Week in Pop: Big Bill, Dru Barnes, Step Sisters, Superflower, TW Walsh

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Barleaux, Jae Franklin, Stronger Sex, Syvia, Tropical Horses, Witching Waves, ft. guestLushlife.

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Sjimon Gompers | February 5, 2016

Catching up with Dru Barnes; photographed by Alberto Milazzo.

Catching up with Dru Barnes; photographed by Alberto Milazzo.

Willfully avoiding the Super Bowl press hype, Impose’s Week in Pop presents a set of superstars to cheer for, with some of the week’s big headlines: Kanye & Wiz have squashed their beef, Yeezy dropped more deets about Waves, clarified that the album is indeed not the greatest album of all time but “ONE” of the greatest of all time, and revealed that his upcoming album “don’t have a name yet”; our good buddy London O’Connor crashed the BBC Radio 1 party; Animal Collective dropped the single “Lying in the Grass”; Anthony Gonzalez is seeking a female keyboardist-singer for M83; Future to drop his new album EVOL February 6, shared “Fly Shit Only”; Young Thug expressed adoration for Lil Wayne, might have dissed Future, Future responded, Twitter beef ensues, I’m Up could be new title for Slime Season 3 available today; Potty Mouth announced winter tour dates spanning February 22 through March 5; Parquet Courts announced their new album Human Performance available April 8 from Rough Trade, dropped the video for “Dust”; Holy Ghost! dropped title track off their Crime Cutz EP; Primal Scream dropped video for “Where The Light Gets In” ft. Sky Ferreira off Chaosmosis available March 18 from First International; Bill Corgan is making a documentary about America; Deftones announced new album Gore, shared “Prayers / Triangles”; Trevor Powers announced that Youth Lagoon will be “no more”; Azealia Banks not charged for alleged security guard assault at LA club Break Room 86; Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig supports Bernie Sanders; Adele versus Trump; GOP candidate John Kasich will reunite Pink Floyd if he gets elected into the presidential office; Martin “Pharma Bro” Shkreli pleaded the fifth to nearly everything during a Congressional hearing over drug pricing (including Trey Gowdy’s inquiry over the purchase of Wu-Tang’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin); and we mourn the loss of DJ Big Kap, the loss of Jon Bunch, and the passing of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White.

As we continue to cheer on our own world champions, it is our pleasure and privilege to present the following breaking exclusives and insights from Big Bill, Dru Barnes, Step Sisters, Superflower, TW Walsh, Barleaux, Jae Franklin, Stronger Sex, Syvia, Tropical Horses, Witching Waves, The Bilinda Butchers, Cassandra Violet, Exray’s, Emotional, Happenin Records, Murals, We Are Temporary, featuring guest selections by Lushlife, and more—in no particular order.

Dru Barnes

Dru Barnes

The talented Dru Barnes, photographed by Alberto Milazzo.

The other week we had honor of debuting “Jean-Michel” from Jamaica by Brooklyn’s Dru Barnes (formerly of the duo JOGYO) where the artist pays homage to Basquiat in haunted nu-trap disciplines that feature his refrain of “I stay fresh like Jean-Michel.” His upcoming album Silent Light available May 6 from Dither Down Records was made after surviving a brutal and senseless attack that nearly took his life, losing his left eye in the incident. Working with producer Taavi Haapala, Barnes illustrates sounds that rise up from the bleak void that embrace the artists that influence the creative pulse and drive that engaging art inspires. Fascinated by Dru’s own audio approaches and life experiences, we had the opportunity to talk with Barnes about his new album, Basquiat’s art, life, inspirations, and much more in the following discussion.

Tell us about moving from your duo JOGYO to flying solo under your own name.

When I started JOGYO, it came from an inspired space, and it was the same when I ended it.
There’s no logical reason other than it felt like the right thing to do. My work has its own legs and I do my best to follow.

After surviving such a devastating attack, what sorts of transformations and enlightenment have you discovered along the path of healing and transcendence?

The amount of love and support I received from people all around the world humbled me. Any enlightenment I found was rooted in a deep understanding that love was the only reality. I became hyperconscious of my mission to bring that to the world through my music. It’s been said where there’s love fear can not exist and in that way, I definitely left my body and a part of me never returned.

Interested too in hearing about working with Taavi Haapala on your first album Silent Light.

When Taavi first approached me to work with him we didn’t connect musically. We met in a Buddist center, Eventually we began chanting together, it allowed things to happen on a Kinetic level. When I decided to co-produce with Taavi, I knew that he could follow the vibration I was experiencing after my N.D.E [near death experience]. We’d chant for an hour then start working, the music was channeled, at times the energy in the studio was thick, other times disorienting, but it worked for us we both felt totally free to create.

Dru Barnes Silent Light Cover week in pop 2

How do you describe your approach to your solo work, versus your work in JOGYO?

JOGYO is a direct extension of my work as a sound artist. My intention with that work was to bridge conceptual art and dance music. I’m not as focused on dance music currently. I’m not at all focused on genre or labels when it comes to music or art. I think there’s been a shift in culture where that’s allowed.

Love your single “Jean Michel”, was wondering how his message of “create art on your own terms” inspired you and influenced you, along with Basquiat’s own works as well?

Jean Michel was ahead of his time. He understood the space he held as an artist and used it to purposely shift culture. I believe his energy is still available to us, and I connect to him almost daily, he’s like a saint or Christ figure in my mind.

Dru Barnes' ode to Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Dru Barnes’ ode to Jean-Michel Basquiat.

“Creating Art On Your Own Terms” means to be okay with being undefined or misunderstood. It’s a way to allow the people That the work was created for find you on their own terms.

What works of visual, audio art, literature, film, and more have you been appreciating as of late?

The Carol Walker Exhibit at M.O.M.A is pretty dope. I’ve also been vibing a lot to Raury’s Indigo Child EP. I’ve definitely been thirsty for something fresh to happen in the art world, but to quote John Cage, “everything You Do is Music and Everywhere is the Best Seat,” so I stay open.

Focuses and philosophies for 2016?

2016 is really bright. I’ve been hearing that and feeling that. I also do my best to stay out of the business of having a future. You could say that’s my philosophy.

Dru Barnes’ upcoming album Silent Light will be available May 6 from Dither Down Records.

Jae Franklin

Jae Franklin; photographed by Nabeela Huda.

Jae Franklin; photographed by Nabeela Huda.

This past week Jae Franklin released her Cheers to Life EP and we present you with both a listen and a conversation with the artist. Influenced by her world travels who draws inspirations from various locales from Korea, Ethiopia, United Arab Emirates, to stateside sounds; Jae embraces the various arts and approaches she has observed and experienced and incorporates them as facets of her own ever evolving styles in earnest. Drawing from global and personal experiences, Franklin illustrates her songs to spring forth from the journal pages to soar to new heights, new lives, and freshly realized essences of being.

The flight toward future days and a plethora of new tomorrows takes off with the opening life toast of “Higher” that sets the stage and tone of the EP with an expressive and unbound beauty. Jae’s songs mix the happiness with the hurt, the triumphs with the tribulations that together create an experience that couples aspects of lovers rock with electronic threads of world learned elements that creates a fully engaged sound. Jet setting sentimentality strikes true with dub inflected rhythms and brass on “Costa Biscaya”, to bathing in the ethereal realm of “Ronnie’s Theory”, mixing the globally minded hearts with the galactic shine of “inteRstellaR”, to the love note piano kissed committed cut of dedication and unwavering persistence and permanence on the romantic “Always Needed You”. Notions of deity and spiritual leanings and healing are heralded in the celestial sun shone beams of “Creator’s Hands”, to the stripped down reckoning of sadness, reality, and hope on “Weary”, right before the closing cut “Ordinary Things” brings everything full circle that reminds us all that the “ordinary things can be the most beautiful…” Stay with us after the Cheers To Life listen for our interview with Jae Franklin.

From your travels through the States, Korea, to UAE; how have you found these experiences and migrations have impacted the dimensions and depths of your sounds?

My parents played soul, jazz, classical and r&b music in the house when I was younger. My sis, Judith, and I were exposed to all types of music. It’s funny because it was like my destiny was predetermined by the type of environment in which I was raised. My love of music began at a young age and funneled into my adult life. I always search for music. It’s like I am hungry for it. Everywhere I live I have to find music and the people who are creating it. No matter where I live I find myself being drawn to people who have a love for the arts whether it’s an expression of poetry, music, visual art, photography, or even fashion design. My eyes and ears were exposed to even more music genres from the first few weeks I lived in Ethiopia. Living abroad, you have to embrace new cultures. Now, I’m always running into these eclectic, open-minded creative types of people who share a passion for music. I hear different styles of music almost every day in a live and direct way. You can’t help but be inspired hearing someone playing an oud or gayageum. When I hear those sounds, I want to incorporate them into my music. My new album, Cheers to Life, is the perfect example of what I like to call future soul. It’s multi-dimensional and a hybrid of soul and electronic elements. You can definitely hear worldly influences on the album.

Describe the life affirming testaments and testimonials that informed your album Cheers To Life.

Humanity and community greatly affected me while I wrote the songs on Cheers to Life. Some songs I wrote did not make the album, but they were directly influenced by the social and global issues that persist today. In the three years it took to wrap up the album from writing the first song to signing off on the album artwork, I was directly affected by loss and unspeakable joy. Like everyone else in the world, I had to deal with the highs and lows of life. Life has a way of throwing curveballs when we least expect them. Three years ago, I kept getting knocked down. Month after month, I kept experiencing major life events that shook me. I began to wonder what was happening. I didn’t understand why these things were happening to me and I almost didn’t recognize myself. That’s when I found refuge in writing about my experiences. Day after day, I journaled and put it all on paper. It was my therapy. As I wrote I noticed that I became stronger and I gained clarity. My relationships had more purpose and my purpose became refined. I began to heal. I’m actually still healing. That’s the beautiful part of this whole process. When I sing the songs on the album, I’m actually attached to every lyrics because they come from an honest place. One thing I know for sure is that adversity is inspiring. Through adversity, we are able to pick ourselves back up and gain the strength we need to move forward. In some of my most challenging situations, I’ve discovered that when it’s all said and done, I’m mentally stronger and my perspective about life shifts a little more.

What was the writing, arranging, and production process like during the making of this album?

The process was majority technologically-based. I worked with a number of producers around the world and we shared files through Dropbox, WeTransfer and Gmail. It was more like I would send a vocal recording to a producer. The producer would build around the vocals and send ideas back to me. We collaborated this way and it worked well for us. The producers and I had worked together in some capacity in previous collaborations so they understood my vision and knew my general style. We pushed each other with new ideas and respected each other throughout the process. It’s amazing how a whole album can come together this way.

