Year in Pop: 2013

Sjimon Gompers

Year in Pop

From Bay to Bay, the year in pop, and weeks in pop reviewed and overviewed.

The rollercoaster ride of 2013 provided us with daily entertainment, new sounds, new visions and everything else we chronicled throughout the year in Impose's Week in Pop. We enjoyed lampooning the so-called top stories that gave us little room to escape in our lives, while surveying the latest breaking developments in the artists that mattered to us, and bringing you the newest in new, and fascinating insights you can't get anywhere else. So as we usher in 2014 and say good-bye to 2013, we revisit a handful of moments where artists took over our weekly presentations to share their thoughts and bring new dimensions and elements to the music that made a difference. While this is in no way a complete representation, enjoy this collage of memorable 2013 moments and exchanges-in no particular order.

BEN GREENBERG

We present you with the always amazing Ben Greenberg who has given us pure gold with his contributions to The Men, Pygmy Shrews, and Zs; rocking us this week with new solo material from his Hubble vehicle. A few days ago we gave you the lowdown on the forthcoming of the new Hubble Eagle album available now from NNA Tapes, while we got lost in the spaced out-space-craft-engine picking in Greenberg's recharged cover of The Kinks', “A Long Way From Home“. The NASA fight and flight continues while we traverse with Ben on his Hubble project through the cosmos as we get reacquainted with the vast exteriors of frontiers that may or may not dispel our world's collective myths concerning our existential origins. Picking up where the great guitar pickers of the Leo Kottke era and everywhere (and everyone) else left off, we find that certain peace in the endless life dawning pursuits between the bars and quick-cranked chords. We caught up with Ben in the following discussion on the latest broadcasts from Hubble, and flying 'throughout space and time like the superposition of an electron'.

Let us begin by first addressing the magnanimous elephants in the room of your work post -Pygmy Shrews and your work with The Men; where exactly is the Hubble space station now?

Right now i'm in Greenpoint, about to head up to my roof and play guitar for a few hours while the day fades through McGolrick Park.

Also just getting it out of the way, how much Takoma Records are you in-taking these days? Your guitar picking is all over the place.

Ha, not as much as I used to I guess, if you haven't read it I hiiiiighly recommend Fahey's book How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life. Best magical realism autobiography since Mingus' Beneath The Underdog.

Is this in some way a part of your own solo narrative of music that exists and takes place in a manner that is a long way from what we all might consider home?

Honestly, I'm not sure.

What coordinates can you tell us about the Hubble Eagle?

It can't be pinned down to a specific coordinate, it exists all around us throughout space and time like the superposition of an electron.

What telescopic discoveries have been the latest from your own self-established musical spaceship?

I saw Pharmakon blow the entire PA at the Basilica Sound Scape fest last week and it felt pretty telescopic.

What is it like juggling so many prolific projects and bands right now?

It's exhausting, but it's really the only thing worth being exhausted by.

What is next? What game plan or space flight plan can you reveal?

Haha, there's never, ever, ever a plan. What's next will be tons more touring, putting out more Men records, working on new Hubble recordings, and making more awesome records for more awesome bands. Lookout for The Pampers self-titled LP I did, comes out on In The Red the same day as Hubble Eagle!

Read the full interview here.

ANTWON

Antwon is without a doubt one of the most exciting game changers in the evolving rap game right now. The San Jose by the Bay emcee maintains a multidimensional style that takes him anywhere and everywhere he wants his sounds and flows to go. Check out a listen of the title of cut off his Dark Denim mixtape getting decked out in new kicks and tricks courtesy of Now, Now's Bradley Hale under the Sombear moniker. Antwon released his Dying In The Pussy / Life Is What You Make It 7″ from Suicide Squeeze with mixing courtesy of Lars Stalfors, while we talked about contemporary issues, fake-ass press-spun genres and hints of the upcoming releases from his Nature Boy Gang crew. Read on.

Quick thoughts on cloud rap/noise rap and such: still the hottest thing? Old news? Or was it always just some journalistic tag that missed the concept and creative point of today's post-genre landscape?

Definitely the second. I can't stand most made up blogger genres. I'm over all made up genres period. It's not ok to sell me short with some bullshit genre thats gonna hold somebody back from experiencing my music but I understand everyone's a fucking idiot who feels clever and wants a claim to fame but you won't get respect from me by selling my music short but I forgive you, thank you Based God.

All kinds of big things are happening in the Bay Area/West Coast hip-hop scenes, what artists and producers are you personally excited about and possibly working with in the future?

The Bay Area people I fuck with and its a fact: Sex Play, Nanosaur, Sad Andy, Trill Team 6, and the rest of my team. I'm not against people but I feel people want something from me and they obviously dont care about me its okay though. I dont mind I think its hilarious to watch people thirst like that sometimes its down right disgusting to be honest. I dont suscribe to using people type of behavior, I'd rather create and spread the beauty with my team.

Thanks so much Antwon for your rhymes, rhythms, hot tracks and for your time. You help to make this crazy Bay great.

Ha ha, thank you but I'm a move soon to be honest.

Read the full feature here.

JENSEN SPORTAG

Jensen Sportag have been pretty busy in the years spent between the recent Cascine release of Stealth of Days and their break-through Pure Wet EP. Having explored their recent single “Bellz” with the duo of Austin Wilkinson and Elvis Craig, we bring you our conversation with Austin who talked with us for a bit on the future, Stealth of Days' completion, and discussed the further explorations of encrypting the natural code.

