Week in Pop: El Hollín, Paperhaus, The Splits, ZEMA

Sjimon Gompers

Introducing—ZEMA; photographed by Nikki Belfiglio, featuring the hands of Aiko Masubuchi and Josef Von Weikkmann.

As the Imposition rages onward, Impose’s Week in Pop provides you with a view of matters that exceed and extend far beyond all the hype happening in Austin. But first with a quick rundown of all this week’s top stories; Death Grips dropped a stream of the second disc of their final album with a listen to, Jenny Death, and also shared the title track from their double LP, the powers that b; as Earl Sweatshirt is now slated to drop his new album March 23, tweeted some grievances, released the “Grief” video; we also heard Grimes x Bleachers “Girls” collaboration; Carrie Brownstein announced that her memoir will be available October 27;  Run the Jewels were ambushed onstage by an audience member during their Spotify House performance in Austin; Foxygen’s have declared that their self-professed “last” tour is the works; legal complications allegedly appear to be surrounding the documentary, Drake’s Homecoming: The Lost Footage; Viet Cong released a statement regarding the controversy behind their moniker; Azealia Banks’ Playboy interview and photo session is now available; St. Vincent’s Annie Clark allegedly destroyed art at a festival in Santiago, Chile; read some heavy words from Slint’s David Pajo; Morrissey’s “The more you ignore me…” tour t-shirt; 50 Cent versus Rick Ross over sex tape fiasco; Arcade Fire brothers Win and Will Butler discussed bands “selling out” to brands and more at a SxSW panel; Nona Gaye, Frankie Gaye, and Marvin Gaye III issued a statement about the big “Blurred Lines” lawsuit; James Murphy enjoying his “Golden Years“, covers Bowie for Noah Baumbach film, While We’re Young; the popular Manchester venue The Roadhouse is closing; bassist Michael Shuman from Queens Of The Stone Age announced that the band is “taking a break”; and we say goodbye to Insound as they will be closing down at the end of March.

Moving onward to the next levels, it is an honor and privilege to bring you the following exclusives and interviews from El Hollín, Paperhaus, The Splits, ZEMA, AJ Pantaleo, Algiers, Inner Islands, Jade The Moon, co-curated by Small Wonder, and more — in no particular order.

Zema

ZEMA, hanging out in the keg room.

ZEMA, hanging out in the keg room.

Meet ZEMA; the solo project of Kegan Zema known for his work at 1989 Recordings, Journalism, doing sound at Silent Barn, and so forth gives us the world premiere listen to his just released, One More Year EP. Having helped countless musicians bring their recorded and live shows to life; Kegan steps out into his solo project shoes draped in the all-caps moniker of his surname to present an electronically enveloped aesthetic that analyzes consumption of media, ideas of self, substance, sensations, desensitization, and other short stories put to electric vignettes.

On the opening of One More Year, ideas, images, and attitudes are observed through the passing of time on the jagged and primal cut, “Primitive Lust (MTV)”. The visions of idolatry as heard and seen through vintage television tube screens with basic cable marks the distances of time traversed, the cognitive changes experienced between the past and present, where pop culture heroism and aspirations are taken to task. The underlying mix shakes up club catered coolness, with dashes of derelict synths keeping the mood menacing, brought with a guttural, gritty, and dirty delivery that keeps the quest for fame, glamor, and glitz real, honest; with all the disheartened trimmings intact as well. On “Spring (Part II)”, the late NYC nights are recounted with a frank survey of the chemically induced evenings out, all the debaucherous decadence regaled in earnest, and all the co-dependent companionship that present themselves on the elusive quests for fortune, fame, and lived visions of synth glimmering grandeur. ZEMA entertains the embrace of sky-high hopes in Kegan’s homage to self-styled plans, dreams, hopes, and wishes that shine like the brightest of venue marquees in the after dark hours on, “Solo Act”. The artist’s ode to plans made, outlines drafted, and pop tunes arranged coasts on a cornucopia of synthesizers that leave you with the reiterated title alluding pleas of, “just give me one more year…” Presenting the following debut of the One More Year EP now, ZEMA joins us after the following exclusive listen.

How have you found your work at 1989 Recordings has impacted your own approaches to solo recording and writing?

Everything I do has an impact on my solo work. It’s the sum of all my influences — a synthesis of all my musical and non-musical experiences as I move about the world. I take all of these inputs of emotions and sounds and distill them into an audible product. Working in a studio has been vital in terms of honing my mixing and engineering skills, but I’m also fascinated by watching ideas come into existence. Helping others create fires up all my empathetic receptors and I get a high similar to when I’m making my own work.

Tell us about the primal desires and modernist musical television stardom that inspired the electro-mania at work on “Primitive Lust (MTV)”.

This is a song about watching your perception of reality change as you grow older. It’s about rejecting the narrative we’re fed at an early age about limitless potential. It’s essential to our survival as ‘well-adjusted adults’ to accept that the world is cruel and rigged to make only a small number of specific individuals control the masses. Letting go of the dreams I was raised on by consuming media has been a slow and disheartening process for me.

ZEMA, Kegan Zema's labor of love, photographed by Nikki Belfiglio, featuring the hands of Aiko Masubuchi and Josef Von Weikkmann.

ZEMA, Kegan Zema’s labor of love, photographed by Nikki Belfiglio, featuring the hands of Aiko Masubuchi and Josef Von Weikkmann.

What seasonal memories gave rise to the springtime synths of, “Spring (Part II)”?

I spent last winter channeling primarily destructive energy on a spiritual, emotional and romantic level. With the arrival of spring certain mental blocks began to melt away. This song is half of a two-part movement, one of the centerpieces of the album I’m releasing later this year. “Winter (Part I)” explores these themes in a more somber context, while “Spring” takes a whole new approach to the same situations. I also tend to have trouble recognizing when my use of drugs or alcohol is recreational or self-medicating. I feel like that line is blurred a lot on this track both musically and lyrically.

Tell us about the synthesizer love notes, and the solo artist, that all sets the stage for the track, “Solo Act”.