What have you been obsessively listening to/binge watching/reading/etc so far this year?

I’ve been constantly listening to a song called Vultures by Vaults. I connect to it because the music is beautiful, lyrics are amazing, melodies are yummy, and the singer’s tone is layered and distinct. I’ve also been listening to one of my favorite bands called David Beats Goliath. My friend, George, is the lead singer and he writes most of their songs. Their lyrics are so thoughtful. My fave song of theirs is Maise & Neville. The Compton album is in constant rotation. All in a Day’s Work and Talk About It are my favorites from the album. Distance by Emily King is one of my favorite songs. Her new album, The Switch, sounds like a rainbow. It’s so colorful. Laputa by Haitus Kaiyote is such a beautiful song and I listen to it at least once a day on the long rides from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. I’ve been binge watching all things VICE. Their content is enthralling. I just watched a VICE NEWS panel discussion from the World Economic Forum about government, privacy and technology. My favorite VICE-related series is called Noisey Atlanta. It’s about the trap in Atlanta. I just started listening to audiobooks this year. The current one I’m listening to is Between The World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates. I’m also re-reading Do Cool Sh*t by Miki Agrawal. It’s a great book about following your passion which should be inclusive of a CSR initiative. I’m also a d-i-y novice so I’ve been looking on IKEA and Pottery Barn hack websites to try and make home furnishings for half the cost. Haven’t made anything yet, but I plan to within the next month. I’ve also been following the good works of Humans of New York, Amnesty International and Race Forward. It’s my intention to use my music for good so I’m moved every time I see a movement or organization changing lives.

Projections, hopes, & missions for 2016?

I plan to travel internationally and regionally in the UAE to support my new album, Cheers to Life. After listening to the album, I hope everyone picks a few favorite songs and plays them over and over again. I hope they share ‘em with someone special. If they’re in pain, I hope this album heals them in some way. I also hope that Cheers to Life lifts their spirits and fills their hearts with joy. I also have some collaborations and future projects planned. I will definitely use my music as a platform to create awareness about social issues in 2016 and beyond.

Jae Franklin’s Cheers to Life EP is available now.

TW Walsh

The man, the myth, the legend; the great Mr. TW Walsh.

The man, the myth, the legend; the great Mr. TW Walsh.

You already know Boston, Masachusetts’ own TW Walsh as a songwriter, musician, producer, mastering engineer, and more formerly of Pedro the Lion, Headphones, The Soft Drugs, and more presents the world premiere of his home-made video for “Fundamental Ground”. This great pastiche montage for all of us that think Halloween should be celebrated all year long is off Walsh’s forthcoming album Fruitless Research available February 12 from Graveface Records. Songs of young rebels, life stories, counted blessings, meditations, foundations, and fundamental standings that play out in organic fashions with a close-to-home organic warmth.

TW Walsh’s video for “Fundamental Ground” features vintage videos compiled by label boss Ryan Graveface that combines images of spooky haunts and haunted creates from skull-faced motifs that create the feeling of traveling about a thrilling dark ride through a creepy mansion of ghouls, ghosts, fiends, and freakish looking friends. As Walsh pours out a host of sentimental reflective pop sentiments that are conveyed through drum machines, psychic-synth choices and slight specks of surface noise; you are treated to a fun house adventure where oddities lurk around every corner. As TW lights the corners of his memory spurned trajectory, Ryan takes the strangeness to a seemingly vacant looking estate full of demented zombie doctors, spiders with human heads, monsters that pop out of treasure boxes, crazy clowns, distorted mirrors, and other items seen underneath black light and night-visions scopes. As you meditate to Walsh’s “Fundamental Ground”, you too will seek a ground that is unobstructed from the likes of blood sucking freaks, vampires, a host of horror film-esque freaks and other creepy entities that spring forth from the nastiest nightmares around.

The one and only TW Walsh.

The one and only TW Walsh.

TW Walsh shared the following insights on the video, and his new album Fruitless Reasearch:

Ryan put this video together and I think it works perfectly. The album and song have an 80s cassette feel so it’s appropriate that these images were taken from old VHS commercials for haunted houses and stuff.

With this record, I threw the rulebook out the window, often starting a song with a drum pattern or a bassline. I built the arrangements up organically, often waiting until most of the music was done before coming up with a melody or lyrics. It went smoothly and the material came pretty easily. It’s a process I’ve monkeyed with before, but this is the first time it came together so well. Yuuki Matthews was able to take the songs across the finish line and help me create a more complex, realized result than I could have made on my own.

Ryan Graveface provided a few quick thoughts on the video as well:

I’m a man of predictable tastes and visions, this video encompasses most of them.

TW Walsh’s new album Fruitless Research will be available February 12 from Graveface Records.

Step Sisters

Step Sisters' brothers in arms; photographed by Elena Franklin.

Step Sisters’ brothers in arms; photographed by Elena Franklin.

Nashville quartet Step Sisters are readying the release of their Thick EP for February 26 and present us with the world premiere of their lyric video for “Dumb Love” that is the perfect addition for your next thrash-rock karaoke party. A jam brought into being in a warehouse-like setting of a brewery in the middle of the night, vocalist/bassist Matt Johanson, percussionist Nate Smith, along with guitarists & vocalists Adam Swafford & Clint Wilson bring about a sibling-esque bond codified by brash, crunchy chords and Southern steeped rhythm. Step Sisters’ passion for blazing chords and heavy as lead sound is a prime example of what keeps the entire world fascinated by the proliferation of Music City’s citizens that are committed to a craft of eternally intriguing electric visceral fury.

Step Sisters bring the big thunderous dumbed-up sound of “Dumb Love” full of earth smashing, teeth shattering smart licks and the biggest power chords the Nashville-four can muster. A song of pulling away from the paved texture paths of feigned hearts of emptiness commences with one of the biggest opening shred-fests that you probably haven’t heard since 1996 where a minute and 10 seconds pass before the lyrics spill forth. Amorous meetings in the obfuscation of darkness finds a pair of clueless lovers engaging in the feigned acts and arts of attraction spelled out in the loud chorus burst of, “I break, my head, so I seemed confused, I rake, my heart, so it feels used, dumb love, dumb love, this is me and you….” The ignorant mutually asserted displays of affection continue through the fake smiles and gestures that plays out through the motions that the disenchanted associate with the futility of relationships, the pains and pressures of compromises, and all the needless complications that naturally go hand-in-hand/heart-in-heart whenever two sentimental and emotional begins are involved together in a bond (no matter how dubious the connection may be or seem). After the following lyrical video debut for “Dumb Love”, read our interview with Step Sisters featured below.

Describe the sibling like connection that brought Step Sisters together as a group.

We were pretty good friends before we became sisters, and, as several other musical projects were coming to a close, we started hanging out more and playing music. We would get loud a couple times a week and have tacos and margaritas afterwards until we were having too much fun to stop. Then we became Step Sisters.

Tell us about what it was like recording your debut EP Thick; any favorite moments, and anecdotes that you all care to share?

Recording Thick was a lot of boozy fun. “Vox Pop”, “Witness”, and “Dumb Love” were recorded in a local brewery in the middle of the night, guerrilla style. The place was like a warehouse so it helped capture a heavy, roomy sound. “Nerve War” and “Your Picture” were recorded in a theater which helped to mirror the tonal vibe we had from the first session. The theater recordings were concluded with a game of tequila soccer. You can figure that one out on your own. Needless to say, we’re really good at having fun and getting loud.

Generally speaking, there are two ways we approach our writing. A lot of the time we’ll just play for awhile, and, if something sounds rad, we end up messing with it until the skeleton begins to take shape. The meat of dynamics, melody, and lyrics come later and from all different sources within the band. The other main way we write stems from an individual’s idea conceived out of the practice space and brought in for the others to explore. Either way, we write almost totally as a group with the exception of lyrics because no one should be subjected to hearing someone trying to come up with words to a song.

Interested in hearing how you all approach song writing and recording.

As far as recording is concerned, we try and do our songs the greatest justice. We try for a really honest approach to recording so that Step Sisters sounds like a band that is tight as fuck and that’s why we do all of our basic tracking live. It’s important for us to find a good room to record in so that we have honest sounds to mix with. That’s why we called this EP Thick: these are truly heavy sounds from the source.

Nashville's Step Sisters.

Nashville’s Step Sisters.

What is good these days in Nashville, you all always have something awesome happening out there it seems!

There’s been a pretty big influx of venues in town, a lot of which foster the DIY mentality and allow a vast array of artists to perform. There’s always something going on, it’s just a matter of keeping your ear to the ground. We’re also really good at sniffing out stale, musty beer bars.

2016 plans and goals?

We’re hoping to record again this Spring and hit some summer tour dates pretty hard. Playing some festivals would we pretty dope, too. We’re usually just driving to get loud and have fun, and if we’re doing that, we’re doing it right. Other than all that, it’d be rad to get a Yuengling sponsorship and be guests of Ellen DeGeneres, either on her show or at her home. Oh, and we will be releasing our as-yet-untitled coffee table book in time for the 2016 holiday season.

Step Sisters’ forthcoming Thick EP will be available February 26.

Catch Step Sisters playing the following shows:

February
10 Foobar Too – Nashville, TN with Uzi, BUHU
26 The Basment – Nashville, TN (“THICK” Release Party) with Reality Something, Heinous Orca
27 Preservation Pub – Knoxville, TN with Chew

Syvia

Brooklyn's Syvia.

Brooklyn’s Syvia.

Brooklyn’s Syvia premiere the dark-smeared mascara saline-sweetness of “Unloveable #2” from their forthcoming EP Silent Violence available February 19, that follows on the heels of their debut album FWD from last year. Lead by the beautiful and boisterous Ruth Mirksy who asks here “who wants to be alone,” exploring the ranges and ridges of alienation that solitude sometimes brings. Conviction and belief in the self is the conquering motif on center display here, backed up by Frank’s grinding and growling guitars, to the rhythm section from Rich and Sheldon (who also supplies some pretty slick synths to reinforce the chorus hooks).

“Unloveable #2” kicks off with Frank’s driving guitars that are met by Frank & Sheldon’s beat foundation that creates a grand foyer for Ruth’s entrance. The past is examined with the situations of the present, where questions linger as Mirsky asks “am I really unlovable, could I be so unlovable, so, so alone…” Observations of the passerby and couples of doubtful chemistry are gazed upon with internal inquisitions that ponder the possibilities of self-inequities and over-thought inadequacies play out in the heart and mind’s theater in the should of/could of/would of pains of wondering what one could have done differently in previous situations. Ruth continues her questions of self-analysis that seeks a solution to answer the aching and nagging pangs of an almost self-imposed solace that sorts out the particulars of achieving meaningful bonds while surrounded by the stifling suffocating presences of what feels like millions of other so-called happy relationship situations. For more on the world of Syvia and their new EP, join us for for our interview with Ruth Mirsky following the debut listen to “Unloveable #2”.

