Week in Pop: Devereaux, Grand Vapids, Jay Soul, Matthew Melton, Snowday

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Great Pagans, Piers, Sunbeam Sound Machine, The Controversy, co-curated by Soft as Snow.

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Sjimon Gompers | November 7, 2014

The man, the myth, the legend in his own time, and in his own right—Matthew Melton. Photographed by Steven Ruud.

Keeping the fireplace burning this winter, Impose’s Week in Pop invites you to check out our round of discussions and exclusive from folks making big moves out here in our shared, cozy world. But first bringing you all the headlines you can stand: Azealia Banks finally released the long-awaited Broke With Expensive Taste album; then we saw Fat Mike versus the stage crashing fan-bro in Sydney; and watched a young DOOM / aka KMD’s Zev Love X Rock the Vote in 1991 at a U.S. Senate hearing regarding the Motor Voter Bill; then took a gander at Bruce Springsteen’s $300,000 lasagna dinner auction; learned Electric Light Orchestra are working on a new album; and Faith No More too are also working on a new album; but ready for Lollapalooza Berlin coming in 2015; with the presence of Dave Grohl feeling omnipresent as of late; as we wish for the best for Freddie Gibbs crew who got caught up in a heavy and heated situation outside Rough Trade in Williamsburg; Phil Rudd of AC/DC’s alleged murder plot fracas; and we mourn the loss of Wayne Static-X, and Jack Bruce.

Closing out the week and stepping into the future of tomorrow, we are proud to present the following world exclusives and interviews from Matthew Melton, Devereaux, Jay Soul, Snowday, Grand Vapids, Great Pagans, The Controversy, Sunbeam Sound Machine, Piers, co-curated by Soft as Snow, and more—in no particular order.

MATTHEW MELTON

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The following artist hardly needs any introduction. The man behind Fuzz City studios, Bare Wires, Snake Flower 2, Warm Soda, and more — Matthew Melton — presents the followup to his solo album Still Misunderstood with an early exclusive listen to his forthcoming full-length, Outside of Paradise. The Memphis by San Francisco Bay, and based out of Austin, TX artist has taken a barrage of recordings made from 2007 through 2014 and compiled them together for this November 18 slated release from Southpaw Records, providing a series of audio snap-shots that depict the master analog magician deep at work. Like the illustrious company of figures like John Dwyer, Ty Segall, Tim Presley, and the late-garage-great Jay Reatard —Melton completes the short list of monumental figures that have helped shape the state of DIY rock in the testimonials that make up tomorrow’s books and yesterday’s almanacs.

Outside of Paradise begins like the Biblical cataclysmic ‘fall of man’ of getting thrown out of the garden like a unruly patron finding their paradise lost after getting kicked out the bar, swanky club, or hip dive. “Images On The Sand” operates on that tape turning axis, where strings enter the mix in a semi-baroque haze. The results of having too much to dream explore the electric undergrounds on “Find Someone New”, before the title song of “Outside of Paradise” presents psychedelic dimensions of sound that plots a new nirvana outside the gates of main street. The language of logos and projected labels get thrown around in the announcement of autonomy on the infectious guitar angles of “Painted Sign”, while “Take Me Hand” grabs a partner across the dance floor into the stream of swinging strings, and echoing chord breaks that dissolve into the disintegration of a Fuzz City studio elemental breakdown.

The vintage radio radical pop asks for more than to just to hold a hand, with the puppy love request of “Promise It To Me”, before spinning the semantic stew around in the whirlpool rock of, “Words I Never Learned”. The age old pop song question of ‘is she really going out with him’ get updated with the supplemental addition of “Are You Taking Her Home”, keeping the subject sensitive and sentimental on the hop along head nodding, “Fragile”, to the lonesome photo album break-up-pop of, “Pictures Of Me Without You”. As Melton completes his latest run of songs, the psyched-up switches are turned high to the emerald emanating gem-mine-shine of, “Glass Diamond Green Roses”, before the commencement funnel cloud storm of “Magic Spiral” that sends you into the eye of the fuzzy storm. After the following album stream is our conversation with Matthew Melton, where we explore the artist’s time honed ‘patchwork quilt method’ and more.

Describe the period of time from 2007 through 2014 that accounted for the recording of your latest solo album outing, Outside of Paradise?

During most of that time period I ended up living in my recording studio and really allowing myself to experiment with a variety of song ideas, sounds, etc. The room had no windows and I think I gradually started losing my mind just enough to push myself to some further-out ideas. It was cool because I could wake up in the middle of the night, pick up my guitar and cut a guitar solo. I recorded everything using analog tape and bounced around to various locations with my Tascam 388 under one arm. I remember camping out at the Burnt Ones’ practice space for about a week or two while recording their single. We would work on their songs all day and then after they left I would just keep recording song ideas until I passed out. Then they kicked me out and I lived in my van for a little bit. It doesn’t really make sense to me now but during this time period I was somehow thriving off the condition of being constantly displaced and in stuck these awkward and temporary situations.

In what ways did this feel different for you, versus the processes at work in making your first album, Still Misunderstood?

Still Misunderstood was a much quicker endeavor but basically the same process. I like songwriting and recording in a ‘patchwork quilt method.’ Begin by laying down some basic tracks, shelve it for a year, load the tape and record a bass line, shelve it for six months, record over the guitar solo , etc. Its a cool way to work because it allows a range of life experience and new ideas to compete with the previous ones. I still have over 100 unfinished songs filed away in stacks of multi tracked audio tapes that I’m not sure what to do with!

Not unlike your solo output, your work with Bare Wires, Snake Flower 2, Warm Soda, and everyone you produce charges with a sonic incarnation that defies the limitations of time, constraints of era, geography, etc. I suppose the question I’m looking for here, and what many folks are wondering is what is the secret to that Fuzz City Sound? It is the stuff of legend, bands come from all ends of the earth to record there, and get that cadence on their EPs, albums, singles, etc.

