Week in Pop: Balms, Basic Shapes, Wormwood

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Mozart’s Sister, The Outfit, Valery Gore, We Need Secrets, co-curated by Squadda B.

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Sjimon Gompers | July 25, 2014

Dancer in the dark, Wormwood's Christina Willatt.

Rising out of the mainstream news feeds of constant chaos, Impose’s Week in Pop delivers the best news from the week and the future of indie pop. Beginning with the inescapable Jay Z and Beyoncé divorce rumors hitting overload amid their “On The Run” tour, with Bey dropping 50 Shades of Instagram’d hype, while we learned that Kanye will allegedly release a new album this fall with word of upcoming “All Day” single, as Blur’s Damon Albarn is writing what he calls a “mainstream musical for families“, with Kendrick Lamar apparently having 40 new cuts already in the can and collaborating with Dr. Dre, and Courtney Love is not interested in any kind of Hole reunion, and the George Harrison ‘memorial tree’ suffered an infestation of…wait for it…beetles.

And while these feeds buzz on endlessly, it is our honor and pleasure to present the following exclusives and conversations with Wormwood, Basic Shapes, Balms, Mozart’s Sister, The Outfit, Split Screens, Valery Gore, We Need Secrets, co-curations courtesy of Squadda B, and more, in no particular order.

WORMWOOD

Wormwood's Christina Willatt.

Wormwood’s Christina Willatt.

Saskatchewan by London, Ontario atmospheric force Wormwood have recently released the first installation of their Microdot series via Punctum Records. The combination of the versatile multi-instrumentalists from both Christina Willatt, and Andrew Wenaus, allow them to tap into the acoustic genome of picking apart traditional musical theorem structures with truncated bars and air filtered synthesizers. What the uninitiated once called ‘glitch’ here takes sampled drum breaks that finds them arranged in idiosyncratic patterns where partial sound bite snippets of segmented abstracts force the listener to hear a little bit closer to their objects of sound. In our premiere of “268”, Wormwood invites their audience to hear all instruments with an open ear and mind, as a world of enchanted flutes summon electric components to orbit according to the every whim of Christina’s vocal command, and Andrew’s production stronghold.

And so on “268”, everything comes in with a percussion like a muffled heartbeat, and a symphonic cacophony that comes in with the frightened flash of a speeding freight train. And this is when Wormwood drops down the drapes before a dense and immersive environment of specters and ethereal spectators take over. Christina alludes to the existences of ghosts that exist in the sciences of the instrumental implementations, where objects and tools of audio arts are inhabited by a mysticism invented by the Wormwood duo:

“I’ve heard the sound of an organ, I stole the voice of a thousand men….I’ve heard the sound of three violins, I’ve heard the sound of four violins…”

Christina’s voice permeates throughout Andrew’s production arrangements, as the two can be head to be almost overtaken by their own musical creations. “268” is the sound of what happens when the toys takeover, when the keyboard can contain a mind of it’s own, the digital interfaces becoming inundated with a life made up of xeroxed impressions. On Microdot, Wormwood exits into the flashing light of photocopied electrical exhibitions, where the gamut from “Softly Light Limbs” to the softly held moments of “Morning” creates the microcosm of familiar realities that all can relate to according to each individual’s own set of experiences. Wormwood joined us the other day for the following exclusive interview, after the following debut of “268”.



First up, tell us how you all started out:

We’ve been playing music together for a while now, doing different things, playing around with pianos and guitars and electronics and computers. We started taking our experiments a little more seriously and started crafting songs and arrangements—the more we recorded the happier we were with some of the results and decided to compile the songs as an album. Our first full-length album Sunfloating came out in summer 2013 and a year later we released Microdot with Punctum Records. Its hard to say how this all started; its even more difficult to say when it actually began. The whole project gradually took form. Once it crystallized, we started releasing material.

Why the name Wormwood, and not another natural poison from the earth, like Hemlock?

We once had an idea that we would write a bunch of psychedelic folk songs à la Neil Young and Paul Giovanni. Giovanni wrote the music to Robin Hardy’s 1973 film The Wicker Man. Wormwood seemed to fit the idea. It never amounted to anything. As we gradually moved more towards electronic music and more detail-obsessed arrangements we felt more galvanized. We had lots of ideas and the name Wormwood seemed to just whirl around and persist. A moth to the light bulbs. We also like the symmetry of the word—it has a nice shape.

How do you all write and bring together your electronic-coded atmospheres that have this chamber, hypber-ballad thing going on?

We’re drawing inspiration from a wide range of styles: IDM, electronic, classical, ambient, post-rock, folk, sound design, though the songs are often written in a more or less conventional way: at the piano or with a guitar, that kind of thing. We collaborate on the writing. Sometimes we bring together a song Christina’s working on and combine it with some electronic experiments that Andrew’s working on independently to form a new song altogether. Once we’ve got a basic structure and some arrangement guidelines, we do some takes. At this point, some of the songs sound like psychedelic folk or post-rock. But we want to aim for the otherworldly, uncanny incarnations of these songs. So, then there is a long process of deconstructing and manipulating the songs. A piano track may be replaced entirely with synths or other electronic concrete music techniques to create an IDM and ambient quality. We continue adding and taking away, mixing and un-mixing, manipulating and reconfiguring until the track achieves what we want it to. We’ll retrack the vocals and do backups/choirs. Its like the paradox of Theseus: it’s a song that has had all its fundamental parts removed and replaced with other similar (but electro-acoustically deconstructed) parts  we’re left asking ourselves whether or not it is still the same song. We don’t have an answer, but this is one way we think about the writing, arranging, and recording process.