Describe to us how Syvia began, and the inspiration behind the chosen moniker.

Syvia began in 2010-11 with a previous bandmate of mine. He encouraged me to work on my own music and we started to collaborate on songs soon after our electro-rock band What What Where split up. Syvia is my middle name—I wanted it to be personal because I wanted it to last, which it has, even as the sound has evolved and my collaborators have changed. I feel very lucky to have Sheldon, Frank and Rich on board as my bandmates these past few years. The energy and talents they bring makes every rehearsal and show worth playing.

What were the blueprints and earliest sketches like that would later encompass your debut album FWD, and how these ideas and motifs of moving forward have also informed the record.

FWD was a mixture of new ideas and old. Usually, I bring a whole song to rehearsal or send the recording in advance. From there, we play around and and see if it works. I always get energized hearing hearing a demo of a song I’ve written alone come to life with new textures in rehearsal. Before we go into the recording studio, we play our new stuff at shows to experiment with ideas and see how the songs feel while getting the immediate feedback of a live audience.

The album is all about time, but it is not just about moving forward. It is also about capturing moments and impressions from the past and keeping the memory of them fresh. Music for me is like a personal diary—I sing one of my songs or hear a lyric that I wrote and I remember that exact moment that sparked it more vividly, whether it be good or bad.

A Syvia montage.

A Syvia montage.

Could you tell us a bit about the feelings and inception behind “Unloveable #2”?

I actually wrote that song many years ago when I was on tour as a backup singer with The Drums. I remember very distinctly working on a rough draft on my laptop in a hotel room in Los Angeles between gigs. At the time, I was single, and had been for a while. I kept feeling tremendous pressure that was capped with a feeling that the media was brainwashing all these girls and women into thinking that there is something wrong with us if we don’t have a boyfriend, or are single for a while. I wanted to write a song that expressed that.

Latest notes about what you and the band dig about the Brooklyn scene right now?

I love Brooklyn and have lived in NYC all my life. The scene is definitely changing, that’s for sure. A lot of the places that we loved to see live music have shuttered and a lot of musicians and artists continue to move further and further away. This makes it hard to get attached or for bands to find a home. For better or worse, that’s the thing about NYC. Things change and they always have. We are just happy we can all find a way to still live here and play music together.

What can we expect from Syvia post-release of FWD?

We are really excited to release our new EP Silent Violence on February 19. We’re celebrating the release on February 18 at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn. We’re also going to be embarking on a tour sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery hitting Sweden, Finland and Norway in February. It’s our first international tour and we’re excited to be sharing our music with everyone.

Syvia’s Silent Violence EP will be available February 19.

Barleaux

The continuing adventures of Barleaux; photographed by Marley Carlyle.

The continuing adventures of Barleaux; photographed by Marley Carlyle.

NYC by LA DIY pop star Barleaux follows up her recent w y l d d e ! r e LP from Afternoons Modeling with the world premiere of the single “hARTbeat” that features a verse from the always enthusiastic Eddington Again. True to Barleaux’s bombast bedroom recorded pop styles, “hARTbeat” works in ways where samples of vocals and rhythms are arranged in edits and home made ambience that bubble, percolate and burst in rustic regiments that portastudios, 4-tracks, 8-tracks, etc can only provide. Lyrical conversations about contradictions, ups, downs, and life’s sideways strafes are put on display where the vocals, rhythm, & synths are sequenced along the parallel plains of audio existence.

The drum machines, synths, and loops of Eddington’s vocals start the track with a commencement of boudoir moods and heart beat-based narratives. Keeping the demo-esque quality intact, Barleaux works in the ways of witch-y pop where the rhythm, blues, and beats push toward the kind of systems and sentiments that spell out the certain feels and notions experienced in the after hours of creative and hedonistic exchanges that occur in one’s own quarters after the bright lights of day have fallen fast asleep. Invitations to understand the heart hemmed desires and urges play out in modes of late evening conversation as both Barleaux and Eddington’s vocals become sampled through the song’s textures of intimacy and a kind of whispered hushed urgency (as not to wake the roommates or couch surfers in the next room). Following the debut listen to “hARTbeat” ft. Eddington Again, read our recent discussion with Barleaux.

First tell us about the creation of the incredibly idiosyncratic and unusual foundation for the mercurial “hARTbeat”.

Some songs just come out of you. I recently moved back to NY and when I was going through all the work I did in LA in the past year, I came across “hARTbeat” and was just really moved by it. It’s a big statement—it’s an in-your-face song about love, and I’m just obsessed with the hook. I think it has a lot of potential. In terms of production, it’s definitely demo-like, and I’ve considered re-recording it, but the truth of the matter is that if you meet me, I’m pretty rough around the edges. I’ve got a lot of faults, but I’m also moderately good at a lot of things. I think that’s really what “hARTbeat” is about. Most of the time, what I don’t have the courage to say to people’s faces—I make up for in song. Throw in some iced green tea and Merlot with Eddington in my bedroom, and this is what ya get!

On the go with Barleaux; photographed by Marley Carlyle.

On the go with Barleaux; photographed by Marley Carlyle.

What sorts of heart inspired and informed ideas informed the lyrical components that allude to a rollercoaster kind of existence and experience?

I think I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past year. Most of that alludes to some bad and good experiences, but I’ve also learned a lot about how sensitive I am. But I’m also extremely outgoing. It’s an interesting complex. You might be able to come to that conclusion with “hARTbeat”. Having the courage to really stand up for what you believe in is an extremely vulnerable—but profitable—idea. I’ve been trying at this music thing for a while now, and I’ve just gotten to the point where I don’t let people walk all over me as much—especially when it comes to my talent. Also, Eddington Again’s touches on this song definitely encouraged me to embrace that idiosyncrasy.

Other artistic endeavors worthy of mention happening in LA and elsewhere that you all think the rest of the world should know about?

A couple noteworthy smooth-coasting careers in LA are Joey Dosik, ETA, and of course the lovely and angelic Sugar Joans. There’s a lot going on on the Barleaux front, most of which I can’t exactly mention yet 😉 But it’s about to get really, really good.

Barleaux’s album w y l d d e ! r e is available now from Afternoons Modeling.

Superflower

Introducing Superflower, aka Shintaro Cho; photographed by John Cowan.

Introducing Superflower, aka Shintaro Cho; photographed by John Cowan.

Japan by Bushwick’s Shintaro Cho is Superflower, who premieres his track “11” taken from the forthcoming self-titled album available March 4. Having grown up outside of Tokyo, Shintaro’s passion for obscure vinyl enjoyed in floral surroundings became further cemented by a random meeting with none other than George Clinton what would eventually lead the artist to make his way to Brooklyn to be a part of a new audio energy and creative culture of fellow artists and appreciative audiences. From here melting-pot fusions of otherworldly melodies are blended with a host of rhythms and samples that spin, simmer, rise like heat from a sidewalk during a hot NYC summer. Fusions found from the globe around come together in a world where analog and digital devices meet each other hand in hand, arm in arm, toe to toe, vis-à-vis, etc.

“11” is something of an alchemy that taps into the psychic networks of instrumental friends and enemies that create for a moody atmosphere that sounds like something from another dimension or world. A variety of keys are heard like wind chimes ringing their bells in a harmonic unison, as focused keys and basslines keep the track centered and moving along an arrangement full of percussion that is found on various levels tuned to an array of fascinating frequencies that burrow their way into the consciousness. At times it sounds as if a barrage of creatures are mulling about on the song’s surface, and then other moments sound as if specters are rising from the ashes and crypts of ancient mausoleums to play among the lands of the living for one last hurrah. Nevertheless, Superflower is an artist to keep an ear and eye on here in 2016, as we get to know the mysterious artist a little bit better in a our exclusive interview with Shintaro Cho featured after the following debut of “11”.

First tell us about your earliest musical inspirations from your upbringing outside of Tokyo.

My earliest musical inspirations came from growing up around my father’s vinyl. I’d listen to the likes of The Beatles, and a whole lot of funk, soul, rock and jazz. My interest in music naturally grew from there and I started to turn to other genres, whether it was hip hop or techno.

How did this whole chance meeting with the great George Clinton happen, and how did that inspire you to move to NYC?

Every thing changed for me when I saw P Funk. George Clinton would perform live in Japan often. To me, he was like the god of groove. I can’t remember exactly when it was, possibly in the year 2000, when I was in the audience and I’d never experienced so much energy from a crowd. So much craziness, not a single person standing still. That was the day I told myself that I would move to New York to see for myself where that kind of energy was born.

Describe how your experiences here in NYC have inspired your varied approaches both in your own creative music and DJ work.

NYC is the most magical city to me. Almost every person I’ve met has inspired my music in some way. It was when I started to become more active in the music scene (both my creative work and DJ work) that I met the people who would be the most significant to my music. Among them is one of my very good friends Philip Wann, who used to play for On! Air! Library!. He’s taught me so much about the variation of sounds and has just been a great mentor to me since the day we met.

Tell us more about the making of the self-titled.

I produced my tracks with the combination of vintage synths, the organ, piano, percussion, drum machines and some pedals. I usually start by getting the main melody down then add in the drums, or vice versa. It really depends on the song.

I consciously keep an ear out for abstract sounds and rhythms from my daily life, so my inspirations are from all over the place. I have a special appreciation for non-musical moments. That’s when you can pay attention to all sounds. Those moments feed my imagination at all times and inspires me to make new music.

What’s on your top 5 playlist right now?

Marcos Valle, “1985”
Egbert Gismonti, “Safona”
The Crusaders, “Merry Go Around”
Thundercat, “Them Changes”
Floating Points, “Silhouettes”

I’m having a release party on March 10 at Kinfolk 90 in Brooklyn, NY.

Superflower’s self-titled will be available March 11.

Big Bill

Big Bill out in the wild (from left), Kodie Bill Braydon, Eric Bill and Alan Lauer; photographed by Kat Goins.

Big Bill out in the wild (from left), Kodie Bill Braydon, Eric Bill and Alan Lauer; photographed by Kat Goins.