Whatever semblance of a universal culture we have in 2015 tends to revolve around this idea of self. Each of us has become our own one-person show. Simply navigating our own identity stopped being enough at some point and we had to start creating one we can project. I’m always full of weird feels about social media. It’s like, I’m supposed to be putting forth this image-conscious, fully-formed and engaging version of myself, but I usually feel like this lost—yet determined human being trapped inside their own head.

What other recordings can you divulge at this moment, along with other potential releases?

This EP is essentially a small taste of what’s to come on my debut album. All of these songs will be re-contextualized within that narrative. These songs are a starting point though. It’s like everything you hear on these songs is prepping people to be like, ‘Oh damn, he came with it,’ when I drop the album. I’ve probably got half of another album done as well. Just give it one more year.

As someone who has recorded numerous artists and groups, can you give us just a handful at the top of your head that have had an impact on you lately?

At the same time I worship and idolize pop stars, I’m challenged by my friends and collaborators. I’ve had the pleasure of working on a huge amount of songwriting and production with my friends in Big Muff Radio and Sofa Club. They’ve been doing some next-level songwriting with Chloe Chaidez from Kitten, who they’re currently on tour with. All the material they worked on together is fire and seeing them play it live totally blew me away. I see so many influential acts by working sound at the shows at Silent Barn as well. My perception of live performance is continually challenged by working there.

Other artists that the world hasn’t heard yet but are about to change the game?

When people hear the Sofa Club album they will lose it. I like pretty much anyone that is able to show enough self-awareness to make whatever music they want. There are so many people who I can bond with over pop music and all its weird mutations. My friends in Bodega Bay are at the top of their game right now — musically and conceptually. Their live show is animated and transcendent.

Your thoughts on the current state of music (pop, indie, everything), and the future of music?

I feel the most optimistic about music when I hear a multitude of voices breaking through. Art spaces, promoters and publications can be conscious about breaking down hierarchical structures that exist in society. This allows for so many more people and ideas to be heard which is so crucial to the musical dialogue. A lot of people I know and work with seem to believe in this which makes me think positively for the future of music.

Next big moves for ZEMA?

My next show is at Palisades on May 6, which is also my birthday so maybe some cool cosmic shit will go down. I plan on continuing to work with genuine and talented people so we keep pushing each other. The album will be out later this year, I’m just trying to prepare everyone. Embrace the duality of life — the positive and negative flow of energy.

ZEMA’s One More Year EP is available now, with a full-length available this summer.

Follow ZEMA via Instagram, and Twitter.

The Splits

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Putting the holy hell in Helsinki — Finland’s own heck raisers The Splits have signed to Dirtnap Records, and are preparing a forthcoming album (releasing their new album, II, April 21), giving us a taste with the grand debut of, “Melody”. Kicking out screams and shreds of thrash and trash fuzz chords; Kiti and the gang provide the first listen since their 2012 self-titled that brings an even stronger, hard as hell presence persona cult that even tops their nu-girl riot radical singles, “Ghost”, and “Crazy for You” (via Airiston Punk-Levyt)

So this time on “Melody”, Kiti and company are not taking any prisoners, or hostages, but rather what sounds like a record store raiding spree mission to collect every Goner Records piece of wax available, anywhere. The opening line of Melody is something to the sound of, “you ain’t no fuckin’ friend,” as The Splits unleash the most aggressive assault of high gear grinding guitars that recalls reckless drives to the Southern garage styles with an almost indescribable ferocity. Just when you thought that the states had the most tough as nail femmes du force — the Helsinki underground shows us here that Finnish rock stars might be able to do American garage rock better than any yank from any of the fifty states. Finally getting a wider audience release via the folks at Portland, Oregon’s Dirtnap; The Splits big brash Stateside arrival could not have happened at a better time, as the outdated patriarchal institutions, phallocentric artifices, and misogynist bands continue to crumble under their own oppressive hubris. Frontwoman and guitarist Kiti was cool enough to talk with us about the histories of The Splits, providing a rare glimpse into the indie scenes of Helsinki — immediately after the following debut of, “Melody”.

How did The Splits first band together?

Me (Kiti, singer/guitarist) and Maiju (bassist) started the band together in 2009. We played just the two of us almost for a year until we found Helena and our first drummer Aiju. Jussi came along 2012 as a drummer. He recorded our first 7″ and LP and was a natural choice for a new drummer after Aiju focused on the family life.

What’s the latest from the Helsinki indie scene circuits?

I really like this all-girl act called Laiskat Silmät. They remind me a little bit of us when we first started. They are punk!!!
I also like a bands like Spectral Rays, Ghost World (not really a Helsinki band) and a raw hard core band Kohti Tuhoa.

Give us all the gory and glorious details on recording your album, II for Dirtnap.

I just remember it was pretty hard work. I mean we woke up super early every morning which for me was hard. We spent ages at the studio, not only recording, we listened to loads of music, talked shit and ate unhealthy food, countless pizzas and candy. The process was unusually long for us, five days really. It was also emotionally heavy for me. Some of the songs are older than the others and it brought back all kinds of memories — not maybe the most pleasant ones. I had to deal with a whole lot of my past again just to get those songs out of my system.

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What types of memories and/or melodies inspired the trashed out single, “Melody”?

Bitter and angry. I wrote the song after my breakup. I was still in pieces. So at that time anger and disappointment were my main inspirations. Later at practice I ‘noticed’ the cowboy ‘theme,’ I felt like the guitar lead could be a soundtrack for an old spaghetti western or something. Our recording guy/producer Lauri captured perfectly my thought of those Joe Meek guitar sounds. I just tried to explain what I’m looking after and he really nailed it.

Other Helsinki/Finnish bands/artists we should know about?

Besides those acts I mentioned earlier, you definitely should know Maailmanloppu, Kuudes Silmä, Armless Children, Acid Runs, Teksti-tv 666, Seksihullut, Darfür, Lapinpolthajat, Useless Cunts, Nazi Death Camp. Finland is a such a small country, but we’ve always had quality punk bands and a very active scene.

Next moves for The Splits?