Its nice finally being settled down in Austin, TX. I was able to rebuild Fuzz City in a spare room of my new house here, and exactly to my liking. No big secrets really, its small and cozy and completely sound proofed so its kind of like recording in a fuzzy bubble and has that completely dead 1970s vibe to it. I use mostly vintage mics and everything has to hit audio tape. I think the most important thing is that the recording experience be very casual so that the band can get into their mode. I also make everyone record their vocals in total isolation. But I think people like to record here because its easy and fun and my wife is always making delicious baked goods for everyone.

The one and only, Matthew Melton, photographed by Steven Ruud.

The one and only, Matthew Melton, photographed by Steven Ruud.

What is the story behind the romantic title song “Outside of Paradise”, and how did it become the center piece song inspiration for the whole song cycle?

While I was living in my studio I had this crazy psychedelic dream that ended up forming into the idea for “Outside of Paradise”, but it also serves to describe the struggle and desperation that I experienced over the course of that time period. People can do fucked up things out of desperation, but making music can always work as a positive solution. Back in Oakland I began feeding off the sensation of being this reclusive outcast and it worked to create some nice tension in some of the songs.

It is pretty neat how you can dive through the analog psychedelic spheres of songs like “Glass Diamond Green Roses”, “Magic Spiral”, to the breaking up and going steady anthems of pepped up pop like “Promise It To Me”, “Painted Sign”, and then at often times fusing the power-pop hook magic with the more head-lifting numbers like, “Take My Hand”?

I think I will always use my “patchwork quilt method” for recording because it results in a good song variety. If you feel a moment of inspiration, just record it while its still fresh. Even if its not perfect its a valid expression and you can just finish it up later.

Do you feel that your music is like a survey on the history, future, and current relevance of the power-pop construct, and all the many ways this modern marvel can be wielded?

I think that music is for the most part living in sort of an “alternate 1985”. There was a certian sincere quality present in music of the late seventies/early eighties that I am always attempting to capture. It’s what pop music could have ended up as today had a bunch of corrupt dinosaurs not taken control of music and started genetically modifying hypnotic pop music to brainwash everyone. I guess I’m kind of a time traveler in some ways but I’m still baffled why the best music of the past say 50 years isn’t played on every radio station?

What other projects are you involved in, what’s the latest from Fuzz City?

Now a days the record label aspect of Fuzz City is more of just a hobby for me, and Fuzz City has become primarily a recording studio / secret society. I just recently started a band called Pleasers with my long time friend and Austin Rock n Roller Ben Tipton and we have a single coming out soon also on Southpaw Records. Currently working on the new Warm Soda LP and also producing the debut album from a great new Austin band called Soaked.

Will we ever get at full-length album from TOTP2 styled glammsters, Big Tits? They rule.

They are still an active band in Oakland,CA. We recorded a single together a couple years ago and I went on a tour playing guitar in the band last year. Joey Genovese has unique knack for song craft with a comical wit in him and I sure hope they make it onto an LP one day ! On the tour where I was playing guitar we built a fog machine into the kick drum and the drummer had a button on the drum that he could blast smoke out onto the audience!

Parting words of wisdom?

When Neil Armstrong took that first historical step and said ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ it would not have occurred to anyone that the step he took in the dust of the moon was there to stay. It will be there for millions of years because there is no wind on the moon.

Matthew Melton’s Outside of Paradise will be available November 18 from Southpaw Records.

JAY SOUL

Chilling on the red carpet with Jay Soul.

Chilling on the red carpet with Jay Soul.

London pop artist Jay Soul premieres the electronic impatient art of patience and perseverance on, “Any Day” from his album in progress, Stay With Me. The progressions of the past, the concerns of the present, along with notions and thoughts for the future are entertained by ballads that alternate between the selections of subdued songcraft to arranged designs for purposes of dance, and other kinetic activities. With London and the UK at large the creative wellspring for fusions in the rhythm, blues, and electronic fields; Jay Soul sings from the emotional center in his styles that shine like the flashy bright bulbs that frame showcase names in lights.

“Any Day” breaks out the all the big drums and keyboards set to the tune of everyday life in motion. Pianos play out their synthesized notes against the industrial, 90s metallic presets that push against the four quarter time signatures. Setting up the chorus in a sewn stitch that loops around the percussive core with, “any day, every way, every day, any way,” asserts the confident lyrical clauses with boldness and a belief in the self spelled out like; “I’m the one you’re looking for…all the guys you’ve met before…I can give you so much more…than they can give for sure.” The Miami machines of sound from the decades past skip across the pond to swim in a sea where the future waters are comprised and informed by the precipitation systems that are as ancient as nature itself. After the debut listen to “Any Day”, catch up with Jay Soul in our featured recent conversation.

Describe your own musical awakening in the 90s, and how it affected you creatively and personally.

When I was growing up there was always a lot of music in my home. In the 90s r&b was really exciting because of groups like Jodeci, Dru Hill, TLC, and En Vouge. I am spoiled when it comes to musical influences. Music from that time period had a great emphasis on strong vocals and did not rely heavily on production. That’s something that stays with me and will always influence the music I make. Music is about the whole package. I believe you need to have good production but, more importantly, you need to have strong vocals, lyrics, and melodies.

For you what is the secret of bonding together the kinetic components of classic rnb structures with the new-dance mentality?

I love some of the great r&b dance fusions that are out now. I think the key to doing it well is remaining authentic to your style and yourself while embracing the new styles and rhythms.

London is pretty much the central spot for dance/EDM/ new music progeny, and the offspring to new, named and unnamed genres/sub-genres, post-genres, etc. How has this city impacted your own music do you feel?

London is a phenomenal city. It’s truly one of the best in the world. One of the things that makes it so great and so unique is the rich blend of cultures and people from all around the world. It’s a huge melting pot and everyone generally gets on really well together. The large amount of culture, sounds, people, food, and activities on my doorstep has had a great amount of influence on my music and my general view on life. I believe it helps you to embrace new sounds and ways of doing things.

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Favorite rising UK talents that the world hasn’t discovered yet?

There is so much talent in the UK scene. I really like an artist called Kwabs. He’s recently been signed by Atlantic, so I’m hoping to hear big things from him in the future.

Tell us about the making of “Any Day” to creating the sentimental, “Stay With Me”.

Well both songs are very contrasting in nature. One is very upbeat and contemporary and the other is deeply soulful. I guess in a way that sums me up to a tee. I’m playful, outgoing and fun, but also highly complex and soulful to the core.

