encompassing joy I felt upon receiving Mario Bros 3 for Chanukah. I had just seen “The Wizard” with Fred Savage, and this was pretty much the best present a 10-year-old could ask for. I think I cried with joy, which is retrospect is kind of weird.
Josh T Pearson – Last of the Country Gentlemen
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Wye Oak – Civillian
Real Estate – Days
Telekinesis – Desperate Straight Lines
Little Light – The Winter EP
Dan Mangan – Oh Fortune
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine
Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
St Vincent – Strange Mercy
I’ve known Josh T Pearson since I was a teenager. He’s always been an inspiration to me in music and life. The man lives and breathes every note he plays, every word he sings, every soul he swoons. I’m in awe of his talents and spirit. Instead of breaking rules, he makes new ones. Texas is the reason and Last of the Country Gentlemen is the way home.
Note: These aren’t really in any particular order (because music isn’t a competition, duh).
Deerhoof – “Deerhoof vs. Evil”….Like 2007’s ‘Friend Opportunity’, this album is tied for being Deerhoof’s most ‘produced’ sounding record, but still has its moments of chaos. If Deerhoof isn’t your favorite band on the planet yet, check out their free live record, “99% Upset Feeling” that was released as a companion piece this year (and then buy everything they’ve put out from ‘Reveille’ onward). My personal favorite band of the new millennium, and while not my favorite of theirs, “Deerhoof vs. Evil” is a stellar addition to their discography with some totally banging singles.
Delicate Steve – “Wondervisions”….An album of spastic, world-influenced guitar-led instrumentals that breathe and climax in ways that have been largely forgotten by indie rock. Some of my favorite background music ever. Wonderful ‘vibes’ (pardon the phrase) all around.
Yellowbirds – “The Color”….Sam Cohen’s debut ‘solo’ record (guitarist of Apollo Sunshine), and the results are brilliant. Great songs, wonderful guitar playing, and a sound and mood that nobody else is occupying at the moment. This album is total musical poetry to me.
TV on the Radio – “Nine Types of Light”….Great songs, great album, great band. Future music worthy of the hype.
They Might Be Giants – “Join Us”….As silly and scatterbrained as any of their early records, ‘Join Us’ managed to worm its way into my brain in ways I wasn’t expecting. “When Will You Die?” belongs on a list of top 10 songs John Linnell has ever written.
Jay Z/Kanye West – “Watch the Throne”….No explanation really necessary here.
Grateful Dead – “Europe 72, Vol. 2″….I love the Grateful Dead. Accept this as something you can’t change and move on (I know you’re angry). This album was released as a companion to “Europe ’72”, an album I’ve worn out from spinning over and over again. The hour-long Dark Star/Drums/The Other One that makes up the bulk of the second disc is hypnotic and otherworldly. And the ‘Playing’ that closes the first disc totally shreds.
Ahleuchatistas – “Location, Location”…Reduced to a duo for this record, they’ve trimmed away a lot of their old math-rock tendencies (which I also loved) and emerged with something resembling an instrumental political/noise/punk/free-jazz record. A great (and totally overlooked) record that belongs in anyone’s collection who likes adventurous and ugly guitar playing.
Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”….I didn’t love self-titled, but this album is gorgeous and imaginative. In spite of being the type of band that you could claim was heavily and directly influenced by other bands (CSNY, Simon and Garfunkel, etc etc), they’ve really created their own world on this album and I love hanging out in it.
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – “Mirror Traffic”….To put it bluntly, this album sounds like Pavement. So therefore, it’s really, really great. “Senator” is one of the funniest and best songs I’ve heard all year….And though I’d like to say only Stephen Malkmus can get away with singing a chorus with the lyric “I know what the senator wants: what the senator wants is a blowjob”, I think I’m just mad that he thought of it first.