We wanna tour! Keep on moving! Hopefully this year outside the Europe too. We have a short Germany tour in the end of the May with the Berlin band P.U.F.F. And we also have new songs and we’re hoping to record a 7″.

The Splits’ new album, II will be available April 21 from Dirtnap Records.

El Hollín

Getting to know, El Hollín, photographed throughout by Stacey-Marie Piotrowski.

Getting to know, El Hollín, photographed throughout by Stacey-Marie Piotrowski.

Turning Athens, Georgia into the sound of the mythic “Anorak City”; El Hollín released their new album, una tuesday, available now via Bandcamp, and Carousel Breakfast, chasing away the grudgery of life with sincere songs penned by the heart. Lead by the multi-talented and multi-instrumental frontwoman, Dena Zilber, joined by drummer Dain Marx, bassist Hana Hay, violinist John Fernandes, trumpeter Charlie Key, and Michael Wasteneys Stephens overseeing the usage of the accordion, glockenspiel, saw, etc. Following up holey smokes and a slated for releases from over the past half-decade; una tuesday is the shining DIY sound vision that might have been sent from the imaginations of the mid 80s post-post-punk rebellion from the scenes that celebrated themselves, and your favorite former indie labels were still independent from the clutches of the majors.

Dena strums sentiments both held from within and worn on her sleeve as El Hollín begins the una tuesday party with “acetone” that echoes the Dolly Mixture sentiments and Television Personalities style of rhythm guitar. Endearing moments are captured in observations of others, musings on the character of potential suitors and crushes, forever extending the genuine inner thoughts toward external projections on environmental presences. The realness and stripped down glory graces onward with, “i wish/the magic eye”, literary language economics on the fluttering, “poem”, the flavorful summer dreams and hair braiding longings of, “watermelon”, the folktale daydream of, “later in the day”, the forget me not of, “have you forgotten me”, the conscious stream of pure sentiment, “plait”, the enchanted tale of, “the last unicorn”, the intimate utterances of, “purr”, the dance inspiring dada punk of, “marbles”, mockery accusations, “and mock”, accordion thought-stream testaments on, “painted house”, to the closing ode to embracing and observing life with eyes wide open; “you can tell”.

We also present you with the El Hollín’s “birthday”, that provides a jangle indie pop update to “It’s My Party” (ala the recently dearly departed Lesley Gore), where the individual having the birthday is given the first degree to a chorus of ‘la la las,’ and some of the best warranted put downs that are delivered without hesitation. Following the listen, read our exclusive interview with Dena Zilber, as we explore the dynamics of El Hollín.

How did you first discover your love for making music?

I discovered my love for making music very slowly, I think it took honestly 21 years for it to really come out of me. As a kid I always had melodies and lyrics floating around in my head but never really had a clue of what to do with them. I took piano lessons very young, and then guitar lessons as a teen when I started becoming more passionate about music (specifically indie rock and pop). I didn’t make a lot of progress in my guitar lessons though, and for years after the guitar lessons I had sort of felt that I wasn’t really competent to be making music. So, I just stuck with my passion for discovering new bands, collecting records, and seeing as many live shows as I possibly could in NYC (I lived in NY). In college I studied printmaking, and after my junior year is when I first visited a friend of mine in Athens. When I came back from my trip, my heart was so full of emotions because I had fallen in love with Athens, and someone I had met there. I started writing songs and recording them by myself with whatever recording devices I had around, but they were just a capella at first or sometimes used a toy melodica to create harmonies/beats. I then later borrowed an friend’s little Martin acoustic guitar, re-taught myself how to play, and wrote guitar parts for those songs. Those were recorded too, and later when I moved to Athens I shared them with my musically inclined friends in town. They then urged me to start a band! Which became El Hollín back in 2010.

What’s the story behind the name El Hollín, and how did the band first begin?

The story behind the name El Hollín, which isn’t very exciting: I used to have an app on my old school Nokia phone years ago that gave me a ‘Spanish word of the day.’ One day that word was ‘El Hollín,’ and it was described as meaning ‘soot.’ I was in love with that word, and the definition from that point and knew I wanted to remember it and use it for something. Six months later I started the band.

I discovered with my friends who speak Spanish though, that this is a very obscure Spanish word. It’s possibly only used in certain Spanish speaking regions, or just not a word that really comes up often. My friend Lydia is Mexican, and when she told her mom about the band, her mother thought the name meant ‘dirty hole.’

It’s been a tricky name to work with, no one really knows how to pronounce it correctly on first try. The ‘h’ is silent, the two ‘ls’ make a ‘y’ sound (think ‘se llama,’ and the ‘í’ makes a hard ‘e’ sound. At times I’ve wanted to change the name, but nothing has ever felt as right. When I tell people about the band I usually say, ‘we’re called El Hall-in, or El Hollín.’

El Hollín, photographed throughout by Stacey-Marie Piotrowski.

El Hollín, photographed throughout by Stacey-Marie Piotrowski.

Over the years the band’s line up has changed many times. For the first year or two it was just myself, a drummer, and another friend playing keyboards/glockenspiel. We played Athens Popfest and got a review that ripped on us hard for not having a bassist. So then we introduced bass, and I learned how magically the bass transformed my songs, then we found a trumpet player, a violinist, etc. Friends kept wanting to join in, and it was awesome. But as many people wanted to join, others would get busy or move on. Athens is a very transitional town with people coming and going all the time (mainly because of the college). Though I would love to have a band/group that is consistent and long-term, that hasn’t been the most viable thing, so it’s been a rotating cast of characters backing me up over the years.

Give us stories on the making of Una Tuesday, following up Holey Smokes.

Una Tuesday came after a lot of life changes happened. Two other bands I was in broke up/fell apart, and I had to part ways with my drummer that I started the band with because he had to deal with some mental health issues. I also at the same time had just broken up with my partner of 3 years, and this all happened in the same month! It was a weird time. I knew I didn’t want to stop making music or playing in bands but I was unsure for a while if El Hollín would continue. Then it just occurred to me one day to ask my friends Dain Marx (a drummer) and Hana Hay (a bassist) to play with me and continue the band again. They used to play together in Portland in a band called Foot Ox.

