Week in Pop: Shark?, Snow Angel, Yassou Benedict

Sjimon Gompers

Angelic flowers, and Gabby La La's Snow Angel, photographed by Ashleigh Castro.

With the spring festival buzz descending upon us, Week in Pop brings you a roundup of the latest from the newsroom feeds: First, you can now scope out the Coachella schedules and more; this week Boston Mayor Marty Walsh declared April 9 “Riot Grrrl Day”; Frank Ocean announced a new album in the making; Sky Ferreira confirmed the title of her new album; Tyler, the Creator launched his own app with Gold Media, and announced that the new album, Cherry Bomb will be available April 13; Frances Bean Cobain talked about her pop Kurt; Flying Lotus interviewed Kendrick Lamar; Towkio x Chance the Rapper collaboration; Conor Oberst’s Desaparecidos announced a new album; Kanye West has made up with the photographer, Daniel Ramos, who was involved in the infamous LAX incident; Tanlights’ Netflix-ish looking satire site; Marilyn Manson’s diner rough up in Canada; we mourn the loss of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s drummer, Robert Burns, along with Hippos In Tanks co-founder/CEO, Barron Machat.

As the world continues to turn, we celebrate the following exclusives and interviews with Shark?, Snow Angel, Yassou Benedict, Andrei Rublev, Dear Blanca, Ghostt Bllonde, Mittenfields, Negative Gemini, n. Lannon, OIM Records, Red Pill, Them Things, guest selections by Iji, and more—in no particular order.

Snow Angel

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Gabby La La’s group Snow Angel prepares to bring the world more electric sitar, fun with the recorder, and more with the upcoming So Sick So Cool 7″ available April 22. Heralding from the Bay Area, Gabby has worked with some of the brightest stars in the game, from Bernie Worrell, The Coup, Grace Potter, Les Claypool, Prince Paul, P-Funk, Snoop Lion, established Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra, and more, now premieres the Nanako Fukui video for Snow Angel’s Boots Riley produced jam, “We Are Stars”. Like the life and self embracing/affirming attitudes and jubilant antics of “So Sick So Cool”; “We Are Stars” continues that Sly & the Family Stone-“Everybody is a Star” ethic into a quest to “make the most of this life,” featuring a music video film short about animal masked-thrill-seeking marauders that features Gabby herself with Pamela Parker, Cadence Myles, Ashleigh Castro, Judy Wu, Claire West, Ran Wei, Nara Michael Ha, and Ryan Reeser.

Nanako Fukui and Yuito Kimura’s video for “We Are Stars” goes between performance footage of Snow Angel playing at a club, while following the antics of an outlaw duo on a heist rampage about the Bay. Masquerading behind cat and bunny masks, they shake up a liquor store for cash, messing up the merchandise with a bat, gagging and binding the clerk, counting their purloined bills, before attending the show. The video caters to the over-abundant confidence of egos out of control that covers the thematic terrains of Thelma & Louise, by way of Bonnie & Clyde. Snow Angel’s performance gig in the “Stars” video stands as the centerpiece, where all in attendance are seen struck in individual manners of acknowledging their own self-evident capabilities and powers. Following the video debut, we had a chance to talk with Gabby all about the new Snow Angel 7″, behind the scenes looks, along with her own exclusive spring/summer guide for 2015.

Tell us about how Snow Angel first began, and how you struck up a collaborative bond with Japanther’s Ian Vanek, and the great Boots Riley?

I started Snow Angel after writing a new collection of songs inspired by a new chapter of my life. I had accidentally fallen in love with a guy who I’d known for over 10 years, but had never thought of as a romantic option. He was just from a different planet, and I was trying to focus on being single, but I guess that doesn’t work when you’re talking about Boots Riley. We wrote a song together for The Coup- “The Magic Clap”- and I also played accordion on it. Afterwards, I started writing love songs for the first time in my life. Then I got pregnant and that shook up my creative juices big time. The music and lyrics were just flowing, and they didn’t really make sense as Gabby La La as I had existed before, so I created Snow Angel. At first Snow Angel was a duo, but now it’s grown to almost 10! So many voices-it’s just what the songs call for!

I met Ian Vanek when Japanther and The Coup played a show in San Francisco. Later on, when I was trying to figure out how to spice up “So Sick So Cool”, I thought of Ian. He said yes, and I did a little dance in the living room.

Tell us about the power of the recorder, and how it’s nostalgic, primitive, and preliminary presence brought a memory wave city sense of cool to “So Sick So Cool”.

I think recorder was my second instrument. We all got one in elementary school and I remember sitting with all my classmates in a room filled with horrible squeaking. Once you figure out how to blow gently, and make the notes sound right, it’s fun to play along with any song you know, but until then, it can be a bit painful for everyone involved.

I have studied many instruments including Piano, Guitar, Accordion and Sitar, but Recorder is one that I love because it’s I don’t have to tune it, it’s lightweight, and it still annoys people even if you’re good at it. As an older sibling, this brings me great joy.

I am not the most advanced recording engineer and I like to do things myself, so I use what I have and what I know. For the song, “So Sick So Cool” I recorded, the vocals, claps and recorders at my house using Garage Band. I wanted to keep it simple and the recorder was sitting there, so I grabbed it and it made sense-especially after I added a few layers. I hope that this song will make the recorder cool to the world. I always keep one tucked into my gear for impromptu acoustic jams!

What was your experience like working with Andrew Pezzulo, Nanako Fukui and company on the masked-mischief/performance visuals for “We Are Stars” and how do you feel the video connects with the song?

We connected with Andrew and his crew through a music video class at Art Academy that my friend Mark Kohr teaches. The cinematographer, Yuito Kimura chose the song and called upon director Nanako Fukui to make the project come to life. I love working with students because they are excited about their craft and hungry to work and create (like me). Initially, Yuito and Nanako came to me with the story and concept and I didn’t connect with it at all, but after reviewing it and some deeper consideration, I saw that it actually touched quite meaningfully on the most important aspects the song’s message. “We Are Stars” was written about my baby (who’s now almost 3),our relationship and how relationships grow, change and hopefully get stronger over time. It was hard for me to associate such a personal and intimate song with girls robbing a liquor store and going to a show, but a song is not only about the original story, it’s takes on new meanings and a life of its own once you share it. The song is essentially about friendship, reaching for your dreams, and giving the people you love the space to transform and become themselves. The video really captures the friendship between girls. We all have passion and it is expressed uniquely in each situation. These girls were willing to do anything to have their ideal night together, and you can see the determination, toughness, and joy as you follow the story in the video.

We used a Cinemagraph technique that isolates a single part of the shot and creates a beautiful and striking image. The video is dark and moody and much different than anything I’ve done before, but it communicates the emotion of the song and captures this time in our lives with intention and attitude. I love this video and I can’t wait to see how it is received.

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What sorts of supernatural, and sensational experiences informed the making of this new single?

The concept for “So Sick So Cool” blossomed out of a ridiculous conversation with an 8 year old boy. If you know any 8 year olds (this may actually apply to any young man) you know about Minecraft. It’s addictive. It’s pixelated. It can take over your mind. Anyways, this young man could think and speak of nothing but Mincraft. When he wasn’t playing, he was watching videos of people playing, and when he wasn’t doing either of those activities, he was talking incessantly about every aspect of the game or drawing it on paper. I asked him, “Do you know what obsessed means?” He said that he didn’t. I told him that it’s when you can only think, do, or talk about one thing. Then he said, ‘Oh. I’m obsessed with Minecraft’ and went right back to his game.

As someone who is known for collaborating with so many big folks like, Macy Gray, Snoop, Les Claypool, etc, who will you (or are you already) work with next?

Supporting other artists is something I really enjoy, plus, I love playing on huge stages and at festivals and I rarely get to do that on my own. I don’t really know what’s in my future but I would love to play with Bjork and The Flaming Lips. They are my favorite artists. Oh, and I want to make a music video with my favorite director, Wes Anderson.

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Gabby La La’s spring and summer guide / must hear / must see / must experience tips?

Bjork has an exhibit at MOMA in New York! Bjork has such a strong and ever evolving sound and look. As a person obsessed with creating videos and otherworldly fashion, I can’t help being a super fan. She’s oozes more magic and genuine emotion than anyone I’ve ever heard-no one compares.

St. Vincent is playing Outside Lands this year! I saw her at The Fox in Oakland earlier this year and it was much more than a music show- it was theatrical, weird, and inspiring. I love seeing women musicians kill on their instruments.