What’s next for Jay Soul?

I’m going to continue working on new and exciting ways to entertain people with my music.

Winter plans? Holiday plays? Hopes and projections for the new year?

Well I will be taking a break to recharge. I will be visiting Brussels and Iceland. I’m excited about visiting the Blue Lagoon! In the new year I’m looking forward to pushing my creativity in new directions.

Keep up with Jay Soul via Facebook and his website.

DEVEREAUX

Devereaux, aka W. Heyward Sims.

Devereaux, aka W. Heyward Sims.

Columbia, South Carolina artist W. Heyward Sims operates on the handle Devereaux, presenting US meets EU electronic trends and fashions with the world premiere of his video for “Ponytails”. Taken off his Post-Echo album Pineapple Flex, the artist follows up his debut Cacti Pace EP by swapping the sinewy desert heat for the global jungles, and sounds that strike with tropical sweetness.

“Ponytails” lets it’s hair hang down, in a European electronic vignette that is ready for the club or to be featured in a cinematic soundtrack. Designed and directed by the folks at Carolina Branding, the video for “Ponytails” marries together the dance-floor footwork to short film blocking of a standoffs, dangerous liaisons, in scenes rife with double agents, damsels, and dudes of distrust; and harbingers of distress. Stylized in the vein of films from Guy Richie, Tarantino, Nolan, and the like; the visual episode for “Ponytails” packs the punch of everything from Italian jobs, French connections, Mexican stand-offs, and ambiguities of antagonist/protagonist figures. Heyward’s morning spin and sauna sitting tranquility gets interrupted by red dressed blonde bombshell, a bat wielding front desk page, and two warring pistol packing agents of unclear origins. Heyward fleas the scenes, leaving pineapples littered along like a trail of red herring that leaves his would-be captors to duke it out amongst themselves. In under four minutes, “Ponytails” is turned into a popcorn matinee of spies, suspicious bounty hunters, and a score that mixes Euro toned pop that brings inflections of Franco and Italo beaches to the cities and sleepy eyed suburbs of South Carolina. Join us after the video premiere for our interview with Heyward to discuss all things, Devereaux.

How were you first inspired to get in into the music game, and what is the story behind taking the name Devereaux?

I guess there are probably a lot of moments that inspired me to get in the game. Without over thinking it, though, one that does stick out is when “The Stand” premiered on television in May of 1994. That series opens with that flu thing killing everyone while Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays in the background. I vividly remember thinking, “That’s it. I have to learn guitar. I have to learn how to make that sound.”

The story behind using the name Devereaux is pretty straight-forward. Years ago when I was considering the idea of doing a solo musical endeavor I was, of course, considering a name to use. I honestly think I was heading to my father’s house to tend to his cat while he was out of town and I passed the street Devereaux. The way the word looked, was spelled, and sounded just resonated with me. The feeling the word conjured was perfect. I remember saying to myself, ‘Yep, that’ll do.’ It’s also a pretty convenient and sweet homage to Blanche Devereaux from The Golden Girls, which I used to watch with my grandmother.

Take us to your creative journey that lead to the making of your Cacti Pace debut, and the time between that break out and Pineapple Flex for Post-Echo.

Cacti Pace was born from my personal college musical listening experience that included a lot of Trans Am, Battles, and Kraftwerk. While this was happening in the background, I somehow managed to be in two instrumental prog rock bands that played in public quite frequently. Those weren’t exactly outlets to let your Kraftwerk flag fly.

So, I think “Cacti Pace” was sort of a release for all these vocoder-kraut cobwebs I had living in my head. Once that record was out of my system and I looked back at what I had done, I decided my main personal weakness was bass and percussion. It just wasn’t how I had been listening to music over the years, so my approach to those elements on that Cacti Pace was pretty pedestrian.

Thusly, I changed how I listened to music. In the months leading up to the heavy tracking of Pineapple Flex I listened to Madonna’s debut album probably 40 times. I listened to it while I jogged, took a shower, and drove to work. Did you know my showers almost always end one-third of the way into “Borderline”?

What is it about electronic, European leaning pop that inspires you personally?

I’m honestly not totally sure. Maybe it’s the sex on sex on sex approach.

Thoughts on the relationship between analog and digital compositions, like the connections between retro, current, and future sounds?

This is a complicated question. I think all compositions are related. They all build off what sorts of compositions came before them, in a way.

With that being said, I think all sounds are connected, too, but ‘retro,’ ‘current,’ and ‘future’ sounds do not correlate in such a simple linear fashion. I think all three: ‘retro,’ ‘current,’ and ‘futuristic’ sounds exist at the same time together.

It probably depends on your own personal frame of reference and when you hear each one personally. The idea being that retro can be current or futuristic, while futuristic can be retro or current, too.

To be slightly clearer, when I woke up this morning Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” came on the radio and I thought to myself, ‘This guitar solo or whatever it is still kind of sounds like a futuristic metal monster to me.’ The song is 31 years old, so it’s not ‘current;’ however, to me a part of it still kind of sounds like the ‘future.’ But, it’s still ‘retro’ by definition, in a way.

Your videos are always fun, like the Fabio Frey video for “NYXT“. What inspired you to go for it with this big, cinematic looking suspense, action thriller video piece for “Ponytails”?

I didn’t want to do a repeat of “NYXT.” So, the Post-Echo guys and I decided to build off of the world that was hinted at in the album’s promotional video. We didn’t go into the project thinking, “this should be cinematic,” I guess it just came out that way.

What is it about ponytails in general that inspired this song, and it’s cool-club styled semiotic?

A ponytail to me is this really viscerally athletic and sexually charged hairstyle choice. I know it’s inherently not meant to be that, but I can’t help how it strikes me.

The idea behind the song was this story of a runner. While in a foreign country, she goes on a running work-out whereupon she ends up finding a club. She enters and then tears up the dance floor in her workout clothes and outshines all the others who are supposedly ‘dressed to kill.’

This plot line, of course, was not exactly conceived before I started to write this piece. It really just started with a guitar riff. To quote Pablo Picasso, ‘I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.’

What else have you been working on?