First, “Rain Code” always sounded like a definitive Jensen Sportag track to begin with, the way your music seeks to show the encryption of natural occurring elements in the world through your sound. When you were creating the original, did you have this kind of decoding of the elements translated to sound theory in mind?

For “Rain Code”, which is deconstructionist new-jack swing in style, we open with a time lapse of thaw, exposing a single molded coil of cold liquid bass, drum, and keys. There are many filter sweeps to be found in Nature and none of them cut-off abruptly. We carve and polish and mirror many of our sounds to reflect their own details occasionally impersonating the infinitely reducing, multiplying shapes in Nature.

Having worked on Stealth of Days for so long now, how does it feel to have it out in the world?

Like the conclusion of a slow motion near death experience, resulting in a wake up call to our misspent youths. A wonderful time to be alive.

What is next for Jensen Sportag?

We are nearly finished developing a modest theatrical presentation of Stealth Of Days, while working on new music as always. We have pinpointed the next stage of our sound – and I say pinpointed, because it's noticeably more precisionist.

If you both could come up with an ethos or philosophy behind your beautiful music, what would it be?

Trusting the words of Stevie Wonder: “Music is, in essence, what gives us memories.” A beautiful memory is a many faceted thing. It may even hold some painful thoughts. It will change as we change and grow older. We hope to make beautiful music that is many faceted so it can stay with us for a long time, and change like a memory in our minds.

Stealth of Days is available now from Cascine. Read the full interview here.

DUDLEY PERKINS

Having been four years since the release of Holy Smokes; Oxnard, California's Dudley Perkins is preparing to release his new album Dr. Stokley after Thanksgiving on November 29 (retail day zero/ground zero, Black Friday) from Mello Music Group. Produced by his wife and fellow operator of their indie label SomeOthaShip Connect, Muldrow keeps the keys fluttering and the bass progressions in constant motion to create the sound of a collaborative powerhouse. Dudley joined us to talk about the album Dr. Stokley, sharing family values, the potency of wielding super-powers, exploring the heart of his illmindmuzik, the meaning behind his different monikers, the art of educating oneself through hip-hop, and further intimate insights from a true California legend.

In the past 4 years leading up to Dr. Stokley, you and Georgia have been busy with various projects at SomeOthaShip Connect, tapes with Madlib and such. How do you feel these various collaborative works with family and extended family have developed the style on your upcoming solo record?

Every record creates the next record…for there is no next without a now…this process of evolution my sound has gone through has been cultivated for some years now. This new record is part of that process. I have been highly blessed to be amongst some of the greatest, also greatest slept on, artists of this decade. This record was created out of the love and respect I have for all who have been down with illmindmuzik since its very humble beginnings.

What's behind the central character Dr. Stokley on your upcoming Mello Music disc?

I’ve grown and have re-educated myself through hip-hop. It is my profession, also is a huge part of my spirit and who I am. I am no longer a student of the game. I have also seen the sickness that has now been overdeveloped in music and art…and the amount of time I’ve been a very observant student…I feel I can graduate myself and give myself an honorary doctorate.

Is it like delving into another moniker or side of yourself, or character, kinda like Delcaime?

Dr. Stokley is Declaime…to declaime is actually a way of speaking so all what you call alter egos are all just me, no real significance in it. They’re just titles.

How do the different name identifiers provide you with different rhyming and writing platforms? Do you find it easier, and or difficult to explore different personas through taking on different characters?

Sometimes spirit has you sing …sometimes dance. If you truly follow with your heart anything can come through your vessel with little or no effort. As I said before, names are just titles. I took the name Declaime because it best suits my job.

You, Georgia, Madlib, and everyone hanging around you all seem to have special, secret, super hero powers in both ways of production, beat mixing, flows, and straight up creating rhythms as you all see fit. What inside-insights can you drop on us on how you all have been so blessed on so many creative fronts?

We are superheroes. We’re the theme music for life. We can either save the day or destroy it. Musicians and artists have that power.

Dr. Stokley is available now, read the whole interview here.

GUERILLA TOSS

Guerilla Toss herald from Boston, MA and rocked our year, trashed up, and messed up all expectations as a dedicated group of cacophonic commitments with the wild, Gay Disco release from NNA Tapes. These true believers comprised of Kassie Carlson, Peter Negroponte, Simon Hanes, Arian Shafiee, and Ian Kovac keep the dadaist spirit thriving in the underground. With much honor and high esteem, Simon Luxardo Hanes was super generous in his responses to a couple of our pressing inquiries:

As a group that really are without conventional peers, in what ways has Boston informed or incorporated itself into your creative fabrics, be it local art scenes visual/musical, civic, social, and or otherwise?

Of course, we should start by saying that we in fact have many conventional peers – perhaps not conventional in the sense that we all make the same kind of art or music or whatever, but definitely conventional in the perspective by which we are approaching what we do. Suffice to say that we wouldn't be where we are as a band if it weren't for the incredibly strong support system provided to us by the Boston underground music scene. Boston is a very interesting little hot pocket – equal parts hardened working-classers, perpetually drunken frat boys and artsy waifs, all squished together into a stinky pile of mess. However – and this is Boston's little secret – those who happen to be of the same mind will undoubtedly find each other, partially due to the city's size (fairly unimpressive) and partially because what the fuck else is there to do on a friday night, for Christ's sake. Our group of peers – and we are blessed to be with them – have made it their modus operandi to be all-inclusive – any kind of band making any kind of music which is exciting and fairly genuine will have no fear of being excluded – anything from garage-pop to thrash metal to hyper-outsider performance art – Last week we saw a guy spray-paint his balls pink, decimate a microwave, hand a random audience member $50 bucks cash and then run out into the middle of the street hollering and waving a flaming brick. It was awesome. Point is, Guerilla Toss would be nothing if it weren't for the heaps and heaps of hot wet inspiration we derive from the people around us. And just in case you were talking about the Boston the band – whoof – we've really taken a lot from them over the years.