Go eat vegan donuts at Pepples Donut Farm in Oakland! They are delicious and so is the hippy food-and I’m not even a vegetarian. My favorite is Candy Cap Mushroom donut.

Best Bubble Tea is from Purple Kow in Berkeley. It’s much more amazing than any bubble or boba you’ve ever tried before- the cup will not fit in any cup holder! I get mine with custard and grass jelly:) http://www.purplekow.com/Index.html#

Watch The Ukulady’s 3 minute cartoon on Awesomeness TV! Follow the trials and tribulations of Astrid Strudelman, the Unicorn Whisperer, as she navigates life at Butterbrickle Charter School and of course, all things unicorn! Watch it here:

Franki Love is releasing a new album, OTIAS! One of the most loving and genuine under-discovered voices in music, Franki Love is always the most uplifting person online and in real life. Check out her new single “Walking Wounded” -it’s been on repeat in my head ever since the first time I heard it!

I’d like to get away from my phone for a day — I think it’s a “must experience” for the season. Did you see the episode of Broad City where they leave their phones at home? I think that I might loose my mind slightly too, but it’s just for a little while, right?

Lastly, I recommend spending time with the people you love and telling them you love them! Enjoy living together. I think too much time is spent looking at a screen. If eye contact is too intense, maybe start with the ocean. I like Baker Beach even though it feels like you have to drive to the other side of the earth to get there from Oakland.

Thank you for your music, time, talents, and visions, Gabby!

You are very welcome! I’m so hyped to be featured — the new record is my favorite music I’ve ever made so it feels even more exciting than ever to share it with everyone!

Snow Angel’s So Sick So Cool 7″ will be available April 22 via Bandcamp.

Shark?

Furry, fuzzy, and the fury of Shark?, photographed throughout by Gustavo Ponce.

Furry, fuzzy, and the fury of Shark?, photographed throughout by Gustavo Ponce.

Continuing our obsession with the cult of Shark?, we are proud to help announce the forthcoming of the Becky and Debbie EP, the Brooklyn band’s follow up to the album, Savior, and Summer Ale cassette, available on digital April 21, and June 2 from Old Flame Records. The crew of Kevin Diamond, Andy Kinsey, Andy Swerdlow and recent guitarist Jared Hiller (who stepped in permanently for Chris “Muggs” Mulligan) return with a sound that is louder, angrier, aggressive—yet conscious and aware, like amplified utterances caught in the earth and sky-quake of an electrical storm. Becky and Debbie trades, “California Grrls” for the dangerous, “Hate Crime Girl”, identity issues and existentialism on, “Wanna B Nothing”, taking on Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men”, to exploring the hate and love continuum on the brash and brutal, “Hangnail”.

On the debut of “Hangnail”, Shark? takes on the voice of a hardened misogynist angry at the world, taking his feelings of being ‘unloved’ out on the world. Kevin delivers the cautionary character’s tone in a grizzled sneer that couples the humor of the absurd, with the serious weight of hate. “You’ll never catch me, because I’m a slippery fish, I’m drinking Pepsi, I’m eating Cookie Crisp,” to the more intense warning shot aggression of, “I got a six pack, I got a bb gun, I got misogyny, I’m going to get shit done.” On “Hangnail”, Shark? stirs a vortex of maddened riffs, rocked by heavy doses of distortion to add to the heated element of depicting the anti-hero antagonist character that rails and rages at the song’s center core. All together, Shark? creates a dizzying experience to debunk the machismo angry-American male archetype into a satirical parody create on account of blind, pigheadedness. To learn more about the inspirations behind “Hangnail”, and the forthcoming Becky and Debbie EP; we had an opportunity to talk to Kevin Diamond of Shark? in our interview the immediately follows the premiere.

Tell us about how Jared Hiller’s guitar work has impacted Shark?, filling the shoes of the the former chord ripper, Chris Mulligan.

Muggs was integral to the development of the Shark? sound — before he joined, we were just a sort of flimsy power-pop band with no real direction — but since he left and Jared stepped in, I think we’ve been able to define our sound in a way we never were able to before. Jared’s style is more focused, more specific, and just basically louder. Muggs could be gnarly, but Jared’s use of pedals has allowed us to add atmospherics, or just straight-up noise, in a way that we couldn’t before. The dude also invents and sells his own pedals, so he knows what he’s doing in that regard (check out L0-Rez Pedals, based out of the Silent Barn)

Tell us about how the style and sound of the band has developed, being harsher, angrier, grittier, louder, better, badder, and this more self-described ‘direct’ songwriting method that you all have adopted.

I think we’ve all decided to stop trying to write songs that sound like other bands, and to just write songs that sound like us. The addition of Jared is part of that, but also, myself, Andy Kinsey (bass) and Andy Swerdlow (drums) have been playing together now for over five years, and I think we just sort of trust each other in a way that is only possible when you’ve grown together the way we have. There’s no time for bullshit anymore, we just want to write songs that we like to listen to. I can honestly say this EP is the best music we’ve ever released, and it’s the only stuff of ours I can actually still listen to.

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How are Shark?’s songs written, practiced, fleshed out, and then recorded?

This has changed a lot too. In the past, the dynamic was simple — I would write and record demos and we’d play them together and sort of mold them into songs as a group. We’ve shifted a lot more to writing in the practice space, allowing everyone to throw ideas in the pot and see what rises to the top. Honestly the iPhone is the greatest thing to ever happen to band practice. You set that thing on voice memo, and you have a recording of every little idea anyone had while playing, then you can listen back and pick that one little hook out and start developing it into a great idea. Songs like “Swerdlow didn’t fix the Couch”, and, “Hate Crime Girl”, could not have been written without that aspect.

Describe more about the group’s dynamics in the song composition process.

We’re equal partners at this point. I think we all have different likes and dislikes, and we all get veto power, so it helps to filter out the shit. There was a song we were writing that Kinsey, Jared and I really loved, and Swerdlow couldn’t stand it. Turns out it reminded him too much of that song “Closing Time” by Semisonic and he has a complete and utter distaste for that song, so we abandoned it. Probably for the best.

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Give us the story on the making of the Becky and Debbie EP.

We did the best thing ever, which is spend two days at Gravesend Studios with Julian and Carlos (from Ava Luna). It’s hard to imagine making a Shark? record without them involved at this point. Every band in Brooklyn who is self-recording right now needs to get a couple hundred bucks together and give it to Julian and Carlos and tell them to make them sound good — it’s that simple.

We had six songs ready and decided, ‘fuck it, let’s record these, they sound good and they sound like us.’ We didn’t know if we’d record more and make it a full LP or what, but in the end, these songs together are exactly what this record should be. It’s a document of the new Shark? sound, and a hint of what’s to come.

Please tell us more about the things, stories, incidents, accidents, anecdotes, and what have yous about the scuzz city of, “Hangnail”, being about ‘the life of a woefully ignorant misogynist and the women he leaves behind.’

I wanted to write a song that was sort of tongue-in-cheek exploration of the Men’s Rights bullshit that you hear about on the internet all the time. I also sort of hate this new explosion of ‘garage rock” bands that just write about partying all the time and don’t have any substance to their songs. I won’t name names, but everyone can think of a band like that.

When we released “California Grrls” and it was on GTA V, we got a massive amount of YouTube followers and commenters and most of them are amazing, but some were basically like, ‘yeah, I fucking hate California girls too!’ and I realized, ‘oh shit, they don’t get the joke. It’s not about actually hating people.’ But it’s too difficult to worry about how your art is going to be interpreted, you just have to make it and people can decide for themselves what it means and you kind of have to be OK with that. So hopefully people get that when it comes to this song, but who knows.

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Other inspirational tales you can share that you have found that been informing your music, and lives lately?

There have been some relationship issues within the band, people splitting up, people finding new people, all that kind of jazz. I think it’s driven us all to focus on this band as something really positive that we can always turn to no matter what the rest of our lives are like at the moment. It’s really important to have that, for me. I have a good job and I have a good circle of friends, but I also need this band or I’ll go out of my mind. I just know that about myself.

I also really like Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Does that count?

What releases, new or old lately have blown your minds?

Viet Cong, Krill, Pile, Kendrick, and Jimmy Whispers. And Krill.

Also I bought the Nancy and Lee record (Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra) on vinyl recently and it’s the best thing ever.

What are you all looking forward to the most on your upcoming west coast trip?

In-N-Out burger, eight hour drives, drinking in the van before the show, being with my best friends for 10 days straight. Playing with LA Font. I’ve also never been to Montana before.

Other Brooklyn artists and bands that you think the world should hear now?