I’m working on the next album at the moment, and mentally preparing to be a father. I’m still trying to keep my jogging game in check, too. I also try to eat steamed vegetables at lunch as often as I can.

Future hints at future works from Devereaux?

There might be a another video in the works. It might involve milk. Maybe.

Holiday plans?

Mainly just learning how to be a father. My wife and I are expecting a baby girl come the end of November. Insanity!

Devereaux’s Pineapple Flex is available now from Post-Echo.

GRAND VAPIDS

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Sometime there is that song that just strikes you in your most vulnerable spot, where the invested contributions to composites of the ego are brought down by roaring boulders of misapplied attention. Such is the grandeur, the sledgehammer to the gut hit of the dissected and deconstructed self-agonizing anguish that is “Adequate”, the big new premiere from Grand Vapids. With their album Guarantees slated for release January 20, the Athens, Georgia quartet of Austin Harris, McKendrick Bearden, Chris Goggans, and Paul Stevens express the creative contents collected from the vapid void with the smart arrangement assist from Drew Vandenberg at the production and engineering seat. The reality check that winter brings comes in the raw and realist gift that you moped around all year waiting for.

With the indie communities of Southern artists and bands on a steady rise, Grand Vapids cut to the core by providing some new grunge caveats that add some new tricks to the 90s ‘revival’ conversations. Off the bat from “Adequate”, internal drives and goals are submerged into the apathetic undertow of castoff aspirations. The internal monologue ruminates through the need for conclusive assurances on the unsettling issues of unknown investment returns on pursuit of all contributed labor. The heavy-headed sulk and personal realization of crisis gets the biggest lift from the cracking noise blossoms of feedback that convey a narrative even heavier than the glum portraits painted by the lyrics. Following the debut of “Adequate”, we got to know the world of Grand Vapids in the following interview with McKendrick Bearden.

How did the four of you all meet up in Athens, Georgia, and create the name Grand Vapids?

I met Austin in college in La Grange, Georgia. We were both studying music, and before long we started collaborating. We both had a really similar intuition musically and had a lot of the same influences so it was a pretty natural partnership. When we graduated, we both moved to Athens and met Paul through one of our old professors. We played together in several different projects for a few years, then we decided to start something different, but we knew we needed another person, so I called Chris. He’s a childhood friend of mine. He had just moved to Atlanta, and I knew he was the best fit for the new band. Luckily, he agreed to play with us and it’s all gone from there. And with the band name, honestly it was just a phrase that came to me—Austin and I had been joking about it for a while, so when we decided to name the band it seemed fitting to describe something that’s meant to be on display. Just having a little humor about our music culture and the slightly self-serving quality that exists in most, if not all, art. And it’s verbally sharp and easy to remember, which is always good.

Tell me about Athens, Georgia scene as of late. Any Athens bands we should check out, or already be listening to?

The way I always describe Athens to people—it’s a double edged sword. There’s not really a music industry here, or compared to places like Nashville, New York or L.A., where you have the potential for consistent paying work. So because of this, I think Athens provides this sort of creative freedom. People just make whatever music or art they want. Which is great and one of the reasons I love this town. Creatively, it’s on fire. However on the other side of this, there’s an attitude that you shouldn’t have to pay to see music. It sounds unbelievable to some people, but getting folks to pay $5 for a show can be a real chore. As far as bands to check out, there are probably 100 bands in town that I would say are amazing. A few favorites are Oak House, Deep State, Space Trucks, Shade, Bronze Brain, Semicircle, and The Powder Room.

What sort of life-time warranties and guarantees inspired the writing and recording of Guarantees?

MB: None—that’s why we make records.

How did Drew Vandenberg’s influence impact the record?

MB: Drew is an amazing engineer. If anyone thinks our record sounds good it’s because of him. He also has a real talent for getting a sound you want through some vague instruction from the band, and he isn’t afraid to give objective opinions. He’s just great at helping you realize a vision, and without the end result sounding like him and not the band. Some engineers and producers want to put their own stamp all over everything, but he helps a band sound like the best version of themselves. If you listen, I think you can hear this in any recording he’s worked on.

What sort of adequate/inadequate sentiments contributed to the song “Adequate”?

To be honest, I was having a conversation with a friend one day and I told her that I struggle with the fear that I’m inadequate, and am just oblivious to it. And what a terrifying thought that is. So I built a song around it.

Any holiday plans for Grand Vapids? Any holiday advice?

It’s bonfire season… and potluck season. So we’ll be doing a good deal of that probably. As far as advice—I don’t know, I’m terrible at advice. I guess don’t spend too much money and make time for the people you love. Take care of each other. Sounds really lame, but it’s what I go by.

Grand Vapids album Guarantees will be available January 20, check their site for further details.

SNOWDAY

Snowday, photographed by Curtiss Randolph.

Snowday, photographed by Curtiss Randolph.

Cam Sloan and Chad Skinner from Toronto are the duo Snowday, dedicated to bringing together the world of globally fielded sounds to the combined instrumentation forges of classical and electronic mediums. Preparing their album debut, As We Travel on November 25, Cam and Chad are proud to premiere “A Quiet Winter” that features fog rolling melodic deliveries from Ottawa vocalist-songwriter, Kaleigh Watts. Piano notes fall like snow flakes, as a gently enveloping avalanche awakens a cold spell to last for all seasons.

Like the title of their forthcoming album, Snowday creates sparse and atmospheric music. The mix and production of “A Quiet Winter” moves a globe between the poles, turning the planet clockwise, and then counter—stirring up the measured metrics of night, day, and everything affected in the song’s soft polar melt. Watts’ voice disappears into the blizzard blind that Skinner and Sloan stir in a compound synthesis of acoustic and emulated patterns of wintry weather for wear—all year round. Immediately after the following snowfall simulating debut from Snowday, check out our interview with Chad Skinner.

Tell us about the winter dwelling dynamics that went into the making of “A Quiet Winter” with Kaleigh Watts.