Not sure how big into baseball you all are, but how has the Red Sox 2013 World Series win affected your worlds, environments, morale, or in what ways has it been a nuisance, and how has it been impacting Guerilla Toss as a whole?

None of us really care that much about sports, at least in the sense of… who won or who's going to the playoffs or who got traded to what team or whatever – I'm pretty sure we were all shaving our pubes or reading Archie comics or something when the Sox won. What's really cool about sports to us is the way they affect fans – they give regular people an excuse to dress like wacky idiots and get fuckin' wasted and then go outside and flip cars and light shit on fire and run around freaking out and that's what we wanna do too! Boston especially seems like they're all about that shit. Some kinda weird thing with aggression – we like aggression. Unchecked aggression can sometimes lead to very interesting things. So from that perspective, yeah – it's kind of cool to know that we're perpetually surrounded by people who seem normal but will go completely apeshit as soon as they're favorite team of athletic men start kicking ass – it's the ultimate excuse. Making music is our excuse for doing that, but we get to do it a lot more often. But in the end it doesn't change the fact that we all have clean-shaven groins and erotic fantasies about Betty and Veronica. And that's what life is all about.

Guerilla Toss's album Gay Disco is available now from NNA Tapes, read our other great interview with the Guerillas here.

TYNETHYS

Between Sacramento and Oakland, the future of hip-hop evolutions has arrived. With the 'leak' of Death Grips' Government Plates, Mondre M.A.N.'s They Say I Struggle Rap, Shady Blaze/Blazed Out collaborations and anticipation for Main Attrakionz' 808s and Dark Grapes III album; Sacto's Tynethys remains to be an inventive upriser that folks are just now barely discovering. Tynethys, aka Nicky Samuel, carries on the mantle of where that 'cloud rap' hype is headed, mixing analogue tricks seen and heard on old televisions and VCRs that brings out the ghosts from yesterday's machines for the new synth terrains of today's sonic atmospheres and introspective verses.

Sacramento has a thriving indie underground, beyond the Death Grips hype. Who are some local Sac town artists that have informed your style or that you're pretty close with?

First i have to.. HAVE TO say Illecism he basically taught me how to rap step by step when I was 15. We have a crew called FH which is short for Fly High and that's where I get my hometown inspiration from. Also Joel/Moses Freemind.

About the connection to LA, I think what you are asking is why the title of Lost Angeles on the last album and all the references. Here is some back story; I went to a music school in LA, went literally broke, dropped out of school and could not seem to find the cash to survive or make it home to Sac – so the whole album was derived from this vibe of being lost in life while occupying space in LA.

As both an emcee and a producer, what's the secret and skill to managing both roles and tasks?

I don't feel like there's a secret. I don't settle for anything less than what I want and I always give my best effort for both. I just practice like Jordan after getting cut and I'm not afraid to take risks.

What other collaborations do you have in the works?

I'm working on another Insomniak album with Illecism and a second LOG album with Moses/Joel.

Future Main Attrakionz/ Green Ova Undergrounds collabs in the works?

I have some stuff with Shady Blaze coming soon and hopefully me and Squadda can get our tape started asaptuals.

So we're pretty juiced on Thyluxe; what do we need to know about this album? Who do we got on this album, and what will it sound like?

I only have the FHamily on a few tracks, besides that everything is me. As for the sound of the album it's diverse. I'm rapping here and singing there all over my beats that's the best way I can describe it. It sounds like me.

What is the state and future of the Sacramento underground?

The sac underground is strong! Sac has a lot of artist that should be heard beyond the city. There are some real class acts and I feel the future is bright we got a lot of people making some nice plays so hopefully the sac underground won't be so underground anymore.

Tynethys' upcoming album Thyluxe will be available in 2014. Read the full interview here.

A MILLION BILLION DYING SUNS

(AMBDS' Nate Mercereau, photos courtesy of The Center for The Arts)

It's no secret that we have been crazy about the song “Plush”, from San Francisco dream machines, A Million Billion Dying Suns. Lead by Nate Mercereau, the group creates the sound of flying light years into the cosmos to gain a better understanding of ourselves, humankind, the continuum and paradoxes of existence, new life and more. That band has built themselves around the following mantra;

“As the million billion suns die, they coalesce into one singular form of energy, before they ultimately end or explode into super nova. It is the vanishing point, where you and me don't matter, but we do. And so do you. Yes, You. We are all Dying Suns, sewn into the same fabric. Endlessly dying, constantly living, in the pattern of the infinite universe.”

A Million Billion Dying Suns' Nate Mercereau talked to us about the music video for “Plush”, the 60s spirit of San Francisco bands, news of two EPs currently in the works, and more.

SF has often been called one of the indie dream pop capital of the States. How has living in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay impacted and inspired the sound of AMBDS?

Living in the Bay is like living in a cloud. It's a magical friend oasis. Fog is rad. So much beauty to be inspired by.