So now It’s funny, my previous two albums had hardly any songs to do directly with romance or relationships, but suddenly those sort of songs were pouring out of me. A lot of Una Tuesday is about dealing with heartache.

Stories: For a year we would practice once or twice a week in a house that used to be a laundromat and played some really fantastic house shows there. There was already a stage with checkerboard tiling built in where the machines had been, and the acoustics of the space were fantastic.

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Hana’s parents are both big influences on the Athen’s music scene, her mom Vanessa was the singer of Pylon. Her father Bob used to have a great band called The Squalls. I knew about two months into playing with Dain and Hana that I wanted to start recording and Hana told me Bob would definitely be down to record us at his friend Ken Starratt’s studio in Watkinsville, 20 minutes outside of Athens. So we started recording there a few times a month from February 2014-September. The studio was really fantastically built. It is the size of a small cottage and in the wooded backyard of Ken’s home. It was so nice to be out there when the weather was good. We’d take turns recording and the rest of us would enjoy the natural surroundings. Dain and Hana always brought their dog Grizelda and Dain would find animal skulls around the premises, ha ha! This was my first experience recording in a professional studio as well, the past records were recorded in friend’s homes.

What was it like working with John Fernandes, and how did his contributions affect, Una Tuesday?

John Fernandes is an amazingly supportive musician who lives in Athens. He attends everyone’s shows and is one of the most friendly and approachable people. He also works at the local record shop Wuxtry, so he tends to know everyone in the scene and what’s going on. John and I met and became friends within the first few months that I lived in town. It never really occurred to me to ask him to play with us because I felt too humble or shy I suppose. My friend Lydia started playing violin with us in 2011 for a few years, but had to temporarily drop out when she was finishing up school. So around the time I started playing with Dain and Hana it just occurred to me that I should ask John! He was totally stoked to play with us, and awesome to work with. I don’t have much to say besides that because he’s really just a sweet and passionate person. He always has been supportive of my music and our band as well. We played his fest in town last fall for his record label called Cloud Recordings Fest. That was a lot of fun! Violin has always been really terrific to have in our band’s sound because it often works like the lead guitar in many of our songs. It also adds so much depth, counter-plays my melodies, and overall adds richness to the mix. With Una Tuesday, I feel his violin also really adds to the melodramatic points of my songs. And, I’ve been influenced by so many indie pop bands over the years that feature violin and orchestral instruments to their sound, so just having those same sort of vibes going with my own band makes me really giddy.

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Tell us about your music recording and composition processes.

Recording and composition process: It usually goes this way- I have a melody with lyrics floating around in my brain. They usually come to me when I am riding my bike, driving my car, or taking a shower! Usually just whenever I am daydreaming a little. Sometimes they come if I’m just sitting down in my room with my guitar as well. I write out the words. Sometimes I record the melody and lyrics so I don’t forget them. Then I bring out my guitar or keyboard and start to flesh it out. I add and take away, and I just keep experimenting with different sounds or ideas until a song starts to morph. Sometimes the song isn’t at all like what I was originally hearing in my mind, but it’s really fun for me, to take whatever original idea or inspiration is coming to me and see how it evolves when I work with it. I later share it with my band mates, and we start to collaborate on their parts for the songs- though for the most part everyone really writes their own accompaniment. I rarely have specific instructions, usually when I do it’s just for the backing vocals. With Una Tuesday, it was kind of funny though- we recorded the album over 8 months and not all the songs were written when we started the process. My band mates were just learning some of the songs in the studio! There were a few we had to go back and re-record later because the songs had changed over time from the first recording session as we started to play them live at shows.

el hollin stacey-marie piotrowski week in pop

Favorite obscure C86 era single/EP/album comp?

When it comes to the original NME [C86] comp, The Pastels track was what really sucked me into the C86 genre and my love for all that. Discovering The Pastels was like discovering a new crush, I was so very excited about this band who for some reason was off my radar for the longest time. “Truckload of Trouble” is my favorite record of theirs and particularly the track “Nothing to be Done”. Of course the original comp led me into the whole genre. The Australian band Even as We Speak is a really important influence on me, I put the song “Drown” on so many mix CDs. I also found The Popguns, The Bats, and Dolly Mixture, Cub. The band Heavenly and everything Amelia Fletcher has ever been involved with has really changed my life.

What are you listening to now?

I listen to a lot of my friend’s bands: Iji from Seattle, Younger Siblings from Birmingham AL, Junior July- a new pop punk band from Bloomington IN, fronted by Mitch the Champ, Wild of Night/Permanent Nap (Local Athenian group), Places to Hide from Atlanta, Try the Pie, Lonesome Leash, Maryn Jones, Quarterbacks, Air Waves, and Nesey Gallons!

I’m also really into Screaming Females, Telle Novella, Stephen Steinbrink, Peach Kelli Pop, Cats on Fire, They Might be Giants, Cocteau Twins, The Four Tops… so many, and so much pop- but it’s all over the place, and I could go on! I’m really big on 80’s music in general too, Cyndi Lauper, etc.

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Report from the Athens, Georgia scene?

Not much to report on the Athens scene. I’ve lived here for almost five years now, and I’ve seen a lot of waves of music come in and out. I think we are somewhat in between the waves right now. There’s still awesome bands popping up here and there, but not as many or as much activity as when I first moved to town. There’s still shows and concerts to see almost every single night though, so I am pretty spoiled over here with that. We have lots of cool small touring bands pass through regularly. I get to meet other touring musicians all the time, and I have friends all over the country now which is pretty rad!

Other Athens artists you love?

Other Athens artists: I already mentioned Wild of Night/Permanent Nap, my friend Birdie’s electronic/synth group- her music is incredibly beautiful. There’s also a great pop punk band in town called Eureka California. John Fernandes plays with another group called Old Smokey who make really wonderful melodic folk tunes.

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How did the Carousel Breakfast partnership come about?