White Denim – “D”….Between Yellowbirds, Deerhoof, Delicate Steve, and White Denim, it’s really good to hear aggressive and tasteful guitar playing. With all of the shoegazey/dreamy stuff going on, it’s incredibly refreshing to hear a band that kinda sounds like…well…Yes. Proggy and loopy, with some great guitar playing and solid songwriting. I’m a new convert to White Denim.
St. Vincent – “Strange Mercy”….I didn’t fall for it quite like ‘Actor’, but this record is still great. St. Vincent is going to be making great records for decades to come (I have a hunch), so you might as well jump on the bandwagon now.
Deleted Scenes – “Young People’s Church of the Air”….One of my friends said it best when he described the sound of this album as ‘one of the best albums you’ve ever heard playing in another room’. While their live performances are totally in-your-face indie rock a la other DC icons the Dismemberment Plan, this album is really subdued and beautiful. ‘Bedbedbedbedbed’ is such an amazing song. This album should be vastly more popular and you should buy it immediately.
Tereu Tereu – “NW EP”….’Savage Love’ is one of the sickest rock songs I’ve heard all year (in every sense of the word SICK), and the EP is great from top-to-bottom. Heavily DC-influnced, with delicious little bits of Medications, Fugazi, and D-Plan. Totally stoked for their next full-length….And NOT just because they’re my friends. I swear.
Norwegian Arms – “Trimming of Hides EP”/”Sibir EP”….Once again, another friend….But I happen to know a lot of people making great music, OK?? Analog-made freak folk with unusual percussion and tastes of what I would describe as a more spastic Neutral Milk Hotel. I WANT A FULL LENGTH ALBUM FROM YOU, BRENDAN…OK? But in the meantime, get these EPs because they’re sick.
Trawler – “Northern Star EP”….Dear friend of mine, recorded in Nashville. Old school folk music with some 60s rock influence thrown in. ‘Kill Olympia’ is unreal. I’ll wait and bestow more praise when the full-length comes out.
The Psychic Paramount – “II”
Hella – “Tripper”
Tuneyards – “Whokill”
Cave – “Neverendless”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – “It’s a Corporate World”
Traffique – “Endless Weekend Mixtape”
Kate Bush – “50 Words for Snow”
Trouble Books and Mark McGuire – “s/t”
Radiohead – “The King of Limbs”
Marissa Nadler – “s/t”
Joe Lally – “Why Should I Get Used to It”
Joan of Arc – “Life Like”
10) Time New Viking – Dancer Equired
9) Pujol – Nasty, Brutish, and Short
8) Yuck – Yuck
7) Stephen Malkmus & The Jick – Mirror Traffic
6) Fucked Up – David Comes To Life
5) OFF! – First Four EPs
4) Tyler, The Creator – Goblin
3) The Black Keys – El Camino
2) Bon Iver – Bon Iver
1) JEFF the Brotherhood – We Are The Champions
JEFF the Brotherhood are so fucking loud, it’s awesome. We got to play with them back in August and it ruled. One of the best live shows around.
10. The Rotten Jazz Quartet “Sing Damnit”
These guys have such a unique sound and draw from so many different influences. Its like a real rockabilly Tom Waits on acid.
9. Fleet Foxes “Helplessness Blues”
Good stuff to relax to.
8.V THE VIPER “IIIIV (ONE)”
Some good mash-ups for when you’re in the mood to party.
7. The Downtown Struts “Sail the Seas Dry”
These dudes take the punk rock road that bands like Social D, Rancid, and NoFX, paved and take it step further.
6. The Rolling Stones “Some Girls Reissue” I guess this doesn’t really count but I’m so into the tune “No spare parts” which TECHNICALLY is new.
5.Porches “Scrap and Love Songs Revisted”
My buddy Aaron is one of the most talented people I know.
4.Biters “All Chewed Up”
This band is one of the tightest I have ever seen. See them live.
3.Social Distortion “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes”
This is my all time favorite band, so they are automatically guaranteed a spot in the top three. I’ve been waiting for this album for so long.