Who are some of your favorite local acts?

Our friends are in great bands like Facing New York, Creepers, Solos

Favorite not-so-local-acts?

Drake.

The name of your EP is Strawberry, is this like a throwback to some kind of Summer of Love, Upper Haight slice of sympathizing? If so, how do you feel that the sprit of '67 has lent influence to your work and others?

It's not a throwback, but we're definitely inspired by our surroundings. The 60s spirit of San Francisco bands comes through in our general attitude towards music. It's all vibezzzz mannnnnnn. We love playing shows with our friends for our friends. Transcending together through music.

What is the AMBDS song process like?

Inspiration from anything. Nature, weather, people, the infinite vibrating universe, other songs, creation, hashing it out in The Torta, and then tweaking for anywhere from 0-1000 hours. I write and record the material myself first to get it down, then get the guys to play certain parts that need extra.

Are you translating your own dream journals to get that sound?

Actually, yeah. If I can ever remember the dreams, they can be unique inspiration to start an idea.

A Million Billion Dying Suns' Strawberry EP is available now via Bandcamp. Read the full interview here.

HAPPY NOOSE

Happy Noose from Olympia, Washington released their album Amagosa, where Timothy, Ryan and John bring some grizzly Warsaw-era vibes with flannel shredding guitar saws. Timothy Grisham of Happy Noose talked with a few days ago about getting introduced to Joy Division in diner booths by 'clove cigarette smoking goths', the adaptation process, and the nature of how various music informs the creative process by happenstance.

Given the Washington weather gloom we hear about, what inspired you all to roll with the Happy Noose moniker?

You know, the funny thing is I don't really think of Washington as a particularly gloomy place. As we speak I've been experiencing one of the most beautiful falls I have ever experienced, be it in New York, Los Angeles or Olympia.

When we were thinking of band names we made this big list of names and the only real criteria is that we didn't want the name to be a clear 'genre' name, a good example would be Thee Blah blah blah for garage, or whatever, every member of the band had a certain number of nixes that they could make and somehow, out of that process Happy Noose never got eliminated. Looking back were there better names on the list, in my opinion? Yes! But we set out to have a very deliberate and democratic process for the name. How the name
got on the list is a whole different story.

John is a fan of the midwestern-by-the-way-of-Scandanavian brand of pun humor; and I used to have this milk carton for Hopalong Cassidy's “Hoppy Favorite Milk” that the lettering was in this beautiful lasso lettering. Sitting there one day I just put Happy Noose on the list as a nod to the two, Happy News, Happy Noose. In the end the name simply made it through a level of group censorship and floated up.

What things do you feel were heavily informing the recording of the Amagosa EP?

The main thing that informs the recording of Amagosa is our shared love of music. I am a music writer myself, and have thousands of LPs – no hyperbole. Both John and I worked in record stores, and Ryan is a huge collector as well. So you have this really great shared language to work with and a lot of the process because very unconscious in the decision making. Another thing that shaped the recording of Amagosa was working with a producer with a very unique sound of his own, Tim Green.

I think there is a big push to ask bands about influences, which is why I am very glad you used the word inform – it is more part of the process. I really don't thing we set out to have a particular influence; and to a large
extent I think that that sort of conscious decision making is a myth for bands not concerned with music as commerce. If we did have influences in the music journalist sense I don't think it would be someone like Joy Division. A lot of that is happenstance. Yes I love the band, but it isn't like Ryan sings low because of that, it is his natural voice – he never sang in a band before so this is what is in his comfort zone. Of course it is an easy
target to point to, we cover their song, and are a darker version of pop -but for the most part I can't cite them. I can't play guitar like Bernard Sumner nor would I want to.

I can only really speak to my abilities as a guitar play and a songwriter, and not Ryan or John. But the things I love musically: guitar players like Rowland S. Howard or Richard Lloyd, I don't think I could ever replicate. Nor do I think I can write lyrics like Lou Reed [R.I.P.]. So I don't try, the one real good thing I have learned being in bands in the last two decades is to not care about being something I'm not and to follow my own exploration. It is much less frustrating and more gratifying that way, and maybe that's why we don't do very many covers – I don't know.

What can you all report from the indie scene frontlines of Olympia, as of lately?

You know Olympia has changed a lot over the last decade. I am sure that perception will differ; it's kind of in the eye of the beholder. But I can say that there are SOOOOOOO many bands. You got to think the city of Olympia only has about 50,000 people. Think about how small that is compared to the musical output – the good musical output that gets attention on a global scale, it's astonishing. The thing about contemporary Olympia is there are so many little “mini-scenes”. The K Records scene is entirely different than the Perennial Records scene, or the Rvivr bands, or the garage bands. They are all these tiny pockets of resistance that make up a bigger identity as a hole. This is nothing novel to someone in a big city – but take that formula in a town like, say Medford, Ore. or Troy, NY it's kind of intense.

What's the next move for Happy Noose?

Happy Noose has a second EP from the same session as Amagosa, “Haunted” which will come out early next year. We are currently working on a full-length with frequent collaborators and friends like Derek M. Johnson, You Are Plural's Jen Grady, and Jon Hanna from Broken Water. We are recording with Matt Buscher in Olympia. In Feb. we are doing a mini tour of Canada and the northwest. In March more west coast dates leading up to SXSW. So it really is a good winter for us to focus on the recording end of things before we start hitting touring more.

Amagosa is available now via Bandcamp. Read the full interview here.