Carousel Breakfast is a label my friend Jared in Michigan just launched. We became friends over a year ago when he discovered my music through Nesey Gallons (who mastered our last album “Holey Smokes”). He told me from the get go that he wanted to start a label and release our albums in cassette format. We considered doing a tape release for Holey Smokes but it had already been out on CD for quite some time at that point, so we decided to wait for the next record. It’s his second release on the label, the first being a reissue of “Somewhere We Both Walk”- a booklet of poetry by Nesey that comes with an incredible, visceral ambient track of music that Nesey composed.

El Hollín’s una tuesday is available now via Bandcamp and Carousel Breakfast.

Paperhaus

Hanging around with the D.C. dudes from Paperhaus.

Hanging around with the D.C. dudes from Paperhaus.

Paperhaus recently released released their debut self-titled album, and today proudly present the world premiere of their anticipated video for “So Slow”, from director Ben Usie (who is also the drummer for Paper Garden Records band, Pree, and Br’er). Taking their name from a Can song of a similar spelling; Paperhaus’s Alex Tebeleff, Eduardo Rivera, Danny Bentley’s self-titled follows up their Lo Hi Lo EP, touring about, quitting day jobs, living in a venue/commune of their own, and recording the album in purported 105 degree heat waves. Percussionist extraordinaire/auteur Ben Usie gives “So Slow” a sped-up view into the glamorous world of Cloudheavy Recording Collective’s Dorian Phibian getting dolled up for a big, hedonistic performance.

Blending footage taken from all over Southern Louisiana; Ben turns Paperhaus’ time delaying power ballad into a fast living frame that chronicles Dorian playing getting himself pampered and prepped for a big show, while on the road images are inter-spliced into the scene. As Paperhaus turns “So Slow” up to the big time power organ points, and “ooooh” back up choruses—we see Dorian Phibian rocking his heart out in Joe Cool shades, all in all as a type of meta-biopic that encapsulates the blur of activity Paperhaus experienced between their first EP, and the new album. The forever touring road becomes psychedelicized visually, presenting the mythologized rock and roll lifestyle on a pedestal of quick paced ego indulgence of the highest order. Following the video debut of Paperhaus’s “So Slow”, join us for our interview with the band.

Give us the story on how Paperhaus started.

Paperhaus started 14 years ago when Alex and Eduardo met on the soccer field at middle school. Bonding further throughout high school on Television, Radiohead, and jazz, they’ve been playing together ever since. Jeff Galfond, now of Chicago band Eggs, was also a longtime part of Paperhaus with Ed and Alex till 2010. Paperhaus has been the name of the band since 2006, it’s from the CAN song “Paperhouse,” a huge influence on us.

What was the experience like for you guys recording your debut at The Blighthaus? Challenges? Triumphs?

It was totally insane. We just came off a two month 60 date tour around the country in support of Lo Hi Lo, and cut the album live to a tape machine in that basement in 100 degree heat with no air conditioning. It was so intense that we broke up with our bass player during the session, but that energy definitely gave us some great performances on the album! He finished out the album and did two more gigs but that album is a document of that line-up that played and toured and lived together at The Paperhaus for three years, and also the end of that line-up as well. Pree also recorded their album there before the neighbors started calling the cops. That ended live music in that house! Now it’s a production studio mostly for Br’er.

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Tell us about your thoughts on the video, featuring dude from Cloudheavy collective, and how you feel it adds to the mystique of “So Slow”.

I think it’s a wonderfully strange video. Ben Usie, who also plays in Pree and Br’er, is a really a part of our family in DC and he always makes highly unique videos. The Cloudheavy collective is a part of our extended family of people involved in growing their creative communities from the ground up across the country, so it was particularly meaningful to have them involved. We just crashed with them in Lafayette, LA, and they have an amazing compound set up with two houses and a barn where they just play music and make art. It’s beautiful.

Words from director Ben Usie:

This video is a based on the classic fable about a performer who gets all dressed up with nowhere to go… A being with exceptional skill but an unrealized audience. It reveals the playfully fantastical nature and steady dissociation that the being must project at all times in a constant effort to limit the intense power and immediacy of the void. The video stars Dorian Phibian of Cloudheavy Recording Collective and was filmed all over South Louisiana.

What else have you all been up to post-release?

We’ve pretty much just been touring non stop. Right now we are at SxSW, we got very lucky to get to play with so many bands we love in Austin.

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Spring and summer activities in the works for Paperhaus?

We plan to get right to recording the next album with the new line-up. We are very excited about the new material and already playing a few songs live. Starting to incorporate synths into the mix, I’m really starting to play a lot less guitar.

Other obscure artists we need to be listening to right now?

Oh wow, that’s so hard. Is Krill obscure? Because if they are, they shouldn’t be. I don’t think they are too serious music listeners. One of our favorite bands, it’s been so awesome to watch them develop and just get better and better over the past few years. Pree from DC is another band like that, they just keep getting better every time I see them.

Words of Paperhaus wisdom you can share?

Don’t quit.

Paperhaus’s self-titled album album debut is available now.

AJ Pantaleo

AJ Pantaleo, photographed by Danny Lane.

AJ Pantaleo, photographed by Danny Lane.

AJ Pantaleo from Bueno is readying the release of his solo EP, Walkabout, this upcoming April 3, featuring experimental noise variations taken from the artist’s free jazz roots. Recorded at Red Room Studios in Staten Island in what we are told was one take; AJ is joined by James Clark, and Bueno’s Mike D for a wild session that the artist described as being, “improvised & recorded individually without prior knowledge of each others parts. Listen with a proper pair of headphones for the best experience and journey on.” The fun begins with the humming percussion to electric assonance/dissonance where rushes of feedback become spaced out aspects of the mix. “Siamese” continues along the plains between organized and disorganized noise and rhythm patterns, drumming up the pole on, “Totem”, spinning you around to the closing curtain drop of free formed orchestrations of beautiful, brilliant, and terrifying chaos. AJ further described thoughts, reflections, etc, on the making of the Walkabout EP with the following exclusive insights:

I really tried to speak through the drums. Mike and James provided me a really nice canvas of sound to play over and get lost in. James sent me soundscapes he did at home in Brooklyn. I had no idea what he was going to come up with but I trust him. He and I did a bunch of playing together a few years back with Greem Jellyfish and BEEF. I recorded my parts to his soundscapes. Mike came in completely blind and laid down his guitar and sounds. The result is Walkabout. A team effort. The recording was engineered by Joe Pecora of Red Room Studios here on Staten Island, and artwork was done by Christopher Prosser of a The CPDC based out of California.