2.Liquor Store “Yeah Buddy”
These guys fuckin’ rule. Really epic punk songs.
1.The Booze “At Maximum Volume”
I’m sorry to say that these guys have recently disbanded. This was my album of the summer, I wore this thing out.
Best thing that happened to me in 2011:
The best thing that happened to me in 2011 was releasing our first full length album. We are all so proud of that sucker, and its been getting a good response which is all we can ask for. Also, opening for CJ Ramone at Webster Hall was so cool. I can remember listening to the album “Mondo Bizarro” on cassette,which he played and sang on when I was 12, so to be able to share the stage with him was surreal.
In 2012 I’m looking forward to finally getting on the road again. We haven’t toured in a dog’s age.
1. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh
2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
3. The Felice Brothers – Celebration, Florida
4. Bright Eyes – The People’s Key
5. Blind Pilot – We Are the Tide
6. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
7. Sam Roberts – Collider
8. Chris Bathgate – Salt Year
9. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire
10. Jessica Lea Mayfield – Tell Me
Best thing that happened to me in 2011: My first UK tour was undoubtedly a major highlight of the year. The crowds were amazing, and I couldn’t have asked for better traveling companions than Jesse Malin & the St. Marks Social.
What I’m Looking Forward to in 2012: Releasing my new album! Recording’s almost done and I’m so excited about sharing it. Definitely a different feel than ‘Down Wires.’
Best Holiday Memory from When I was a Kid: Eating myself into a homemade ravioli coma at my grandparents’ house annually. I plan to keep the streak alive this year.
Black Lips – Arabia Mountain (Vice) – While longtime fans keep expecting a drop-off, and new converts still yell for on-stage peeing (annoying said longtime fans), the Black Lips continue to traverse the globe for inspiration while always holding a stash of huge yankee garage-pop hooks in their ass-pocket. So much so this time, that this is probably the most fully enjoyable Lips album to date, after 10+ years in the game!
Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo (Matador)
After dishing up some of the cooler scruffy garage-art of the last couple years with his Violators around him, Vile dishes up this beautiful, subtly brazen solo salvo, fogged-up with 12:45am ruminating folk, best left to your weakest mood points on the rainiest nights. Though it all retains enough scruff, snarl, and thrift store demeanor to be enjoyed on a 6pm ride home. So sink into this stuff before the inevitable focus-destroying Kanye photo opp and DJ of the Week remix.
Acid Baby Jesus – S/T (Slovenly)
A more scarred, psych-pep take on all that fuzzy, echoey, melancholy early-60s melody garage-plop churning through the indie underbelly (I call it “Hardly Artcore”), and unwittingly suffused with the oddly inspiring empty pockets of the Grecian economy nosedive. Layers of frightened bellowing and otherwordly distortion, with sticky, oily hooks outta nowhere, make it the most intriguing debut of the year.
OBN IIIs – The One and Only (Tic Tact Totally)
Tykes from down Texas-way, with probably too many side projects (all of them good!), slingin’ killer slash’n’burn, with structure smarts, way more-than-required sweat, and that elusive, effortless ability to make you think R’nR has a pulse.
Last Laugh Records
Label head honcho and sole employee, Harry Howes, really went cuckoo with the reissues of ultra-obscure, first-era punk rock that are truly cracked and a genuine hoot, as opposed to just, y’know, ultra-obscure. He spread his Red Bull wings out into early-70s glam, power pop, and even some new shit – like the house party punk of Liquor Store’s debut, Yeah Buddy! – with his Almost Ready and Mighty Mouth imprints too. But Last Laugh has resurrected the whole “Killed by Death” pinhead impetus for yet another generation of louts.
