Week in Pop: Great Valley, Huffer, LIYON, Lures, Mike Sempert

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Brown Shoe, James Vernon, Sunflower Bean, The Mole People, Trak Joy, Vogue Dots, co-curated by Israel Nash.

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Sjimon Gompers | August 22, 2014

Great Valley's Peter Nichols debuting "Outerspace Garden" and sharing some words. (press photos courtesy of the artist)

With summer ending and the surrounding unrest of our world unending, Impose’s Week in Pop stays busy on the keeping up the good fight and championing the artistic visionaries of tomorrow. But first: sorting through the “Ice Bucket Challenge” buzz and bull; Aphex Twin goes deep web and via blimp to announce SYRO; Kanye West and Paul McCartney might be collaborating on a track; Kate Bush does not want you to photograph her at upcoming shows; Dev Hynes weighs in on police brutality; it “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” as Tame Impala are accused of plagiarizing Pablo Ruiz’s “Océano“; an NWA reunion might be in the works according to Ice Cube; a Viking funeral was held for the Oderus Urungus costume at the GWAR B-Q; Earl Sweatshirt versus Taylor Swift; Henry Rollins’ “Fuck Suicide” article; Grimes took to tumblr to talk re: drugs; The Knife will disband after their tour commences; and “fuck the bucket of ice” as 50 Cent challenged boxer Floyd Mayweather to read one page of a Harry Potter book.

But now we turn your attention over to our parade of exclusives and interview features from Great Valley, Lures, Mike Sempert, Huffer, LIYON, Track Joy, The Mole People, Sunflower Bean, Brown Shoe, co-curated by Israel Nash, and more — in no particular order.

GREAT VALLEY

Great Valley Week in Pop 1

In our coverage of Vermont outsider lo-fi outfit, Great Valley, we have ventured through the album Lizards of Camelot on its release from NNA Tapes, rode the “Moat of Love” tunnel of love, swinging through the lo-fi “Heart of Vines“, and more; Brattleboro, Vermont duo Peter Nichols, and Joseph Miller-Gamble keep the DIY analog, home-spun audio-visual arts brewing in the world premiere of the “Outerspace Garden” video, made by Nichols (who also runs Spooky Town Tapes) from his “Peter’s World” studios line of video productions.

Having fun with the vintage on-screen titling techniques, the Great Vallley experience starts up again in a field trip from planet Earth to a “Outerspace Garden”. The novelty-noted song provides cryptic instructions that describe an alien-intervention plot about planting seeds in a Brattleboro obsidian ravine to create a magical menagerie that’s out of this world. The video effects of aesthetic blurs of multi-colored static, shooting stars, sparkles, lightning, and more create an effect where classic intergalactic fun finds a home in VT’s tranquil gardens and sleepy cottages. The video brings out the best in the song’s kitsch, where Peter’s neighbor Christine plays an extra-terrestrial gardener who gleefully goes about planting flowers from outer-space in every possible earthly place. The happy-go-lucky nature of “Garden” welcomes the possibility of interstellar neighbors reaching our third planet from the sun in the name of a harmony and peace that perhaps lifeforms from other galaxies know and understand more than we humans. Joining us the following the video debut is Peter Nichols, who gives us the latest VT report, behind the scenes peaks, and some words on what’s next for Great Valley.

Happy to see that Feeding Tube Records are keeping the Great Valley vibes flowing fresh with the small batch vinyl re-issue of Lizards of Camelot. For you, what does the lo-fi world of Camelot and lizards still mean to you, every time you hear and reflect back on that album?

Yeah, Feeding Tube is truly the greatest label on earth, like seriously 9/10 of all the bands I ever want to listen to, it’s crazy. The spell has been broken a little bit since the days when we wrote Lizards of Camelot, like since then I’ve been lifted from fantasy world and dropped in some ridiculous sitcom, and fittingly enough I can look back on our Camelot days as a kind of golden age in our innocent hamlet. It’s nice.

Let’s talk about this wild video premiere for “Outerspace Garden” that you have described to us as the “great gardeners of space planting the seeds of life and love on Earth.” From the VHS effects, the pleasant Vermont cottage side, to discovering a castle tower in the forest, how did you connect the natural world to the celestial cosmos?

Well in this video Christine plays a space gardener who lands on Earth with an inspired mission to plant magic space flowers. So we walked from Christine’s house to the tower. That tower really is in the woods just like 1/4 mile outside of Brattleboro, so go figure. Some real Arthurian X-files vibes right in the backyard.

What inspired the song “Outerspace Garden”? Is this like a word-play on “Octopus’s Garden” with a tape recorded gesture of goodwill between the extra-terrestrial worlds and the world we know?

I guess so!

What else have you been recording lately? What else has been happening in Vermont?

Oh jeez, it’s out of control. We’re just finishing up a supreme body of work in the guise of our mysterious new band Grape Room — that is mostly a continuation of Great Valley, with the addition of a third songwriter, Danny Bissette. Danny’s been playing bass in Great Valley for a while and it also happens that he writes amazing songs so we figured we might as well power up as one. So look for that sometime soon if we can find someone to release it! I also recorded two albums for my karaoke band Peter’s Window, and got to produce an album for the pure pop star Tall Boys (coming soon!) and record an album with the legendary weirdo-pop outfit Bird Names. In view of all this, I’ve also decided to open Peter’s World Studios for biz, and it seems like I’m going to have the opportunity to play producer for even more of my favorite bands. Sorry for the plug: if anyone’s interested, it’s www.petersworldstudios.com.

Other artists that we should be checking out that have been tragically overlooked, or haven’t been discovered yet?

You must hear Worcester’s untold legends Secret Lover; also The Lentils, old master’s new force here in Brattleboro. I’ve been deeply moved by a major gem called Cosmic Dooky that was dropped recently by the insane mastermind CH-Rom too.

Words of wisdom, love, and peace from Great Valley?

Hm, not sure I can answer that right now.

Great Valley’s album Lizards of Camelot is available now in small batch vinyl re-issue pressings from Feeding Tube Records.

MIKE SEMPERT

Mid Dream with Mike Sempert.