Whatever the approach, we infrequently leave certain elements to chance—the tracks are deliberately sculpted, though sometimes the intention or reasoning behind why we made certain choices remains a mystery. It’s a nice balance between controlled strategy and emotional impulse.

Tell us about the recording of Microdot.

Many of the tracks were recorded at the same time as Sunfloating but were not fully complete when we did the release. One exception is the song “Morning” that was written and recorded about one month before the release. We felt like the EP needed a trajectory and we didn’t have anything that would bring it to an end. So, we wrote and recorded the song.

The recording process was more or less the same as what we described above: the songs are written, recorded, re-sculpted again and again, and finally polished off. “Softly Light Limbs” was recorded but we weren’t satisfied with it. Andrew worked on it and almost redid the whole track while Christina was away doing some performing in Italy. Everything from the original was replaced save the structure, the voice, and some piano. “268” was originally for voice and guitar but gradually succumbed to the inevitable mutations our songs tend to take. The song is a riddle. “Sunrise” is a few guitar takes with ebow, reverb/delay, and whammy pedal with minimal post production. “Dark” is more linear—it started as a drum/bass/synth riff and eventually became this melancholic circular thing. We thought of adding a vocal part but decided against it because we liked it as a simple instrumental. “Spherecube” is a bit of a mystery. The choral parts were a big step for us since they are more or less unconventional and create a strange, unsettling feeling through the first third of the song. It is very much an experiment in mood and atmosphere.

What attracted you to that name for a release title? Is it the fascination with early xeroxing photo technology and the like?

Yes, definitely. There was an old espionage technology of putting very tiny images or words no bigger than a period on a typewriter onto little disks called microdots as a way of relaying secret information. The image or message could only be read using microscopic technology. In essence a microdot is a tiny object that comprises content that is larger and more significant than its container. There is something enigmatic and conspiratorial about both the technology and the word. It has a certain charm.

What else have you all been up to that we ought to know about?

At the moment, we’re finishing up a new track for a compilation curated by Ian Doig-Phaneuf / A Person Disguised as People  that’ll be out on digital in early September 2014 with a physical release shortly after. Also, Micodot is the first in a series of Microdot EPs. We’ve got two more Microdot EPs that are in the recording process at the moment. There’s also a second full-length album in the works. It’ll be out in a year or so.

What under-repped artists are you all loving right now that we really ought to know about?

You’ll Never Get to Heaven. Their work is absolutely beautiful—we can’t stop listening. The songs are pristine and radiate as perfect art objects seemingly outside time. The value of music isn’t qualified by how many people listen to it—but everyone should listen to You’ll Never Get to Heaven.

Wormwood’s Microdot is available now from Punctum Records and Bandcamp.

BASIC SHAPES

Introducing Basic Shapes; the trio of  Patrick Estabrook, Brooke Morrison, and Myles Heffernan.

Introducing Basic Shapes; the trio of Patrick Estabrook, Brooke Morrison, and Myles Heffernan.

Brooklyn’s Basic Shapes began as a solo project from, Patrick Estabrook (of Responsibilities and Telephone Company), before expanding into a trio with the assistance of Hello Shark’s Brooke Morrison and fellow Telephone Company member, and from Howard, Myles Heffernan.  Having recently recorded four songs at Dr. Wu’s Studio, we are proud to present the world premiere of their new singles, “Stand Still”, and “Live By the Beat”.

On the adventures of electronic enabled still lives; “Stand Still” breaks the angles of mind, sight, and time in a statuesque stance. Brooke’s vocals give a genuine embrace of earnest dreams and free-footed soft shoe steps that inspire front porch dancing, as the keyboards percolate in conjunction with the rhythm guitar’s considerate restraint by way of calming chords. Basic Shapes take the building blocks that have comprised the foundations of the last 30-some years of radio pop formulas, emulating their production and mixing systems, while introducing new subtle additions through an independent, democratic, and creative approach with a contemporaneous consciousness.

Then on the debut of “Live By the Beat”, the electronic angle is developed through a clever minimalism, teased out by Patrick’s Fender Strat (an older model made in Mexico, Estabrook told us in earlier discussions), where the every item of the song becomes attached the song’s percussive pulse. This marries all elements, from Brooke’s untouched vocals, the cornucopia of pointed and well-cut keyboard choices, bass lines, and guitar strings — all serve the purpose of the track’s ever mighty ‘beat.’ “Live By the Beat” is the cause to question the great existential paradigms that fill your head throughout the work days, and anxious, insomniac nights where the very raison d’être lies in the ‘don’t fight it, feel it’ submission to the primal doctrines, and carpe diem of the rhythm.

We got the inside scoop about the story of Basic Shapes’ evolution, in the following discussion with Patrick Estabrook.

Tell us how this went from being a bedroom project of Patrick Estabrook, to how you expanded to include Brooke Morrison, and Myles Heffernan.

I had our first show booked at Glasslands, and some studio time booked, before I asked Brooke and Myles if they wanted to play, so we got our shit together in a hurry. Making music by myself had been pretty lonely and I had some bad creative habits, and I knew it would be better and generally way more fun if I had some trusted friends around. I don’t think there’s anything better than making art with friends.

How do you all feel all the previous collective experiences from everyone’s solo work from Hello Shark, Howard, Telephone Company, etc, have informed the foundation of Basic Shapes?

I think making creative decisions as a group is kind of like sharing: they teach it to you in kindergarten but you might still suck at it until you do it a lot. Playing the different roles we’ve played in all those bands has helped and by now we can talk about the music we’re making without hurting each other’s feelings too much. Also I think playing in more rock- or folk-oriented bands (like Howard and Telephone Company) has kept us rooted in live performance, so while we do the electronic thing and cart a bunch of synths around we still want the show to feel like you’re seeing a live band play instead of some dude or dudette hunched over a laptop. (No hate for the peeps that do that, some people pull it off really well.)

basic shapes week in pop 3

Tell us about recording at Dr. Wu’s studio, and how that has affected the songs “Stand Still” and “Live by the Beat”?