Othermen – Just Pallin’ Around With (Killer Diller)
Calling it crazed shockabilly brings to mind lame flame-skull tattoos and leopard print creepers, etc. But it ain’t that exactly. Aside from singer Max Frechette’s pompadour recalling the torn innards of a post-hunt leopard, and his hot licks hollow-body guitar having been taped and stapled back together like Michael Yonkers taught him the Eddie Cochran catalog, the band drunkenly dissects-then-discards any mid-century nods, making a fast racket that wears you out quick. And the 15-minute chat with a very sauced Rico (bassist) at the end is the perfect respite. Who needs more songs anyway?!
Human Eye – They Came from the Sky (Sacred Bones)
(and some Timmy’s Organism singles…)
Timmy Vulgar, Detroit’s alien heart of now-times punk, continues to produce on the level of Ford in the ‘50s, while his sounds – via his Human Eye and Timmy’s Organism projects – evolve into the noise of those dead ol’ axel factories being torn to bits by the drunken arrested adolescents of that new planet they discovered this year. The Human Eye live shows were as consistently id-invigorating of any band this year.
The hopped-up hopes of the year, this Austin trio frisbeed out a few singles, but it’s the surprisingly searing sounds of their debut LP on Twistworthy, Muscle Pop, that can really electrify the ears of someone who thinks OBN IIIs could save R’n’R.
Death of Samantha reunion show, Dec. 23, Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH
The first, and probably last, reunion of the original lineup of my favorite local Cleveland band (one of my fave bands period) from my formative years. So yeah, kind of a personal pick here, but DoS remain one of the more underrated indie acts of the late-80s, a monster mash of glam gloop, punk pissed, and leader John Petkovic’s lounge lizard leering that put them in the pantheon of great Ohio bands that just didn’t fit into prescribed rock world peg/hole prescripts. On this Xmas Eve eve, the band had a ball and masterfully blasted out tunes from all their releases, and generally lifted the packed faithful up and into 1986 and back again, like maybe they should consider erasing that “and probably last” line from the first sentence here.
Guilty Pleasures – Summer Strange (Dusty Medical)
L.A. Times – s/t 7” EP (Smash It Up)
Long never-unleashed recordings from two of the most savage and sorely under-known bands of the whole late-90s lo-fi garage-punk undie-explosion. Having crawled from somewhere around Bloomington, IL, around 2000, the Guilty Pleasures put out one insanely screechy 7” single, a few brain-gutting gigs, and sometime inbetween recorded this album that sat around for some damn reason, until now. Same goes for L.A. Times, a Devil Dogs-worshipping bunch from, ahem, L.A., who were too young to be told that 60 beers in one night is in fact a lot to drink for one band. Finally quit waiting for someone to dig up their AOL email address and ask ‘em, so they finally just released this sick 4-song slab this year, 300 copies only, so get hunting!
Ed Wood’s Sleaze Paperbacks show at the Boo-Hooray gallery, NYC
An amazing amassing of not just the paperbacks of Ed Wood’s end-of-existence career of porn-pulp writing – featuring astonishingly eye-burning cover art – but loads of personal family/friend photos, magazine articles with more wild cover graphics, and a short film, readings, and recollections from fans at the closing party that revealed that “sleaze” is in the mind’s eye of the beholder
The general proliferation of fun, fuzzed-out R’n’R combos splattering the less pretentious edges of the, well I wanna say “indie underground,” but I probably have to start getting used to saying shit like “blogosphere” and “Twitteratti” and other childish words that sound dated the second they leave your lips. Anyway, there are loads of new/ish bands who kept huffing Black Lips and King Khan & BBQ fumes that were let go circa mid-2000s; and exhaled grimey swirls of early-60s girl group and doo-wop dredged melodies, Goner/In the Red/Crypt-rooted garage-punk spasms, some spooky, echoey undertones, and a deep, ceaseless love of the Ramones – all with a cheap-ass trash production style that has as much to do with accidentally mirroring our broke, on-your-own freelance times as Scion or Sailor Jerry blowing cash for cred. Most of it still kicks nasty, though shit is edging a little too cutesy (Jacuzzi Boys, maybe switch to 60-minute IPAs or something). And the shark has been flossing his chops waiting to be jumped (is a Hunx & His Punk song on Two Broke Girls inevitable…?) But for now, it’s a pretty fun party.