Mid Dream with Mike Sempert.

Mike Sempert’s recently released album Mid Dream is about to get the deluxe edition release touch from Velvet Blue Music, with the upcoming August 26 release of Mid Dream Complete Sessions. We’ve heard Mike Sempert’s band Birds & Batteries got remixed by DOOMbird, the honest solo hymn, “The Finest Line“, and now we premiere the first listen to a stripped down version of “Oceans of Rock and Roll” off the forthcoming Complete Sessions. The expanded version presents elaborated dreams from a minimalist version of “The Finest line, four non-album cuts, and six exclusive bonus tracks.

On the raw version of “Oceans of Rock and Roll”, the heart and power from Mike Sempert’s music can be heard in a natural way unfettered by any electronic and digital inhibitors. In the same way that “Finest Line” is an anthem that reaches for the highest and clearest points, this debut rough-rendering of “Oceans” allows you to see Sempert’s songwriting powers that tap into those “deeper than deep” feelings with arrangements that roll on like the folding ripples and waves of the great Pacific Sea. Mike relays his love for “oceans of rhythm and blues” in the same affection one holds for a well thumbed vinyl collection, giving a history of twentieth century pop music history made up in a beautiful water floating metaphor. The acoustic version relies on organ sustains, harmony sections that re-enforce the sparse patter of drums, steel twang ambiance, echo-artifices, and the great shore-scanning span from Mike’s delivery. “Oceans of Rock and Roll” gives a unique portrait of the LA-based artist, comparable to the feeling of the best live shows where the audience feels like they’re part of an inclusive experience. Join us following the premiere, for our latest conversation with Mike Sempert.

The grandeur of “Oceans of Rock and Roll” rolls over and over with vocals and power chord hooks that could last for forever. Can you tell us how this song came alive either by rough sketches or mid-night/day sessions?

Thanks so much man! This song came together many years ago and some of the lyrical ideas came at the beach. It’s sort of an ode to the vastness of music itself, something us musicians often bemoan but is actually quite awe-inspiring to think about. There’s so much amazing music that exists in the world, both past and present. It’s all one big noise we make.

I can’t remember if we’ve talked about this before, but for you, and namely “Oceans”; what is about the element of water, bodies of waters, to the seas that informs your songwriting?

I like to get in that water, wish I could today! August in Los Angeles is no joke. The ocean and water have so much common language with music, like waves and depth and wetness. So it was natural to go there and keep exploring that. There’s also a sea-shanty vibe to some of the bonus tracks from Complete Sessions.

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Marinating on the Mid Dream album, what have you discovered about yourself as a songwriter through this process?

I think my best offerings, so far have come from a genuine place, and Mid Dream was a big step in that direction. More heart, less brain. That said, whatever I learned from Mid Dream, I’m prepared to throw out the window in search of the next album. Who knows.

What is it about the mid-dream state that inspires you creatively and personally?

Anytime we create, it’s because we allow ourselves to dream. There’s a Duke Ellington interview where he says, “I’ve got a million dreams… all I do is dream all the time.” I love that, the idea that creating is a form of dreaming. There’s nothing better than the feeling of inspiration and discovery. But then there’s the idea of dreams being aspirational, like the American dream for example. Being mid-dream in this way can be painful, this constant sense of striving, never enough. That’s still an idea that interests me and one I’m exploring with the new material.

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What else are you recording right now, who are you recording with, and who have you discovered lately of talented interest?

I’m working on some electronic music as Volcanic Legacy, which is really fun. I’m hoping to release an EP or album at some point. I’ve also got some new songs in various stages of development for a follow up to Mid Dream. As for new music, I’m a big fan of Blake Henderson’s project, Taughtme and his album, Am I Old? which I helped work on. Todd Goldstein of ARMS just released a great album of covers called Backwards Record. I hear DOOMbird is working on a new album, which is exciting. Just played a show with Ark Life from Denver, who are an excellent band to see live. I’ve recently been quite hooked on Elis Regina, who is a Brazilian pop star from the 70s.

Mike Sempert’s Mid Dream Complete Sessions will be available August 26 from Velvet Blue Music.

LURES

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Keeping track of all the latest from the Seattle scenes and surges, we discovered Lures who are readying their first album for release October 7. A trio made up Spencer, Sam, and Dillon, the newer Northwest band premieres “Control” from their forthcoming debut where the sound of slow coasts collides into the seas and surf of melancholia and sleepy melodies. With fond folks from acts like Posse, Neighbors, Ubu Roi, Childbirth, Tacocat, Dude York, Iji, Wimps, Stickers and more opening up the gateway doors and paths for many PNW artists and bands — Lures beckon their audience to attend their lair of moody waters and muddy dream guitar blues.

Following their jangle-jump-and-jazz single, “Dizzy”, from Fin Records, “Control” follows the dreary, rain drop/tear drop guitar work that expresses the heart’s battle between the ledges of dependency and autonomy. Lures’ guitar styles go from the classic 60s Surfin’ Bird approach, flower pop angular strums to the early 80s dark textile clothed synths and guitars. “Control” is one of the most complicated Lures songs to date, both in lyrical content of heavy substance (relationship matters, letting go, holding on, etc), to a blending of their various sounds into a unified cohesion. This is an illustration of Lures creating a sound and space for them to inhabit amongst one of the most exciting movements in the States at a time where the formerly sleepy, and obscured American underground are surfacing with new sounds and voices from their respective scenes. Lures talked with us a bit, following this debut listen to “Control”.

What stories surround how Lures first began, and then how did you become a three piece?

All of us met at Ballard high school and, shortly after, began writing songs together. It took a few years for us to hit our stride but things started making more sense in the Spring of 2012 when Lures was formed. The three of us just click personally and musically so there has never really been a lot of talk around adding a fourth member.

With the Northwest becoming a marvel unto itself from Seattle, Olympia, Portland, Vancouver, etc, how did your beginnings in the midst of all this inspire your own work?

There’s no need to go into detail about the eminence of music culture and history in the Northwest but it definitely plays a significant role in inspiring our song craft. Going to shows and witnessing inspiring performances always pushes us to keep working on new ideas.