AJ Pantaleo, photograph appears courtesy of Mike Shane Photography.

AJ Pantaleo, photograph appears courtesy of Mike Shane Photography.

Walkabout is basically a peak inside of my head. It was my chance to create a record the way I hear drums and take the listener on the journey with me. At times its groove oriented, other times it’s choppy and ‘mathy,’ but it’s what I hear and feel. Artist Brendan Coyle who is based out of Richmond VA is currently working on some videos for the album that hopefully I can incorporate into the live performance. It will be available streaming digitally and for purchase April 3rd. Pre-order via iTunes on March 23rd as well.

Algiers

Algiers, featuring Franklin James Fisher, Ryan Mahan, and Lee Tesche, photographed by WFN Productions.

Algiers, featuring Franklin James Fisher, Ryan Mahan, and Lee Tesche, photographed by WFN Productions.

Releasing their Matador album debut this summer, Algiers have already given us their single, “But She Was Not Flying“, and most recently released the radical and powerful Lamb & Sea video collage of vintage and current images that make up the sentiments, sensations, and deep felt cure sentiments of, “Blood”. In just under six minutes, Franklin leads you through a series of transgressive empirical histories, with a heaviness of lyrics, combining a montage collection of moving images that depict televised revolutions, “television coma” concepts of armchair apathy, injustices, and an electric, funereal nu-gospel response to the sins of the twentieth century. It is our privilege to present the following exclusive, and moving editorial from frontman Franklin James Fisher himself on the song, “Blood”, systemic racial marginalization, “symbolic intervention against the vapid and unifying Capitalist hegemony of pop,” and much more:

“Blood” is a meditation; a reflection on the overwhelming disillusionment and hopelessness that result when you find yourself powerless in an impossibly stifling, political situation, particularly in the midst of an increasingly bankrupt culture. But it is also a last-breath refusal to bow to political nihilism…even if that resistance is wholly symbolic.

The song was initially spawned as a challenge to the problematic question of my elders. As a young, black man, I am constantly asked, ‘What happened to your generation?’ This presupposes that within the inter-generational project of black liberation in America, something went wrong when the torch was passed and the time came for us to assume our role in the struggle. But personally, it was neither sufficient nor acceptable to focus the blame inward and what started as a personal exploration of identity and dispossession quickly turned into a larger indictment of a systemic and institutionalized oppression that transcends the African-American experience and which has managed to immobilize and suppress all marginalized voices. In her essay “Postmodern Blackness,” bell hooks explains:

“The period directly after the black power movement was a time where major news magazines carried articles with cocky headlines like ‘Whatever Happened to Black America?’ This response was an ironic reply to the aggressive, unmet demand by decentered, marginalized black subjects who had at least momentarily successfully demanded a hearing, who had made it possible for black liberation to be on the national political agenda. In the wake of the black power movement, after so many rebels were slaughtered and lost, many of these voices were silenced by a repressive state; others became inarticulate. It has become necessary to find new avenues to transmit the messages of black liberation struggle, new ways to talk about racism and other politics of domination.”

When we look to the past and then survey the present cultural landscape, it is not hard to see the remains of lost futures and possibilities of a myriad social, artistic and political projects. In “Blood”, we stage our symbolic intervention against the vapid and unifying Capitalist hegemony of pop. Each device is a representative symbol: the choir are the ghosts of the past, still clamoring for a voice; the guitar is purely abstracted and disembodied frustration because harmony cannot suffice to articulate where we are. Here, we have envisioned a parallel future where artistic and political revolutionaries convene across temporal and social space in shared revolt at our current predicament.

Algiers Matador debut will be available this summer.

Inner Islands

inner islands week in pop 1

We brought you Oakland’s Sean Conrad, aka Ashan’s premiere of “Lana” last year, and now we present you three new releaes from Conrad’s own indie imprint, Inner Islands. The new albums from braeyden jae, Orra, and Channelers all saw release earlier this month on cassette and digital, showcasing some of the most creative, experimental minds that turn East Bay experimental nocturnes into the sun rays of tomorrow’s new day mornings. Sean gave us the following walkthrough of these three new releases, providing us first with a little a bit of a prologue about his Inner Islands label:

Inner Islands is a small peace-vibe record label that was born under the protective spell of Antelope Island. It is now based in Oakland, California.

braeyden jae, turnings

Inspired by many close listens to light leaving, the 2010 cassette release from gkfoes vjgoaf, turnings finds braeyden jae relying less on the dense, blown-out bass distortions of his previous efforts, in favor of sparser electric guitar strums, generous reverb, and warmly looped vinyl crackle. as always, it is intended for both a foreground and background listening experience.

Orra, Into The Wind

Orra is a new project out of Oakland featuring members of Ashan and Gossimer. The duo explores the quiet, creaking life of wooden sounds over stormy water with lush synths, broken instruments, and tinkling textures. Orra’s music is meant to blend, slither, emerge, and blend again into whatever environment it is released. It is the long untold night between scenes of folklore, and it is the breath and ridged back of elements unseen.

Channelers, They are Cloaked in Stars and Rivers

Three am is said to be an ideal time for ritual magic. There is an energetic clarity created when many of the busied and frenetic minds are no long wakeful. There is space. The four compositions on They are Cloaked are created out of this sense of space. Largely recorded live, each of the four pieces begins minimally and builds to crescendo with the aid of keyboards, guitar, percussion, and field recordings processed through live electronics. This is the first album by Channelers and there are more to come.