Every time I see Haybaby they’re better than the last time I saw them. And then of course Ava Luna, Big Ups, Baked. I’m really excited to be playing with Holy Tunic, Pill and Zula for our record release on May 9 at Palisades.

Shark?’s Becky and Debbie EP will be available on digital April 21, and June 2 from Old Flame Records.

Catch Shark? on the following tour dates:

April
24 Los Angeles, CA at Silverlake Lounge
25 Oakland, CA at Nightlight
27 Salt Lake City, UT at Urban Lounge
28 Boise, ID at Neurolux
29 Missoula, MT at Stage 112
30 Seattle, WA at Victory Lounge

May
01 Portland, OR at Habesha Lounge
02 San Francisco, CA at Hemlock
03 Los Angeles, CA at Origami Vinyl (2:30 PM)
09 Brooklyn, NY at Palisades

Yassou Benedict

Yassou Benedict, photographed by Odell Hussey.

Yassou Benedict, photographed by Odell Hussey.

Upstate New York by way of San Francisco’s Yassou Benedict premieres a listen to their single, “YoungBlood”, available today from new Oakland based label, OIM Records (Oaktown Indie Mayhem). The heartbeat electric haunted hymns lead by Lilie Bytheway, with James Jackson, A.J. Krumholz, Patrick Aguirre, and Theo Quimby also appears on the forthcoming comp, OIM: Vol 1, available June 23, providing a snapshot of Bay Area bands showcased by the budding imprint all produced by the label’s own, Jeff Saltzman. But now hold tight as Yassou Benedict brings about scenarios of late, late nights, and long, long walks for wild at heart lovers on the debut of, “YoungBlood”.

The band captures a psychic essence gleamed like the jumbled connections of telephone wires, cell phone towers that connect the lands, and states between their jump from the east coast to the west. “YoungBlood” finds the group of multi-instrumentalists channeling electrified assemblages of music making modules to convey the full personal experiences and recalled effects, and feelings felt during cryptic, and intimate moments passed. Yassou Benedict begins the song’s entrance into the aloof and elusive mist of night with Lilie’s setting of the scene by reciting the title with the heavy heart as she expresses, “young blood, pumping in my heart, in the parking lot, is all I got now…” A song of star crossed lovers makes an escape into the forest, attempting to outrun a hostile and weird world around them, heard in the mix’s emotive impressionism to further illustrate the action, and breathless experience of adventure. Synths are employed to lead the way through the plot of “YoungBlood” where things become more mysterious, as companions and former companions fade into the track’s pensive mood of overwhelmed and overexcited minds infatuated with ideas and concepts of new found affection. Yassou Benedict’s Lilie Bytheway joins us following the premiere, for an insightful view into the heart of “YoungBlood”, and more.

How did Yassou Benedict first begin, how did you all meet, and what’s the story behind the name?

All of the original members attended a small high school together in Upstate New York. We mostly bonded over Radiohead and singing together in chorus class. When I had the idea to start a band they were the only people that came to mind. We have changed lineups slightly since then, but the overall understanding and core concepts between members remains the same: to understand, utilize and maximize our responsibilities as artists and share that with as many people as possible.

The name came from a friend of ours who was living with us and at the same time entering into and struggling with adolescent psychosis. Part of that was creating a multitude of fictitious names for himself. One of them was Yassou Benedict.

How do you all go about writing, and fleshing out your songs?

A lot of the ideas for the new songs we are working on came from lying in bed late at night trying to sleep hovering between reality and dream. Whole songs would start playing in my head and If there was something I liked I would capture the beat, or melody as a voice memo and return to it in the morning. Overall we do not work from a formula. The more freedom there is the more likely you are to stumble upon something refreshing and instinctual, thus capturing your real emotion which will then be translated more clearly to the listener.

Give us the story on the specters and histories and more that haunt, “YoungBlood”.

“YoungBlood” is very haunted in that it comes from a true story of a very, very, long late night walk as a teenager to be with the person I was madly in love with. The rest can be filled in with your own relationship to the lyrics, tones, and textures. Nice use of specter, it is noted and appreciated.

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What do you all feel is the state of the Bay Area scenes?

I think it is a very under appreciated scene. We cross genres, age and inspirations effortlessly. If you are striving and making good art there is support for you without having to be labeled, or separated into a clique that reflects the product you are making. We all respect quality and intentions and are able to support that even if its not personally your favorite type of music or style. The ability to achieve this benefits all artists in the Bay Area and ultimately makes our products more defined and successful.

Favorite under-sung artists that you all want to give a shout out to?

All of the film and visual artists (Gary Yost, Amy Harrity, Peter Mcmccollough and more) who are donating a great deal of time, energy, and skill to the project we are currently working on. It is humbling and inspiring to have them believe in us enough to move beyond words and thought and into action. It is refreshing to be around people who wish to produce instead of only consuming, a problem that in my opinion is plaguing our generation.

Yassou Benedict’s single is available now from OIM Records, and will be featured on OIM: Vol 1, available June 23.

OIM Records

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Oaktown Indie Mayhem, aka OIM Records is preparing their compilation, OIM: Vol 1 for release on June 23 to bring you everything new from the independent sectors and Oakland scenes. An imprint operated by booker/promoter Sarah Sexton, musician Angelica Tavella, and producer Jeff Saltzman (who produced everyone on the OIM comp, adding to a portfolio of recordng/producing/mixing works from Department of Eagles, The Kllers, Stephen Malkmus, etc); their label stands as further testament to the proliferation of arts that continue to flourish in the East Bay. With the compilation’s Yassou Benedict contribution still fresh in our mind, we had a roundtable conference with Angelica, Jeff, and Sarah to get know the new imprint a little bit better.

Tell us a bit about how the imprint, Oaktown Indie Mayhem (OIM) started out.

Sarah: Oaktown Indie Mayhem originally developed in 2009 as a platform for emerging artists of all mediums to present their art. Over the years, it morphed into a music booking and promotions company. Mostly because musicians were and still are searching for industry here. People who live in the bay, love the bay, and want to stay in the bay…so naturally they’re looking for an alternative to heading south to LA or NY to be able to make it as an artist. Thus, OIM was born, kicking ass and taking names in the bay area music scene ever since. Then last year, Jeff recorded Angelica’s totally delicious ep, under her moniker Nyx, and decided they wanted to keep going, so they invited me on board to do a compilation. By the end of the compilation, the music was so rad, we decided to turn it the whole project into a label.

Jeff: I was recording Angelica’s band Nyx and she was starting Oakland Drops Beats and knew lots of cool bands, so we thought it’d be fun to do a comp. Then Sarahappeared and took the bull by the horns.

Angelica: S and J covered it.

Struggles for indie imprints in the post-millennial age?

Sarah: I think that indie labels are seeing both sides of the coin these days. They are at once able to (nearly) compete with major labels due to digital distribution, marketing, and general accessibility by the public, that was once very limited. While simultaneously it can be difficult to not be drown out by the staggering amount of new music that is readily available and to some extent being shoved down peoples throats. We like to think that if the music is good, people will dig.

Jeff: It’s a lot less of a struggle than it used to be since distribution isn’t just limited to major labels anymore and spending money on radio, which is the other thing majors could offer, is pretty meaningless at this point. Basically indies have as good a shot as majors now.

Angelica: The biggest struggle is that it’s always a gamble, and always dependent on how innovative you can be. There’s no formula for indie labels, and between the huge influx of platforms for music consumption, the vast sea of new bands and music, yet the continuing influence of antiquated industry standards, it feels a bit like the Wild West.

Give us the scoop on the OIM: Vol 1 compilation, and how you went about selection who and what.

Sarah: Angelica and I spent some time compiling a wish list of artists from around the bay, mostly in Oakland, that we were both dazzled by, but also felt that reflected a solid faction of the scene here. Then we spent some time figuring out whom from that list would really work well with Jeff’s style as a producer, which narrowed it down a bit more. There also were other factors of course, such as schedule availability and interest in the project. A couple artists were simultaneously approached by bandcamp, who was working on an Oakland Compilation at the time as well, and so had already committed to that project. In the end, we felt like we came up with a solid lineup of artist that would really mesh well with our vision for the comp.

Jeff: Sarah and Angelica decided on the bands and arranged the recording sessions. We gave each band about 50 hours for each song, then got the songs to good mixers.

Jeff, what are a a few favorite anecdotes from your experiences involving some of the various artists you’ve mastered/mixed/produced/recorded etc?
oim logo week in pop

State of the Bay Area DIY culture?