Austin’s own punk-oddballs Big Bill will drop their 7″ February 26 via Austin Town Hall Records, and we got the premiere of “Weird Walk” to keep the weirdness flowing freely in your world and ours. The Texan trio of Kodie Bill Braydon, Eric Bill and Alan Lauer possess a penchant for frocks and smocks snagged from the women’s wear department and penning songs that celebrate their own sweet styles of non-conformity. Stripped down punchy songs bask in the oddness of everything that continues to keep their hometown of Austin refreshingly weird with tunes and testaments for all of their favorite local watering holes.

“Weird Walk” walks the crooked line and manic mile with angular riffs and edgy attitudes that takes a stroll around what feels like East Austin enjoyed through lysergic eye lens. Seeing sights of cowboy hats, crying babies, ambulances, a house cat diving into a gutter, a streetlight melting like an ice cream cone on a sidewalk, and visions of folks who resemble primordial neanderthals. Everything from the mundane, the plain, to the outright odd and bizarre is heard and seen on display from cavemen armies to the type of over-thought/over-wrought details of irrational fear that puddles in one’s own path sometime trigger. For those outside of the great ATX city, it will remind some of their most surreal SxSW experience, Levitation festival, Austin City Limits, Psych fest, etc where the streets and scenes become even stranger than they seem. Stay with us right after the following debut for “Weird Walk” as we talk to Big Bill’s Kodie Bill Braydon, Eric Bill & Alan Lauer all about the new single, the b-side “Mainly Manly”, and much more in a roundtable interview session.

Tell us the story of how Big Bill began.

Eric: It started in 2011 with me, my brother Cody, and our friend Dave Fitzhugh. We were living pretty isolated in South Austin, and we spent about a year just going for walks, writing songs and then working them out with our first drummer, Max. We found our current drummer, Alan, in a parking lot. A huge loss in this band happened in late 2013 when Dave got very sick and had to step out for a while. Our friend Jennifer Monsees took over on bass, toured with us in 2014, and played on our second EP, as well as this new record. She recently moved to Philadelphia, so we picked up multi-instrumentalist whiz-kid Alex Riegelman. Dave has undergone several surgeries but is getting better and still contributes to the band from afar.

Cody: Eric had fronted a band in Lubbock, and wanted to try it again in Austin, and I wanted to try something new.

Describe your own dive-thrash-n-trash style that you all self-proclaim as “billwave.”

Eric: When we started, we knew we wanted to make music that wasn’t confessional. We were very into The Monks, and of course the best Austin band ever, Big Boys. Our songs tend to eschew earnestness, or hide it behind jokes. Performance-wise, our goal is to get people to forget themselves and have a visceral experience, rather than stand still admiring us or something. If you’re standing still at one of our shows I might “accidentally” spill your beer on you.

Cody: It’s just rock, but we try to be less macho.

Tell us about what sorts of machismo fixations informed “Mainly Manly”.

Eric: It began with just a phrase I sang to myself for a few months, “Mainly manly but I got a little girly girly/ In my mind and my body it’s a whirly burly,” which is kind of a joke. Like a dude who was super proud of his “manliness” would never say he’s “mainly manly”; he’d probably say he’s “all man.” When I say “I don’t have to be the Main Man,” it’s about realizing that you don’t have to be what you’re expected to be—strong, capable, dependable, whatever. A lot of our songs, like almost every punk song ever, is about the power of rejection. There’s this song by Bona Dish called “Challenge,” with one of my favorite lines ever: “Take acceptance, and throw it away.” Rejecting ideas of what you’re supposed to be is a powerful idea to me.

Being that the whole CIS male thing is very much on the decline (and not exactly in fashionable season by most accounts); what is the importance or lack of importance behind the whole ‘manly’ construct?

Eric: Well, if you go to any random show, you’re still going to encounter lots of cis-gender white men whining about their lives, or attempting to show you how sensitive they are, or how good at playing their instruments they are, or whatever. This song is in some ways grappling with the uncomfortable fact that when we perform, I’m ultimately yet another white dude with the loudest voice in the room. I was thinking about certain singer-songwriters who ultimately are just using their music to advertise to women how sensitive they are. One might argue that John Mayer’s music is more misogynistic than, like, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Frolicking in the water with Austin's bad boys/strange boys—Big Bill; photographed by Kat Goins.

Frolicking in the water with Austin’s bad boys/strange boys—Big Bill; photographed by Kat Goins.

What do you all dig about Austin right now?

Eric: As artists, it’s fun because there are so many communities to get involved with, and people to collaborate with. Every local show, we meet new people, and they all have a project, they all have a passion. People complain about traffic and people moving here and gentrification, and all of that sucks, but at the end of the day we live in a large, prosperous, safe, clean city full of interesting people. There’s tons of yuppie scum too, but that just makes for good songwriting material. Like would that great Big Boys song, “Frat Cars”—would it exist without yuppie scum?

Alan: I love how everyone is down to do stuff. Everyone wants to participate. Anyone can start a band in Austin. Anyone can start 10 bands. You don’t need any special talent—just the willingness to do it. And I love the crazy weather.

Cody: I like going home.

What is everybody excited and obsessed with right now?

Eric: I’m obsessed with the album Taking Time, by Reservations. I don’t know them personally, but they’re an Austin band, and that album is totally stunning. Also the best band in our town is probably Tele Novella. There’s a whole scene of weird bands like us—Sailor Poon, Popper Burns, Basketball Shorts, Annabelle Chairlegs—I could go on and on and on.

Alan: Musically, I’m generally a bit behind the times. My Morning Jacket’s song “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)” has the best breakdown ever. Yosi Horikawa’s record “Vapor” has some great songs fashioned out of found sounds. He goes out into nature, finds sounds he likes, and then sequences them into something amazing. Check out the song, “Letter.” And Squeeze’s greatest hits. I can’t get enough power pop. Also, I’m obsessed with the idea of the end of work. How far are we from a post-work society?

Eric: Squeeze does rule.

Big Bill’s 7″ will be available February 26 from Austin Town Hall Records.

Cassandra Violet

Catching up with Cassandra Violet.

Catching up with Cassandra Violet.

Cassandra Violet just released her Body & Mind EP and we bring you the following listen followed by some insights from the artist herself. The title track sets the tone, right as “Lady” takes a trad turn of fireplace like warmth that chases the winter far away from the snowed-in cabin sentiments. Expressions of autonomy shake off the labels and titles bestowed by the outside world, bringing it all back home on “Boomerang”, pushing the conversation further that casts off all maternal notions through acoustic rhythms and over-dub loops that continue to incite consciousness and spirit long after the song has concluded. Keeping the entire event eclectic and moving in all directions, “Take My Time” presents a perfect finishing number that leaves the musical narrative open for what we hope is an upcoming full-length.

Cassandra wrote us the following preface/intro piece, reflecting on the making of Body & Mind:

I wrote Body&Mind in my apartment with a guitar, a loop pedal, and a tambourine. When I wrote it, I was truly alone for the first time in my life, and it made me feel powerful and lonely at the same time. I think women have a tendency to minimize their power, and I wanted this record to be my loudest shout to whomever might be listening. Every single song on the record is different, but I would categorize the sound as, bright, colorful folk-pop with an odd edge. There are folk songs and full pop arrangements, there are big drums and songs where my own voice makes a huge wall of sound. It’s an eclectic collection. My co-producer Derek Howa really understood the kind of acoustic pop that I was going for- we worked for days on handclaps and weird harmonies to get them to sound just right. One of the engineers who worked on the EP, Dave Pizzimenti, has a portable recording setup, which allowed us to record literally anywhere we could get free space: in a studio in Echo Park, in someone’s bedroom on Sunset Boulevard, at a dentist’s office in Orange County, in a soundproofed closet in Mar Vista. I’m from Los Angeles, and in that sense, I think it’s a true LA record- it has a different element of the city in every single song.

Tropical Horses

Getting to know Paris's Tropical Horses.

Getting to know Paris’s Tropical Horses.

Introducing Paris’s strange equestrian breed Tropical Horses whose upcoming album Mirador will be available on vinyl February 23 from Anywave and Montagne Sacrée Records, premiering “Dead Gaze Exorcism” that carries a megaton wattage to wake the living and the catacomb crypts. Combining an idiosyncratic stew of percussion, and erratic arrangements; Tropical Horses gallop with ahead at a ferocious pace like a heard of wild, metallic steeds running wild about the city. Beneath the clamor are fuzzy vocals that warble in foreboding manners like ghosts set free into the material world by the aid and advantage of unrelenting amplifiers belting out sounds in excess.

Tropical Horses take the reins here and ride the skronk train at full speed. Cities of sound, and underworld networks of tunnels here shaken up by equestrian like forces that work in menacing keys to create an all around chaotic (and quixotic on that measure) experience where it feels as if the underworld begins to expand and open up like a widening sinkhole, swallowing everything and all from the world above the earth’s surfaces. To learn more about the mysterious Tropical Horses, we were able to correspond across long-distance cables in an interview that immediately follows the debut of “Dead Gaze Exorcism”.

Describe your first inclinations toward making your music, your earliest instrument affinities, to the founding of Tropical Horses.

The project was born from a misunderstanding: I had made a creation for some college radio for a contest, it kinda worked so then I started recording some sort of sonic postcards with sounds recorded in my everyday life. Then little by little, I started adding some bass, some kicks and guitars to make it more consistent. Eventually and almost against my own will, it turned to be my first two wobbly EPs, that today seem to be very, very far from what I do now, but still: they created a basis upon which my music stands. Which is: no genre, style or language limits, just an effort on sonic landscapes as a way to make the whole thing work—beach noises, kids playing, the wind, the rain, Gregorian choirs, or a playful use of echo, coming and going from left to right, creating a kind of ghostly effect on Mirador.

What can you tell us about the equestrian-tropics leaning moniker, and the story behind how that became your musical moniker?

I put side by side words that quite sum up both my music and my personality: I’m afraid of horses, I hate the sun, the beach, and I don’t really feed any particular relationship with Tropics—not by choice, though. There’s something rather ironical, here, but that still reflects something personal: talking about my fears, music as an outlet for my angst. And I think it works visually, too, it’s both intriguing and catchy.

Describe how you even began to create what would become your album Mirador.

The first ideas emerged in 2014. I recorded two two-songs-split EPs with Albinos Congo and then Princesse, which made me discover different working methods. First, with Albinos Congo, in a proper studio, quickly, almost hastily, with very few arrangements but with an extreme brutality. Then, with Princesse, the bedroom-audio way: slowly, with more carefully crafted arrangements, those qualities I learned to like.

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I had about thirty workable tracks in my pocket. I experimented on assembling them, in order to create a guiding idea, find coherence, echoes, securing gimmicks, the kind of things that make a record stand right, and most of all, the kind of things that allow you to tell a story, that make the listener go from point A to point Z. I then added lots of stuff, like religious choirs or drones, and rearranged the structures of the songs to create symmetry between them, as if they remind each other.