We recorded and mixed the stuff at Dr Wu’s pretty much as fast as we could. The studio is just a big apartment in Williamsburg with a shitload of gear in it. Yale, our engineer and a friend of mine since early college-ish, worked some incredibly long hours for us. We mixed four songs in one sitting without any medical assistance. I let him make most of the mixing choices and gave just little bits of feedback here and there, like “Hey maybe we can add some delay to the vocals,” so the end sound and feel of the recordings has Yale’s stamp all over it. I used to mix all the stuff on my own but it can be hard to do for your own music; I always buried the vocals in the mix because I’m shy and it can be hard to listen to your own voice. When I first heard how loud Yale had mixed the vocals I thought he was insane but that’s exactly why I wanted him involved, to keep me from making mistakes like that.

How do the three of you write and record songs, and how do you find the three of you influence and inspire one another?

The four songs we’ve written and recorded started as tracks I sketched out with synths and drum samples, then came the guitar/bass/vocals. I recorded the instrumental tracks for “Live by the Beat” and “Stand Still” at the studio and roughly mixed them before giving them to Brooke, who then totally wrote the words and melody on her own. I think I had heard what she’d written two or three times before she was doing vocal takes in the studio.

For the material we’re writing now, we’ve been improvising together as a band at our practice space, and since we don’t use a laptop it’s actually pretty easy to lay something down with the synths/drums and play over it for a while. Brooke has a really strong sense of what she likes and doesn’t like and it keeps me in check in a nice way, makes me pass creative decisions through committee so I know they’re not stupid or tasteless or insane. Also she’s totally fearless and has no problem doing things like improvising vocals over new songs which I find super impressive because I’m filled with fear and loathing of doing such things myself. Myles is just an awesome, happy dude that fucking shreds on bass and it’s lovely having him around. He cut his teeth covering entire Zeppelin albums with his band in college and slays dance music with equal gusto. Great roommate too if he’d just DO HIS GODDAMN DISHES.

basic shapes week in pop 2

What’s the greatest thing about the ever-expanding Brooklyn scenes these days?

There are a lot of dedicated early-adopters here; the kind of fans that are most excited by discovering something new that hasn’t yet broken through into larger popularity from relative obscurity, and it’s those kinds of people in a scene that keep it healthy and changing and energetic and awesome. They’re the ones that go to shows without knowing a single band on the bill, just to go see some music at a venue they like, or who actually show up and see the openers for a band they like. I’ve got a big wet kiss for you all out there who do that. Thanks for being awesome. Also sometimes there’s free shows, and free beer at free shows, which is great.

When can we expect releases from Basic Shapes, what other things do you have up your collective sleeves, and who else should we be listening to right now?

We’ve got a couple more tracks we’ll be leaking out over the coming weeks, and a video which we’ll premiere later this summer. Working on some remixes too. My friends Farragoes and Gay (both Toronto-based) are doing great things right now and you should totally check them out. Also Toupee (Chicago) and Betty and Veronica (Montreal) are working on releases at the moment, stay tuned for those. On the harder side, Clean Girls here in Brooklyn and devastating right now and playing out all the time, definitely go check them out if you’re into the noisier stuff.

Check out Basic Shapes’ Soundcloud for more future sounds.

BALMS

balms week in pop 1

We got in touch the other day with San Francisco’s dream machines, who give us the premiere listen to their new single, “Golden Hair”, ahead of their upcoming EP. Lead by guitarist and vocalist Jared Padovani, with Michael Ascunsion on bass, and John Kolesnikow on percussion; this three piece is giving sonic slices of fog sailing splendor for a sad and sleepy city to dream on.  Releasing a smattering of singles over the recent months and years, Sidewalk // Grave, Surface // Over My Head, and All Right // Surf Song; Balms ride like three young magis or wisemen offering treats more rare than gold, frankincense, and myrrh, taken from the arms of blissful slumbers.

From the onset of “Golden Hair”, Balms let their hair down with the feeling of driving a classic convertible along the Great Highway, running parallel with the great mammoth waters of the Pacific. Padovani’s voice and guitar textures are a star attraction to the group’s enchanted blend of organic essential oils, while Kolesknikow’s bold drum parts crash symbols and snares like raging waves, to Ascunsion’s control of the song’s tectonic plate rumble of ground floors coming alive. Certainly many listeners will find similarities to ‘name whoever your favorite 90s sneaker-gazer is here, ‘ while many folks from the Bay Area will hear the new Balms single as a lullaby ballad of true beauty that offers a real sense of care and belonging during an epoch and current circumstances of what feels like unending trials of uncertainty. Balms might have the antidote for what worries ale and plague you. Jared, John, and Michael joined us for a roundtable discussion, following the premiere

Balms have made a name for themselves through your various approaches to guitar. How do you all define the ever growing relationship between Balms and tomorrow’s guitar geared music?

Jared: That’s an interesting question. We were talking about it, and I don’t think we consider ourselves a guitar-driven band necessarily. Our single for the EP, “Golden Hair”, is kind of an outlier in that sense compared to the rest of the release. When I think of “guitar geared music”, the first genres I think of are classic rock, blues, and then indie bands in the 90s such as Built to Spill, Dinosaur Jr, Modest Mouse, which are some big influences for me. Our songwriting is very collaborative, and as a “songwriter” in the band I may bring ideas, riffs, and structure but when we write songs we write them together. We treat all of our instruments like voices – and then we jam/experiment until these ideas become the songs. It’s an organic and pretty unintentional experience for the most part.

balms week in pop 2

Excited to hear about the new EP, and we were wondering if the three of you would like to walk us through from how your own approaches and concepts have informed last year’s Sidewalk/Grave, Surface/Over My Head, All Right/Surf Song, to the forthcoming EP.