So keep it up, The Hussy, Davila 666, Mean Jeans, White Mystery, Strange Hands, Mouthbreathers, No Bunny, The Eeries, Bare Wires, Mark Sultan, Dum Dum Girls, Tandoori Knights, K-Holes, Shannon & the Clams, FIDLAR, Peach Kelli Pop, Jail Weddings, Los Vigilantes, Radar Eyes, Wax Museums, Ty Segall, Useless Eaters, Thee Oh Sees, Royal Headache, and more, etc…
The beauty of CMJ is just the astounding amount of bands that end up playing there. The Norwegians from Casiokids were not about to miss the party and we were not about to miss out on the chance of chatting with them while they were here, especially since their newest album, Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen, just came out on Polyvinyl! We spoke to two members of the band, Ketil Kinden Endresen and Omar Johnsen, in a hallway at Pianos last night and here’s how it went!
Modern Mystery: How many times have you been part of the CMJ line-up? How do you like it?
Ketil Kinden Endresen: This is our second time here, we last came in 2008. It was also our first show in New York, at Cake Shop. But we’ve been in New York many times since then. I think this is our 10th mini tour in the U.S. Playing in New York is definitely one of my favourites.
Omar Johnsen: It’s nice when we’re playing things like CMJ or South by South West, you can stay in one town too. It’s so much easier.
KKE: It gives you time to enjoy the city as well.
MM: So where do you like to hang out in New York?
KKE: We spend a lot of time in Williamsburg. We try to go see museums, go to Central Park and roam around Manhattan.
MM: So your songs are in Norwegian, which can’t be easy for everyone to pronounce. Which place had the oddest pronunciation of Norwegian?
KKE: Probably Russia.
OJ: In a way it was the best and the worst [laughs]. They were very into it but it did not sound like Norwegian!
KKE: Still it was pretty special, they were very passionate. But mostly outside of Scandinavia, there is more dancing than singing along. In Scandinavia, they sing more.
MM: What is your biggest musical influence?
OJ: It’s hard to pin down because everyone is from different places. There is some overlap but I think it comes out through our music. It’s like a pot of stew.
KKE: Well, there is this Swedish band called Bobhund that we all like. There’s also electronic pop like New Order, Kraftwerk, Cornelius…
OJ: I guess also krautrock like Neu… Everyone likes these bands at least [laughs].
MM: Anyone you’re excited to see here at CMJ this year?
KKE: I haven’t really looked at the program to be honest but generally I like to rely on luck. Like tonight we got here and then went upstairs and realized our friend was playing!
MM: So your new album, Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen, just came out. How would you describe to someone who’s never heard your music?
KKE: It was inspired by the story of Dr. Tarzan Monsoon and his discovery of a secret rainforest. It’s quite varied and with electro and dance rhythms. Our stories are in Norwegian and we use a lot of harmonies in our vocals.
OJ: It was also made differently from our past albums. Before, the albums were more like compilations of singles. It’s quite diverse but it’s still a sound that sounds like us. It’s also better produced; we have our own studio so over the years, we’ve learned more and got better.
MM: I hear you’re going to Japan next month! What are you most excited about?
KKE: Yes, on November 6th! I’m excited about the food. Japanese food has to be my favourite food in the world.
OJ: I want to discover the culture, I find it very inspiring. Maybe it’s because I’m half-asian so I have a special attraction.
MM: Do you know when you’ll be back in New York after CMJ?
KKE: Not yet. But we’ll definitely be back sometime in the spring.