While I was composing the music for this song I was working at a ski hill in Quebec. My commute every day was just over an hour through the back roads of Gatineau. I remember driving to work on a greyish morning, listening to the instrumental, and as I drove passed small snowed-in homes in the middle of nowhere, I felt a great calmness about winter – like I wanted to spend the entire season out in the country chopping fire wood, making cider, and writing music. The feeling seemed to live so perfectly with the music that I immediately titled it ‘A Quiet Winter.’ After I finished writing the music I sent it off to Kaleigh and asked her to write about what the title meant to her. She ended up writing a short poem, which then became the lyrics to the song.

Like your namesake, what are some of your favorite snowed-in days and moments that inspired the name?

The name is inspired by the feeling we got as children waking up early for school just to hear that school has been closed, the buses have been cancelled, and we now have the entire day to do whatever we want. Anyone who grew up in Canada will know this feeling.

Last winter, we both got the day off from our day jobs because of a huge dump of snow, and we were recalling the amazing feeling of a snow day from school. We had been trying to come up with a name for a while by this point and gravitated towards the playful and positive feelings that the word ‘Snowday’ evoked.

As big fans of both acoustic and electronic mediums of instrumentation, where do you all feel the artistic connection is at the meeting of those two disparate worlds?

When electronic and acoustic mediums are brought together in a certain way, it can create something new, like the whole being greater than the sum of its two parts. On the electronic side, you have the ability to synthesize new sounds, such as creating ‘other-worldly’ atmospheric sounds. We often rely on this to set the mood for a track. Incorporating the live instrumentation brings it back down to Earth, giving the music a more natural feeling. It’s reminiscent of science fiction – surreal landscapes and technology – but there are still natural elements that the audience can completely relate to. It all comes together to form a new reality.

And like the title of the upcoming album, As We Travel, can you both share some of the best moments from your European travels?

We traveled through a good portion of Europe last summer. One of our favorite countries we visited was Greece. We stayed on a couple different islands, Corfu and Paros, and on each island we rented scooters to get around. Driving around, exploring the coast while we had the most serene view of the sea around us was one of the most liberating feelings that either of us has experienced.

The overall experience of traveling for several months gives you a new outlook on life. You have a lot of time with your own thoughts, allowing you the chance to find out what you want to focus on in your life. For us, it certainly provided motivation to get to work and put all the material together for this new album.

Sunrise, sunset with Snowday, captured in still life motion by Curtiss Randolph.

Sunrise, sunset with Snowday, captured in still life motion by Curtiss Randolph.


Challenges in creating the sampled, created, and recreated audio collections that comprise As We Travel?

Most of the samples were recorded in our studio with a condenser microphone. A lot of the percussion on the album was made from hitting different objects together, like hitting a drumstick on a stretched out canvas, or by jingling keys, etc. It’s a fun way to record music and usually ends up in a few good laughs along the way.

We also used a lot of field recordings from our phones, drawing from real life experiences. These recordings evoke certain feelings within us. I suppose the idea is to pass those feelings along to the listener. I like to think that even though our music is mostly instrumental, it speaks volumes through the atmospherics. A huge part of setting the atmosphere of these tracks comes from the field recordings.

The latest from the Toronto scenes, or favorite lesser known and under-sung artists and bands from Toronto that everyone should hear?

We’re really enjoying the sounds from Toronto-based producer River Tiber. He has a really great live set with a full band and it comes together really nicely to pair with the recordings.

Also, there is a really great tabla and hang drum player named Gurpreet Chana. His solo hang drum work is incredible.

Not under-sung, but Toronto’s BADBADNOTGOOD is on a great path right now. They are bringing jazz back to the younger generation and it is great to see.

Finally, a tip of the hat to our roots of Ottawa, Canada, where Chad and I both met in high school and started producing music together. One album I still love to listen to is by Ottawa-based produce named Adam Saikaley.

Snowday’s album As We Travel will be available November 25 via Bandcamp.

GREAT PAGANS

great pagans week in pop 3

With Alex Painter and his Brighton band, Great Pagans all popping corks to toast the release of Cupid In Error on Anti-Ghost Moon Ray Records, they debut the remix of “So Pure” courtesy of their labelmate, Acquaintance. In the independent spirit found from fellow Anti-Ghost comrades Gazelle Twin, the purgatory of sideways slid neutral gears are interrupted for an inquisitive survey between the abyss and a certain kind of celestial bliss. All this and more is brought to full beating percussive attention, with Acquaintance taking the the remix reins of honor.

As Great Pagans’ “So Pure” is re-manufactured to an industrial grade form of purity, Acquaintance tosses all the cloud rhythm arrangement pleasers out like party favors to an eager, party-going fast crowd. While fashioning the synths like turtle dove vocal stems, they meet up with the high register flute vocals that chirp like a grand ornithological menagerie. Beneath the forefront of big keys and samples are an underlying lo-fi layer of synthesizers that chirp like birds in the nest awaiting the earthworm provisions from their maternal winged guardian. The keyboard work abides by ascending and descending staircase scales that swim between the elevations and stratospheres that explore the deeper expanded terrains that fly above and below the surfaces of earth. Following the debut of Acquaintance’s remix, we caught up with Alex Painter in an interview featured after the jump.

What’s the latest news from Brighton? How have you been getting along with the scene there? New emerging acts of interest?

We were all talking the other day about how the local scene seems really healthy at the moment. It seems less cliquey and there are plenty of great venues again that will put on new bands. We feel very proud to be part of the scene there and hope our Anti-Ghost Moon Ray collective have made an impact on the city. Definitely check out acts like Soph Nathan, Foreign Skin, Japanese Sweets, Tyrannosaurus Dead, Traams. There are loads more though.

Tell us about recording the just released Cupid In Error.

It was a long process with plenty of ups and downs. We had to finish recording before our then drummer (who also recorded and mixed the album) moved to Vancouver. He then mixed over there with plenty of trans-Atlantic communications. It also looked like we couldn’t afford to release it for a bit so I’m so excited the album’s out there.

What’s the latest happenings at the Gazelle Twin stable at Anti-Ghost Moon Ray Records?

This year all four acts in the collective released an album so it’s been a big year for everyone. Gazelle Twin and Bernholz are currently touring the US after getting their visas approved at the 11th hour. Acquaintance is working on new material which, having heard a few previews, is sounding amazing.