Jade the Moon

jade the moon week in pop 1

Vancouver’s Jade Moon, aka Jade The Moon is a project comprised of Toronto’s production duo Bad Cop // Mean Cop, with their debut EP Habits & Hindrance in the works, and their “Broken Angels” single available March 24 via Culvert Music. Taking a maximalist pop approach toward deep metaphysical matters; Jade along with her production team push toward a kind of kinesis that repairs the wings of fallen celestial, mythological entities. Presenting the gymnastics centered video for “Broken Angels”; Jade The Moon points their big-minded pop production approach to something extending the boundaries from the normal and into the paranormal and strange. Jade gave us the following elusive break down on all matters involving “Angels”, and more:

“Broken Angels” was written in one night. A happy accident. In fact it was born in a very last minute kitchen writing session. I love the simplicity in the song. It somehow represents a loss of innocence. The lyric was actually inspired by a ceramic angel that a friend of ours found in the back yard of his Queen Street apartment. He began carrying with him as a good luck charm. Not that we are superstitious, but this song has had an incredible energy from the day it was written, and several odd events that have, and continue to happen around the release of the track. I’ll save these stories for another day. Everyone involved in bringing this track to life has a connection to it in a very unique way. I think the visual that accompanies the does the same. Its always exciting to see how another artist is inspired by your work.

We were the first to bring you Bogan Via’s new single, “Madly”, and now we bring you their big, plugged in/switched on pop single, “Runnin'”. Bret Bender and Madeleine continue to be the bright, beacon of indie light out in the Arizona deserts of Phoenix.

We last heard from Ohioan Wes Tirey when he released an epic strum-a-thon via Noumenal Loom’s recent winter batch, and now bring you, Journeyer/Forward, Melancholy Dream from Cabin Floor Esoterica. Old Americana hymns ramble on from the opening exploration of thoughts on, “Old Ohio Blues”, the local folklore that makes up, “Ballad of the Black Hills Woman”, the electric utterrances of, “The Body’s Better”, aching some stripped down sensations on, “Akhnilo Blues”, the poncho draped chords of balladry, “Mexican Blanket”, to cosmic folk American mysticism and rustic vision of the closing beauty, “Buffalo Bones”. For those who have yet to discover the wonder of Wes Tirey; there is no better time than now to hear, and experience what many have already discovered.

Playing the festivities happening in their own hometown backyard of Austin this week, we bring you the vintage-vibe video for The Zoltar’s “16-17-18”, off their Happenin Records self-titled. The proclivities of teenage kicks and nostalgic thrills brings that golden age modern sound into your millennial mind-frame.

Making the Austin rounds himself, hear Fort Romeau’s “All I Want” off the upcoming album, Insides, available March 31 from Ghostly International. That nu-club dish of house delight du jour is served up with that unique and beautiful relationship between the extravagance of synthesizer and the restraint of the arranged drum beat, and other additions of ambient considerations.

Jurassic 5’s Marc 7 dropped the When Sounds Attack EP this month, and we got a taste of the smooth and slow jam, “Come 2 Far”, featuring vocal appearances from Knytro & MC Supernatural. Reminiscing about coming up in the game and method; Marc, K, and Supernatural spill some autobiographical perspectives while that Blacksmith production brings a timeless taste of the sunniest seasons, and the most relaxing of moments and memories.

Heard on Showtime’s “Shameless”, check out the early morning, post-bender, hangover-lifting, “Jimmy Dean”, from The Morning Birds’ Select Songs from 2011-2014. The cool swagger of vintage night club atmospheres is brought to the breakfast ready head-spaces of revitalizing while the mind slowly comes to during the process of reckoning.

From Brown Bag All Stars, hear J57’s remix of Choosey’s track “Matters” ft. Fashawn and Ishe, off C’s new album for The Dirty Science available soon (rumored to feature production from folks like Abjo, Exile, Pac Div’s Like, Knxwledge, along with vocal cameos from Blu, Johaz, amongst others). Choosey’s ode to breaking it down to the things that really matter gets a cool twist from J, who lights up some items of conscious knowledge to keep the good vibes coasting.

From EPI watch the Jakob Cizic directed performance video for Sundara Karma’s “Loveblood”, where the camera captures the band in their live habitat, moving cameras, and persepctives from the audience to the stage view to the band’s sincere outpour of sentiment and crisp guitar sensations.

The Scrap Dealers dropped the static-saturated images and aggression on the grind-fest, “No Sense In Your Eyes”, off their self-titled EP for Jaune Orange.

Watch the digital-dazzle from the Aquele Simões video for Thunder & Co.’s “Apples”, that will turn your world into something dreamt out of a Tron fantasia.

Freshly released this week, we got your listen to Pause’s No Small Order album that finds the Venice Beach emcee feeling himself with appearances from a few friends like, UltraLove, Joe Con, Katie Cole, Mix Master Wolf, Devin Mares, Kory K. Stew, Tsmidi, Double K, Chris CLArke, and more. Showing you how it’s done, check out the SoCal mic handler shaking up some funk flavors along with Joe Con.

For those that need some of the eccentric and electric weird world of Charles Griffin Gibson, aka CHUCK; bust out all the party favors and enjoy his just released, Happy New Years Babe album.

From The Highway’s forthcoming album, Enter to Exit, available April 14; catch the room spinning euphoria of “Circles” that will keep your heart and mind set in a centrifugal twirl.

Continuing on their national tour featuring select dates with Sylvan Esso & of Montreal; Generationals dropped their Erin Barry video for “Charlemagne” that brings a gumbo of vibrant styles sure to have you dancing in the streets. Their album, Alix is available now from Polyvinyl.

Off the upcoming Islands EP available April 26 from Culvert Music; get caught in the lush sounds of electronic, enveloping pop essences on Kat Vinter’s “Downtime”.

Go Wolf dropped some pop to match the might of the audio deities with “Even God”, off the upcoming Running EP available March 17 from Ooh La La Records.

Public Service Broadcasting’s new album The Race For Space is available now, and we got the synth-simmering-serenade Errors remix of, “Go!”.

Niagara’s ELSE WHAT ELSE? will be available April 27 from Monotreme Records, and we bring you the part animated, special effects enriched video for, “Else”.