Catch Casiokids during the rest of CMJ here:
21.10.11: Spike Hill
22.10.11: AAM Inc party 14:30 @ Knitting Factory
If your read Sam Roberts’s Wikipedia page, you’ll see the man has quite a career behind him already, and many connections. It’s obvious then that there was no way we would miss him when he came to New York City this week, to play a gig at the beautiful Bowery Ballroom. Sam was really nice to sit down with us and talk about the genesis of the Sam Roberts Band new album Collider, which came out on May 10th via Zoë/Rounder Records, being on tour again and Justin Bieber. That’s right.
Modern Mystery: It’s been a while since you’ve been on tour in the US. How does it feel to be back on the road again?
Sam Roberts: Really good! Especially being here at the Bowery Ballroom. It’s the perfect setting and scenario for starting off a tour, just to be back in New York City and feel the energy of the place again and hopefully play a good show tonight and set the tone for the rest of the tour.
MM: Which are you favourite cities to play in the US?
SR: It’s hard to say because there are the obvious choices: New York, San Francisco and Chicago… But there are a few other smaller cities. I love playing in Buffalo, NY. I really like playing in Pittsburgh. It didn’t start out that way but after years of thickheadedness and a refusal to take no for an answer, we sort of broke through and found a great, small, loyal following in Pittsburgh. And I love playing in Detroit. I’ve just got a great connection with that city. That’s just to name a few.
MM: What made you decide to record the new album in Chicago rather than at home in Canada?
SR: Aside from choosing Chicago, just the idea of not making the record at home was important to us this time around because I think it allowed us to break free from our day to day routines and not have that be a part of the mindset while making the record. Not having to answer the phone, not having the menial daily chores that suck some of the romance out of it. I feel like making a record should be adventurous, that there should be some sort of romance and strangeness to the process. So going to a place like Chicago and just sort of taking ourselves outside of the familiar and the comfortable, and throwing a bunch of Canadians in a big American city, kind of wide-eyed and having to find their way… We kind of hoped that it would bring some spontaneity and a different perspective to make the record. We’d been practicing these songs for so long too and you have a tendency to sort of get a bit too cemented in terms of your relationship to the music that you are playing and I think that if you go in the recording studio with that in mind, you have the tendency to play to not make mistakes rather than play to perform and to try out some sort of emotion in your playing. So being in Chicago, we tried to feed off of the city and tried to being that into the studio every day.
MM: You worked with Brian Deck on this album, who’s worked with Modest Mouse or Iron and Wine in the past. How did he get involved and how did the recording process for Collider differ from the other people you’ve worked with?
SR: We sent him demos that I’d been working on in my basement at home and he just came back with this extremely enthusiastic, encouraging response to the whole thing, so I was like, “Okay, he’s really excited about this.” And then a day later he sends me this email, 5-page long email, telling me everything that he would change in the songs, if and when he got his hands on them. That scared us off for a few minutes and we kind of went back and retreated to the band, you know, the sanctuary and were thinking, “this isn’t going to work, this guy is crazy! He wants to do what?” And we actually tried to do a few of the things and it made a lot of sense. A producer’s role isn’t to pat you on the back, it’s to bring their own perspective in or bring your vision to a new level or a level you can’t see yourself because you are so close to the music and you’ve been so involved in every step of its life. I think what he helped with most is to help us find simplicity in the songs, to not just try to throw layer after layer after layer in the record. If you listen to the record, it has a more spare, sparse sound to it so that when you do introduce woodwinds and percussion, they have room to make much bigger impact and that was definitely a new approach for us.
MM: You also added two musicians to the line-up for this album, Ben Massarella and Stuart Bogie, who have worked with TV on the Radio and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. How did they work into the band? What did they bring to the tracks they performed on?
SR: Well, great musicianship for one. Their lack of history with the music itself allowed them to think completely out of the box. So they would come in and Stuart specifically, he’d come in and listen to this music for the first time and was already coming up with parts. After his first listen, he’d have something to play for the chorus he’d just heard. So it was an incredibly spontaneous and immediate process. And to watch people who are able to adapt that quickly and to think on their feet like that was inspiring to us and I think it made us want to play differently as well and not be afraid of making a mistake but rather play to get the right feeling on the recording. Also, Ben and Brian had a past relationship of working together. They’re at that point where they don’t even have to really talk to know what the other one means.