Thoughts on the chirpy bird synth bounce of Acquaintance’s remix of “So Pure”?

I love it, we were really hoping he’d produce an upbeat dance-y take on the tune and he more than delivered. He’s very influenced by house music among many other things but I think that comes across.

Winter plans for Great Pagans?

We’re booking a UK tour which we’ll be announcing soon and working on material for album number two. I’m really excited about the new stuff and can’t wait to gig more.

Great Pagans’ album Cupid in Error is available now from Anti-Moon Ghost Ray Records.

SUNBEAM SOUND MACHINE

Sunbeam Sound Machine's Nick Sowersby, photographed by Lochlan Funston.

Sunbeam Sound Machine’s Nick Sowersby, photographed by Lochlan Funston.

Australian artist Nick Sowersby is the man behind the curtain of the sun-kissed morning glory project of wonder, called Sunbeam Sound Machine, prepping the album Wonderer for release November 21 through Dot Dash / Remote Control Records. The sleepy world between the pages and dog-eared folds of consciousness slowly materialize into being on, “Wandering, I”. The monotony of days that just go on and on are reckoned through the morning stroll through psychedelic sidewalks that lift into the air, or sink into a quick sand of bean bag cushions. The wonder/wander relationship parallel is explored as Sowersby contemplates the great conundrums of life, entering the questioning caverns of the individual forum of interior soliloquy. Stay with us after the latitude changing track, for our long-distance conversation with Nick of Sunbeam Sound Machine.

Give us the scoop on what lead and first prompted the inception of Sunbeam Sound Machine.

Sunbeam is just an extension of the home recordings that I’ve been doing for a few years. At some stage I decided I’d start finishing songs properly and showing them to my friends, then some of those friends convinced me to start playing the songs live. Most of those friends are in the live band now. Remote Control Records were kind enough to put out some of those recordings and that’s when I decided I’d call it Sunbeam Sound Machine.

How do your surroundings in Collingwood, Australia impact your creative consciousness?

It’s hard to say how much my surroundings influence the music. There’s a lot of great bands playing around the area I live in which is pretty inspiring. The garage has all my stuff in it, so that helps to make me feel creative too.

How has King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard and Andrei Eremin also affected the world of Sunbeam Sound Machine and the album, Wonderer?

Stu and Andrei affected the sound of Wonderer in a big way. It sounds a lot more cohesive and colorful thanks to their expertise, and they’ve both shown me new ways to think about the sounds I’m making. They’re both mega-geniuses, so that’s something to aspire to as well.

Walk us through the lysergic fields of wandering-wonder, on “Wandering, I”.

What a mouthful of a question. Wandering, I was one of the first songs I started working on from Wonderer. I’d been listening to lots of hip-hop so I guess you can hear that influence in the drumbeat. Stu’s mixing on this song really took it to another level. I was a bit unsure of it but after he messed around with it it became one of my favorites on the album.

Sunbeam Sound Machine, caught in the blur, caught by photographer Ash Shanahan.

Sunbeam Sound Machine, caught in the blur, caught by photographer Ash Shanahan.

Australia is always doing amazing things in the worlds of indie music, who are some of your newest favorite unknown artists of keen interest?

Right now I’m very into I, A Man, Chips Calipso, Dorsal Fins, Foreign/National, The Baudelaires, Hollow Everdaze and several other really, really, really cool artists who I’ll remember as soon as I send this email.

Holiday plans for Sunbeam Sound Machine?

I have too many to name. I’ve been to Japan twice in the last couple of years and I’d love to go back, I‘d really like to go to India and America and I’d like to see more of Australia too. In terms of touring, we’ll go wherever will take us.

Sunbeam Sound Machine’s Wonderer will be available November 21 from Dot Dash / Remote Control Records.

GLASS GANG

glass gang week in pop 4

In the year plus, months, weeks, days, and moments of anticipation, Glass Gang released their mixtape Lower for free download via their website. The ethereal metallic angels of former industry crash into the redemption synth trap door cathedral house “Open”, right before the Gang does something unexpected with your consciousness on the whirling guitar spin of “Fade”, moving the post-apocalyptic into the territories of post-love on, “I Will Save You From Love”. Filling the electric cavernous void of despair with a strange opportunity to move away from the shackled stones of amour, the foundation and pillars “Fall” into the never-ending sinkhole of “Still”, creating futuristic monsters on “Untorn”, and disconnecting the umbilical cord of the enabled and entitled on, “Sever”. The god from within the machine is entertained on motor sprung song, “Believe”, scanning darkly on the perception piercing “Visions”, before changing up your whole frequency connection with the digital rope skipping savviness of the title track, “Lower”. It’s Glass Gang like you have never heard, like you have always known they could create all along.

THE CONTROVERSY

the controversy week in pop 1

Following up the monarchical reign on “Queen of Chinatown“, LA’s The Controversy shares the night dialogue whispers of “Two Voices”. The pop duo of Laura Vall and Thomas Hjorth elaborate on the hushed harmonic trailing echo of hummed vocals that play about like siren horns that soothe. The connection between hearts, tongues, discussions, subjects, and predicates is provided by production value that turns lost voices looking for one another in the dark into a catchy number. Laura and Thomas join us for round of discussion, after the following listen:

What sort of controversies brought about synergistic bond of The Controversy together for you two?

There’s always been a really good synergy and understanding between us, we connect really well and rarely disagree when it comes to music. We had a really strong music connection from the moment we met, so starting to make music together came very naturally.

How does this synergy blend into the synthetic meets real worlds of “Two Voices”?

We really like to combine both worlds, we really enjoy the freedom of the electronic sounds and its endless possibilities but we also love analog sounds and the power and life that real acoustic instruments bring to the table.

In what ways do you feel that LA has contributed and influenced your creativity?

A city like LA is a very strong force all of us Angelinos know really well, this city can make you or brake you, or both at the same time. It’s tough out there and the passion, dreams and struggles impact all aspects of our life. LA has changed us and continues to do so every day, we evolve and grow up around it and so does our music, probably in more ways that we can imagine.

Latest and greatest reports from the LA scenes?