John: The first release we put out, we were very much in the mindset of putting together pop songs. We actually started the band thinking about Weezer’s Pinkerton specifically, so I think that gave us a general idea of what we were trying to do as a starting point. When we started experimenting with the guitar textures in “Grave”, we naturally wanted to explore that idea more in new songs we would come up with, and for a while it was all about the atmosphere and the mood of the songs, with the pop structure idea kind of in our sub-conscious. Through the rest of the releases and up to the EP it’s been a progression within that mindset.

Michael: The songs we wrote for the EP mostly came together after our first long tour when we were in a state where we had specific ideas of what we wanted to hone and improve on as a band.

“Golden Hair” is a gorgeous single, in a world of songs that have used this title (Syd Barrett’s minimalist dark vignette of the same name comes to mind), what story is behind this trail gazing beauty?

Jared: “Golden Hair” came out of a song I originally wrote on the acoustic guitar. It was a really somber song that I wrote thinking about someone close to me, and the vocal melody stuck with me pretty hard. Pretty soon after I wrote it, the riff and chords to “Golden Hair” came up during a jam, and while we were on tour I couldn’t get it out of my head. At some point I guess I started merging the vocal melody from that acoustic song with this new jam, and when we got back the result was “Golden Hair.”

John: And we are happy to share a song title with Syd Barrett.

Michael: P.S. Ours is better.

balms week in pop 3

Feels like the mastering, mixing, and the entire production process has been overhauled compared to earlier recordings. Is this the latest addition and definition of the Balms sound?

John: That’s probably just a result of getting better at mixing and tracking ourselves. We hope to continue to improve the sound.

Jared: Apart from “Surface//Over My Head”, we have recorded and mixed all our music ourselves. That includes this EP. It’s been a great learning experience over this past year and we have been lucky to have a lot of friends and other local musicians listen and help us improve our sound.

State of the SF scenes?

Jared: We surely still go to great shows all the time here, see rad art, and meet amazing people on a regular basis doing what we do. I think there is a conversation happening in the media about some of the big acts leaving town, and how the tech scene is pushing artists out of SF to the East Bay or LA or elsewhere, which is all true to some extent and we’ve seen that, but that doesnt really affect us making music and continuing to do what we do – right now it just makes it a little weirder and more expensive.

John: There’s a lot of new great bands in the bay area and it’s exciting to see the direction the music here is going.

Album in the works? Any details on that, and other artists we should be listening and looking out for?

Jared: We’ve been throwing around some ideas we have for our next release, which will likely be another EP, where we go a little heavier and focus on some different sounds that have been inspiring us recently – stuff I think would be really rad for the live show. But no plans yet – at the moment we are focused on finishing up this EP and touring.

John: Twin Steps, Golden Drugs, Creepers, Wuv, Joyride!, Quaaludes, and our buddies Couches. And Annie Girl & the Flight.

Michael: Coldplay. Nickelback.

Balms new EP will be available soon via Bandcamp, and you can find them on the following dates:

July
25 The Highline, Seattle with Vibragun
26 Kenton Club, Portland withg Black is Bright
27 The Honey Hive, San Francisco with Tambo Rays, Daikon

August
14 Almost Holden Collective, Santa Monica
15 The Dial, Murrietta
16 The Smell, Los Angeles with The Vivids, Media Jeweler, Minnow
19 1-2-3-4 Go! Records, Oakland with Wild Moth, Darto

MOZART’S SISTER

Mozart's Sister, aka Caila Thompson-Hannant, photographed by Vaness Heins.

Mozart’s Sister, aka Caila Thompson-Hannant, photographed by Vaness Heins.

We introduced you to Caila Thompson-Hannant’s project Mozart’s Sister a while back around the release of her Hello EP, and now we give you a listen ahead of her first album, Being available August 5 from Paper Bag Records in Canada and Asthmatic Kitty stateside. If her initial self-titled anthem song didn’t already introduce what kind of an indie pop ride you were in for, Caila ups the bar again with “Good Thing Bad Thing” that introduces an even denser layering of production that shines with the epistemological true meaning of utter fascination unbound.

Considered to be one of the key self-made artists who paved the way for fellow Canadian indie icons like Grimes, “Good Thing Bad Thing” showcases Caila’s monarchical reign as one of today’s most gifted singer, producers, electro-engineers, and songwriters who continues to pen some of the most honest songs of self-reflection, taking the good with the band to make new synthesis of surprise and spontaneity. In the world of Mozart’s Sister, renewal of the self is constant, and her reign in the indie pop world deserves to be acknowledged by all with ears to hear. The other morning, we had the honor of catching up with Caila over morning coffee and tea to talk about her upcoming album, and more.

As Canada takes over the indie music journal charts, how has Montreal affected and influenced you creatively do you feel?

It’s pretty incredible how much has been written about MTL over the last little while. I mean it’s always been a music center and there are so many different genres of music being made at the same time. I like it here because there is a non-pretentious attitude, it’s non-competitive also… at least generally speaking. I don’t really think there is much time for the ‘I wanna be a huge star’ attitude here… people are ambitious but it feels like the ambition leans towards making beautiful, weird stuff and not towards buying a condo off iTunes sales. Even if you’re into making very digestible stuff, there is always a push towards art, not just notoriety. You know? There is also such an openness to sharing. It’s safe! There is no New Yorker magazine or Pitchfork at your friend’s weird loft show looking to strike gold with the next big thing. It’s for people, for exchange and artistry. I hope it remains!