Joy Division’s Closer’s structure inspired me a lot: it goes in a lot of directions but still stands as a great and coherent record. To be short, I wanted to start from a simple idea, then go toward something much darker, noxious and suffocating.

Equestrian audio epics with Tropical Horses.

Equestrian audio epics with Tropical Horses.

Darkness and the occult plays some prominent roles in both atmosphere, attitude and track titles. What is about these more tenebrous terrains that attracts you creatively?

I think that, the older you get, the harder it is to simply write songs about girls, party you got drunk, your favorite soccer player or your drug experiences. From my point of view, those topics have become futile and laughable.

But just to be clear: I didn’t tell myself ‘I’m gonna do a record about death and darkness, it’s gonna be cool.’ It’s just that, since I’m a kid, I nourish an obsession for evil, the occult, and all sorts of deviance. In fiction and history, I like bastards, bad guys, torn apart characters like Raskolnikov or Darth Vader, for example. Those who lose control. There will always be more psychological depth in a character attracted by evil and haunted by hate and frustration, it’s obvious.

On a more personal level, I just wanted to tell the entire world that I hated myself, that I wanted to die, and that I thought I was about to turn crazy. Music turned out to be an affordable shrink, just without the silly couch.

But then, well, listening to black metal, diving my hair black, hanging around in cemeteries at night ‘cause it’s cool and going to Ouija parties with my friends: I do think that’s crap, so I’m alright.

Up close and personal with Tropical Horses.

Up close and personal with Tropical Horses.

Tell us about some other local Parisian artists and groups that we should be in the know on.

Paris is filled with great noise, kraut rock and experimental acts, the musical scene is very inventive and rich and there are so many bands you should discover. The first bands that come to my mind would be Les Lignes Droites, Les Hopitaux, Renart, Satellite, Son Of, Noyades, Chinese Army, Habyss, Frederic D. Oberland work with Oiseaux-Tempête, Le Réveil des tropiques. And of course, there’s Princesse and A V G V S T, whose work on Mirador’s production and mastering are stunning.

But let’s not forget Pierre Stroska, who plays in Bisou de Saddam and shot Mirador’s cover, and venues like Detail, in Belleville, the Olympic Café, in La Goutte d’Or, or associations likes En Veux Tu EN V’là or Rouge Vinyle, who support with love and passion the finest bands from the underground. And last but not least, let’s not forget record labels like Buddy Records or Le Turc Mécanique.

What else are you recording, listening to, collaborating with, etc?

Lately, I’ve been working hard on building my new Star Wars models I had for my birthday and Christmas and that’s gonna be my main preoccupation for 2016. With Tropical Horses, it’s just an idea, for now, but I’d like to make a musical book, like something about Steinbeck’s The Moon Is Down, a book I deeply love. I’d love to make a “musique concrète” EP, too. That’s the kind of thing that could breath some fresh air into my music.

And then, I’ve been digging some discographies, from Bob Dylan to Broadcast, Felt, or Clinic, and listening to a lot of dark-jazz and doom-jazz, some hip-hop. I’ve also been listening a lot to Vincent Gallo’s unique and only album, which is pure gold. And then, there are a lot of people I’d love to work with, in France, like Flavien Berger or Sourdure. I’d like to work with hip-hop or African music artists. Well, I don’t really care, I’m here to try stuff and have fun.

Tropical Horses’ Mirador will be available on vinyl February 23 from Anywave and Montagne Sacrée Records.

Stronger Sex

Washington D.C. denizens Stronger Sex.

Washington D.C. denizens Stronger Sex.

D.C.’s counter culture pop denizens Blight. Records continue on their self-blazed progressive paths with their forthcoming Blight. Makes Right compilation available February 9, and we bring you a listen with the premiere of their band Stronger Sex’s single “K in a Sunbeam”. A group lead by Johnny Fantastic who built audio outfit as a statement that there truly is no stronger sex, creating a sound that pushes past conventions of gender and genre along with fellow local likeminded talents Leah Gage, Austin Gallas and Erik Sleight.

Featuring production from Ben Schurr, the band’s brooding and pensive nature is featured through woodwinds, beats, separate sections and song suites where questions of “how’re you gonna keep your cool in hell” summons the sensation of being stuck in a dimension that feels as if the underworld has been frozen over. From here one imagines battles between the gods, where the surrounding swam of synths and ominous tones tell tales of conflicts heard like sparring binary codes at war with each other. Like Eno’s second side of Bowie’s Low; the adventure and journey reaches those ineffable places where relayed descriptions and signifiers on their own cannot suffice nor begin to express what is actually at work here. Stronger Sex discover a kind of heavy narcotic essence in the rays of light that descend their incandescence from the sky on “K In A Sunbeam”. We caught up with Stronger Sex’s Johnny Fantastic right after the following debut of “K In a Sunbeam”.

Describe how the project Stronger Sex first began as a solo project and later expanded into a quartet.

You know how Einstein discovered relativity while working at a patent office? Well, I discovered my sound while working at a secret army compound. We worked mostly with satellite technology so my workday was soundtracked with all sorts of beeps and blips and buzzes. During pockets of free time I would sneak around and record a lot of those sounds. Eventually I met Ben Schurr who was playing a sampler in the band Eskimeaux. I showed him my sounds and in no time he was teaching me to use samplers. We eventually wrote the album bluebirds bluebirds bluebirds together which turned out to be the musical manifesto for what would eventually become Stronger Sex. Overtime different people came in and out of the group, each leaving their mark on the sound. Now we have a group of four distinct individuals who all contribute to creating what you hear at our shows.

Tell us how you chose the moniker Stronger Sex, and what sorts of post-gender/non-gender/post-structuralist items were taken into consideration?

I had a fight with my partner at the time and I was writing lyrics about how I felt dominated by her. In a moment of poetic inspiration, I muttered the words, ‘I wish I knew what it was like to be part of the stronger sex.’ I had never really felt like the stronger sex, despite the fact that this ugly term is an identifier for biological males. I often feel weak in the masculine realm, unable to hold my own in sports conversations or when gawking at females. At the same time, I look at the females in my life, most of whom have accomplishments that dwarf any of mine, and find it impossible to categorize them as the weaker sex. So I thought, why not perform under this term, and see if it could be broken of its original meaning and re-contextualized as a criticism of the patriarchy. There’s a natural fluidity to the term as well that doesn’t tie us to only addressing gender issues. Some people think we are talking about having better intercourse. A band name, like a band, should stretch and morph and grow and mature and I think this name allows us to explore many realms of possibility as the band moves into the future.

Take us through the evolutions of Love is a Herring, your self-titled to the most recent single “K in a Sunbeam”.

It’s really impossible to connect the two in terms of linear progression. Love is a herring was written in a car with Erik making a beat on his iPad, me singing, and Sarah beating her legs with her hands like drums. It was very road-trippy, and the song that came out was uptempo and peppy. “K in a Sunbeam” was a very deliberate studio project done with Ben Schurr producing. I think the two songs represent two different moods of the band. Love is a Herring represents our triumphant, moving spirit whereas “K” shows our brooding and pensive nature. I very much consumed music in that way. I listen to “A Little Respect” by Erasure to pump me up and make me feel bigger than the world and I listen to Vulnicura by Bjork to help revisit and re-experience deep emotions. I feel like both modes are pivotal to the experience of a Stronger Sex show.

Leah & Johnny bringing the Stronger Sex sound live through the frames.

Leah & Johnny bringing the Stronger Sex sound live through the frames.

What else are you all recording and listening to right now?

I’m working on new songs with the band Dais, which is a joint project together with Adriana Cotes. We’ll be releasing something most likely in the spring. I’ve been primarily listening to Boredoms, Ween, Akvarium, Jenny Hval, Nautilus Pompilius, and Depeche Mode. I’ve been working on this kind of dance party from the 80s spoken word performance art piece that I’ll be performing at the commune on February 26th. It’s a completely original show and it’s very weird in all the ways you’ve come to expect from Johnny Fantastic.

Thoughts about the latest and greatest happening in the DC scenes right now?

I’m become an enthusiastic patron of stand up comedy in the district lately. There are a lot of amazing comics operating out of DC, many of whom are making headway in LA and New York city. Those people work very hard and deal with some of the most apathetic and sometimes volatile audiences I could ever imagine. I often find when I go to music shows in DC that the bands I watch look like they haven’t experienced much rejection; not nearly as much as stand-ups. And stand-up culture in DC is better for it. They have to be the best or face the boos. Musicians here hold back a lot and I wish they wouldn’t. Maybe a little more rejection would be healthy medicine. That’s why I play acoustic covers in loud bars. Well, that plus they pay me and give me free drinks.

Stronger Sex’s single “K In a Sunbeam” can be found on the forthcoming Blight. Records compilation Blight. Makes Right available February 9.

Witching Waves

The witching world of Witching Waves; photographed by David Garcia.

The witching world of Witching Waves; photographed by David Garcia.

Introducing Emma Wigham, Mark Jasper, and Ed Shellard who together are London’s Witching Waves who present the world premiere of their rocking nu-jangle/post-goth glory of “Pitiless” that lambastes the inequity of those without pity. With their debut album Crystal Cafe available February 26 from Happy Happy Birthday To Me (HHBTM) Records / Soft Power Records, the DIY trio stem from Jasper’s work at Sound Savers studio in London where they create their own world that disregards the apocalyptic-ish signs of the times and the sorry states of the global unions during the winter of our collective discontent.

“Pitiless” takes the art of the classic put-down track and spins it in the C86 fashion of mid-80s rebellion that takes aim at the clueless and heedless sheeple who bury their heads and consciousness in the proverbial sands. The chorus of “you don’t even know what’s going on” finds Emma, Ed, & Mark raging against the machines of the outside the world as bouncing rhythm guitars roll into the scuzz heaps of pure distorted turbulence and melodic dissonance. Emma fires out lyrics targeted to the wretches that smear the band’s good name about town, as the band rails against the privilege classes who don’t know what they got and can’t see beyond their own selfish wants and needs of greed. The titular chorus refrain & rebuke of “you’re pitiless” is repeated in excess toward the song’s climactic finale to drive the point has any signs of twee and exploded into a surf-dirge meltdown that should certainly grab the attention of the Reid brothers and their “Kill Surf City” sentiments. Stay with us after the debut of “Pitiless” for an epic roundtable interview sessions with Emma, Ed, & Mark.

Give us the story on how you all met, and whether or not you all took your moniker from the old Coney Island ride.