BE FOREST

Be Forest have been working in many different patterns, and creating sounds that have broken every category they could ever be placed in. We first became aware of the Pesaro, Italy band (also the hometown to rising Felte indie stars Soviet Soviet) with their recent Hanged Man/I Quit Girls 7″ that presented both an intrinsic understanding of astounding swirls of guitar-gazing indie pop, b/w a Japandroids cover that experiments with reigning in an unruly wash of noise sweeps with a feathery touch like a wicker bristled broom. Busying themselves with their recent process of writing and recording; vocalist Costanza Delle Rose, Erica Terenzi, Lorenzo Badioli and guitarist Nicola Lampredi have been readying their forthcoming Earthbeat, for February 4 release from the imprint, We Were Never Being Boring. Through an exchange of cables, we were able to talk a bit with Be Forest about their sound, mystic fascinations, the new album Earthbeat, their new various directions, the Pesaro scene, and more.

Given your name, what was it that attracted you all to the mystique of trees, hence the moniker of Be Forest?

The name Be Forest was born in an attempt to capture our common imagery, magic places where things are hiding under the fog, where dreams and reality live together.

Was there any like, Madonna-Kabballah like attraction or fancy involved in this influence or inspiration?

I'm really happy for this question, it is the first time someone asks me and in fact it is so. Since I was a little girl I always loved these types of readings, starting from astrology and books on destiny up to the reading of the Kabballah. I think these readings have helped me to create some songs and to live and see things in a different perspective.

Then with “Captured Heart” from the upcoming album, it has such a tropical jungle percussion drive that sinks into your dream whispers of vocal delivery and guitar work. What can you tell us about these sentimental capturing directions that are sending your sound all over the map?

'Captured Heart' is the the first song we wrote for Earthbeat, we believe it gives the right 'coordinates' for an accurate reading of the album. In this song you can hear all the changes we went through the last couple of years. 'Captured Heart' is the summary, the one song that embraces the whole history of the album itself

(Costanza Delle Rose and Lorenzo Buddy Holly Badioli recording Earthbeat, Day Two)

Which leads us to next year's release of Earthbeat. Tell us about the processes of development for this upcoming, earthy-labor of love.

While Cold was a silent and mysterious world, Earthbeat is based on a different kind of landscape, warmer and concrete. The rhythm is the base of this album, it's more segmented, visceral. We felt the need to include a fourth element in order to recreate certain atmospheres, with the new use of synth and others digital sounds.
It's a growth, a natural evolution of our sound and of ourselves.

(Nicola Lampredi and Erica Terenzi recording Earthbeat, Day Three in the studio)

What attracts you all to the earthy nature of sound, feeling, style, and numerous inspirations?

We were inspired by Native Americans, their approach to life and nature. Native American music was composed primarily of percussion that recreated 'the heartbeat of the earth', that's the reason we entitled the album Earthbeat. Native Americans believed lyrics and music had healing powers, reminding people to care for their land: music was like an antidote, a magic formula where you can mirror, recognize and accept yourself.

With Pesaro blowing up these days with the likes of Soviet Soviet, and more, who and what are some of all of your favorite things happening in Pesaro recently?

Pesaro is a small seaside town, a rich musical universe comprised of bands such as Soviet Soviet, Brothers in Law (seaside project of our Nicola Lampredi), Young Wrists and many others. Unfortunately, as a every small town, Pesaro doesn't offer much to young people, but maybe it's for this that young people start to play music… It's perhaps a fortunate thing.

(Nicola Lampredi and Erica Terenzi recording percussion sections for Earthbeat, Day One in the studio)

What else do we need to know about Earthbeat, and Be Forest in 2014?

Hang on and you'll find out!

Read the full interview here.

VUM

VUM released the video for “I Will Return” along with a listen to Psychotropic Jukebox, available now from Silver Side Productions with the vinyl pressing courtesy of Secret Lodge Recordings. Jennifer Pearl, Chris Badger, and Scott Spaulding together bring a séance stream of sentimental silks through the ancient orders summoned by guitars, synths, drums and the smoke wafting drift of projected song. Through the chaos of busy festival adventures and hectic schedules; we were able to talk with Jennifer Pearl and Chris Badger while they were driving on tour somewhere on the highway roads between Portland and Nevada City.

First, how do you describe the process of writing and arranging Psychotropic Jukebox?

Many of these songs were born and developed through the recording process rather than perhaps the more common band-driven songwriting tactic where a group will develop a track in a live scenario first.

All of the song ideas start with either myself or Chris. We then work out the arrangement together either through the recording process or by then playing it live in our home recording studio over and over again as a duo.
Our space is very DIY and we virtually make all of our records using only one or two mics. Chris and I fiercely argue for and against the aspects of each track that are personally important/abhorrent. You can know that when hearing a VUM track, each inch of audio is the result of a lengthy debate.

Once all of the melodic instruments and vocals are laid down, we bring in Scott Spaulding to free-form drum ideas through some of the tracks. Often times, Scott will record without ever having heard the track before. Chris and I will then solidify the final arrangement.

One of the tracks, 'Badlands' began as a cover of the Bob Dylan song 'Hollis Brown' with completely different instrumentation and melodies that we developed. When we went to release the record, we found out that it was much more difficult to obtain licensing for a cover song once we had basically rewritten the track entirely and kept only the lyrics so I decided to rewrite and re-record the lyrics at the last minute. We also noticed that David Lynch had covered the same track on his new album released just a few months ago and thought it would be too ridiculous to have released a single called 'Laura Palmer' last year, and then share a cover song on our respective albums released a few months apart.