What observations about your own approach to production, lyrical and vocal arrangements have you noticed have shifted from your Hello EP to the upcoming, Being, album?

The approach was kinda different ’cause I felt like I was pushing myself beyond what I knew already. It felt uncomfortable at times. I was more conscious in the making of Being. It was a steep learning curve too ’cause I was trying to teach myself about the basics of recording while writing. I was getting into sounds, and how to manipulate them as a material.

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What was the process of recording your first full-length like, and what kind of good things and bad things did you draw from for visionary focus?

This record was very driven by self-emancipation and independence. I was learning to be alone and not be a sad sack about it. I had just had a split with the love of my life and my band had broken up, but there was so much manic, positive energy that came from that. It was tempering the highs and lows and realizing I could wield energies in my direction…

Who are some of your other favorite artists that more people should listen to?

I’m really obsessed with SOPHIE. He introduced himself to me a while ago and I felt like I musically fell in love. I have been getting into New Age music too. Iasos is so so good, I like the folks that touch on ‘ New Age’ but don’t quite go there like Vangelis. I also love Lana Del Rey. It’s so crazy beautiful. Been opening my heart to Skrillex and finding that he is so so so creative and inventive. Definitely an inspiring one.

The Mozart’s Sister plan and prayer for 2014?

Plan is to do some touring! There were some hiccups earlier this year that kinda left me wondering if I was going to be able to get out on the road. But things “going wrong” really just motivated me to get at it even harder and now there are some good things materializing as far as shows.

Prayer is to write a new record.

Mozart’s Sister will release her first album, Being, available August 5 from Paper Bag Records in Canada and Asthmatic Kitty.

WE NEED SECRETS

Introducing Chad Peck's new project; We Need Secrets.

Introducing Chad Peck’s new project; We Need Secrets.

Chad Peck of Kestrels, and Noyes Records is readying to release the album debut of his project, We Need Secrets, sharing the world premiere of the song, “Melancholy”. Found off the upcoming album debut titled, Melancholy and the Archive, available July 29 from Saint Marie Records; Peck packs a punch that is realized in collaboration with a little help from friends like ANGO, Ringo Deathstarr’s Elliott Frazier, fellow Kestrels member Paul Brown, Aim Low’s Omar Husain, with mastering by Shellac’s own Bob Weston. The result is some of the most glorious waves of floodgate gushes of guitars in excess that are sure to chase away every storm cloud, every tear, and releases the cynical burdens of every hesitant tendency of general reluctance.

The result of Chad selecting friends and top brass for the We Need Secrets projects culminates in the foundation — and forging — of a gigantic sounding secret weapon. Dissonant noises are brought from the side wings and directly into the frontline fray of center stage feedback, that pulls back the curtain on gorgeously painted pop that comes in all kinds of infectious shapes and colors. This is the sound of what happens when the leftover punks inspired the 80s underachievers, or when the independent sects who were fed up with ‘hair metal’ got excited about power chord shredding solos again. And while Kestrels have captured our attention in recent weeks, Chad’s labor of love We Need Secrets is not only a testament to the talent residing amongst the indie denizens of Nova Scotia — but further proof of Saint Marie‘s continued expanses of universal proliferation.

We Need Secrets’ Melancholy and the Archive will be available July 29 from Saint Marie Records.

THE OUTFIT

The Outfit, photographed by Erin Wilson and Jesse Hunsaker.

The Outfit, photographed by Erin Wilson and Jesse Hunsaker.

Denver’s The Outfit returned this week with their new single, Station Wagon Apocalypse/Tyrannosaurus Surfboard, dressing up their sounds in noiser tones. We last heard from them on the premiere of their Tough Kids EP, where the group further finds their sound with a tougher exterior. The a-side of “Station Wagon Apocalypse” brings the chaos of family vacations to the festival stage in heavy rhythm lead ways. But perhaps the real attraction is tucked away on the b-side, “Tyrannosaurus Surfboard”, where the band takes more cues from the creations and curations of John Dwyer projects than the wave-riding Dick Dale pretense. The Outfit’s Eric and Mike joined us for another interview round after the following listen to their new single.

Can you elaborate on perhaps some latent, early memories of minivan, camper van, sport-utility vehicle family adventures and chaos that may or may not have informed, “Station Wagon Apocalypse”?

Mike: My family would drive to Oklahoma and Texas every summer when I was a kid, so I definitely spent a lot of time in a minivan on I-70 and 35. I may or may not have channeled the heavy summer humidity of Holdenville, Oklahoma in my bass tone. Can a bass sound humid?

Eric: If Quentin Tarantino had directed the hit Robin Williams’ comedy “RV”= Station Wagon Apocalypse.

Why do you feel like all those outings always devolve into apocalyptic proportions?

Mike: Kids.

Eric: Parents.

Man, gotta to tell you, that “Tyrannosaurus Surfboard” is some of the realest, and rawest yet to come from The Outfit. Can we expect more of this brash and thrash business? It totally rules.

Mike: Yeah, definitely. That song is so much fun to play, and a lot of what we’ve been writing is going in that direction. Any time we can get Mikael to cut loose like that is a success.
Eric: We really have been writing a lot more songs like that. I think they just really speak to all of us. Dark, Fun, Bouncey, Weirdoes.

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So what is the latest report on the state of the Denver scenes?

Mike: Denver’s growing a lot right now, in a lot of directions it seems. Festivals like The UMS are really pushing music as one of the city’s biggest assets, which is cool. Even the governor comes out to party for that. Comedy is booming. The Gr@lix guys and The Fine Gentleman’s Club are doing cool stuff, making Denver a big part of the national comedy scene with High Plains and Too Much Fun.