Emma: WW started off as a way for me to learn the drums and just with Mark and I messing around making music as we had access to a practice space. This was in the Spring of 2013. We started with some covers which never saw the light of day. I think ‘Heart of Gold’ by Neil Young and ‘Dive’ by Nirvana were two of the first things we tried to play. We didn’t
really know what we wanted to do or sound like and we both swapped between playing guitar and drums but we always both sang.

After a while, we started playing a bit at local gigs with friends and we went on tour with another band called Shudder Pulps in the December. We were still very much in the figuring-it-out phase but we practiced a lot and things started to feel more concrete. We’d been playing together for about a year when we went on tour with As Ondas. Our friend, Ed, was
driving us and ended up playing bass on a few songs during the tour. After that, we decided we preferred the way it sounded with bass and that was that.

I can’t remember exactly how I came across the name, Witching Waves, but it does refer to the old fairground ride that started out in Coney Island at the beginning of the twentieth century and later moved to Blackpool in England and a few other places. Mark grew up near Blackpool and I like the sort of images the name conjures up in my mind.

Up & about with Witching Waves; photographed by David Garcia.

Up & about with Witching Waves; photographed by David Garcia.

Mark: Emma and I originally met when I recorded her previous band Weird Menace. Unfortunately, that band split up while when WW was starting out. At the time Witching Waves was just a way for us to have fun, and for Emma to learn the drums.

I think we had five songs that were all totally different, and when we played our first gig we played three of them and then got rid of one of them, we had two songs! Ha. But one of those songs was Barber which we still play now.

Describe how the London circuits and scenes inspire you all, and other locals we should be listening to right now.

Emma: We absolutely wouldn’t be here now as a band or maybe even playing music if it wasn’t for the DIY community here in London. It has given me the confidence to get up in front of people and play knowing that I’m in a safe and supportive environment. We’re also lucky to have seen so many inspirational, amazing bands. To name a few: Joey Fourr, Frau, Sauna Youth, Woolf, Shopping, Trash Kit, Roseanne Barr, Charla Fantasma, Flemmings, Primitive Parts, Ethical Debating Society, Giant Burger…could go on for much longer!

Saying that, due to rising rents, licensing issues and changes happening in the city, it can be difficult to find the space to be a band. Sadly, we lost Power Lunches at the end of last year which was a really significant space in the scene. It was cheap and easy to put shows on there and it was a genuinely welcoming DIY space full of good people. We played there in different bands so many times. But, there are still lots of exciting things
happening: New River Studios in Manor House and DIY Space for London near Peckham are two.

Mark: I agree with Emma, that there is still a lot of exciting things happening here, but with Power Lunches closing this is going to be an interesting time. As a recording engineer, I have an unusual perspective, as I am working with bands all the time. It’s been really great to learn how people work, and to find out how much people can achieve. I think
Witching Waves is in a way a product of that, seeing what can be done and having a go ourselves.

Nature hikes with Witching Waves; photographed by David Garcia.

Nature hikes with Witching Waves; photographed by David Garcia.

Take us through the making of Crystal Cafe, and what are some of your favorite London cafes that you all frequent and adore.

Emma: We made Crystal Café at Sound Savers Recording Studio in Homerton which is the studio that Mark runs with his friends, Henry and Alex. It’s very close to where we live and also to the real Crystal Café. The album felt very centered around the physical and mental space we were literally in at that time and the way we felt about it.

This is our second album and, this time, we tried to write a collection of songs that fit together rather than just putting everything we had on one record which is basically what we did before.

We’re all big fans of Black Cat café in Clapton, home to our favorite breakfast and an amazing selection of vegan cakes.

Mark: As Emma said, we really worked on a batch of songs for this. It was about putting together a complete album, something that would have a shared identity, but we also wanted each song to be able to stand-alone. I don’t think we’d ever worked on individual songs for so long.

The recording process was done over a few months, and we would often re-record whole songs if they didn’t sound right. We used different methods for each song, some of the songs have one guitar and others have seven! Some of it was recorded live, and some track-by-track. Some of it was almost completely analogue and other bits were not. On one song there are
two drum kits.

Witching Waves, standing tall; photographed by David Garcia.

Witching Waves, standing tall; photographed by David Garcia.

What is the preferred methods of songwriting and development that you all
employ?

Emma: We like to write collaboratively and I think that’s really important to us. Sometimes someone will have an idea that they’ll bring to practice and we’ll work around that. I tend to add lyrics slightly later and sing about things that I’ve been thinking about or things that have been bothering me.

We usually practice on the same night every week and switch between writing new stuff or practicing the set depending on where we’re at.

Mark: Yeah, we’ve tried it a few different ways but the best results seem to come from us all playing together and figuring out what works. When you bring pre-prepared songs to practice you often find that you already have expectations on how you think they should be played and how they’re going to sound. It’s good to have a fresh idea that you are all excited about. We throw a lot of songs and ideas away, but I think that’s all part of the
process.

Sometimes we’ll think a song isn’t working so we’ll get rid of it, and then pick it up again in a few weeks and start working on it again. That’s happened with a couple of things on this album. It’s good to give yourself enough time to come back to things, and also to kick ideas around and see what might come out of them.

Give us insights about the angst and pity behind the making of “Pitiless”.

Emma: This song was based around a fictional figure who is cynical and un-emotional. Now when we play it the character acts as a conduit for whatever my angst is at the time! There are a lot of different things in there. It’s about a system, rather than one individual really.

Mark: I think Emma did most of the lyrics first on this one, I remember we had a bit of discussion about it. I was really uncomfortable about being directly angry at someone. I’m usually critical of myself in songs, rather than directing it outward. I tried to use my bit of the lyrics to make the character more human.

Advice and wisdom from the Witching Waves camp?

Mark: The most important thing is to be happy with the band itself, and to enjoy doing it. That way it won’t matter what response you get to it. Don’t worry about what other people think or like, just do it the way you want to do it.

Witching Waves’ forthcoming album Crystal Cafe will be available February 26 from Happy Happy Birthday To Me (HHBTM) Records / Soft Power Records.

Murals

Not your parents' chamber pop—meet Murals.

Not your parents’ chamber pop—meet Murals.

We can always count on Fire Talk Records to provide us with music that makes us feel and think in a different way and manner, and the upcoming Murals album Violet City Lantern continues this progressive tradition. Available February 19, Evan Blum, Rob Monsma, and Jacob Weaver together weave the kind of music that sings and speaks to the spirit in some of the most sublime ways.

The Louisville trio provides a glimpse of solitude and elations expressed in the most serene of sounds as heard on “Long Bridge”. One imagines a walk across foothills, to strolls of trust across two ledges via a rickety suspension bridge while left alone to one’s own thoughts while pondering the greater meanings and motifs from The Man Who Would Be King to the great paradoxes of life.

“I Live Here” continues Murals tapestry textures of sounds that relays the feeling of bliss and ecstasy told through vague frequencies that require repeat listens. Emotions run the course from burgeoning feeling that rises up from the depths of one’s being and up toward the most elevated aspects of our being. This is the song to lift you up from your darkest and bleakest days.

Murals’ “Watching In The Dark” is practically proof that this a band that lives in another time and dimension. This is that psych wonder that the 60s or 70s never brought us but is instinctively illustrated through audio from Murals that paints the observations and thoughts as seen through the eye’s sleepy mind after dark has fallen during the sun’s sacred sabbatical.

Murals’ Jacob Weaver joins us now for the following discussion about their new album and more.

Take us through the motions on how the three of you have forged these really sweet psych-chamber sounds from On a Passing Cloud through Violet City Lantern.

Many of the songs were written while playing all together on nothing in particular, with no real idea in mind until we’d arrive at something that resembled a song, or a loose but intriguing idea. From there we added overdubs. Lyrics were usually written afterwards and to whatever feelings or images the music had given us. Other times one of us would come with an idea and the band would help to realize what could be. Sometimes one of us would have the whole thing worked out in their mind.

Interested in hearing how Murals compose and further develop these beautifully arranged pieces.

Most of it was from listening to what was there and imagining what was possible. Once a more concrete idea was formed it was finding textures and tones that fit. We did all the trumpets, wine glasses, snake charmer’s flute, rain sticks, plain sticks, percussion, organs, synths, keyboards, guzheng, glockenspiels, vibraphones, thumb piano, real piano, toy piano, plucked strings on a grand piano, and whatever else ourselves. Some of it was performed by others; a nice lady, an aspiring Disney princess, a girlfriends dad, a brother.

Tell us about what sorts of bridges and distances informed “Long Bridge”?

I have often had reoccurring dreams about bridges in my life. To me they represent some sort of new change, distance or loss I’ve experienced. Twas’ a rough time, at that time…

Give us stories on the residencies, reveling, and revelations of “I Live Here”.

I Live Here is about having the best day ever, in the place, or any for that matter. Feeling really, really good mostly. Tell us about the observations that gave rise to the sights and sensations of “Watching in the Dark”.

“Watching in the Dark” is about memory in a broad sense. What you hold on to, what you forget and why. One of the images I had was looking out onto an dark field scattered with the silhouettes of all kinds of toys and things, stuff really. Some toys you can see better than others, some stuff you can’t see at all. And of course there are snakes all over the place that make it really hard to stop and focus on the toy you want the most. Do you ever get to play with that toy? I don’t know, but maybe just maybe the snakes will become charmed by your earnest and honesty long enough to make a crab dash towards that most special toy and play with it pretty good before the poison sets.

What does Murals listening to when not recording and composing your own music?

Anything and everything. Recently Fred Neil, Junior Kimbraugh, Fleetwood Mac, Blaze Foley. We had a radio show here in Louisville called “The Colorcast” and there are a few episodes of that out on the net. Gives a pretty good perspective on our tastes but really.

Projections and hopes for 2016?

To have the happiest most productive year of our little boy lives. To earn as much of that precious salad as possible. To decide if one, or two spaces comes after a period.

Murals’ new album Violet City Lanter will be available February 19 from Fire Talk Records.

Exray’s

Push The Feeling Exrays week in pop

The Exray’s team of Jon Bernson, Michael Falsetto-Mapp, Jason Kick return with news of their forthcoming album Twelve along with an appearance at SF’s premiere DIY dance au-go-go Push The Feeling, sharing today the single “The Sound of a Ship”. Featuring Naytronics/tUnE-yArDs’ own Nate Brenner on bass with Junglecat’s Amanda Hallquist on backing vocals, the Exray’s future sound of now comes crashing to the present as they continue to provide musical renderings from concepts that surround the inexplicable interruptions of television broadcasts that occurred between 1986 and 2009 respectively. Catch the Exray’s Twelve release party February 6 at Underground SF with the cassette release happening February 12 and on digital March 18 via Howell’s Transmitter. Jon Bernson of Exray’s provided us with a few thoughts on the following single:

“The Sound of a Ship” is dedicated to the beginning of Vessel XII’s journey and journeys in general (but not the band Journey). We wrote an instrumental version of the song while rehearsing for our last Push The Feeling show. Afterward, we took it back into the studio, where Nate Brenner (Naytronix / tUnE-yArDs) added the V8 bass engine and Amanda Hallquist (Junglecat) dropped some backing vocal magic.