MM: How do you translate what you created in the studio to the current live show?
SR: We’re in the thick of figuring it out right now. One of the first dramatic steps was to get a saxophone player to reproduce those parts on a daily basis. Stuart couldn’t be with us on the tour because he’s with Iron and Wine but he recommended a friend of his and we played one gig together in D.C. and it felt really good so hopefully there’s more of that to come. It’s mostly about getting the saxophone so we wouldn’t have to re-invent the songs.
MM: What is the inspiration behind the songs on Collider?
SR: Everything and anything. Life. You know, I have a family, I have three kids… The inspiration is what you live and how you deal with the things you live and what is around you.
MM: What’s your songwriting process? How do you decide how to tell a story?
SR: It’s funny because this is my job and I do need to organize time to write a song. I have to put a lock on the door so the kids don’t come in. I like writing under that kind of pressure, I like deadlines, I like creating with a sort of pressure on my shoulders. It tends to focus my thinking in some way as well. You’re not able to have these meandering ideas that never get checked. I like having structure like that. But then again, so much time goes by between writing that I’ve kind of forgotten whatever method I had for the previous record, but that’s how music evolves for me. If I implemented the same structure for every single song that I ever wrote, I think they’d end up sounding a lot more alike. So in this sense, every time I sit down to write a new record, I’m not chained to the last one necessarily and that’s how I like to make music. One record, I might start with drums and bass and move on from there to add the vocals right at the end; another time I’ll make a more concerted effort to write lyrics right at the beginning and shape the songs around the lyrics. This record was really about shaping the rhythmic patterns of the songs and letting everything feed off of that. So in terms of the lyrics and which words you end up using and how they roll off your tongue to fit into that pattern was important for this record in particular.
MM: How did you get involved with the Young Artists for Haiti benefit? It was quite surprising to see you alongside Justin Bieber and Drake. Did that make you hesitant or apprehensive at all?
SR: Not at all. I didn’t realize the scope of the event before going in there. I really had no idea who I was going to be keeping company with. I know K’naan, who was the mastermind behind the whole thing and who wrote the song. He sent me an e-mail because we were all, a lot of us were heading over to Vancouver to play concerts surrounding the Olympics. So I didn’t know what was going on. I got off the plane, went to the studio, I knew my part that I was supposed to sing. When I first arrived, there was myself and maybe three other people. So I recorded my bit, came out and what had a fairly empty room was now of, like you said, just about everybody: a lot of people I know, Canadian bands that I’m friends with or that I’ve toured with over the years and then a few surprising faces, you know? I think that was the beauty of the whole effort really, how it wasn’t necessarily about one type of musician. It was a very inclusive process and I think it came out really really well and did a lot of good in the end too. It made a big impact in terms of getting Canadians to stay connected to the issue and reminding of the event long after it ceased to be front page news.
MM: How do you feel fans have reacted to Collider so far?
SR: It’s funny because this time around I started looking at our Facebook page whereas during our last record I didn’t even know how to log on [laughs]. And with Twitter as well, there’s so much more immediate response to it and it’s been really great! A lot of people say things that I love to hear like, “I had to listen to this one three or four times before I got it,” and I think this is that kind of record. I don’t think it hits right over the head right away. And I think every record we make is like that in a way, where you just have to sit with it for a bit for it to reveal its true nature. And also then your relationship to the song is allowed to evolve overtime and isn’t just a flash in the pan experience.
MM: Is that kind of response part of the incentive to keep writing complex, powerful songs?
SR: You shouldn’t let your self get too far ahead of yourself that way either and I don’t want to say that it would make me stick to one way of doing things because I think that when you sit down and write, you have to feel that freedom to do whatever comes naturally to you at the time. My favorite songs to write are the simplest songs, it’s just that they’re harder to come by. Strangely enough.