(photo courtesy of Angela Ratzlaff)

What was the process of adapting the song, “I Will Return” for video like?

The 'I Will Return' video was directed by Kyle Blair-Henderson. He was interested in an effect used in Clouzout's 'Inferno' where glitter and rotating shadows were used to insinuate movement and mark passing time. Chris and I added to this the visual aesthetic used in the 1970s TV convention of shooting live performance videos with a spotlight against a black seamless. In particular, we were influenced by Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze performances we had been watching.

(photo by Gus Russell and Andy Brown)

Winter dreams and projections?

We [are also] working on a split 7″ with fellow Los Angeleno band, Black Mare, and making plans for our 2014 European tour.

Psychotropic Jukebox is available now on digital via iTunes, courtesy of Secret Lodge / Silver Side Productions. Read our full exclusive interviews with VUM here and here.

HILLS LIKE ELEPHANTS

San Diego's Hills Like Elephants gave us a spin of “Fall Through” and the devastating “Non-Fictionalism” not too long back, and this year we had a variety of opportunities to talk with frontman Sean Davenport about their sound, their upcoming third album, marrying and divorcing celebrities, changing the world, and so much more.

There is an interesting narrative too unto it's own, like a short film, or perhaps an adapted Hemingway or Tennessee Williams tale happening here.

There is another video in the works, but it will not be self directed. We are going to release to coincide with a single from our upcomming album. Details to follow.

What have you and the band been up to lately in SD?

Lately here in SD we keep writing, playing working day/night jobs, whatever pays, and trying to get out on the road. Just waiting for Radiohead to write back about that tour.

Why is fiction do you feel maybe harder or easier to relate to?

Don't get me wrong I enjoy reading the newspaper on a daily basis so I get my fair dose of non-fiction but fiction in general is just an easy way to escape from your day-to-day interactions and exploring the innovative world of somebody else's ideals who has the capability to take on a cool story path.

What do you all feel is the matter with fiction, and the modern novel these days?

I don't think that any of us have a particular problem with the modern-day fictional writings. In fact we having to enjoy a good amount of it.

Will Hills Like Elephants ever contribute to the great American literary canon?

At some point of my life I hope to gather enough tales of adventure do contribute to the Great American literary canon. Details to follow…

Thoughts on San Diego's Chargers, their charm, their plight, and why they remain to have a place in our hearts despite the odds?

Following The Chargers these days I feel like it is kind of a waste of time and I say that with all admiration they do keep trying but in all honesty most of us spend more time reading that we do watching the Chargers.

What else can we expect from Hills Like Elephants this winter and in early 2014?

I am currently writing this email in the studio where we are recording our new album and we are hoping for a release in the early new year. Other things to expect in the 2013-2014 quarter from us are, playing shows, officially releasing our home recording sessions entitled Bedroom Colonies Volume 1, running for president, releasing our third album [that is] not yet officially titled, travel to outer space, play more shows, marry a celebrity, go to prison, get out of prison, divorce that celebrity, change the world, and play more shows.

Hills Like Elephants album Feral Flocks is available now via iTunes with Bedroom Colonies Vol. 1 available January 2014 from Randm Records, and you can read the full interview here.

CHICKS WHO LOVE GUNS

Sydney, Australia's new bad boys on the block, Chicks Who Love Guns, hit up NYC for CMJ this past Fall from the land down under to rock you with antics and unbound attitude. Cass, Mitchell, Jack, Mody and Xavier are a band of young guns who pick and choose the styles they enjoy the most from the alternative rocking 90s, to taking matters into their own hands and into the uncertainty of the tomorrow's sectors of oblivion. On “Guilt Tripper“, the bummer trip is taken to the hilt with reiterations of, “I'm done and I'm never coming home”, cutting ties, running away and taking off for the great wide open. The high and dry vibe cycles over and over like a spin cycle, with the almost unintentionally clever on purpose (or not on purpose depending on how you hear and interpret the lyrical couplets and mirroring song structures). “What's the point in being young, you can't have fun when you're broke” to “what's the point in being dumb if you can't have fun when you're stoned”. These two lines together present some of the greatest paradoxes of human existence ever told. We caught up with Cass to talk about the track “Guilt Tripper”, guilt trips, and all about and all over, Chicks Who Love Guns.

Thanks for joining us, first question how you all agreed to band together under the title of, Chicks Who Love Guns?

Have you seen that movie Jackie Brown? There's a scene where Deniro and Samuel L. are getting high on the couch watching these really 80s babes shooting guns on t.v. That show is called Chicks Who Love Guns.

Does Sydney indeed have a problem with chicks who perhaps love guns too much?

Nah, far from it really, you can't be shooting guns in Australia, only people who can have guns are cops and farmers. Of which we are neither.

Or is it like because maybe it's not as threatening as say like a dude with a gun. But man, between Patty Hearst and those gals from Spring Breakers; your band title is damn menacing.

Yeah that's true, Spring Breakers was pretty slick. You gotta add Sigourney Weaver in Aliens to that list too.

“Poor decisions, rich regrets”, what are the most common things that you and the band get guilt tripped about?

Being jerks, getting too drunk and being stupid with our money! All the good stuff.

Is “Guilt Tripper” also like a track that vents about being young, bored and broke?