Sarah: This is one of the most exciting parts, because although the Bay Area in general kills it for music and culture, Oakland specifically, is totally on fire right now. The town is in currently in its stage of evolution where there is so much raw talent that the artists just can’t even seem to contain themselves. Creativity is exploding in a way where you technical skill, unabashed zealousness, and wildly rough expression are all boiling over at once. Artists seem very interested in collaborating with one another and really pushing boundaries for the sake of art, and that is unbelievably rad.

Jeff: Ask Sera!

Angelica: Oakland has been a central hub of DIY culture for a long time, both in terms of political thought and in creativity and art, which I think right now is especially vibrant.

People get down with art for the sake of art. It’s created by the people, for the people, and that causes a creative reciprocity that makes being creative a fun thing that you can share and build with your collaborators. If people want to have a show or a cypher on the street, they’ll do it. And if people want to make their own funky line of close because the Sears closed down, they’ll do it. And you know you’re going to have a community that supports you in those endeavors.

Also, there’s generally not a lot of outside pressure (for now) that effects where the art and music scene is going, which leaves space for a really weird and funky (in the most positive sense) amalgamation of art.

And this thriving history of DIY culture in Oakland is where OIM Records comes in. We are a DIY label that are doing it because we want to support DIY artists.

Jeff, was wondering if you could share a few favorite anecdotes from your experiences involving some of the various artists you’ve mastered/mixed/produced/recorded etc?

Jeff: I was working on Angelica’s song one morning when the engineer and I were trashed from the night before. We didn’t bother to check where the mics were — turned out they were patched into a completely different room where another band was recording. So Angelica was playing but the mics were recording the other band instead. That band sounded so much cooler that we just used their song rather than her’s.

Angelica: Cool story, Jeff.

Ethics, codes, and secret histories of the OIM crew?

Sarah: Make rad music. Try to play nice. Never look back.

Jeff: Ethics?! No way.

Angelica: Get shit done. But make sure the shit that you’re doing is worth it, and is something you’re passionate about.

Don’t waste your time with people or music that are not completely raw and honest.

Don’t spill liquid containers in Jeff’s studio.

Andrei Rublev

Alex and Dan, of Andrei Rublev.

Alex and Dan, of Andrei Rublev.

Brooklyn’s Alexander Margitich and Dan Drohan are Andrei Rublev, taking their name after the fourteenth century painter, and presenting the world premiere of their evocative, earnest and portion of this week’s essential listening; “I Tried So Hard”. With their new EP in the works for release later this year, the duo make musical tapestries that serve as a kind of testament to the heart, and struggles applied toward facing the numerous trials of life. Percussion jogs to the pitter-patter run timing like the footsteps of a track athlete going the distance, hurdling over obstacles, with a soundtrack of harmonizing vocals and affection, coupled with honest guitar strums.

Crooning vocals loom at the entrance of “I Tried So Hard”, where Andrei Rublev musically convey the thoughts and actions of achievements and failures, tackled as being part of the same coin. The connections that slip out from beneath the fingers of frivolity and lost grasps of matters fall down into the song’s river rapid channels, where every note conjures a feeling that is allowed to abide within what feels like a soul searching trip through a natural wildernesses. Andrei Rublev sums up the attempts of trying to hold onto past departures, with a way to look ahead toward recreating inexplicable feelings that the heart broken swear could never be possible again. Joining us after the debut of “I Tried So Hard”, we enjoyed a chat with Alex and Dan after the jump.

From meeting at Boston’s Berklee college to Brooklyn—tell us about the latest song composition dynamics between you two, and how that has developed over time.

After our mutual time at Berklee we each went off and worked on a variety of other projects. I moved back to my hometown in Northern California for a while and Dan migrated to Brooklyn. Meanwhile, we stayed in touch and by the time I moved to Brooklyn we had started working on some tracks remotely. After I wrote a bunch of new songs we started meeting and developing a process for arranging and recording together. Generally after a song is written, we start recording and re-recording over and over again until the parts speak for themselves and start to come together. In that way we really challenge and encourage each other to improve on a daily basis. Currently we get together everyday to record, rehearse, and practice.

How do you two make such heart-based beautiful sounds that have such natural, unrelenting harmonies?

As a songwriter it took some time for me to find my voice, partly because I didn’t think my songs felt genuine. This project was for me, a way of figuring out how to get past that. We both have a bit of a jazz background and I studied Composition so I think we draw heavily on those influences for harmonic and rhythmic ideas. I especially love the rich harmony of composers like Stravinsky and Ravel but I equally admire jazz players like Bill Evans. In terms of the natural quality, I think that is a product of our efforts to use minimal editing as to really develop and capture each part as a performance.

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What sorts of struggles, and trying endeavors the new single, “I Tried So Hard”?

This song is mostly a break up song but also about the more general struggle to recreate a feeling that you long for, and the way you can live in denial about that even being possible.

What else can you tell us about the new songs, recordings, & forthcoming releases?

We have a big handful of songs that we’ll be releasing as singles for the next few months followed by an EP that we’re working on currently and hope to get out soon.

Other Brooklyn artists that you feel need more spotlight attention?

Spring & summer moves for Andrei Rublev?

Our main focus is finishing our new EP but we hope to get out and play a lot during the summer.

Listen to more from Andrei Rublev via Soundcloud.

Ghostt Bllonde

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Raleigh, NC’s Ghostt Bllonde presents the world with the grand debut of their music video for the indulgent, and caring cadences of; “Dissonance”, taken off their split from Negative Fun. The four piece of Marc Kuzio, Chris Bennett, Ryan Phillips and Billy Barnes made a name from themselves among the local Raleigh circuits with word about notorious parties at their home called, The Mattress Fort, and their formerly adopted shambling sound. The song “Dissonance” itself moves the group further from their self appointed tags from ‘trashpop’ to ‘doom-wop,’ making music that explores the vague and grey in between areas between life’s stages, and all the phases in between the in-between stages through song.

Just as “Dissonance” begins with the sonic ambient rising wave of sound; the video too features the slow rise of stage lights that beam through the attending crowd that illuminate billows of manufactured fog, and plumes of smoke. The protagonist finds a young debutante becoming a bit bored with her own scene, before Ghostt Bllonde invites her into a world of fancy lights, loud music, and a concerted choreography array of coordinated dance sequences. And like the twinkling chord cascades found on the track “Dissonance”; the video replicates that euphoria visually with streaks of fancy lights, enchanted party-goers, and fancy-masked mysteries aplenty. Following the world music video premiere of Dissonance, read our interview with Ghostt Bllonde’s Marc, Chris, Ryan, and Billy.

We’ve heard rumors and legends of house parties at your The Mattress Fort; please share us some of everyone’s favorite memories.

Marc: On my eighteenth birthday my old band played a show with Adrian Orange of Thanksgiving. The house was packed to capacity with sweaty kids like myself and before we set up to play, a woman whom none of us knew, and was on the road with the band, unexpectedly brought inside her newborn infant and asked Chris to watch the baby while she disappeared to god knows where. I lost my shit in laughter and fear. Luckily she came back and all was well. 18 was a bad year.

Billy: Mine is definitely of this wild band Professor X where this front man took off all his clothes and was only wearing a smiley face sticker on his penis. That was it. It was excellent.

Chris: I woke up with a cat randomly on my lap. It wasn’t mine.

Ryan: We were all hanging out one night and Chris made a dookie-looking protein shake. We smeared it over our faces and kept saying, ‘Got shit?’ like the milk commercials.

How did Ghostt Bllonde form, and what’s up the extra consonants in the moniker?

Reading from the book of Bllonde: What many people don’t know, was that Chris Bennett once held the undisputed title for strongest man in the world. The forgotten son of Ray Mysterio, he traveled the globe unsuspectingly crushing all competition and opposition. Able to pull trains with the just the beckoning motion of his index finger, Chris learned all his abilities from his master coach, Billy Barnes. When the duo retired in ’98 they were driving back from a body building convention in Venice Beach where they came across, Marc Kuzio, a lanky and haggard young fellow running a fireworks stand on the border in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. He conned them into a ride back to Raleigh and during the road trip they formed an acapella Prince tribute group called Choral Pleasure. Realizing later that they were more talented playing physical instruments they went down to swamp of Hades to find a compatible guitarist. While passing through the business district they came across a homeless, Ryan Phillips. Lending an ear to Ryan’s woes he asked the gang not for spare change, but to accept his LinkedIn networking request. Upon doing so an everlasting bond of friendship and musical bromance was formed. Choral Pleasure changed their name to a suitable title of Ghostt Bllonde and the extra consonants kept them warm forever after.