What is your relationship to these PNW groups and movements?

The DIY community in the greater Seattle area is flourishing and has been for quite sometime. The scene seems to be in a bit of limbo since the closure of Heartland in the university district but there are a lot of passionate people who will keep the energy alive despite the limited spaces. We’ve been fortunate enough to participate and support others in this niche of the PNW since we started performing live in the latter half of 2013.

Walk us through the process of recording your recent LP.

We spent two weeks tracking this record with our good friend Trevor Spencer at a studio in Anacortes called The Unknown. After completing the tracking we brought the songs down to Seattle and mixed the whole record in a week at Avast! in Greenwood. Definitely the largest recording project any of us had ever been apart of.

Challenges? Discoveries? Breakthroughs?

It was a literal and figurative breath of fresh air to spend a few weeks in Anacortes immersing ourselves in the production of the record. Getting away from the context in which we wrote the songs proved to be a beneficial element in shaping this LP. Being within an hour or two of the San Juans didn’t hurt either.

You all got some fun guitar work, there are some of those West Coast waters leaning lonely surfer kinda riffs, but then you always take it to through these maudlin stringed jangle-dream schemes. What sort of sound design occurs between the three of you all behind the scenes?

A good amount of meticulous construction and deconstruction of parts in our rehearsal space. Trying to translate pure cinema onto the sonic canvas.

Who else from Seattle and surrounding areas should we know about and listen to?

Hungry Cloud Darkening’s “Glossy Recall” is a hidden gem from earlier this year. Listen to The Globes, Seacats, Darto, Woolen Men and Iji.

What can we expect next from Lures post summer, through autumn, winter, and 2015?

Releasing our first record on October 7, touring the country in the final months of this year and tracking LP two in the early months of next. the search for the perfect surf and turf continues on.

Listen to more Lures here via Bandcamp.

HUFFER

Meet LA's Huffer.

Meet LA’s Huffer.

Dropping out of what feels like no where, Sam Donahue and Robert Cody are the Los Angeles duo Huffer. With old glory waving in the background on their press photos, the two-piece flies their freedom Peter Fonda’s red, white and blue helmet in Easy Rider—with a doomed sound that is more akin to the iconic film’s LSD flip-out scene in the cemetery. Huffer combines a volatile punch of patriotic semiotics with a dissenting S.O.S. call that delivers blaring loud fears with a deadpan boredom that grows more chaotic in the chorus calls of, “this ship is sinking”.

Keeping the free play of sign, signifier, sound and visuals at work in the video debut for “Blue”, Huffer’s Robert and Sam enlist the Hollywood Blvd sourced talent Jake Sheiner to be their egg eater (in copious excess), backslash Elvis impersonator getting weird in the roller skate rink. As HUFFER heaves in the ultra-leaded heaviness — Jake begins the day with a diet of scrambled eggs and cigarettes consumed and inhaled with concentrated contemplation. POV shots of skating around the rink become interspersed with a clean-shaven Jake taking to roller skating like an eccentric Elvis impersonator. Close up shots of the shave are edited with screen tests of Jake jamming on an acoustic as the dry ice points the way to a rocking good rager at the roller skate rink. From groupies, disco light effects, and hilarious dance moves, the Titanic-tale from Huffer gets some light-hearted help to alleviate the stress from sinking ships and unsustainable anythings. Stay with us following the video, as we bring you one of the first interviews from LA’s latest harbingers of epic doom jams and roller-disco dances.

Tell us about recording a six minute plus grinder like “Blue”.

We recorded it ourselves at our practice space. I know it’s a short song, but that’s all the tape we had left.

What inspired the whole “this ship is sinking” metaphor?

Well, we met this guy Jake on Hollywood Boulevard where all the Batmans hang out. We begged him for weeks to work on a video with us until he finally agreed. When we went to his house he had this amazing shrine to the movie Titanic; lots of photos of Leo and all these books on the sinking of the actual Titanic. When we were writing the lyrics to “Blue”, we couldn’t get the image of Jake and all his Titanic paraphernalia out of our head.

Then how the heck did the whole roller disco Elvis rock and roll freakout video happen?

It was amazing; we had filmed a rough cut of Jake eating eggs for 6 minutes and we were pretty happy with it. Then Jake called us out of the blue and asked if we would go to this roller rink with him for disco night. We asked if we could film him skating and when we showed up he was dressed like Elvis and all these girls were swooning over him like he owned the place. The video transformed around that trip to the roller rink.

Huffer week in pop 2

What was filming the video like?

Jake is a natural performer with an iron stomach. We were a little worried that the roller rink wouldn’t allow us to film, but everything went smoothly.

Give us the scoop on releases in the works.

We’re working on a couple more videos that we’re going to release on a series of VHS tapes. We’ve also starting working a lot more with drum machines and sequencers so the new stuff has a different feel.

VOGUE DOTS

vogue dots week in pop 1

This week Halifax, Canada duo Vogue Dots released the sky-breaking storm on their single, “Way Out”, b/w “Thunder” through the Cascine singles imprint, CSCN. The two piece of Babette Hayward and Tynan Dunfield take maximalist concepts to large, blow-up —while maintaining to retain everything that lies in the art of production, mixing, and production subtleties.

Consider “Way Out” where Hayward and Dunfield accomplished everything the name implies, and then more to top it off. The track kicks into a full air propeller that courses through chartered paths that feel new, different, flying down new route arrangements and new inspirations. The come down from the A-side “Thunder” soothes the spirit and regenerates the spirits with electrolytes, 3-htp, and nutrients with a sub-bass coaster that watches the ebb and flow of waves and water rushing in and away. Stay with us after the listen, for an exclusive interview with [who we heard a rumor that are one of Ryan Hemsworth’s new favorites]—Vogue Dots.

How did the two of you first forge the musical connection that would lead to Vogue Dots?

We’d initially met by running into each other at while working at different music festivals on the East Coast. We wanted to collaborate and started sending ideas in Logic sessions back and forth over e-mail. This went on for about a year before we decided to sit in the same room and try writing together. “Way Out” had been made in the early demoing stage and “Thunder” was one we’d produced later in Belle Isle.