Eric: Mike is absolutely right. It is so easy to go to a great show or see some great stand up here. I think the audiences here really give a lot back to the performer. Of course, every once and a while, you have to play to a couple people who act like they would rather be at home watching LOST with their cats. But for the most part people here understand that you laugh at jokes and you dance at shows.

Any local acts we need to know about it?

Mike: I could make a list a mile long… If you ever get the chance to see Echo Beds, make a point to see them. They’re a great industrial/noise project. Bud Bronson & the Good Timers are one of our faves here. And The Knew has a new record coming soon, definitely watch for that. I play with a country-ish band called Gun Street Ghost that has a record coming out in September, and it’s really good.

Eric: Mike hit a lot of the bases. I always talk about Colfax Speed Queen. They really just know how to party and their name is incredible. Ned Garthe Explosion is also a must see. It really just depends on what you are looking for. Denver has so much to offer. Kissing Party, Dragondeer, Dirty Few, there are just too many.

the outfit week in pop 3

What else are you guys recording right now?

Mike: We recorded at Daytrotter on our last tour, and I think that session just went up on their site. There’s one brand new song in there called “Ne’er Do Well” that’s a little lighter and groovier than some of our other stuff. Our label Hot Congress Records is putting together a new compilation that will probably feature another new one from us. I think that’s scheduled for September. I loved making the 7″ records, and I could see us doing a few more like that.

Eric: Ya, on “Ne’er Do Well” we slowed down a bit. We tend to write a slower song before five or six ram jammers. I think we all like how they fit on EP’s and in sets. I think Josh Homme said, ‘Rock should be heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls.’ I like that mentality, add a little Diarrhea Planet and you’re set. We recorded these last two songs at Black In Bluhm here in Denver and we really love it there. Denver also has some rad recording studios. Mammoth Cave and Uneven Studios to name a couple.

The Outfit’s Station Wagon Apocalypse is available now via Bandcamp.

VALERY GORE

valery gore week in pop 1

Toronto’s Valery Gore is preparing her album, Idols In The Dark Heart for release September 9 via Bandcamp, unleashing the city-spangled pop balladry on, “Amsterdam”. Seasons and held-over conversations are caught by memory placed in the focus on hopes and all those projections about places of fantasy and potential that we all keep close to our hearts. Chamber pop takes turns down the alleyways paved in cobblestones, that lead to the grand centrum created out of big orchestral arrangements. Stay with us after the following listen to “Amsterdam”, as we had the recent pleasure of conversing with Valery abut the song, and upcoming album.



With Toronto as the current in place for musical innovation, what is your perspective on why this place has become such a creative indie-hot-bed?

Hrmm, is it that Lake Ontario drinking water? From my position years ago, I knew that if I wanted to develop my career in Canada, I’d have to move to the big city. There are lots of artists who manage that from other more rural areas, but I think Canada’s vastness inevitably makes Montreal and Toronto the most attractive places for musicians to grow. So then here we are, all crammed and cozy and the more time spent here and the more you look around, there are so many ways to collaborate and support each other. I know that’s not really a direct answer to your question, but I really have no idea why it’s become a hotbed, but I love most things about this city’s rich culture and it’s treated me pretty good!

What did you feel was a big shift in making Idols In The Dark Heart?

The major shift for me was having a better-equipped home studio and fully building the songs in demo form. Prior to that, I’d typically write sitting at the piano. I knew the general direction I wanted to go in, infusing more electronic sounds and synths with my piano based background. I wanted to calm the piano playing down a bit and find peace with ‘less is more’ and so I started off a lot of the writing by creating drum patterns and bass lines. My influences were heavy on the Motown/soul/jazz side of things while writing my last record in 2008. Between then and now, I was listening to a lot of electronic based music like Son Lux, Matthew Dear, The Notwist, Broadcast, Moderat, and composers like Steve Reich and John Cage. I wanted to become more comfortable with repetition, it’s usefulness and power. I also wanted to express with less words. I love leaving music open, allowing the listener to find a personal meaning there. I think all these things considered, another big pursuit of mine was to steer away from the term ‘singer songwriter.’ I just want to be an artist! I don’t know why that term has bothered me all these years, for some reason it makes me uncomfortable. I like taking pictures, I want to incorporate more visuals into what I do, I want to stay busy and creative in any capacity that lends to the music. So when this project turned out to be independent from a label, I felt really in control of the entire process. The artwork design, photography, music videos. I’m having a lot of fun creating all these additional elements.

How were you able to align your vision with talents from your bassist Devon Henderson to the engineering assistance from Dean Nelson and Chris Stringer? How have their contributions affected your new album?

Working with Devon was part of the big shift for me with this album. I’ve always produced my albums, while having amazing input from engineers and players in the past. But the songs exchanging hands between Devon and I was really organic. Devon’s been in my band from the beginning and his musical sense is pretty perfect in my opinion. Our mutual friends have an ongoing joke about Devon never messing up, that his talent comes so naturally to him, it’s never appeared as though he has to work too hard to get things sounding good! We laugh about it, but it’s true. There really isn’t anything he does to a song that I don’t like. It wasn’t immediately that I thought of having Devon co-produce the album with me, but it made more sense than anything. I’m already looking forward to writing and developing the next album with him. Oh, and his vintage Juno synth is all over the
record!

I met Dean Nelson when I was playing a show in L.A. with Buck 65. He was engineering with Beck at the time, and I am a big fan of Beck and those artists he produces. Dean was a great sounding board in the year leading up to recording, while receiving my numerous demos. He was consistently involved while the arrangements for these songs developed, until it all settled into place. He also decked out my home recording studio with many of the instrument plugins that we used for the album. He was always really positive and relaxed. Dean’s worked in some pretty amazing studios, and he moved around Toronto’s Revolution Recording like it was his living room. Aside from one day at prestigious evolution, the album was tracked in small studios and home studios, so his input was invaluable throughout.