What was the experience like recording your Dissonance single and split for Negative Fun.

Recording Dissonance was our first attempt at cleaning up our production and darkening our songwriting. It was a bit chaotic, but I absolutely love the process of recording and producing so it was a blast to do and experiment with. Recording is such a different experience than actually playing the song live and I love being able to “live” in the piece while its being composed/recorded. For “Dissonance”, we started tracking everything onto a shitty broken Dell laptop running windows XP and used only a single instrument mic. The drums were recorded in the living room Mattress Fort and the rest was layered on in my mom’s dining room which I completely took over while she was off being a secret agent and I was “house sitting”. I wrote a lot of it while we were tracking which I kind of enjoy doing because it doesn’t leave a lot of time to over-think or criticize a part and feels a bit more natural for the song. However this always makes me get carried away with overkill, so I kept adding layer upon layer of fuzzy lines and harmonies and suffered the consequences of sorting through the mess of extra parts. Mixing was the hardest step as the shitty laptop didn’t have enough ram to power any kind of software so every single change made to the recording, such as simply adjusting the volume of a track, took about an hour and a half to render and sample. Luckily during this time North Carolina was shut down in the middle of a snowpocalypse so while we were snowed in, between rendering breaks, my roommate and I watched a lot of Mystery Science Theater 300 and got pretty solid at super mario world. It was a good experience.

Also tell us about the making of the hedonistic, colorful, adventurous DIY video for “Dissonance”.

Making the video was a riot of a time that took several months to complete because of all the scheduling needed. Walt Lilly and Corey Reid were the masterminds behind it all and interpreted the song into the story of, ‘A young woman, bored with her party scene, summoning a band of cenobites to open the door to their rock and roll realm.’ Our friend Yvonne actually choreographed the dance routine for us and was incredibly patient and an excellent instructor who saved us from dancing like Van Halen in the “Hot For Teacher” video. We were also lucky to have support from a lot of wicked friends who helped out with venues and came out to party at Chris’s house where we filmed a really odd dance scene full of blood capsule witches and baby-birding couples. Our friends at Kings let us stage a show at their club while we borrowed crazy lights from our buddy Josh to transform a local house show spot called the Kosher Hut, (Run by some of our friends Joe and Thomas) into a fogged out den of mystery. It was an awesome experience for our first video that involved a lot of Dirty Dancing style dance move attempts and overall weirdness and good vibes.

Give us the latest and greatest on what’s happening in indie Raleigh, NC.

Raleigh, or just the Triangle in general, is a fantastic and exciting scene to be a part of right now. Very busy and communal. You have three different cities with three different cultures all within a 20 minute drive, so creativity is booming. We are also fortunate enough to have strong venues like Kings in Raleigh, Cats Cradle in Carrboro, and MotorCo/Dpac in Durham that bring in every artist you would want to see. We also host the best weekend of the year for Hopscotch Music Festival! Basically Raleigh is a very welcoming creative city that I feel is starting to come out from under the radar.

Favorite Raleigh artists that the entire world should hear?

Naked Naps, Less Western, Hammer No More The Fingers, Whatever Brains, Blanko Basnet, See Gulls, Dad and Dad.

Next releases and recordings for Ghostt Bllonde?

We are very excited to finish writing our next full length and start the recording process this year. We’ve got a lot in the pipeline and plan to never make the same thing twice! ZERO plans of slowing down!

Ghostt Bllonde’s “Dissonance” single split is available on Bandcamp and from Negative Fun.

n. Lannon

Nyles Lannon, aka n. Lannon, photographed by Julie Butler.

Nyles Lannon, aka n. Lannon, photographed by Julie Butler.

Nyles Lannon, known under his solo handle of n. Lannon brings continued streams of dreams for the post-post-modern eras of now (and the ones to someday follow), on his new album, Falling Inside, available June 23 from Badman Recording Co. One of San Francisco’s busiest bodies, Lannon’s solo work arrives out of a rigorous schedule from his duties in Film School, Sacred Caves, The Great Fires, Total Brightness, and a bunch of others that we really don’t know about. Among Nyles’s vast array of contributions to the Bay Area’s ever evolving cultural/musical/political/social landscapes that all portrays an extensive variety of talents—his more confessional and interpersonal works are reserved for his own solitary acoustic/electric guitar sketches, mixed with a healthy dose of 808s, coupled by an arrangement of dusty vinyl groove samples. Following up his previous two solo releases, Chemical Friends and Pressure; Falling Inside depicts an inward descent into the self where the insular experiences of the unconscious meet the new technocratic changes and challenges that reflects an understated—but deep understanding of the new shifts in reality that each passing day brings.

Presenting the world premiere of n. Lannon’s Christopher Coats directed video for, “Kill All These Machines”, off the forthcoming album; we are privy to a cautionary tale on the ruinous side effects of how technology can initiate a communication breakdown toward even the most passionate lovers. In Coats video we see a couple that are gradually drawn toward a more insular space on accounts of mobile diversions of convenience, rather than being drawn toward each other. Cross-sections of modern deco settings with nods toward contemporary futurism are brought into the frame and space between Nyles, his disaffected opposite, and the flashing jukebox-light glow are cut across images of awkward moments together (yet detached, and untogether), at their chic styled home, or by the beach—all met with diversions. As Lannon’s chords become increasingly consumed by the electronic based production, the strangeness between the two are seen with with bear and bunny heads that adds some oddness to the sentimental separations. As all ends well with a living room round of ballroom dancing, we were delighted to catch up with one of the Bay’s local heroes in our interview with Nyles Lannon that immediately follows the video debut of, “Kill All These Machines”.

Walk us through the making of your new album, Falling Inside, and the progression from your previous albums, Chemical Friends and Pressure.

Every album ends up having its own challenges. They have all been different in their own ways. Chemical Friends was essentially a break-up record that evolved into a finding-new-love record, it was cathartic during a difficult and beautiful time. Pressure was totally different — it was after Film School had been doing a lot of touring, and I was feeling really restless and having a bit of an identity crisis with my music. In some ways, it was a typical sophomore album — trying to figure out where to take my songwriting, exploring other lyrical topics, trying to prove myself. It was very challenging, some of it worked and some of it didn’t, and there are things about Pressure that I wish I could do over. But, looking back, I think the experience of that album was an important one for me.

Right after Pressure came out, everything started to change. My wife and I had a son, then we moved, I built a new studio, we had a daughter… the list goes on…I needed to figure a lot of things out and I needed to grow up a little bit. Falling Inside basically follows me through this time of change. It’s been a long time since Pressure, and I’m in a totally different place creatively and emotionally. I don’t really question what I’m trying to do anymore, I don’t have that ‘luxury’ really! But the album feels right, like it needs to be exactly what it is, and it captures so much of these last few years: the anxieties, the ups and downs, the beauty, the tedium. Not just in relation to being a dad; its about so many different aspects of my life. I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to put it out there.

How do you find your solo work has been affected by your work in Sacred Caves, and Film School?

Over these last few years, I’ve learned the best thing for me with writing is to keep moving forward and not get too precious about anything, especially if you are trying to make a living in this nutty industry. I try to just keep writing stuff and then figure out the right context for it after the fact, and sometimes I don’t even know where it will land when I am working on it. Having different projects allows for a lot more creative flow in this way. You can just let the music be what it wants to be instead of trying to make it fit into a certain cubby hole.

I’m bouncing ideas off friends all the time, and I’ve found this often leads to good things. Or it can be the death knell for an idea. And that is okay! The point is to keep moving and not get stuck. And maybe the idea find a home somewhere else down the line. I try to keep this flow going, and that leads to a lot of different projects and a lot of music being made.

My solo stuff, in my mind, has certain place and mood. Sacred Caves occupies another distinctly different energy and mood, and Film School really is more of a full band collaboration where I’m rarely writing on my own. And I have other projects: The Great Fires should have something coming out later this year (with Odessa Chen) that is more of a pop thing, and another project called Total Brightness (with Alex Kemp) falls into Beck Sea Change territory…and I have others…all these projects have been brewing for a while really and will see the light of day when they are ready. They all reflect different sides of my writing.

What feels different for you in your solo song compositions versus your work in your other groups?

I never sit down and say, ‘I’m now going to write an N.Lannon song.’ They just pop out sometimes and I realize, oh, that’s an N.Lannon song, what d’ya know. I guess the songs are more interpersonal, confessional, closer to home. It’s always something I write on the acoustic guitar, come to think of it. And things seem to have a dreamy feel in composition as well as lyric. It’s a vibe I guess!