What inspired the pop art iconographic/attractive name?

We actually got the name Vogue Dots from Talking Heads. They thought of going by “The Vogue Dots” but decided not to go with it because it sounded too New Wave.’ That’s become handy when people ask us what genre we consider ourselves to be a part of.

Tell us how the two of you recorded the wildly ambitious, beautiful and original singles, “Way Out”—which takes us waaaay out there to the planetary-take-off-point, “Thunder”.

Both tracks were recorded and produced on Logic at home in Halifax and in Belleisle Bay. We then took the tracks to the Sonic Temple in Halifax to record vocals and mixing.

What do you both enjoy about the current Halifax scene? Seems like there is something for all styles, tastes, and sorts, that anyone could fancy.

It’s great because it’s a tight knit group. A lot of our friends are involved in multiple projects so it’s a really supportive group of musicians and visual artists.

Favorite local artists that you all feel need more love, attention and ink?

Moon. Matthew Samways. Heaven for real. Cousins. Old & Weird.

What’s next for Vogue Dots?

We’re releasing an EP in October at Halifax Pop Explosion and doing some more recording over the winter for our full length (looking to release in March). We’re looking to do some remixes and covers of other songs and we hope to collaborate with some producers for the LP.

Vogue Dots Way Out single is available now from CSCN and iTunes.

TRAK JOY

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Should you need some rhythm grooves sent back through time from the many mornings of the future, then check out Trak Joy, the new outfit from Kile Atwater, and instrumentalist producer Shane Dinet. Regular readers and listeners of this column might recall Kile brightening up our weekends recently in this interview feature where we talked solo and collaborative projects. Atwater’s knack for really catchy harmonies gets completely caught up in Dinet’s immersive environments where the the rhythm and emotion in the melodic hook loops help one feel better about themselves on the single, “Skin”. For anyone who has ever felt out of place and out of sorts in their own shell, Kile and Shane swoop in to help you out with something that helps you believe it’s going to be all right after all. We got both talents in a roundtable discussion following this listen to “Skin”.

How did the two of you first power up as the team, Trak Joy?

Shane: Random meeting when I first moved to NYC. He was moving out I was moving in.

Kile: We clicked instantly as soon as we started talking about music while I was trying to move my stuff out.

With you, Kile, on the mic, and Shane on the production decks, how do the two of you describe how you collaborate as Trak Joy?

Shane: I’ll either have a track, beat, or melody. Present it to Kile and we’ll jam out what makes the song as a whole sound the best it can. Ableton is kinda of key for this sort of electronic jamming.

Kile: The songs we write usually start as fragments but after playing around and experimenting with sounds and my vocals we are able to create something that conveys a mood or a story in the song.

The secret recipe to creating joy and bliss on your tracks?

Shane: Not sure if I can say there is a secret recipe except for trying to make them sound as true to the person you think you are at the moment, while filtering through your influences and trying not to be your influences, but using them as tools instead.

Kile: I don’t think there is a secret recipe at all. I just try to approach every song idea with a sense of openness. We aren’t really worried about anything but making good music and I think that comes across on “Skin” and in future tracks as well.

“Skin” is the see summer jam, and we want to know how it was the two of you managed to make us all feel good in our own skins?

Shane: I try to make my creations feel positive whether its for Trak Joy or my other project Ether Teeth. If I’m sad then the beat/song might sound a little more melancholy, but I don’t like to reinforce people to stay in negative moods. Kile is the same with his lyrics, he’s a character and his lyrics are generally really positive or wanting to lift you up in some way. It’s been interesting getting to know someone by their lyrics.

What is next from the two of you, any Trak Joy releases or collabs with other artists in the works?

Shane: Next up is an EP. No specific release date, but we’ll announce that in the next couple of weeks.

Kile: Also we plan to do some more shows in the near future we will keep you guys posted!

LIYON

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Montréaler J-D Leblanc operates under the handle, LIYON, readying his first single, “Falling Out” for release August 26, sharing the electric calling card, “The Calling”. Here, maximalist synths permeate like a series of builds and bridges, with Franco pop elements that light up like much of the large concept/big sound pop that has infiltrated both the mainstream and independent sectors alike among the Canadian musical landscapes. High on the inspiration of discovering the calling, answers, responses, and questions with within; Leblanc puts the waving cluster of club concepts on full display on a macromized level. Apart from the electronic illuminated pop for house parties, clubs, and dance floors anywhere; Leblanc has also been working on an self-biographical book titled, It’s All Fire Motherfuckers, full of all kinds of salacious stories about growing up, tour tales, with sordid and sensational vignettes about coming up in the game. We got a chance this morning to dig a little bit deeper down into J-D’s writings, and electronic aesthetics, following the sounds from, “The Calling”.

What was your time in China like?

I don’t know if it’s an acceptable answer but I’d have to say: somewhat weird. It took about three months to kind of get used to how it works over there and speak a minimum of mandarin. By the time I had this stuff down it was almost time to leave.

My girlfriend at the time was studying mandarin full time so I was left to wander around Beijing by myself. I bought a shitload of bootleg books and DVDs, it was actually pretty cool. Oh yeah and I also wrote a novel inspired, but not based on, my young days of touring. The smoking, coughing and spitting in China inspired me to write a book rather than music.

Scenes over there to report? Anecdotes?

The art district is pretty cool. I bought a guitar from the music district and asked for directions to a cool venue. There weren’t really any good shows booked at this time and the guy at the venue kind of laughed in our faces when we went there to talk about the music scene. Most of the Chinese people were very nice. I enjoyed them and how they made me feel like a movie star.

What is the current state of of scenes in Montréal for everything from electro happenings to indie collectives, etc?

Montreal is amazing for electro with the Piknic Electronik, Mutek, the Neon events and all. There’s also a great indie scene filled with bands who say “we’re a band from Montreal” but there are actually great bands from elsewhere in Canada who moved to MTL for the scene.

Favorite current Montréal artists?

Dear Frederic, Tork, Hools, Heartfelt, Le trouble.

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Can you tell us a bit about your autobiographical book, It’s All Fire Motherfucker?