Mix engineer Chris Stringer was great to work with because he is
extremely confident in what he does. Some of the moments on the album would seem empty to me now, after he added some great last minute touches. These songs were so heavily layered with blips and beeps and everything in between and it was no short order to have it all sitting just right in the final stage. He understood Devon and my vision and it worked out so well, having him on board.

“Amsterdam” is such an epic number of yours. It brings to mind Jacques Brel’s ode to the same Dutch town. What inspired your own rendering of, “Amsterdam”?

I wrote “Amsterdam” once I arrived back home from traveling to various European cities. It was my first of a few trips to Europe.
Experiencing a whole other way of living has made me feel unsettled since. I love Toronto, but I have an increasing urge to dig up my roots and see what’s possible with new surroundings. Amsterdam had an ultimate sense of freedom for me at the time, riding on the back of a rental bike over cobblestones, boating through the canals to the outskirts while a man on a bike rode to and lifted each bridge for us. Amsterdam is about fresh starts and endless possibilities. ‘Seasons could collaborate, forget the movements’. Changing with people or changing away from them, being in transit between two milestones. This song was reincarnated three different ways before it landed on the album, I guess it wanted a few things for itself.

Other Toronto artists that are not getting enough recognition and bandwidth?

Here are just a few artists that I’d love to see get famous! My friend Animalia just released a fantastic and unique EP ‘Mouth Full Of Teeth’, I really love Robin Dann’s project Bernice, I dig Chinawoman, who moved to Europe a few years back and is doing really well there, Canada just didn’t really seem to catch on. Sandro Perri is a favorite of mine. John Southworth has some new music coming out. Kira May’s great too! There, a handful of many!

Valery Gore’s Idols In The Dark Heart for release September 9 via Bandcamp

SPLIT SCREENS

split screens week in pop 4

Split Screens, aka San Francisco’s Jesse Cafiero, shares his new song, “Stand Alone” that brings an instant does of solitude. Taken from his forthcoming album debut, Before the Storm, September 9. Cafiero splits the screens between the views from interior that respond to the exterior worlds to find newfound places of solid, standing ground. Read our first interview with Jesse here, and check out the latest exclusive insights direct from Mr. Cafiero himself:

I wrote “Stand Alone” far quicker than the majority of songs I’ve ever come up with. Every summer for the past few years I visit my parents on the East Coast in the Catskill Mountains and have a ton of free time to play on my old upright piano. There was a real sense of urgency coming up with the music and lyrics and I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the song is about falling in love, since there is a close parallel to that feeling and the feeling of being in the moment and entering an exciting creative zone. When we were in the studio Jeremy Black (my producer) and I made this a seriously dense recording with many different layers of synth, organ, lap steel, and of course the horns that come in at the end, my favorite part! It’s been a great journey seeing this song go from those first chords I played on that upright piano into a fully fleshed out track!

Before the Storm is our debut LP and is being released on September 9 on my buddies’ new San Francisco label Name Drop Swamp Records. It was recorded over the course of a year at Coyote Hearing Studios in Oakland California.

Caitlin Frame, otherwise known by her surname Frame alone, has been on an indie vocal-popstar hit parade showcasing tracks from her Polarizer album. We talked about the dizzy spells surrounding “Run Around” some months back, and now gets the Cheap Talk remix treatment of “Only Other” that shows you the many guises and possibilities from one of this writer’s favorite rising talents of interest.

Sun Glitters remixed Shocking Pinks’ “St Louis”, found off the massive triple album threat, Guilt Mirrors, from Stars & Letters. It’s the clash of two titans of audio transformers, where Glitters sprays a lo-fi sun-syncopation of hyper-quicksand beats from of Nick Harte’s magnum opus. Read our interview and review session here.

Making a big bang out of audio still life shaken up with a smidgen of extravagance is Slow Magic’s “Hold Still”, ahead of the album album, How To Run Away available September 9 from Downtown Records. On the new single, wait for the finale of big blasting electronics and celebratory-but obligatory hand claps.

Ahead of the Banco album available July 29, peep the Jerome D video for Sir Michael Rocks new slapper, “Bussin”, featuring Casey Veggies and Iamsu! keeping them west coast wheels turning.

Watch as Woods’ album cover for With Light and With Love (from their label Woodsist, naturally) springs into animated being on the John Andrews video for, “New Light”. Find the Brooklyn band on a world tour through October 24.

Part of Southest Pittsburgh’s Fayette County’s Moola Gang Ca$h Cow$ , Luke-O drops something tough for the mean streets with the Kilz produced, “Main Street Pt II”. Something that drops some tough as iron nails boss talk, the Lacoste Bo$$ tape will be available soon.

Prom Body drop a “Vibrant” array of chorus chords and garage pop fun off their upcoming sophomore album, Naughty by Natural, available July 29 from Cairo & Topaz Records.

Canadian ecologists, Soren Little Brothers have started Man meets Bear, releasing the album Waagaaskingaa, and a listen to the jubilant joy bursts on, “Waabgonii Giizis”. Returning to their Ontario after 12 years, the nature boys have counted a host of colalborative connections with notable friends like Dirty Beaches, Aidan Baker from Nadja, The Winks, the White Funz, Crystal Shipsss/Jacob Faurholt, and countless others.

Available on 12″ and digital from Kompakt & Rubadub, work it on out with Pional’s “It’s All Over” drenched in the multi-faceted rainfall of John Talabot’s Stormbreak Refix-remix.

Huerco S. gives you something you can float around in the pool, or bath tub to, all day with, “B1 UNTITLED”, found off A Verdigris Reader available from Proibito.