Kind of, I think I was just in a bummy mood when I wrote it. Like you know when you just look at yourself or what you've been up to in a way that's just like fuck, if I don't change something soon I'm gonna get stuck, or end up hooking up with James Franco and killing Gucci Mane and-wait, sorry, thinking about Spring Breakers now…

What's the primer on what we should know about Sydney's scenes and culture both underground and popular that we need to be knowing about?

Sydney is full of people that like shitty dance music, so playing in a band isn't the easiest thing to do because there aren't that many venues and touring is hard because the next city is around 10 hours away if you drive. Having said that however, there are some really amazing bands from Sydney/Australia in General and everyone is pretty down to help one another out and drink beer.

Thanks for rocking and taking the time, dudes.

See you soon NYC.

Read the full interview here and listen to more from Chicks Who Love Guns via their Big Cartel shop.

BLAC HOLLYWOOD

We got hip to the next big thing to come from Vancouver, decked in the glamorous electronic indie fashion of tinsel-town. Meet Cephas Munga, the creative heart and mind behind Blac Hollywood, who has dropped releases from Circus & Dreams, Autumn, and Kids With Crowns in the past and just released his The Audrina Rose Project EP this week courtesy of La Collection Noir. The opening title track “Audrina Rose” immediately aligns Cephas with the East Bay to East Coast production undergrounds that brims with deep felt passion keys and beats that find their way to the heart's inner chambers. Bringing East side skills for the West Enders set; “The West End” is an exercise in the evolutions of home made pop indebted to the directions of international EDM developments and progressions. Keeping the dance music envelope pushing, “Dancing Alone” brings East and West coasts together in a personal dance pop style without borders that sends out rhythmic symbols to shy wallflowers everywhere in an audio beacon that reminds you that you are not alone. As you digest the myriad directions, “Lucky Ones” gives something to the romantics where the dreamers are the fortunate ones as Munga reaches into his inner Casanova amid a garden of synths and vocal sample slip-streams. All of which brings us to the EP's grand finale, “Runaways” that features Black Mountain's Ian Bevis to join in the chant of “the night is young, and we ain't getting younger” that is tied up in the rising sequencing of atmospheres and mega-moods and the refrain of, “all you want, all you want…” We had the opportunity to exchange cables with Blac Hollywood's Cephas Munga to explore the Hollywood life of his sound that comes from Vancouver, drawing influence from the entire globe.

First up, how did your collaboration with Bear Mountain come about?

I had met Bear Mountain at a night club in Vancouver while they were doing sound-check before heading out on tour to open for Bloc Party. I played some tracks I always keep with me on my USB drive and they just loved it. Ian Bevis there lead singer invited to his studio to make music and we just vibed out. I invited him the following week to my batcave and told him I had a track he should throw vocals on. The rest is history. Or on your iPod.

When abouts did the Audrina Rose Project begin, and what was some of your driving forces behind the project?

I began recording and finding samples around march. The driving force behind this album is the same behind all my projects, out do what I've already done. I don't like to repeat something I've done in the past and revamp it I always go in a new direction either with the lyrics or instrument selection.

What was different about Audrina Rose compared to the previous works Circus & Dreams, Autumn, and Kids With Crowns?

Telling a cohesive story and to focus on song writing. I honestly just started singing last year when I had stopped rapping and needed to find a new outlet to say something meaningful. The problem I would say with my previous works was that some ideas were much too repetitive and I felt I had to expand on them. Growth is extremely important as an artist it shows maturity and it's a safe bet for longevity.

What are you predictions for future pop in 2014?

The UK is going to take over the world, or at least north America. In terms of pop there isn't much going on in North America as a whole and I find people aren't trying to push boundaries in anything. We're to busy trying copy what's hot right now to sell records. Where as in the UK experimentation is huge, there hasn't been a group I've heard from the UK who I haven't fell in love with.

Best vocalists now?

That's a tough question, I'll name a few Drake, Sampha, King Krule and my man, Kid Cudi.

Best vocalists that nobody knows about now?

Sza, she recently just signed to TDE and I've been on her for a minute. I hit her up on twitter but she never got back so let's hope she reads this and hits me back. Fingers crossed.

Best producers now?

Clams Casino, Kanye West, Daft Punk, and P. Diddy, that dude knows how to bring people together.

Best producers that nobody knows about?

I'd love to say its me but let's not venture there. Let's go with Evan Christ and Young L. That's all I got for you.

Best Vancouver spots, venues etc that we're missing out on?

Leeside skatepark, it's an abandoned old subway tunnel that we threw a few live shows in during the summer. Apart from that there isn't much going on in Vancouver, unless you're a girl looking for juice heads or a guy looking for neon yoga pant dressed women in bargain bin athletic shoes.

What's next for Blac Hollywood?

I'm currently working a new EP entitled NOIR, title might change but we'll see. The songs are gonna be darker than anything I've done previously. After the project NOIR drops I'll be focusing on visuals and just producing for people, I'm putting my artist side to rest for a minute. I have an EP currently being worked on with Young Nige. Me and Ian Bevis from bear mountain are getting together again to make heat. Secondly me and my art collective La Collection Noir will be cutting visuals for various songs in my catalog. The art direction will be taken care of by Jonathan Contreras. Contreras has been a big part in the aesthetic of Blac Hollywood. Lastly a street wear brand is in the works with the master of promotion Jonathan Dododza. So busy busy busy.

Also check out Blac Hollywood's Kids With Crowns EP here from Le Collection Noir. Read the full interview here.