We are lucky to live in a city that always has something amazing and inspiring going on. There’s so much great music and art brewing in its streets and clubs, so many creative and inspiring people that motivate you to keep on improving yourself. That’s exactly why we are very excited to present our new live show before the end of the year, we are working hard on creating something new, with a new band and a new sound. We want to provide our audience with not only a concert but a full experience, we want to transport them to The Controversy’s world, show them around and hopefully they’ll continue to share it with us when they leave the venue.

Next big moves and releases for The Controversy?

We are really excited to release our second album Don’t Count On Me on February 2015. We’ve been working hard to offer our fans something new and fresh, a different sound than what they known us for in our first album, Real. We are also working on new music videos and hopefully a tour next year.

Listen to more from The Controversey via Soundcloud.

PIERS

piers week in pop 1

In case you haven’t yet, introduce yourself to Brooklyn’s Piers, otherwise known as Gondola just released their self-tiled. Picking up where their previous EP, We Are the Map—under the previous name—left off, waterside boardwalk walks are channeled through the feeling of song on their first album release.

Etching names and deeds in stone, “Carving Up Bricks” cuts up a happy rug, “The Rook” explores a kind of dialogical stoicism, turning back the years to the campfire mosquito repellent reeking memoirs of “Polaroid Summer”, keeping that nostalgic method of sound on “Long Way Back”. The back up choral is met with care and brass at times like the lonely hearted “Absent”, before hitting you with the festival set, “Sweet Talk”, coasting into the heavy eyelid-heart of “Rapid Dogs”, right before the gambling rambling spirited anthem of “Shakin’ the Dice”. Dreamy horns and choruses carry out the grand coronation ceremony of “Crown”, leaving you with a testament to friendship on “Another Round For My Friends”. The self-titled shows Piers working on defining themselves, their sound, and footing in the scenes, making their biggest sound yet, with the following words from Ricci Swift about their new choice of name selection, talking to us from a house show performance in Northampton,

So I guess the name Piers stemmed from the similarly nautically themed Gondola. I grew up in Oregon and the ocean has always been a mystical all-encompassing entity for me. Our album was recorded in my room in Brooklyn, partially on a Tascam MKIII 4-track cassette deck. We had some buddies play on it with us. A few of the songs actually pre-date the songs on our 7″.


Lost Dawn, the duo of Stanley Duke and Benjamin Woods dropped the Adam Docker video for “Manchild” off the November 17 slated album Falmouth Sound Vol. 1. Find your inner tribal other/elder and enter a necromantic order of rock and roll pagaentry.

DC production dudes Inner Loop dropped the multi-eye-ball-buzz of “Fly On Drugs” from their November 18 slated album, Silk Road. A nodding reference to the deep web dark market underbellies, they swarm with a bunch of clubbed up tricks and ominous switches to bring your party down into the underworlds.

Ariel Pink keeps that weird train rolling in the strange, bizarre, semi-frightening game of masks and obfuscated identity in the Grant Singer directed, “Picture Me Gone” off the new album pom pom, available November 17 from 4AD. The odysseys of Ariel never fail to entertain, confuse, delight, disturb, and empathize in otherworldly ways of familiarity and alienation.

Shot and edited by Sebastian Fischbeck, check out the video for Valery Gore’s “Hummingbird In Reverse” of her new album, Idols In The Dark Heart. Join Valery out to the wilderness of mountains, rivers, cliffs, ledges, old roads, rainy weather, and the ultimate ge away as she allows you to observe the world’s natures through the fluttering sputter and poetic dance of wings like a hovering, wandering bird in flight.

Having recently released their album debut, Here Come The RealBads from Sweet Baby God Records, and premiering “Cutie Boys” in Impose—The Realbads fever continues with the Arlo Chapple CGI video for “Prom Night”.

Moritat’s High Plus Tight EP will be available January 20, and we have the synth, beat, and bass visitation sentiments of “Visits” for you to hear, replay, and re-visit as many times as you desire.

With Travis Bretzer’s Waxing Romantic album available February 24 on Mexican Summer, learn how to keep those promises held true with the following dive into a pool of AM radio pop near-perfection.

Lemuria let their new song, “Foggy Smoke” free, a 7″ produced by Mark Ryan of The Marked Men that comes equipped with a 40 page comic book depicting the band’s 2001 tour excursion through Russia illustrated by Mitch Clem and Nation Of Amanda. The band delivers the minimalist but effective pop that mixes in the in-between that dances between the ranges of smoke and fog vapor.

Hear a new song from the December 9 slated Throwing Stones EP from Stars & Letters, with “Here Is the Place” by London’s blade electro runners, Empathy Test. The title track improves upon the 80s movie formula that immortalizes the protagonist as a deified adonis of atlas like strength, while “Place” sends out digital signals that indicate the secret lives of GPS coordinate connectivity.

Crystal Ghost, the latest project of Elliott Baker released his self-titled EP via the Stereocure folks. Previously heard cut “On My Own” begins the new paths from the artist formerly known as CC/NN, moving to the atmospheric sparse rhythms of “The Reason For Love”, to the “from the past, stuck in the future” electric tone of “Summer Song”, the body house future classic of “What Your Body Needs”, closing it out with the tape-tuned ode to persistence on, “Worth the Trouble”. Signs of great things to come from the Denver artist, keep an ear on more to come from Crystal Ghost in 2015.

Brooklyn’s Lazyeyes dropped the track “Adaptation”, the second single from their upcoming New Year EP available in late 2014 / early 2015. The band adapts feels through a dreamy lens that is conveyed through guitars that develop the song’s structural formations before exploding into the song’s closing fireworks show. Read some of the exclusive words the band wrote for us in this feature from recent weeks.

Sure this was bound to happen, but two of our favorites come together at last. It’s Yumi Zouma’s beautiful new single “Alena” being trusted in the capable, creative hands of Ricky Eat Acid’s Sam Ray for a remix to remember. Imagine if the worlds that YZ inhabits, that brings New Zealand, Paris, and Brooklyn close to wherever you are being exploded into rolling frequency baths of bright sparkling champagne-popped splendor. Not to be missed.

Directed by BRTHR, Starring the ATL Twins; take a look at GEM’s film short, “Sinking Stone” here. Through the flashing low-lit neon splashes, neo-noir romantics play out like street song voids that open into the most sensational fantasies.