Australia’s Zeahorse has just recently made the signing move to Canadian imprint Dine Alone Records, lending a listen to the scuzz centered sludge fest title track, “Pool”, available September 9 on the EP of the same name. Listen as these Aussie dudes carry that distortion to epic proportions.

With The Way and Color out now on Carpark, a tour running through September 20 with Islands; peep the cosmic seaside love affair in the Jordan Michael Blake video for Teen’s electro-tethered, “Tied Up Tied Down”.

In case we needed to proof that the So Cal pop and snot was alive and well (and has travelled as far as Connecticut evidently) in this current musical climate; get lit with Hostage Calm’s “Your Head / Your Heart”, video directed by Max Moore. It’s as if the headstrong and heart-lead balladry that some mistake for San Diego garage pop, and others with the ’emo’ tag; watch these dudes play catchy studio toned pop like the fabulous four horse riders of the apocalypse. Find this off Die On Stage, available September 16 from Run For Cover Records.

White Arrows send up a pop ode to eternal, perpetual longevity that revels in all things edifying and uplifting on, “We Can’t Ever Die”, off their upcoming second album, In Bardo, available September 16 on Votiv.

Off their self-released Vox Humana, Papertwin’s “Alkaline” gets remixed by Daryl Palumbo (of Glass Jaw, Head Automatica, and Color Film) to reveal new dazzling pop textures and fancy lights.

TOPS once again are rising to the top of indie lists, charts, and hearts with the album Picture You Staring coming September 2 from Arbutus Records, releasing a listen to the mellow summer breeze sway, “Ways to be Loved”. In case you weren’t already moved by their recent single, “Change of Heart”, the Montreal wonders continue to work on appealing to a human inner core by sending the mind spinning like long lost-but-found album pop LPs kept neatly in cardboard boxes from the 1970s.

Check out Houston’s Broken Quote, otherwise known as David Schrier, dropping the cut, “Ghost Crowd”, off his Foreshadowing Sunlight album. Here the fast crowd is observed in a kind of hushed slo-mo, where time ticks at an immaterial rate, and the space in-between make an appearance deep within the audio’s electronic ether.

Off their album Love Chills slated for release September 9 on Old Flame Records, YAWN buzzes around earth’s floral arrangements like a band of bees, avoid the pitfalls of the carnivorous, “Flytrap”.

Take a look at the digital dot displays like Lite-Brite and MS Paint patterns gone DIY-cool in the Pérez Hernández video from Larry Gus’s bro, Polygrains’ “Now I Know”.

On tour now, and with dates slated for November 1-6 with Pissed Jeans on the West Coast, our friends Stickers dropped the new cut, “Sacajawea” off their August 12 slated album, Swollen, from End of Time Records. Check out our premiere of the “Outlet” video and interview here too. Gabi Page-Fort, forever!

And just in case you needed something to drive yourself up a wall, SKANDER dropped something mental on, “Dirge 1” off DIRGE available from LA Club Resource.

Get weird, and get “Strange”, and even stranger with everyone’s favorite frontman Scottie Yoder, and fellow Seattle sons, The Pharmacy, from their upcoming album, Spells, available August 12 from Old Flame Records.

These odd wanderers, The Pine Hill Haints kick it, arcade-cabinet-retro on, “Ms Pacman”, from the The Magik Sounds of the Pine Hill Haints, available September 30 from Olympia label loves, the venerable K Records.

The Unicorns will re-release their third and final album, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? on June 29, and we got their cover of the Daniel Johnston favorite, “Rocketship” that will blast itself all the way into your heart.


SQUADDA B

North Oakland's own Squadda B drops some new tracks for the summer with Side A/Side B for July.

North Oakland’s own Squadda B drops some new tracks for the summer with Side A/Side B for July.

It has been about some four years back since Squadda Bambino let us know that he was ‘official‘, mobbing as the self-ordained and proclaimed, ‘illest duo alive’ with lifetime friend, MondreM.A.N., otherwise known to the world as Main Attrakionz. With Mondre releasing last year’s They Say I Struggle Rap, and Squadda cooking up a series of East Bay cuts with friends like Al-Jieh, Ammbush, a collective called The Urge, and more; we bring you a listen to Side A/Side B followed some exclusive selections curated by Squadda B himself. You can follow the life and times of Squqdda on his tumblr, http://thelifeofsquadda.tumblr.com/, listen to the following minimalist 808 flights with Al-Jieh on Side A/Side B (featuring a bonus cut with some of Squadda’s own latest chopped beat productions), followed by a handful of selections picked by Mr. Bambino himself.

SQUADDA B’S WEEK IN POP

Gucci Mane & PeeWee Longway, MPA: Money, Pounds, Ammunition mixtape

Classic, gave Young Thug and Migos they style, if cuz would keep this shit going he’d be on features from Rich Homie Quan before fame and all

Three 6 Mafia, Choices 2: The Setup Soundtrack /

Best soundscapes ever.

Three 6 Mafia, When the Smoke Clears

When the Smoke Clears is def one of my top 3 favorite albums ever DJ Paul bein Pimp C, Juicy J being Bun B.

Main Attrakionz, 808 Dark Grapes 3

Greenovaworld.com

Best soundscapes ever with new and improved song styles from the M.A.N brothers. This will be a must download once made available!

Interpol, Turn On The Bright Lights

Low-key chill shit I used to bump, revisited last night and still just as dreamy. I fucks with this a little.

Young Thug, “1017 Thug 2”

Love that “Oh Ya”, new styles on this shit sound like some throwaways for some cash scheme, but I fucks with it regardless

Keep up with Squadda, Mondre, and the whole Green Ova movement via Bandcamp.

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