We Are Temporary

The latest from Stars & Letters label operator & frontman of We Are Temporary.

The latest from Stars & Letters label operator & frontman of We Are Temporary.

From the forthcoming debut album Crossing Over from Mark Roberts’ solo outfit We Are Temporary available February 19 via his imprint Stars & Letters; we bring you further songs of rumination, deliverance, destitution, and vulnerability with the heart wrenching rhetorical musings on “Who’s Going To Love Me Now?”.

The S & L boss continues to exhibit views from the most intimate of interior spaces where all the fears that keep the strongest of spirits and souls up late at night tossing and turning are divulged in a delivery that straddles the precipice of breaking down while seeking the extended hand of a lover or dear friend that reciprocates all in full without judgement and questionable lines of inquiry. This is a song that will send signals to all who have been there, caught in life’s marginalized corners where it feels as if there’s no where to go and no one to turn toward. Through the song’s sorting out of sentiment and catharsis; expressions that long for greater bonds of meaning grasp outward in the hopes for that human touch that often feels so absent from the day-to-day world & grind of life. The artist and imprint boss himself Mark Roberts caught up with us yesterday for another round of discussion in the interview featured right after the following listen.

How has everything been NYC-wise post-blizzard Mark?

Nothing but grey skies and rain, my friend—in other words, the perfect time of year to be releasing a new record about lost loves, fading dreams, and premature death…

But seriously, the crappy weather has been kind of a secret blessing, as I’m working hard to stay on top of my February 19th release—cutting videos, writing press releases, promoting the album, and sharing new singles. So with the snow having immobilized all of NYC last week, I actually got a fair bit accomplished!

Aside from We Are Temporary, I’ve been dog-sitting an 11 month Golden Retriever puppy (alongside my own eight month old flat-coated retriever puppy), and together those two rascals have been keeping me hilariously busy—for one, they keep running to the first puddle they find, flop down, and roll around like it’s their business, and then my apartment ends up looking like a public beach at summer’s end. Dogs, right? Gotta love ‘em!

Tell us about the sentiments of hope and desperation from trials and tribulations that inspired “Who’s Going To Love Me Now?”.

Well, my lead single and video “You Can Now Let Go” touched on personal themes of death and acceptance, and on my new single, I continue to mine through dark matter.

I wrote “Who’s Going To Love Me Now?” while separated from my wife, and I was struggling with what it meant to love singularly, the limbo of compromise, and the conflation of love and debt. I mean it’s a fearful question, isn’t it? Who’s going to love me now? To me that question arises out of a deep-seated fear of not loving strongly enough, of not being loved enough in one’s short life, of feeling adrift and cast out from a world filled to the brim with love your not participating in.

What have you been listening to a lot of so far in 2016?

To be honest, I haven’t kept up much with new releases these past few weeks, but using Spotify as my cheat sheet I can tell you that Bach Cantatas made up the bulk of what I’ve been listening to. I’m also seeing lots of Renaissance vocal polyphony by Victoria, Byrd, and Palestrina; a smattering of 14th century organum; and John Tavener’s “Funeral Canticle” has been on heavy rotation (you might know it from the film, Tree Of Life).

Anyhow, before the holidays, I was spinning a lot and just devoured a profusion of dark, minimal techno: DUST, Sawf, Developer, Gesaffelstein, Inigo Kennedy, Camp Counselors, Orphyx, Pan-Pot, and heaps of stuff like that.

And, of course, there are just those favorites I just keep coming back to, year after year… Skinny Puppy, Keluar, Liar, Fever Ray, Grimes, Death Grips, SBTRKT, Lorn, HEALTH, Pictureplane, Ofdream, Shabazz Palaces, Leather Strip, Black Marble, I Break Horses, Deine Lakaien, Active Child, Sun Glitters, Salem, Ho99o9, Das Ich, Soft Moon, Nick Cave and hundreds more that have inspired me over the years.

Other thoughts you haven’t expressed about your upcoming Crossing Over album?

Well, in the press release I’ve been sending out, it says that my new album, Crossing Over, is about “the thresholds we cross during the course of our lives: from youth to adulthood, from lust to love, from love to yearning, from needing to giving, from life to death.” Big stuff, right? But perhaps that’s all a bunch of prosaic hogwash.

At the time I was writing these songs, the album wasn’t about anything, you know? The songs were; it was always about the songs. And whatever stanza, beat, or synth bass, I was working on was only ever a way of exorcising whatever ghosts I had conjured that day. That said, of course there are overarching themes, but the songs aren’t united by design, they’re united by one life lived.

But if I was forced to identify one central emotion coursing through the record, the first that comes to mind is fear, or perhaps anxiety—a sort of mildew-y terror that one learns to ignore like shower mold in a bachelor pad, but which one nevertheless breathes in each day, making one sicker and sicker by the month. I mean…I sometimes don’t even know of what I’m afraid of anymore. It’s just this humid anxiety that sticks to me like sweat and dandruff.

Lastly, there are the dreams—those angels of irrational optimism—that I can hear on every song, no matter how bleak the subject. Sitting quietly in the dark, is this kid who still believes he’s meant for greater things, that waking up in the morning is bliss, happiness just beyond the driveway, and that to discover all that life holds is but a grand adventure. In my daily life it’s a mere whisper of a voice, but when I sit down to write music, my world falls silent enough to hear it.

Spring and summer wishes and dreams?

I have so many dreams, I wouldn’t even know where to start. But one thing life keeps reminding me of is this: dreaming too big opens oneself up to failure, but dreaming too small guarantees it.

The Bilinda Butchers

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The Bilinda Butchers performing at the Mercury Lounge, photographed by Emily Cheng.

San Francisco’s legendary The Bilinda Butchers remixed Chicago’s Tiny Fireflies “Melody”, and lent us some expansive insights. The dream aspects of the Chi-town group’s original gets an ambient and understated electro makeover where billows of feeling pour out of every note and percussive beat. The Fireflies’ Kristine Capua’s voice is carried by the trademark cinematic structures and anti-structures by the Butchers where the spaces between the melodic progressions and drum sequences are spun like the woven wonders heard on The BBs’ opus album Heaven.

Michael Palmer from The Bilinda Butchers shared the following insights on their remix of Tiny Fireflies’ “Melody”:

Kristine Capua and the Butchers worked together a while back when she appeared as a guest on our track “hai bby” from our 2013 EP goodbyes. At that time she was still making music under her solo project Tiny Microphone. When we toured with Craft Spells in the Winter of 2015 we had a chance to finally meet her and Lisle when we played with Tiny Fireflies in Chicago.

“Melody” was the first track that I heard from The Space Between and as cliche as it is to say, I was instantly enchanted by the vocal. The character of her vocal and the melodic space it occupies is perfect. It is the perfect range and scale for her voice and it has that perfect quality to it that makes it adaptable to any style or genre. The lyrics are pretty ethereal as well and there are some pieces that feel really relevant to what is going on in our country at the moment.

‘It tires me out, to listen to another word. When you go too far, focus on the space between.’ That line philosophically and poetically encapsulates my feelings of frustration to Donald Trump’s hate speech.

The Butchers philosophy for remixes and covers is to attempt to create something on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the original; Different in emotional content and feeling, instruments, genre, etc. I am not sure how successful we are, but that is our objective before we start working.

I was keen on doing something that was minimal and somber with the UK style garage and house drums, as well as incorporating that ethereal and ambient synth sound that I’ve now so closely associated with vaping haha. And of course, I wanted Kristine’s vocal to be the center piece while putting it in a considerably more melancholy space.

Lukas (our producer), Adam and I pulled this remix together over the span of about a month. Unfortunately Ryan wasn’t able to work on it because he is off in Euro traveling. I wonder what it would have sounded like if he would have reworked the drums…oh well, next time!

I also recently bought a PAX2 vaporizer for my girlfriend and I really love how different the effects of cannabis are with it. I know that vaping has this sort of dorky or annoying social association, but I’m hoping that music could be a platform that helps push that in another direction by giving it a different reference point. I really wanted to try to incorporate my new admiration for it in this remix.

Happenin Records presents Happenin Fest 2016

Mark your calendars to spend this upcoming spring in the south.

Mark your calendars to spend this upcoming spring in the south.

It’s almost that time of year for Happenin Fest 2016 in Birmingham, Alabama featuring Deer Tick, Jeff the Brotherhood and more brought to you by local folks like Good People Brewing Company, Happenin Records (naturally), Seasick Records, and Saturn Birmingham. Introducing this year’s two day event is Happenin boss Chris McCauley who lent the following exclusive words to us about this year’s festivities:

Happenin Fest is an opportunity for us to throw a big party for our friends and collaborators. We are fortunate that Good People is always down to host us, and we really appreciate their flexibility. This year, we’re expanding the event to two days and two venues, and we’re bringing together several Happenin bands (including NUDITY, Eleven Year Old, Plains, and Drew Price), as well as several old friends (including Lee Bains, Jacuzzi Boys, and Jeff the Brotherhood). We hope that people will come out and enjoy our DIY celebration.

Brothers in arms—JEFF the Brotherhood; photographed by Pooneh Ghana.

Brothers in arms—JEFF the Brotherhood; photographed by Pooneh Ghana.

Day 1 will be Friday, April 1 featuring performances from Deer Tick, Jeff the Brotherhood, NUDITY, Pujol) at Saturn, ft. Seasick Records DJing in Satellite, and Good People Brewing Company presenting and serving a special brew in honor of the occasion. Tickets for that day available here.

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires.

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires.

Day 2 Saturday, April 2 will be held at Good People Brewing Company for an all-day affair featuring performances from Lee Bains III, The Glory Fires, Jacuzzi Boys, Jaill, Drew Price, Eleven Year Old, Plains, Snacks, White Reaper, Wray, along with a mechanical bull, food trucks, and more TBA. Tickets for this day available here.

Check out the Facebook event and the Happenin Fest site for further details.

Emotional

Introducing San Francisco's Emotional; photo courtesy of Brian Wakefield.

Introducing San Francisco’s Emotional; photo courtesy of Brian Wakefield.