Taken off The 1978ers album, People of Today, available now from Mello Music Group; it’s your duo yU & Slimkat fresh from the DMV and getting galactic in the Jay Brown video for “Far”, which takes matters as far out to the alternate and unknown regions while riding high off Slimkat’s timeless organ note cascades, and yU’s mind expanding teachings, and verses.

The Midwestern Charm dropped their new track, “Can’t Stand It”, bringing all the coming of age honesty of aches, pains, and pressures from their forthcoming album, Growing Pains, available April 21 from Texas Is Funny.

With Alright’s self-titled EP available from a co-op between Negative Fun Records and Self Aware Records; check out the art-day afternoon attitudes and delivery from Sarah Blumenthal that might inspire you to pick up your brush and paint set with the single, “Watercolors”.

With his Play Like Hell Tour happening now through June 28 (featuring live band, Nat Turner); we have a brand new loosie from Black Milk with the matter of fact reflections, “I Guess”, the first thing we’ve heard since last year’s If There’s a Hell Below. Bringing us something fresh, this single, the ongoing tour, and more gives us something to hang on to until we hear further word on the upcoming follow-up to Hell Bellow.

Off the upcoming Pornotopia album available this spring; get dapper and electro-glammed out with Ellis Martin’s stories of rocky romances and more on electrified synth bopper, “You’re Kinda Crazy”.

Sonnymoon, aka Brooklyn’s Anna Wise and Dane Orr, dropped the trippy-track, “Grains of Friends” from their forthcoming The Courage of PresentTimes album, available March 23 from GLOW365. Anna was just featured on Kendrick’s new album, To Pimp a Butterfly, and now presents a minimalist romp of descriptive nuances that cradles the cameraderie of beloved companions, while the mix gets wavy between the reminiscing of departures, arrivals, evolutions, and the enduring aftermaths of former friends, allies, and relationships.

Run For Cover Records just signed mewithoutYou, featuring a new record coming this summer, a tour with Dr. Dog happening from March 23 through May 16.

Watch the “Escape From Tomorrow Tour” documentary filmed by Kristina Esfandiari and M.J. Bernier for the King Woman, Planning For Burial, Mother Room, and Foie Gras tour that runs that runs from March 28 through April 5. Watch. Enjoy. Abide.

Fresh from the release of their Big Luxury album and our recent interview session; Potatohead People dropped a mix that the Canadian duo made that sports a handful of their cool influences that counts a variety of obscurities, lesser knowns, and well knowns to keep your speakers bumping, and humming.

Hitting up the Austin festivities, a national tour with Lieutenant, and a forthcoming new album; hear Yukon Blonde’s brand new cut, “Saturday Night”, that continues on the tradition of cool, weekend ready pop that pays homage to one of our favorite nights of the week—any week.

Small Wonder’s Week in Pop

Small Wonder-3
(All photos of Small Wonder’s Henry Crawford appear courtesy of Impose’s photo boss, Edwina Hay, photographed at The Knitting Factory.)
Having just played The Imposition, Henry Crawford from Small Wonder took the time to guest curate Week in Pop with the following feature segment, as we continue to champion The Epoch‘s rise to prominence:

My year started with a moment of great emotional crisis. The foundation that I had built my life around crumbled and I was unsure of what to do next. I decided to devote the year to touring as a method of meditation and healing. I wrote this on the road, some in the backseat of the car, some in the houses of strangers. I don’t feel healed yet, but I am getting there and these are a few of the people and songs that have helped me along the road to where I need to go. Thank you.

No One and the Somebodies, “(Humans) Being Human (Beings)”

This song makes me feel safe. I listened to this song on my way to move into the house that I just moved out of. I lived there for a year, and the floors were dirty, but I miss it. For the first time in my life I felt like I had a home, and a family. A home is harder to build than a house.

Hank May, “So Much”

Hank told me once that a songwriter’s job is to find that one truth that gives people a soul-shaking shiver down the spine. This song makes me shake all over.

“There may be nothing sweeter than truly giving up
but no one’s ever lived to tell the tale of being done”

Small Wonder-2

Lou Reed, “Last Great American Whale”

I’ve been Obsessing over this song recently. I don’t know what it is that has me so transfixed on it. I think it’s the combination of Lou Reed’s typical venom paired with this feeling of regret and sadness. I’m interested in uncommon emotions in art. Sad songs are so easy to to write, but how do you write a song about a quiet rage? how do you express hopeful regret?

Emily Reo, “Spell”

I just played a show with Emily last week in Boston, and she closed with this song. Everyone cried. A song hasn’t made me cry in a lifetime. At the end of the song she reversed the loop and I swear in the swirl of gibberish I heard a voice singing “no one owes you anything.”

Yohuna, “Apart”

I met Johanne in December. She told me she wrote this song about when she left America to travel in Europe with Liz. In a month I’m gonna leave America to travel in Europe with Johanne. It will be my first time outside of the country. This is a year of movement after what feels like an eternity of static. I just saw a falcon fly by my window.

Mutual Benefit, “Golden Wake”

Jordan is tagging along on the tour I am on right now, playing keyboards with Neil. We played in Bloomington the other night, and he played this song in a small room to a crowd of four brand new friends. It felt incredibly important, but I don’t know why. I quit my job to chase something special too.

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Rivergazer, “Random Nostalgia”

I just finished a tour with Rivergazer. Traveling with them filled me with so much hope and excitement about the next year. I want to be strong and kind. I want to be brave. I love my friends, and I love my home. This was my favorite song to hear every night.

R.L. Kelly, “Wake Up”

I am in a house in Texas, sitting across from a cockatiel chirping in its cage. I love this song, it hits every emotional nerve it’s supposed too. It makes me feel strong and calm. There are a thousand songs about not letting the haters grind you down, but what makes this one special for me is when Rachel says, ‘they want to hurt you, because they’re hurting too.’ Remembering that everyone has pain and sadness is one of the things I have to remind myself of whenever I feel broken. Caging a bird is one of the saddest things that people do.

Follow Small Wonder on Twitter.

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