What was it like making the vibrant video for “Kill All These Machines”, with director Christopher Coats, and how do you feel it furthers the motifs at work in the song?

The video was really fun to make with Chris. He has such a positive, ‘can do’ mentality. We had to work through a ton of obstacles in a limited amount of time, and he totally pulled it off. We had to find a different actress and new location within a day of the shoot! He just finds a way to make things work and rolls with it. We are both huge Twin Peaks/David Lynch fans so we really bonded over that and tried to bring that out in the video with these symmetrical sets and a lot of backwards film—think of the famous dream scene with the little man backwards-talking and dancing in Twin Peaks. The song is really about what technology is doing to us, how it is affecting our relationships to each other and to the earth. We see a couple no longer relating to each other, feeling lost in a world they no longer recognize, nostalgic for the time before cell phones and constant distraction took hold. We had fun translating that into a pretty strange and light-hearted video.

How has San Francisco affected your approaches to song composition and sounds?

Ah, San Francisco. I don’t even know where to begin. I love the hybrid of folk and psychedelic music, its so deeply organic and cathartic. Growing up around here and playing music, I feel like it was the norm to appreciate psychedelic music as a part of our musical heritage. It will always be a part of me, even if my music isn’t overtly psychedelic. It’s more subtle usually in my music of course. But I like to always keep one foot in the dreamy in all my music.

And I still love the Grateful Dead no matter what people say! American Beauty is a classic album and its been around me since I was about four years old. I also just find the story of SF, the folklore, so fascinating — not just the music scene of the late 60s and Ken Kesey, The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, and all that, but Jim Jones, Manson, Hells Angels, the assassination of Moscone, and Milk, on and on. It was so extreme. Colorful, scary, sad, idealistic, completely nuts. Its crazy to think how different SF is now.

Favorite SF/Bay Artists you want to give a shout out to?

Certain bands/friends are just so supportive. It always comes down to that. My friends in Halou (and also their other incarnation Stripmall Architecture) are just so amazing. Sister Crayon — Terra Lopez is incredible. Also the cover art by Laura Plageman, design by her husband Ammon Haggerty…both friends of mine, devoting their art and time. Count, who lives in Oakland, helped me mix and so did Alex Kemp (he’s in LA), both good buddies. And there are so many others that push me along. So grateful to have these friends, it just means everything.

What’s next in the works for you this spring, and summer?

First is to play some shows to support this album, then Film School has an EP coming out, after a long hiatus! And I hope to follow that with more this year… just keep going, going, going.

n. Lannon’s Falling Inside will be available June 23 from Badman Recording Co.

Negative Gemini

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Lindsey French, aka Negative Gemini released her Real Virtual Unison EP this week, and joined us for a conversation about her latest electro pop experimentation productions. The call for an IRL virtual reality united by URL binary codes begins the opening title track, spilling r n’ b blips of beats before hitting you square on the head with the tomorrow crushing, “Forget Your Future”. Valentines are sent via drum and base variations on, “Red Rose”, leaving you with the digital wave coast embrace, “Hold U”. Join us after the jump, for our interview with Lindsey on all her latest happenings.

Tell us about how the move from Richmond, VA to Queens affected you musically, creatively, and personally.

It was a life changing thing for me. I’ve lived in VA most of my life. At first it was a devastating feeling to start over here as a musician. I felt intimidated and inadequate but after a while I realized that was wrong. We don’t have too many venues where I’m from, and not really any that specifically cater to electronic/dance/house music, so I am in heaven here. You can find things on the internet no matter where you live, but being in the thick of something is different, it’s much more real and so it validates what I want to do.

Give us the story on how Negative Gemini began for you.

I was actually in a rap group before this, with my friends. They taught me how to use Logic. We had a lot of fun but things didn’t work out and I think I ended up being the only one super stoked on playing shows and stuff. I really missed singing and I wanted my next thing to be genuine and less of a jokey party thing. So I started making all these emotional songs kind of unloading all the stuff that had actually happened for the past few years. It was nice to have control over everything, I’m bad.

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“Forget Your Future” still has feeling absolutely shelled and devastated in this alternate, anxious dystopian future kind of way. Tell us about what the experience of making Real Virtual Unison was like for you.

That is such a funny and perfect way to describe my first album (Forget Your Future). So making the new EP was fun because I was going through some terrifying but positive changes and it got to reflect in my whole musical vibe. Also, I’m just learning about production as I go and this was my first attempt at creating a more clear and diverse sound than before. I usually have to go crazy and over-design something before I can start over for real and end up with something succinct. So hopefully this is me moving in that direction.

What else in the works for Lindsey French and Negative Gemini, any collaborations, big moves in the cards?

I’ve already got the next EP almost ready to go. I have so much music! I’m just excited to put out a lot of releases this year. I’m trying to play as many shows as I can.

The most under-appreciated NYC artist right now in your opinion?

Mirror Kisses, ESPRIT 空想.

Real Virtual Unison is available now.

Dear Blanca

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Dylan Dickerson’s band, Dear Blanca followed up their 2013 album, Talker, with Pobrecito for Post-Echo, and we got a chance today to catch up with a Dylan for an interview round. A group Dickerson named dearly to honor the memory of his grandmother; Dear Blanca’s Pobrecito was a 2014 sleeper album of catchy and personal vignettes that captured the DIY spirit of the south. Songs like “Showplace” are like shop windows of the heart, “what are you doing to me” ballads on, “Noma”, the laidback, “Huff”, the punky poetics on, “Priscilla”, the curtain raising anthem of the title track, dueting and swaying along in, “On The Dime”, to the organ and drum lead closer, “Cadmus”. The single and video for “Boulders” directed by Adam Siler and starring Steven Anthony Lawrence has grabbed ears and eyes to the soapbox steamroller world of Dear Blanca, and you can read our interview with Dylan, right after the following video.

Tell us how Dear Blanca started back in 2011.

Marc (our drummer) and I have been playing together since tenth grade. Our first band dissolved shortly after we moved to Columbia, SC for college. I spent some time playing as a one-man-band with guitar, kick drum and hi-hat but soon got back together with Marc and started prepping the songs for Talker.

What was the making of Pobrecito like, and how did you find it different from 2013’s Talker?

Both Talker and Pobrecito were recorded by our friend Bo White of Charlotte, NC. DB evolved quite a bit between both records though. When we recorded Talker, we were a two-piece with Bo serving as the unofficial third member by writing horn/string arrangements and playing some piano, organ, guitar, and several of the bass parts. When we went in to record Pobrecito, we had solidified the lineup as a four piece and Bo was able to focus more on engineering with less of a hands-on approach. All the keyboards on Pobrecito were played by Bo though. Everything else was played by Cam, Marc, Dayne and myself aside from the musical saw on “Noma” and lap steel on “On The Dime”.

Give us a view into some of the song writing methods of Dear Blanca.

I tend to write the skeleton of the songs before showing them to the rest of the band. Just guitar and vocals mostly. I rarely come to them with many ideas in mind for what they should play. I think of them as the perfect musicians to accompany these songs and love hearing how the songs grow with their contributions.

What’s the story behind the album name, Pobrecito?

Pobrecito essentially means ‘poor little thing.’ It’s something my grandmother (Blanca) used to call me. It seemed like a fitting title considering some of the lyrical themes on the album.

There has been much talk already about the lead single-video for, “Boulders”, directed by Adam Siler, featuring Steven Anthony Lawrence breaking things. What’s the story behind the song, “Boulders”, and how did the video adaptation come about?

“Boulders” is about trying to reclaim the childlike enthusiasm that can get lost as the hurdles of adulthood leave us jaded. I asked Steven Anthony Lawrence to star in the video on a whim. To my surprise he was really responsive and just an extremely nice person. Our drummer Marc came up with a loose plot for the video and Adam expanded on the idea and just absolutely blew us away once we saw the finished product. Adam was the first new friend I made when I moved to Columbia, SC. Now he’s doing incredible work in film out in California. This was the first opportunity the two of us had to collaborate creatively in a long time, and I’m really glad we were able to make it work.

What do you all have planned for your spring and summer tours?

We will be in Durham, NC next month recording a new album with Scott Solter who has recorded St. Vincent, Spoon, The Mountain Goats and a lot of other great acts. Bo White actually turned us on to him and we’re really excited to camp out in his studio and hammer out these songs. We plan to tour as heavily as possible as soon as we get out of the studio.

Other S. Carolina indie artists and groups that you feel the entire world needs to hear?