San Francisco’s Emotional is the new band from Brian Wakefield of Melted Toys & Death Records who just dropped the first psych-swirling single “Hand 4 Hire” off the debut album available February 19 from Burger Records, Danger Collective, Death Records, Empty Cellar Records, Gnar Tapes, Grabbing Clouds, Little L, and Plastic Response.

But never mind how many labels are signed on here, this is some super sweet fun for the whole family and all the friends who are looking for new pop tones and emotions to believe in and bop in time with. For fans of both Melted Toys or the weirder stuff from M. DeMarco and the Sinderlyn set; Emotional brings the new lo-fi feelings that San Francisco’s counter culture is in dire need of right now. Brian Wakefield shared some insights behind the emotions and more that launched Emotional, and how he got so many imprints to jump on board with his new project:

Emotional is an open invite to all one can feel. It’s a name that was kind of a joke referencing my younger (& more vulnerable, ha ha) years, but now I feel proud of it especially when super machismo types make fun of it before the show, but then come around afterwards exclaiming ‘I want to believe in love.’ In the modern world where most are focused on personal independence, emotional is an open window to see that some of the most hidden or private thoughts / feelings are not all had alone.

The label split is a co-opted idea from Girlseeker, a band that a record label I had previously worked with (Underwater Peoples) put out. I co-opted the co-op idea years ago and shelved it. When it was time to release this record I approached labels that had done tapes with emo, and a few people I wanted to work with. Gnar Tapes have pretty much released most of the Emotional back catalog, it all started because I thought what they were doing was tight, I just wanted to do a tape.

From theMind bring that ThemPeople production delivered “Mercury Rising” ft. Donnie Trumpet & Sylvie Grace provides something really wavy & hazy for lifelong dreams met with the harsh faces of reality heard on the hook that “whoever said the sky is the limit wasn’t living where I was living…” The production while pushing the syrup dipped sides of the song’s life-boat raft into a sea of whirlpools and earth-opening quicksands kicks up some real grit and real-real world tales that sing the tune of a whole other kind of lullaby.

Nine Lives remixed Michl’s single “Kill Our Way To Heaven”, that finds ambient pocket hole expanses within the mix of the original and teases them further into celestial-like textures. Like the secret lives of felines live not just twice but nine plus times; mortality of both the cat and human worlds becomes transcended here on this re-working.

Hear The Lower 48’s “I Think You Got It” taken off their upcoming album Hot Fool. From here comes plenty of 90s inflected pop music tropes and tendencies tipped toward the contemporary slices of production and presentation.

Hear Salem Wolves’ recently dropped single “Peach” finds the groups bringing the biggest sound you may have heard yet from the group.

Atlanta’s Exwhy (who you already might know from their member Jack Flower who debuted “Deadly Ill” from his other band Flower’s new album Waste of Life, also available today via Bandcamp) presents a listen to their just released album The Feels available today from Other People Records bringing the biggest DIY pop sounds you’ve heard yet from the ATL sectors.

Jams like “Good Love” bring that doesn’t matter kind of care-free/fancy-free hype that brings the kind of affection that doesn’t matter if you come from the east or west side. Freedom rules with the exhilaration of “On Our Own”, the citrus sweetness of “Tangerine”, the night time feels of “Jive”, to the sodium soaked granules of “Salt”, the emo adoration on “Letters of Love”, to breaking beyond the binary edge of “Digital Darkness”. Red, white and blue flags fly on “American Noise”, to the sentiment saturation on the title track “The Feels”, right before you are brought to endgame toast to distances on “Some Space Between”.

Foxtails Brigade’s self-titled album will be available April 8 from OIM Records, and we present you with a listen to the single “We Are Not Ourselves” that showcases the group bringing the nu-primitive folk stylings made from an aesthetic that only could have been create from the Bay.

TEEN’s new album Love Yes will be available February 19 from Carpark Records, and we bring you the Lizzie Lieberson penned song “Please” that is a slow psych-y simmering brew for your midday to mid-evening meditation, and deep-contemplative thought rituals.

Always keeping it classic, NYC legends are prepping their D.I.T.C. Studios compilations album, and we bring you the commitment to old school vibes and living on the Showbiz produced track “Gott Be Classic” ft. A.G. and O.C. Physics and essentials are expressed and divulged in the track that kicks in that nostalgia mode while representing their eastern come-up in full form.

Courtesy of FatCat Records and director Helen Plumb; peep the U.S. video for C Duncan’s single “Say” that presents performance art pieces performed by the water in time to Duncan’s own senses stirring approach to song creation.

Soulwax dropped the single “The Best Thing” ft. Charlotte from the forthcoming Belgica: Original Soundtrack available February 26 from Play It Again Sam where the best things and worst things are expressed in an epic cinematic showdown fashion.

Introduce yourselves to Nashville’s Carey with the track “You Were Right” that basks in the pure-power-pop golden bliss that keeps you coming back for more. Find this and more on Carey’s self-recorded debut self-titled EP available March 11 from Old Flame Records.

Crater (Seattle duo Ceci Gomez and Kessiah Gordon) provided us a with a little bit of hope to take the dullness out of our winter malaise with the single “Summer Skin” from their upcoming debut album Talk to Me so I Can Fall Asleep available February 26 from Help Yourself Records. The two take synth-spun sensations that will bring about all the feelings and fun of what happens when the days get longer and the responsibilities are reduced to a minimum.

Bent Shapes brought us the big realized bright sun-beam kissed pop of “Realization Hits” from their Slumberland Records album debut Wolves of Want available March 11. From basking in that semi-charmed kinda life to a piano dotted finish.

Get a listen to Celebration Guns re-pressing of their Quitter EP available from Saint Joseph Records (featuring bonus cuts like “If There’s Time” and “Always Surprised”) as their upcoming new EP The Me That Used To Be will be available May 6 from President Gator. The celebration of their 2013 release is full of inspirations and intimations of more fun soon to come later this spring.

Pillow Talk dropped the demo “Monogamy” as something of a response to Zayn Malik’s (of One Direction) single “Pillowtalk”, with news that an upcoming album will be available this summer from Animal Style Records. The dream-streaming & scheming tracks provides a lullaby to dream to for all in need of either bliss or a good night’s rest (or maybe a bit of both).

By the ticket, take the ride with PillowTalk & Soul Clap on the classic house-dipped single “Love Train” ft. Greg Paulus & Crew Love off the forthcoming Based On A True Story (a collaborative album involving Soul Clap’s Crew Love artists) available February 26 from !K7.

In case you missed it, we bring you Porches’ new single “Car” to steer your weekend on the right path, from the new Domino album Pool available now. The blessed and blissful Porches sound resonates all the way through as you will catch yourself singing along with Aaron Maine to the chorus of “oh, what a machine,” even while just driving to the store for groceries or suds.

James Supercave’s anticipated album debut Better Strange will be available February 12 from Fairfax Recordings and you can get the latest dose of strange betterment with the single “Burn” that will illuminate your evening and overnight road trips by keeping that midnight oil burning bright. The Echo Park trio keeps on cooking a cool sound to help melt the icicles from your apartment window to help ward off the winter cold.

Nick Takenobu Ogawa, aka Takénobu will self-release his debut album Reversal February 12 and we bring you a listen to “Curtain Call” that provides all the sorts of string-swaying sentiments one hears after the great finale has passed and all the actresses and actors take to the stage for one last curtsy and bow.

Peep LL’s self-directed video for “LIE” filmed in Shoreditch, East London on both Super 8mm and Super 16mm that showcases evening and twilight imagery that adds to the sensuous and silhouetted nature of LL’s ambient electro-grooves.

Following up on the ecstatic elation of “This Ecstatic Cult” ft. Killer Mike, and “Straberry Mansion” ft. Freeway; Lushlife gives us the latest taste from Ritualize (available February 19 from Western Vinyl) with “Hong Kong (Lady of Love)” featuring the enigmatic Ariel Pink. The titanic collaboration of luminaries creates something that finds these creative teams coming together that finds narratives that stem from late evening illustrious romances, eastern voyages that are sprinkled with a narcotic buzz that John DeLorean himself would approve of.

Lushlife’s Week in Pop

The esteemed & legendary Lushlife.

The esteemed & legendary Lushlife.

The upcoming Lushlife & CSLSX album Ritualize hits the blocks on February 19, and we are mighty proud and privileged to present Lushlife’s (aka Raj Haldar) following exclusive Week in Pop guest selections:

Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir, “Like A Ship… (Without A Sail)”

For me, you can encapsulate the joys of digging for records in the sound of this one song. I found this dusty T.L. Barrett joint in my very secret North Philly used vinyl spot and when I put it on for the first time it was (fittingly) nothing short of a revelation: a neck-snapping breakbeat, reverb-drenched baptist choir, and the Pastor’s incredibly heartfelt performance bring me to my knees like every time.

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Lushlife live at the Brooklyn Bowl; photographed by Edwina Hay.

Jaanam, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! soundtrack

This tune is featured in the titles sequence of the Bollywood flick, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! While I’m no expert, the film feels like nothing I’ve seen come out of Bollywood, and the song has an unexpected charm too. At times, Bakshy! looks like a Wes Anderson movie from a parallel universe, and Jaanam follows suit, playing like a sort of an Indian Jacques Dutronc, amping up a French pop sound with the beautiful phonetics of the Hindi language. Awesome.

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Lushlife dropping jams & vibes at Brooklyn Bowl; photographed by Edwina Hay.

Open Mike Eagle, “Raps For When It’s Just You and the Abyss”

Every once in awhile I hear a song that reminds me exactly what it is that I love about rap music. This is one of those songs. The first time I heard it, I must’ve played it back ten times in a row. From the woozy, impressionistic production to Mike’s choice bars that easily move between the day-to-day (lamenting a useless college degree) to geopolitics (citing ISIS and Boko Haram), this joint is rare rap perfection.

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Lushlife performing at Brooklyn Bowl; photographed by Edwina Hay.

James Pants, “The Eyes of the Lord”

Watching Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton, the Stones Throw Records documentary put me onto this choice cut from James Pants, and it’s been on-the-low stuck in my head for months. It’s weird and contagious like that. But also, the scene with Pants performing ‘The Eyes of the Lord’ in the documentary is hella cool, too. Dude is at some LA pool party with some self-consciously cool looking people milling around and in response it seems, he goes in that much harder on this strange quasi-devotional dance number.

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Lushlife at Brooklyn Bowl; photographed by Edwina Hay.

Kate Bush, “Running Up That Hill”

What can I say? I didn’t get put onto Kate Bush until woefully late, but this jam is close to timeless. There’s a really intoxicating mix of dark atmosphere and danceability that I imagine is very hard to achieve, practically speaking. Kate’s voice, too: Holy shit, something to behold.

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