Nils Frahm dropped the heavy-weight of “Hammers”, drafted, filmed and edited by FELD studios in Berlin from his 2013 Erased Tapes album, Spaces. Time elapsed footage taken during the 3.5 hours of set-up for his concert in Admiralspalast in Berlin, a world behind the artist’s live piano lead compositions is unveiled.

Dropping a new DIY video every day Wednesday made either by his brother Craig or the artist himself, the one and only Carl Creighton dropped his latest minimalist video for the solemn and cynical harmonizing acoustic hymn, “There is No Truth and No True Love”, off the forthcoming solo album, The World is a Beautiful. The visage of Carl takes form in the darkness as the emanating burn of the computer monitor flickers through the scrolling frame rates of perception. He described the video in the following exclusive words:

I wrote this song before meeting my boyfriend, but when I told him the title he said it was true. And I said if he thinks it’s true, it must be true. Because what we have feels like the closest thing to true love I’ve ever encountered. Oh, and I’m scrolling through OkCupid ads in the video.

Rose Berlin and Dean Garcia are SPC ECO, sharing the video for “Fuck You” from Meghan Young and HKG, ahead of the November 11 release of their album, The Art of Pop from Saint Marie Records. In a video commanded by a black and blue haired Rose, she tells off the camera in a statement that does not need anyone apart from the spaced out echo sonic sciences, and weird plastic wrap that lines the floor and walls. An exercise in creating tension through sound and visual minimalism that strikes with a lasting effect of being dismissed into an electronic void of redundancy.

Air’s Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Icelandic artist Bardi Johannsson from Bang Gang are Starwalker, known from their debut EP Losers Can Win, are prepping a full-length for release sometime in mid-2015, giving the world a slice of electronic paradise with the single, “Blue Hawaii.” The worlds of megahertz legends and moon safaris are poured into the Nordic vortex of synthetic experimentation, where Dunckel and Johannsson send up their combined tricks and rocket sciences to an outer orbit to better understand our own world.

Canopies’ debut album Maximise Your Faith will be available on December 9 from Forged Artifacts, and now you can, “Choose Yer Own Adventure”, on a song that allows you to fall into the head warped worlds of unknown tomorrows, and more mysterious traces of psyched out yesterdays.

Taken off the upcoming Honduras EP, Break, available November 10 from Black Bell Records; the Brooklyn band released the illustrative pop-art composition work-in-process piece in director P. Nick Curran’s video for “Illusion”. Follow the dudes as they take you through the behind the scenes stairways, underground passage ways, to the under-sung backstage frames and intimate sequences of performance production—caught in still-life time.

Vision Fortune will be releasing their forthcoming album, Country Music February 10 from ATP Recordings, sharing the cotton coated craze “Dry Mouth”. Recorded out in Tuscany, Italy thanks to support from the Cuatroquesos Foundation; the rural life provides the space to rage the doom chords among the vineyards and orchards of plenty.

Gabriel Brenner, aka Pastel, brings that last call, alarm clock, cut-off point to an audio illustrated realization. The digital readings on the clock are met with the sparse uttered observations that ticks off the time elapsed, assigning even more sparse programmed and displayed drum sections that further entertain all the lyrical allusory references. And then when you least expect it, everything turns upside down in a maximalist way. Pastel’s It Will Be Missed EP is available now from Manimal.

Having collaborated with folks like Iamsu! and Too $hort; Oakland yung gun, C-Money dropped some of that “3 Point Stance” ft. Chonkie F. Tutz, serving up a little slap and dance ahead of his upcoming Just 4 You EP, available November 18. Directed by Nick Garcia and edited by Trevor Laub, that east coast energy gets mixed with some of that west coast aesthetic in a Bay Area connection kind of thing.

Ray from Le Rug recorded the new album Swelling (My Own Worst Anime), sharing the single and Gary Boyle video for “Dudley”, shot in Bangkok. Weiss takes to the town like a big karaoke a-go-go that meshes an ADHD speeded sensibility with editing and shot compositions that could have been in a sequel for Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void. Look for this new Le Rug album coming soon from the one and only, Fleeting Youth Records.

Peep the salacious Mike Marzio video for Scissors For Lefty’s title track off their album, Bangs & Lashes that packs all the fun, glitz, glamor, and Bay Area neon soaked beauty in a through-the-blinds style of privy-pop-art that would make Jarvis Cocker’s auteur ego quiver.

Maps & Atlases guitarist Erin Elders started the group Wedding Dress, currently on a national tour, and lending a look at their Great Northern video for “Heirlooms” that features Mark Wallace. Connective and disparate trails meet, and then part in this visual take on the heart strummed song with the catchy percussion loop and harmonic melody.

San Francisco group Panic Is Perfect has been turning heads, and grabbing ears with their energy au-go-go called, “Go Go Go” that provides you with big, bright pop tones to tide you over until they drop their upcoming EP.

A super-group made up of members from Dungen and Granada; The Amazing shares the slowly drifting, gently drifting title track from their new album, Picture You, available February 17 from Partisan Records.

Check out the Guy Sigsworth remix of Mirah’s “Oxen Hope”, originally found off her recent album, Changing Light, kicking some vocal inflected indie club beats to accompany her current national tour.

SOFT AS SNOW’S WEEK IN POP

Taking over the Week in Pop, it's the UK's Soft as Snow, photographed by Jimmy Mould.

Taking over the Week in Pop, it’s the UK’s Soft as Snow, photographed by Jimmy Mould.

Having just released Glass Body Remixed on Houndstooth, we asked Norwegian duo Soft as Snow’s Oda Egjar Starheim and Øystein Monsen to co-curate a Week in Pop, and here are their selections.

Paula Temple, “Deathvox”

Helena Hauff, “Spirals Of Smoke Drifting From Soot Stained Chimneys”

Maria Minerva, “The Beginning”

Maria just made a very cool remix for us, love her music

Caribou, “Back Home”

We escaped London a few weeks ago, lying on the beach listening to this

and this…

Brian Eno, “St. Elmo’s Fire”

soft as snow week in pop 2

Follow Soft as Snow on Twitter.

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