Well I can say that it’s inspired by my young touring days so I wouldn’t call it a biography, more like a novel.

It appears to be a very sensational self-portrait, who were some of your literary or non-literary heroes that you had in mind during the composition process?

J.D. Salinger, Bukowski and many rockstar biographies inspired me for this book. Also, just living in the music scene for so long, all kinds of fucked up shit just happens and I always told myself, ‘one day, I’m gonna write a book about this.’

How has the art of writing your book impacted your music?

I think I see my lyrics\music more like a movie or a short story now, one that doesn’t have to be crystal clear.

What’s next for LIYON, and J-D Deblanc?

Sky’s the limit, especially with the help of cult nation, a bunch of full-on-motivated-fucked-up people who all work toward what I think is something great.

Listen to more from LIYON via Soundcloud.

JAMES VERNON

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You know him formerly as one of the The Cliftons, Li Xi, and now James Vernon steps out solo-wise, haunting the worlds, and music press mills with “Old Ghost”. From his forthcoming album Criminals, the haunted Bay mixes ghost stories in the cycles of fog with the creaky wooden warmth of looking out the window of a Victorian flat as the precipitation vapor entities lay lazily and idly around the sleepy peninsula. Vernon’s songwriting and recording plays like the lost cassettes or records left in an attic, crawl space, or secret shelf cubby, where the most prized, privy and lost collections surface with the new sound of yesterday’s future-creative intentions. Joining us after the listen to “Old Ghost”, James talks about collaborative and solo projects, and more.



How would you narrate your own creative journey thus far, from founding The Cliftons, to your work in Li Xi, and now juggling a solo career.

When we started the Cliftons in 1999, it was all about getting kicked out of clubs and making a scene. We didn’t have any goals. We figured we would last about a year and that would be it. Turns out we somehow got 5 years out of it. We even played CBGB’s!

Li Xi is the grandchild of a recording project I started in 2006 with my friend Jeff Ortega. We’d been playing music that predates the Cliftons. Our first band was called The Unicorn Ducks which we started in 1997! It was named after a drawing my younger sister Nikki made of a “Unicorn Duck”. Fast forward 10 years after that. I remember that we recorded a ton of music in the span of about 3 years. I learned how to refine my songs, self-edit, record and play multiple instruments. It was kind of like college for me musically. We decided to do different things in the end of 2008. Jeff currently has a project called Dominga. He has a tape out on Noorden.org.

Li Xi started after I met Maryann Tran who sings and plays keys in that band. We met at a mutual friend’s house. We had almost identical tastes in music back in 2008 and I vaguely remember setting up a jam session that night. After one jam we started a band called Sleeptalks. Will Cline, the vocalist from the Cliftons joined in on bass, Jeff played drums for awhile and Jasiel Berg was also a vocalist with Maryann. We recorded one EP.

Li Xi started after Jasiel left for Brooklyn. We went through a couple of lineup changes and now we’re a 5 piece. We’ve been playing as this unit for a year and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had musically.

My solo stuff started last winter as a project. I was taking a break from being the primary song writer for Li Xi. I find that in a band setting, it’s more rewarding to feed off everyone while writing. But I still like to get my weird ideas out there so I figured I’d just record these ideas as a solo thing. That resulted in this record “Criminals”. But I’m still collaborating with old friends with the solo thing. Jasiel, from Sleeptalks sings on the song “The Actor”. I plan to work with a lot of vocalists with this project.

Seems like you have been working on Criminals for a hot minute now, what has that particular process been like for you in terms of song organizing, and all the other processes of production?

This record took very little time all in all. If I was writing, it was being recorded. I made most of the record at my furniture warehouse after hours. I’d stay there until 3am some nights. The warehouse is on a small street in the Bayview district of San Francisco. During the day, it’s busy and packed with industrial business goers. At night it’s a ghost town. I enjoyed the silence at night and it was sort of a surreal experience being in this big warehouse alone, recording songs in a silent part of San Francisco at midnight.

“Old Ghost” is such a catchy single, like a specter of old world, Barbary Coast San Francisco saloons and that like. Did you take any kind of old world and new world mixing considerations when writing and recording this song?

Thank you. I didn’t intentionally set out to create an old world Barbary Coast feel, but that’s a cool interpretation of the sound. I really dig that. I remember writing it late at night and it was very cold outside. There’s a sort of night/day cold/warm feeling to the song. It definitely has a baroque pop thing happening on the chorus.

With all the various changes, exoduses, evolutions and the like here in SF; what do you make of the current networks and happenings of new artists that are still surviving despite the unlivable costs of living?

Things have gotten weird. We’re losing a lot of gems. People are selling their businesses The industry is bringing people who are fresh out of college who used to live in the suburbs into the city. These guys are moving into neighborhoods that used to be homes to a lot of music venues and they’re making noise complaints! A lot of goofy people are out here now. But I think Oakland has one of the best music scenes in the country right now. With all this strangeness we also have a tighter group of musicians who are coming together and really making things happen. I like the people who are sticking it out up here.

I am however getting tired of hearing a lot of the happy-hippy-go-lucky folk-psych stuff that is very prevalent out here and in California in general. A lot of the music is good, but I think we need to do something new . There’s a lot of rehashing going on and ‘costume rock.’ That paisley movement stuff was kind of cool in the 80s..and the 90s.. and the 2000s… But okay, time for something else guys. Also, folks, we need to go to shows. I hear a ton of complaining in music blogs about venues being shut down. If we don’t go to see live music we won’t have anything to complain about in music blogs.

Favorite SF groups you have been enjoying that more people should be listening to?

I’m digging on Maus Haus, Sugar Candy Mountain, Lumerians, Mwahaha, Ash Reiter, Annie Girl and the Flight, Mosshead, Everyone Is Dirty, Be Calm Honcho and Couches.

Post-summer release plans for Criminals?

Self-Releasing in September on digital format. I’ll have some tapes available in the winter time as well.

Look for James Vernon’s Criminals available via his Bandcamp in September.