There are quite a few that I feel that way about but I’ll try to make a concise list. ET Anderson is one of my favorite groups right now. We did a short tour with them in January and they are about to do some east coast dates with Ava Luna (Brooklyn, NY). The first ET show ever was with Dear Blanca, Ava Luna and Celestial Shore at a house here in Columbia. Another SC artist that I admire is Trey Mumz — a close friend that recently moved to Asheville, NC and released his newest record Southern Gossip. Trey actually wrote the last verse of “A-HA” from Talker and a few lines in the title track from Pobrecito. We swap ideas with each other a lot and his writing consistently inspires me.

Dear Blanca’s album Pobrecito is available now from Post-Echo.

Red Pill

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Detroit’s Red Pill dropped the album, Look What This World Did To Us via Mello Music Group, sharing some exclusive words with us, offering an inside listen. The boredom and ennui is observerd on the sleepy-eyed opener, “Meh”, the morning cut, “That’s Okay”, pondering what and who the world is meant for, k’vetching about on, “Rap Game Cranky”, the sunny day swirling production of hope, “Windows”, thoughts on growing up on, “Kids”, and exhaling, “Smoke Rings”. Giving you real stories from the D, dissapointments break all delusions on, “Leonard Letdown”, e-cig late night feelings and vapors via, “Blus”, the push to break out of broke situations on, “Rum & Coke”, words of warning that make up, “Drown”, the title track and testament, before closing the blinds on the finale, “10 Year Party”. Check out Red Pill’s exclusive thoughts on the new album, following the listen.

My approach has always been to say something profound in the simplest terms. Lyricism in hip hop has become synonymous with over the top technical abilities; multi-syllabic rhymes, hidden wordplay, innovative patterns and schemes. I’m a fan of those qualities and pride myself on my ability to utilize them as well, but being “lyrical” can be reduced to simply expressing emotion in an imaginative way. So with “Look What This World Did to Us”, that was my only goal. I wanted to to be as minimalistic, as raw and as straightforward as possible in conveying my story. People talked about Charles Bukowski, one of the album’s influences, as being a writer who “didn’t have time for metaphor”. He wrote plainly, but that was where he found style. What was compelling about him, and what I also try to do, is that he cut to the chase in his writing. He wrote things as they were, or at least how he saw them. He made writing look easy. He made the reader wish they had thought of writing down the obvious observations about life, work, society and relationships that he made. And that’s the genius of it. So when working on “Look What This World Did to Us”, I tried to borrow from that ability to skip the glossing over of life and cut down to the very personal, vulnerable part of who I am and what I think. And in terms of Detroit, I think there’s a parallel between raw, straightforward writing and the city. It’s a no frills town. There’s nothing glamorous about Detroit, we don’t have many celebrities, the sun only shines half the year, but there’s an incredible story here. Not having the distractions of a city like LA, or New York, having been hit harder than almost any area by the recession, these things make it easy to focus on the simplicity of life. And that’s impossible to ignore as a writer from the area. This isn’t a Detroit album, but it’s a story of someone from Detroit.

Helping to break the boredom of your day to day malaise; peep Red Pill’s video for the Jay Brown directed video for “Rap Game Cranky”.

Red Pill’s Look What This World Did To Us is available now from Mello Music Group

Mittenfields

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Power rock your way into the new solstice, and embrace the changing of the season with some chunky power chords from Mittenfields, as they shred the away in the video for “Optimists”, off their upcoming album available April 28. The band’s own Dave Mann sent us a few following words about the optimistic inspirations behind, “Optimism”, the video, and their upcoming album debut:

The album had a different title lined up that didn’t really resonate well with the band as a whole. Donald Seale suggested that we just name the album Optimists (after the song that is now the title track) and after he pitched that, it was a no-brainer. With the exception of the best looking guy in the band, Brian, we are a band made up of white, old guys. We have been in and out of the studio for the last three years. The first session we booked when we started the recording process for the LP had some tracks that aren’t even on the record. We scrapped them in hopes of getting our sound tighter and having a more developed sound than what we had on our EP. I’d like to think we achieved that. When the odds are against you in a world that is always trying to reinvent the wheel, musically speaking, being optimists is the safest bet.

Regarding the video — there was no rhyme or reason behind that. Ryan and Brendan (the directors) was in control of the helm at all times. #prosonly

Them Things

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UK’s Them Things provided a listen to their psyched out single, “Astronauts” ahead of it’s L.O.O.S.E. Music / Manimal Group release. With an album available later this summer that follow’s their Good Weird EP, the lads make music that feel like wading through smoky-fog marshes in the twilight as a full moon’s light slowly beams down upon the populous. Beware of the two minute point, where the entire atmosphere changes into something completely un-caged and unchained and ominous. Them Things’ Louis Adams discussed a bit about the space exploring experimentation that informed, “Astronauts”, giving us some notes on the making of their upcoming album:

The experimentation lies mainly around the structure. As a band who normally made conventional pop structured songs we ended up throwing that out the window here. It came from a sample Ilya made with imperfections you sometimes hear in music. It’s all accounted for the ‘glitchy’ sounding beat that rolls into a full on mortar fire of drumming towards the end. The track has ended up being a symbolic bastard that’s broken the leash of what’s considered ‘usual’ songwriting. For us anyway.

Our hero Oddisee delivered the Brandon Black and Zack Schamberg video for “Counter-Clockwise”, turning a reverse walk through NYC, transforming day into night, and night into day. Oddisee’s new joint, The Good Fight will be available May 5 from Mello Music Group. Oddisee’s production and verses together push ahead, with an ear to the past titans of arrangement and poetics to create a timeless feel.

Our friends from Providence, Rhode Island Malportado Kids, aka Victoria Ruiz and Joey La Neve DeFrancesco from Downtown Boys (who are preparing the release of their album, Full Communism), take their mantra of misbehaving to switching up everything you knew about South American dance customs on the cosmic witch revolution of, “Bruja Cosmic”, off the forthcoming, Total Cultura available in June from Dead Labour. Experience more of Victoria and Joey’s amazing taste in everything with their recent exclusive Week in Pop guest curation.

From Young Fathers’ Big Dada album, White Men Are Black Men Too; watch the Jeremy Cole video that follows Joshua Hubbard along a dangerous, self-destructive road to the tune of the Fathers’ spirit inspiring track, “Shame”.

From the smooth cool sounds of Turn To Crime; hear the title track, “Actions,” taken off the forthcoming album of the same name available April 28 from Mugg & Bopp. The sound of your favorite melodramatic moments from various vintage modernist cinema asks and slyly demands for that one thing that speaks louder, and greater than the empty vessels of words by themselves.

Get down with all the econo-techno-ish biz with your boy, Dinner who gives you a night out on the town in after-hours Berlin with “Going Out”, off the Three EPs, 2012-2014 available April 14 from Captured Tracks.

The latest from Raleigh, NC’s Boulevards; here the quick firing zap of synths and a funk that is designed according to the lesser known and heralded method of r n’ b and techno’s rarest, and most revered fusions. The future in the world of Boulevards is uncovering a forgotten cultural-aesthetic past revisited through tomorrow’s nu-tek means.

Take a holy weekend off or two, with Jenny Hval’s sabbatical of sound, “Sabbath”, from her forthcoming, Apocalypse, girl, album available June 9 from Sacred Bones and Su Tissue in Norway. Jenny creates her own temple dedicated to anything and everything she so desires in the world, and the worlds beyond.

Get some synth club vibes and beach yearning production on, “Coastal Love” off HONNE’s upcoming Coastal Love, available May 4, via their own label Tatemae.

Ben Browning of Cut Copy releases his solo LP debut, Turns later this summer, and until then he invites you to kick back, take ten, take it easy, go easy on yourself, easy like Sunday morning on the bright bouncing pop treat, “Make It Easy”. The world suddenly feels a little nicer, and all of a sudden all problems feel not so daunting, and life is a little easier once again.

Music for sunrises, breakfasts, brunches, and best of friends; CAPPA brings out the big bright sun-pop guns on the track that is titled like the essence it best resembles on the single off her upcoming May slated EP — “In The Morning”.

Presenting a cover of “Astronomy Domine” (originally from Syd Barrett’s o.g. Pink Floyd); Memory In Plant takes on the great heavy psych wonder, where portions and sections will strike you with a heaviness unfound on the original. Listen, buy the ticket, and take the operation-interstellar overdrive ride.