MM: After this tour, what’s next for the Sam Roberts Band?
SR: This tour is just starting so right now that seems SO far away that I can’t even fathom. I want to be on the road for quite while with this record because it feels really good to play and I hope that it brings a new element to our live show that will keep people coming back. At the same time, I’d prefer not to put out records every three years, which is what happens when you’re on tour for a year and a half then all of a sudden, you find yourself with a great deal of time. I want to make more music than I’ve been making in the last few years. I feel the urge to do that. So it’s a bit of a balance and I haven’t quite figured out how to strike that balance yet.
MM: Do you have some recording equipment in the tour bus?
SR: No, nothing. I don’t even bother because I know that’s not going to happen. And that’s what I mean when I say there’s so much time between writing. It’s not just making a record but actually writing. I finished writing this record last summer and I haven’t written a song since. It’s already been almost a year since I wrote a song. I collect ideas, I’ve got a lot of ideas but I still have to do all that work to turn those fragments into a song. So, I just don’t write when we’re on the road. You’ve got to be up for the show and it’s hard enough to stay focused on that one thing. Some people are amazing; you walk in their bus or their van or their hotel room and they’ve set up a studio and they’ve got two hours and they’re working! I have the utmost respect and admiration and envy for those people because they make a lot of music, but I’m just not one of them. I need peace and space and if I don’t have it the ideas just don’t come, you know.
The Sam Roberts Band is touring the US and Canada for the next three months so check out their website HERE for tour information.
Coco66, which is just a blinking neon sign blaring BAR in big red letters, is a non-descript venue with a secret performance space hidden by a big velvet curtain. The show starts at 9:45, but for all good things one must wait. Vacation kicked off the show with their synth guitar, dreamy sound. Lead singer Paul Daily has a velvety voice (he sounds like Matt Berninger from The National) and wraps you in his own world when he sings “Penny Pincher.” From here the crowd kept dreaming with the next opener Windowpeak. A female-led slow grind, dreary rock band that sounds like Mazzy Star. This band is simply incredible and it’s clear that they will be going far. You have to listen to “Harsh Realm” and “Burnout.” You will not be disappointed.And finally, Oberhofer. It was as if all the air had gone out of the room and was replaced with this fucking incredible sound. Their set was way, way too short in my opinion. I could have listened for hours. They closed with “I Could Go,” my favorite Oberhofer song. Something about the light show, Brad’s sincerity in his voice and the yearning sound of both guitar and drum completed the show in the most perfect way. I had a brief chance to talk with Brad Oberhofer backstage who told me of his passion for orchestral music and plans on one day scoring films. Which seems to be new indie scene phenomenon, with Broken Social Scene scoring “Half Nelson” in 2006 and Phoenix scoring the new Sofia Coppola film. All in all the show sounded like three bands, all good friends from Tacoma, Washington, having a good time. They each amped up the energy of the crowd as much as the last band, all their sets were super tight and the light show perfectly complimented the music but didn’t distract from it. Oberhofer will be recording new material after their tour. Next stop, Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee, WI tomorrow night (May 18) with Neon Indian.
Sloan’s 10th album in 20 years The Double Cross came out on May 10th via Yep Roc Records but you still need some convincing before you get it? Well, everyday for 10 days, Sloan is releasing videos where their friends and admirers talk about all they love about Sloan: their favorite Sloan song, album, lyric and anything else they associate with the band.
Appearing in these videos are famous Canadians from all backgrounds, from Damian Abraham of Fucked Up to Stephan Brogen of Degrassi (no kidding). The first video, which you can view at the end of this post, shows Jason Schwartzman, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene, Dave Foley, the actor from The Kids in the Hall and Newsradio, and Sebastian Grainger of Death from Above 1979 remembering the first time they heard the band’s music.
Watch “When I first heard Sloan” below, and check back that same page to see the rest of the videos!