THE MOLE PEOPLE

the mole people week in pop 1

Punctum Records released their first ever 12″ record with, Lost Age from Austin’s The Mole People, and we give you a taste with, “(Memo From) Lightnin'”. Frontman Joshua Gamma gives you a glimpse from “Last Night at the Rodeo,” in an energy that can’t be held back like electric weather currents caught in a jar that cannot be contained. As heard on other songs from the Lost Age LP like the enduring beauty of songs like “Searching the Streets“, new chances, new opportunities and new attitudes of expression are around every corner through the lost, underground tunnels burrowed by The Mole People surfacing above ground, breathing and exhaling airs of infectious entertainment.

Frontman Josh Gamma wrote us the following exclusive accompanying piece about his thoughts on recording, and releasing Lost Age:

Making the Lost Age LP was definitely a labor of love; from the first recording session for the album to the vinyl actually being released took almost two years. This partially had to do with us all having “real jobs” and funding issues, but it also was due to our commitment to a completely analogue process. The early sessions were very quick, live, full-band recordings, but we spent months doing overdubs in Paul Millar’s analogue-wizard’s dungeon of antique synthesizers, tape machines, and mysterious electronics from the 70s (Paul calls his studio ‘Bug Sound,’ and the title fits). Everything was recorded and mixed on tape (razor blades were involved), the lacquers were made from the original master tapes… the entire process was analogue. If you listen to the digital files on our bandcamp you are hearing a digitally mastered version, but if you are listening Lost Age on vinyl you are listening to a piece of music that has never been touched by a computer.

This isn’t masochism or just showing off; to The Mole People this process was important. We are all huge music fans and record nerds (we met as college DJs at KVRX, the student radio station at The University of Texas at Austin); it was important to us to make something that felt classic—the type of record that we would like to listen to, something that has the fun catchiness of 60s garage rock and 70s power pop and the interesting sonic palette of a Brian Eno album or the lusher moments in 60s psychedelia, something that was unique to us.

Lost Age is available now from Punctum Records.

SUNFLOWER BEAN

Brooklyn's new young guns, Sunflower Bean, photographed by by Rebekah Campbell.

Brooklyn’s new young guns, Sunflower Bean, photographed by by Rebekah Campbell.

Brooklyn-based three-piece Sunflower Bean busted out virtually nowhere and dropped the track, “Tame Impala” on us with a guitar plan more menacing than the Australian band whose name is used for the song’s title. But don’t expect any alleged chord infringement here on any Argentinian pop star’s intellectual work. Sunflower Bean are breaking back the doom and the dread in a way that keeps you demanding more. We had the chance to catch up with Nick Kivien to talk about their new track and what else the NYC trio has in store, following their tongue-in cheek rocker, “Tame Impala”.

How did Sunflower Bean first begin?

Jacob and I both met towards the end of high school and started jamming. After going through a few bass players we were looking for a permanent third member. Julia just happened to be looking for permanent project and the stars aligned.

Where is the name taken from?

Nick and Jacob’s late high school obsession with sunflower seeds and coffee beans.

Your track “Tame Impala” rips…are you all a fan of the Aussie band of the same name?

Yeah, mate!

It’s a play on the fact that Tame Impala has a song called “Led Zeppelin”.

Sunflower Bean's Jacob Faber, Julia Cumming and Nick Kivlen photographed for UNIF's blog.

Sunflower Bean’s Jacob Faber, Julia Cumming and Nick Kivlen photographed for UNIF’s blog.

What sort of feline-tempers inspired this song?

One night I (Nick) was driving over a bridge and noticed one light on in the top of a house. The house was on top of a hill above a town. There was not a single light on in the town and it was silent.

What else are you all recording, and what releases are coming up next for Sunflower Bean?

We just wrote a handful of new songs and are planning on recording them as soon as we get back from our LA tour. A new single can be expected to be out sometime next month!

Sunflower Bean’s single, “Tame Impala” is available now via Bandcamp.

BROWN SHOE

Brown Shoe, advance stream of Lonely Beast Part II

Brown Shoe provided us with a listen to the just released second installment of their latest series, Lonely Beast Part ll. Aaron, Ryan, Bryson and Landon Baggaley take to the stage as if it was their own wild wilderness on the ceiling crasher, “Reservations”, the mammoth-monolith suite of “Are You Up”, to the big top pop theatrics on the closing anthem, “Circus”. Brown Shoe again combines their passions to show the world that they sport some of the fanciest kicks and chops in the business. The brothers wrote us this introductory piece into the lone wolf prowl and trail-ways of Lonely Beast II:

We wrote Lonely Beast, Part II during the late fall and winter in Sacramento, before we moved to Los Angeles. We hadn’t toured since the spring and were brimming with energy. So there’s a sense of anxiousness there, a feeling of being unsettled and bitter about the past. But there’s an undercurrent of certainty, of sure-handedness, too. At that time, we were also coming off finishing Lonely Beast, Part I, and we felt like they were the best songs we’d ever written, and that certainly fed into this sense of urgency behind the songs in Part II.

moon block party 2014

Look out as the Moon Block Party is scheduled to rock the Pomona Fairplex in Pomona, CA on October 18 featuring Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Band of Skulls, The Black Angels, Blacks Lips, Metz, JJUUJJUU, Deap Vally, Fever the Ghost, Mystic Braves, Death Hymn Number 9, Corners, and more. Tickets are available here, and Alex of METZ wrote us the following about what he’s the most pumped for about this year’s Moon Block Party:

I’m mostly pumped for the costume contest. I’ve been sewing day and night to get it done in time. I’m also really excited to see UMO again. I saw them when we played Roskilde in Denmark. They were better than Rihanna and Metallica put together.