From Frank Nitt’s Frankie Rothstein available May 26 from Fat Beats Records, check out the slapper, “Slippin'”, featuring his Yancey Boys bro, Illa J with some of that J. Rocc production. Dropping a soliloquy, Nitt drops some tight knit verses about some loose folks over a hypnotic mix of vibes and subdued beats.

Zuli, aka Ryan Camenzuli, formerly from Wild International gave us good time wishing nod toward greater and better times with, “Better All The Time” from the forthcoming, Supernatural Voodoo EP available May 5. A soup of synths give way to a rocking horse chair rocker that rocks back and forth like the pendulum between the best times, and the greatest of times.

Directed by Ghost, and produced by The Colleagues; peep Woop’s video for, “Drugs”, featuring YG Ivy, bringing some visions and vibes from the hedonistic side of West Orlando.

In case you missed it, hear TAPES’ remix of Joy’s “Stone” that melts the pebbles, boulders, and cobblestones into rhythmic/alchemy gold.

White Reaper declared the forthcoming new album, White Reaper Does It Again, available July 17 from Polyvinyl, and you can get an early listen with the quick paced, rollicking death wish delight of, “Make Me Wanna Die”.

Catch the Parisian breeze from Onra’s joyriding fancy free single, “We Ridin'” that features Daz Dillinger and Oliver Daysoul, from the forthcoming album, Fundamentals, available May 15 from the Dublin imprint, All City Records.

From Vows’ Soon Enough Love album available May 29 from Section Sign Records; hear the big ear treats of some fresh, Burlington, Vermont bop on the dulcet sweet pop of, “Candy”.

Part Time return with news of a double album titled, Virgo’s Maze, available soon from Burger Records, sharing the slacker love sick suite, “Fallin’ 4 U”, soaked in the retro radio psychedlia you love David Loca for. Here you trip from the threshold of lost-45 groove grandeur, that dips into the deep end of what sounds like a lysergic Tex Avery cartoon.

Providing some summer rock riots for spring, check out Bonnie Bloomgarden and her band Death Valley Girls as they pile on the attitude, and search for perpetual sunshine on, “Summertime”. Find Bonnie and the gang touring from April 21 through May 25.

Available May 4 from SideOneDummy; hear/see Superheaven’s “I’ve Been Bored” that takes you on a tour through the highways, biways, ins, and outs of Pennsylvania, courtesy of Alex Henery & Lloyd Stas’s direction. Hey hey, my my; ripped denim alt. rock will never die.

In more SideOneDummy news; Timeshares busted out their pop punk alter-ego puppets on their John Komar video for, “The Bad Parts” off their upcoming album follow-up to 2011’s Bearable, Already Dead. The power, the hooks that could chime on for an infinity ring true as Jonathan “Fatman” Hernandez makes a case not to “forget the good parts, the way we do”, in a song that takes life’s good with the bad, with aspirations for possibling something better from this life.

While we await Jackson Scott to release his new solo album, Sunshine Redux, via Bloodmoss Records, available April 28; hear the frontal lobes warping-warbling wonder, “Ripe for Love”. Once again, Mr. Scott takes you through the analog warp zone into a time from long ago that you always imagined, but maybe never really existed until he dreamt it up in sound.

Hear the road trip racing single, “Black And White” from The Highway that sounds like a rebel outcast without a cause and on the run off the Brooklyn band’s upcoming album, Enter to Exit, available April 14.

Check out the visual treatment of abstract splashes of images, color, close ups, and orbs on Casey Pierce’s video for “Splinter”, from TORRES. Find this and more on their upcoming album available May 4 from Partisan Records.

From their May 12 album, Darling…It’s Too Late, available May 12 from Suicide Squeeze; get ready to get enraptured all over again with the good ol’ Guantanamo Baywatch gang, having their own nature side lau on the new-new doo-wop-popper, “Do What You Want”.

Icky Blossoms dropped the track, “Living In Fiction”, sending some snazzed up sound and dirtied up synths, and soul scanning vocals from their forthcoming album, Mask available May 12 from Saddle Creek.

Peep the dramatic Oskar Wrangö video for Pim Stones’ “We Have It All”, that takes the big stage baroque to big, high soaring, spectacular visual heights. Find this on the upcoming EP of the same name.

Watch Hayden perform “Troubled Times” live at the Toronto venue, Aunties & Uncles, from his Arts & Crafts released album, Hey Love. Acoustic strings thumb through pages of memories, while striking sentimental strings known best by the wandering troubadour.

It’s no secret that the entire Northwest is all a-buzz about the new Iji record, Whatever Will Happen, available June 2 from the indie imprint extraordinaire, Team Love Records, and we are excited to bring you the excitement of, “Hard 2 Wait”. Reminiscing and reflecting is rolled up into a fantasia of desires that have kept the indie rock world waiting patiently on the edge of their seats for.

Iji’s Week in Pop

iji week in pop 1
While we anticipate the arrival of Iji’s Whatever Will Happen album from Team Love Records, we are proud to present Zach Burba’s guest curation of  his own Week in Pop:

Seattle Composition Club, “Exquisite Corpse Piece”

Maybe you’ve played the drawing game, Exquisite Corpse, where you fold a sheet of paper many times and different people draw a head, body and legs. My friends and I have a composition club in Seattle where we meet once a month and decide on a prompt for some sort of musical piece to work on. This month we decided to do a musical version of Exquisite Corpse where one of us makes a 30 second piece and then sends it to the next person who adds 30 seconds to it, then sends off only their 30 seconds to the next person to add to. The order of artists on this one was Briana Marela, Me, Gordan Baker, Jacob Jaffe, Geoff Traeger.

Sick Sad World, “Orange Lazarus”

This video’s been out for a while but just this week they announced that this record “Fear and Lies” is finally coming out. Jake and Curan from Sick Sad World are both in iji these days. Get ready to loose it when you see Jake Jones ride into the room on a motorcycle and then play one of the best guitar solos ever laid to 4 track.

Badlands, “Deep Black”

Adrian Tenney makes some of the most creative and passionate homemade music out there. Badlands came through Seattle this month and just strait up blew everyone I know’s mind. They put out this new tape and Deep Black is my fav song so far.

Michael Hurley, “Open Up”

Last week I got to see Michael Hurley play at the neighborhood hang-out zone Cafe Racer. The legendary old time songwriter, illustrator and supreme goof, sat at the bar until late with a few of us and kept pretending that his beer was a ham sandwich.

Mega Bog, “Gone Banana”

Erin Birgy is one of the weirdest and most important friends I’ve ever had. We worked really hard a new Mega Bog album this year before she took off on tour. Hopefully that will be out soon! I believe she’s arriving in her new home, New York City, right now. Listen for her iconic chuckle at 3 a.m. on the Staten Island Ferry.

Shaggy Sample, “No Do”

This tape came out a handful of months ago but I’ve listened to it nearly every day since. Peep some of David Jaberi from Shaggy’s other records from the past few years too like “Front Of House” by Davey and “Safe Space” by Jaberi and Deutsch.

“Blue” Gene Tyranny, “Next Time Might Be Your Time”

Deep and real magic. Will Murdoch who plays in iji as well as Pill Wonder and Mega Bog played me this song last year. It’s become one of the most important tunes in my recent life. Blue Gene played piano for legendary multi-media experimenter Robert Ashley. Peter Gordon (Love Of Life Orchestra, Arthur Russell and Laurie Anderson session guy) can be heard playing Sax on the track. Follow this 8 minutes through to the end. Your gonna flip out when it kicks into double-gear.

iji week in pop 2

Mandarin Dynasty, “Gull”

I got the chance to produce this record “Feedback Time” for my friend Mike Sherk about 2.5 years ago. It’s been tied up in email hell ever since but is finally finished and ready for release this spring. Mike and I worked 20 hours a day for a week strait in my basement trying out every bad idea we could think of. We’re musically each others most dangerous indulgence-enablers. This is a truly weird album.

The Roches, “No Trespassing”

You can probably find this 4 song LP in a dollar bin at your local record store. When you do find it, bring it home, invite all of your friends over, turn out all the lights and turn it up loud. Jump on the couch to track 1. Sit on the floor and cry to track 2. Flip the record and repeat.

Key Losers, “Ancient Plain”

Outlet mall classic from Katy Davidson (Key Losers / Dear Nora / Lloyd and Michael). All of Katy’s music speaks to me like a burning bush. Key Losers “Adjust” tape is my #1 mini-van spin, and my #1 mini-van is a pearl 1999 Toyota Sienna named “Beautiful”.

Iji’s Whatever Will Happen will be available June 2 from Team Love Records.

Follow Iji on Twitter.

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