After long last, the wait for the first big proper Monster Treasure LP from Harlot is over, as we present you with a stream from some of Stockton’s greatest natural harmonizers. Sure, you’ve heard the singles like “Wasting”, “Wake Up”, “Over”, and the previous releases; but the band comes out with all guns blazing on “Heat”, “Lights”, “The Salt”, and more that make up what is one of the must hear albums of the summer. Follow all of our coverage of Monster Treasure, and experience one of the grungiest, and most beautiful treasures of sheer, gorgeous, garage-grinding brilliance.

silver state week in pop 1

Presenting a stream of their just released album, Outside available from Tacky Records; Caleb Lindskoog, with guitarist Taylor Milne, and Alex Stopa on the drums are The Silver State, creating guitar glistening state of their own shared visions. Chords careen into pools of chlorine on, “Go For a Swim”, memories, past, and present on, “Smile Big, Child”, the great and mellow outdoors on the titular, “Outside”, sappy circus sentiments on “Three Ring”, to the chronological concerns and constraints that tick away, “Don’t Let Your Time Go”. Global positioning way out west strums one out on “You Are Here”, the wise rider, “Conventional Wisdom”, the beautiful ballad of taunts and challenges, “Do You Dare”, closing it out with “Passage”, taking you to a Silver State of happiness. Caleb Lindskoog again proves that he can do no wrong, making music that stays with your conscious long after the music passes from the receptors of the ears.

From Nick Harte’s Promised Miracles mixtape, enter the mystic chapel on Instant Fantasy’s “You’re a Liar”. Sitars careen fingers around chords as electric drone send out Melbourne songs of cold hearts and promises kept, broken, and rehashed in future meditations and settings.

NYC three-piece New Myths sent signals and rock-mystical gestures that their album, Give Me Noise will be available October 14 (via their own Taming Ghosts imprint), sending out the first initial warning shot, “Howl”. Rosie Slater, Marina Ross, and Brit Boras traverse the city through the feet on the pavement verses that break into full lead weighted guitar choruses.

With their single “Year of Patience” still swirling in our midst; Mega Bog spray on the perfume of saxophone and whirling whisks of guitars on, “Cologne In The Night” from Erin Birgy’s upcoming album debut, Gone Banana available September 23 from Couple Skate Records. Having listened to Erin’s solo compositions over time, the new audio terrains that she presents with the assistance of other musicians provides a richness that we always knew the Mega Bog project possessed.

In more Couple Skate news — FF catches you in the traps that lay out in the landscape in the wildest, rocking night visions ever on, “Caught In A Dream”, from the band’s first proper album, Lord available October 21 from Couple Skate Records. The Northwest bunch here prove that the true dream of the alternative-daydream-nations are thriving now, bigger, louder, better, and badder than ever.

From Sweden with love, guitars, synths, and sweetness, Simian Ghost dropped the Dan Huiting video for “Youth”, as they ready the re-issue of the same name (packaged with five new tracks, including the stunner, “2013” we might add) available September 9 through the Austin imprint, Red Eye Transit. The shimmering beauty of the video feels like the visual equivalent of viewing nature through a prismatic scope, with the perfect medium companion for music with heart that can be felt from the ears and all over.

Natalie Plaza and Max Heath of Child Actor return with the self-release of their second album, Never Die, available September 2, sporting the title track video from Tyler Yee. Shot in a spacious warehouse, Natlalie summons mystical elements in a new-pagan ode to eternal life (and/or lives). From the sites and sounds of things from the duo, this is one of their largest displays of visuals and sounds to date.

Peep the L. Gustavo Cooper video for the Jersey Club remix edition of 8MM’s “Around the Sun”. This is the track to turn the weekend up—all the way up.

Prom Body bring us the radder side of Tucson, AZ on their Naughty By Natural LP available from Topaz Records, taking to the night on skateboards, facepaint and more to raise some holy hell in the Patrick Foley video for, “Do What You Do”.

Slapping us with some of that fresh off the road slab from their album, Spells, available from Old Flame & Burger Records, The Pharmacy share the tour times from their travels on the loving pop spoonfuls of, “Cool & Calm”.

From Calliope’s recent release, Orbis; peep the Vic Buell of the Milwaukee group entertaining their own sludge-guitar mystic with the psychic guidance of Nellie Vance. For all inquiring minds from the coasts, the Minnesota noise psych scene remains alive, well, and rich in psychotropic sentiment. Not to be missed.

The Growlers drag out the beach goth party on “Dull Boy”, from the continuing adventures from your Costa Mesa favorites with Chinese Fountain, available September 23 on Everloving Records stateside, FatCat in EU and Smack Face in Australia and NZ. With a holiday skank riff at work, Brooks Nielsen grabs you by the hand for a water side dance with self-effacing lyrics and a ‘let’s get out of town’ motion that scatters left behind pictures, thoughts, and more in a breadcrumb trail.

Take a quick spin around some of the cuttiest corners in D.C. with Yung Gleesh and crew in the video for the Dolan Beats produced cut, “Since When”, from the upcoming tape, Cleansides Finest 3 playing NYC’s Fool’s Gold Day Off September 1.

Zeahorse fill you in on the cryptic arts of occupational noise on “Career”, from their September 2 slated EP for Dine Alone / HUB Records. Their loudest, noise weapons become enchanted and entranced like a rattler hypnotized by the snake charmer’s instrument, in the same way that the guitars bow, bend, and blend in head nodding fashions that want little to do with the conventional lines of lemmings that wrap around blocks to attend counseling at the normalizing offices of ’employment opportunities.’ Catch them playing their US tour September 13 through NYC’s CMJ Music Marathon October 21-25.

Off the album Primitives slated for release September 27 from rising imprint star, Punctum Records, Roger Sellers plays out the dancing note trot of song and foot-spurned percussion on “Waves”. In a sound guaranteed to whisk you in a wind storm of sounds, the origin and nature of every instrument has it’s own natural voice that reminds us of how we even want the best electronically produced music to mimic.

Peep the bright, visual-rhythm abstractions, and luminescence in the RUFFMERCY video for Paul White’s single, “Where You Gonna Go?”, off his upcoming joint, Shaker Notes available September 30 from R&S Records.

With their album WHEN available October 7 from Burger Records, peep the NSFW music double feature of Tomorrows Tulips’ song “Baby” and “Glued To You” made by the band’s own brass, Alex Knost, Dominic Santos and Taylor Bonin. “Baby” involves sometimes-topless models caring for a baby, while “Glued” to you involves Franco art-house sensualty, egg smashing and more, starring the on-screen talents of Megumi Sabik, Ariel Beesley, Caroline Echols, Mary McCray, Alex Knost, and Ford Archbold.

Get a look at the Andy Berriman waterside video for Saint Saviour’s memory sung string strummer, “I Remember”, from the memory detailing album, In The Seams available November 4 from Surface Area. From the coastline, to the speeding train’s steam of recalled realities; the UK choral vocal pop brings orchestral stringed pastoral based pop that trades the chamber for the wanderlust scrapbook transit of recollections.

Check out the steady vapor-shaker sure to raise the spirits of the living and the dead , “Dead Or Alive”, from the forthcoming SOS self-titled album available September 16. Randa Leigh and Brian Vincent together turn up the moon and the sun with summer fun and auto-tuned pre-party club cuts. Find them at their album release show in Brooklyn, September 8 at Glasslands with Bosco, Telana, Evvy, along with a PDX hometown release gig August 30 at Mississippi Studios with Tope, and Stewart Villain.

Kicking it up to that J-pop hilt, Chippy Nonstop collabs with our girl Kitty (Pryde) in the Pat Lukens produced sugar saturated track. The emoji exploded hyped up production jumps along through a shining crystal palace of perpetual happy-ever-afters like the greatest romantic cartoon feature never realized. Chippy Nonstop’s upcoming album, Dazed & Confused coming soon. Also check out our recent features on both Kitty and Chippy.

Playing NYC’s The Bitter End August 23 as part of The City & The Heart Showcase (in a benefit for NYC women’s shelter, Safe Horizon); Meghann Wright raises some hell, while showing some heart.

Kitsuné guides you into that Franco-global channel on the Kitsuné Trip Mode a Jerry Bouthier Minimix ahead of the full mix available September 8. Jerry and his roster are the reason the real electronic loving dance-heads continue to hold their starry eyed-heads held high in the sky.

We are admittedly late to the Upperfields party, but we caught word that their upcoming album, Waterways, available October 31, and caught ourselves getting lost in the Pennsylvania friends’ soundscapes on “Seascape”, and the sidewalks, pathways, and wandering trails of “Runner”. Keep a tight ear on these guys, especially later this fall.

From BLKHRTS’ album Off the Death, Romance and Color BLK, keep that party popping with some Bauhaus’ “She’s In Parties” flavor on the after-evenings video for “Porties”.

You.’s Scott Kiernan known for his E.S.P. TV public-access program, directs the image flipping video for the switch hitting single, “Feral” video, ahead of their Sunchaser LP available August 26 from Dais Records. Look for the synth ditch digging minstrels on tour now through October 8.

Robert Fleming, formerly Victory, sneaks out the side door of the club with the rebranded moniker, Sneakout, spelling out for us, “The Art of Hanging On”. From a guy whose sound has been branded for Apple products and Caddillacs, Fleming reinvents himelf again as the king of letting go and carrying out a sneak attack that hits with loud tones on every bar. Robert’s upcoming mixtape will be available September 9.

In case you missed it, check out Brazil’s new electro pop star who dropped the track, “January” recently full of bright South American fusions. Having recently released the remix heavy (Teen Daze, Cosmic Kids, Marbeya Sound) Janeiro EP, SILVA readies his album Ocean View for release September 23 from Six Degrees Records.

With 39 days and counting, you can be a part of the Pledge Music lost shoegaze album re-issue experience, courtesy of one of the most distinguished denizens of the new dream pop authority, Saint Marie Records: for their classic shoegaze reissues part one edition, Blind Mr. Jones’ Tatooine, Sway’s The Milla Pink And Green. Find out more here, and the following indie-infomercial.

ISRAEL NASH

Selections and thoughts from Israel Nash, photographed here by Pooneh Ghana.

Selections and thoughts from Israel Nash, photographed here by Pooneh Ghana.

Israel Nash just released his album, Rain Plans on Loose / Thirty Tigers, where he carries a Southern psych-spirit from Dripping Springs, TX in the crazy horse vocal cadence of Neil Young, with the ramblin’, gamblin’ spirit of The Bob Seger System. We are thrilled to have Mr. Nash co-curate his following Week in Pop round up of his own choosings:

As musicians, fans, critics and industry professionals, we often fail to appreciate or many times even recognize music as an artistic expression. I’m not referring to art here in the generic sense, but rather the deeper concept of a songwriter or group submitting to discipline, supplying vision and passion, obsessing to create a piece of art, that is ultimately a piece of themselves. And it’s bigger than just a song, it’s a collection of them, it’s the album artwork, it’s visuals and themes, videos, and more that all lead to one, unified piece of work. There are so many great artists that have and are still presenting music with this level of artistic integrity throughout. Here are a few that I’ve been digging lately since I got back from the last tour. Hope you enjoy!

It’s super cool to play in the ruins of the ancient world, but these guys did this live. From visuals to performance, only the Floyd. Here’s Live at Pompeii.

Everyone should listen to Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left. He was only 20 when he recorded this album. Something about that record that feels so real and crafted with perfection. This is “Cello Song”:

harry nilsson

Harry was one of a kind and everyone knew that. Incredible arrangements, well crafted songs with killer vocals. Nillson Schmillson, Son of Nillson, and this amazing piece, “The Point”. Make some time for this one, it’s a trip, with Dustin Hoffman narrating said trip.

I’ve been playing a lot of Pretty Things lately. Amazing material. These guys arguably made the first concept album called S.F. Sorrow, before The Who’s Tommy. They were also an incredible live band. Watch and listen to them make music together. Total dedication. This track is from their 1970 album, Parachute, it rocks.

the exorcist poster

Maybe not for everyone, but Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells is considered a prog rock opus by many. The 1st movement of Tubular Bells was recorded in only one week. Watch them pull this off live. They switch instruments throughout the performance. A lot of genius and discipline went into this…and maybe even some dark spirit madness as well, the intro is the theme song from The Exorcist after all…

I recently saw Bill’s new video for “Javelin Unlanded” from his great new album Dream River. I’m a big fan of so much of his work. Look at his videos, album covers, listen to his record. The sum of the whole is equal to a lot of little and scattered parts and it seems like he thinks about most all of them.

Follow Israel Nash via Twitter.

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