HORRIBLE HOUSES

Horrible Houses, the moniker of Daniel Johnsson, heralding house hemmed recordings from his home in Särna, Sweden. The type of house that Johnsson keeps is one that makes this sort of derelict folk that seems so unintentional about anything or any sound produced. Almost everything sound Johnsson sings and plays resounds in a way that seems effortless and some how only too perfect in a balance of wry wit and endless riffs. This is the stuff of freak beat legacy when you have burned yourself out on listening to The Fugs and the Velvets in excess. Preparing Family Tapes Vol. 3 from indie imprint tastemakers Happenin Records brings tales of humor, family ire, frustrating and awkward situations with the consciousness of making a morning single drip cup of coffee. The guitar's progression moves by a logic that is as natural as it is looks toward a bliss beyond the lyrical display of discontinuties. Daniel Johnsson and I caught up long distance between the States and Särna, Sweden to talk the details of Family Tapes Vol. 3, “Sun Leaving”, current tastes, and more.

Where does that warm, down home sentiment come from for you in the creation of the Family Tapes Vol. 3 LP?

Well I drank a lot of coffee while recording these tracks, I'm drinking coffee while writing this too, the house smelled of coffee all the time. What i'm trying to say is that i don't think there is anything more homely and inviting than the warm smell of freshly brewed java. I guess that's what gave it that warm, down home feeling you're talking about. And I did not want the album to sound new and fresh, I was aiming for it to sound like that mixtape your friend gave you ten years ago (but you haven't heard in 9 years), you know, familiar and alien at the same time. And I mostly recorded at night, when the house settled and 'Moonlighting' was running on TV.

Between you, Drew Price's Bermuda Triangle, Nudity, etc; there seems to be a real incredible family thing happening on Happenin Records. Why do you feel that is? What is it that you all are doing that is contributing to some of the earthiest and most progressive indie pop in the world?

I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I have not listened much to either Drew Price's Bermuda Triangle or Nudity, so I cannot really speak for them. I guess the Happenin' band I'm most familiar with is Plains, consisting of Travis Swinford, who also did the rockin artwork for Vol. 3. He's got that worn-out Velvet Underground-y feeling to his music, a feeling I easily can relate to. But I'm glad you feel like there is a family feeling about Happenin' Records, most great labels have that feeling, like K-records, Woodsist etc. You have to thank Chris McCauley for that, he's really good at digging us up!

What is the key to getting that sun glow sound that shines through on the song, “Sun Leaving“?

Though it may not be apperant, there are probably about five guitars playing on that song. I first recorded it digitally on an 8-track, and later dubbed it to tape to achive that warm fuzzy feeling that's completely absent on most digital recordings. I did that probably three or four times, adding more and more guitars. It was originally called 'Naive Lungs' which is really just an anagram of the final title.

There is a real melancholia at work too on that song, like observing the coming and going of loved ones, present and former loves, and so forth. What inspired that type of sentiment for such a beautiful song?

I do not really know where the lyrics to Sun Leaving came from. Thinking about it, it's probably my 45-year old self talking to my present-day self. I'm predicting a really gloomy future it seems, but not completely without happy moments though, referring to the first verse. Not many of my songs are autobiographical.

Who else in Sweden have you been digging, and listening to a lot of, lately?

To tell you the truth I've never been too big on Swedish music, which is weird I guess, because I live here, but I dig Bo Hansson, The Radio Dept., Rocky Dennis and a bunch of stuff that's on Swedish tape label Zeon Light Kassett, that's about it.

Stateside artists and groups that are on your radar?

I guess that's really where my heart lies. Canada's really cooking up good stuff these days, Faux Fur are one of them, Mac Demarco another, Cindy Lee, Grimes, The Squids, I mean, the list goes on and on. And it's the same thing with the States – I love Cass McCombs, and you guys should really check out Mark Aubert from San Francisco, dude was the soundtrack to my summer, really looking forward to the new Cate le Bon-album also. It's been a great year for music so far.

Plans for 2014?

Besides the odd haircut or two i am really hoping to play some more shows, record a couple of albums, finish that Neil Young book and catch up on Boardwalk Empire. Thanks and take care, IMPOSE! Hope you're well!

Listen to Horrible Houses Songs for Halloween here, as Family Tapes Vol. 3 will be available digitally on November 26 and available on cassette December 17 from Happenin Records. Read our other interview with Daniel here.

ABSOLUTELY FREE

From the ashes of DD/MM/YYYY, Matt King and a handful of fellow refugees continue their hungry senses of indie Toronto electronic adventurism through the vehicle of Absolutely Free. With their debut release On The Beach”/”Clothed Woman, Sitting 12″ through a partnership between Lefse Records, One Big Silence, and Fat Possum; the next level of musical still life presents itself in both the flesh and sound. We begin with art exhibit 'a', with the a-side “On The Beach” that has the might alone to make most people's end of the year, 'must have' lists. The barrel beating bass synth blare breaks the static image of beach sceneries for an active and engaged thought process of memory seaside jogs that are supported by the unconventional sequences of rhythm timings. While the comparative study will name drop obscurities, the trained ear will find Matt working in a classification of experimentalism that is with peers that are few to none. On the b-side of the 12″, Absolutely Free brings the senses to kinetic life with the expressionist art study of “Clothed Woman, Sitting“. A song that has many parts and many mansions within a singular song suite structure, the cycles build up key scales and drums that move across patterns like sand dunes in what could very well be the group's theme song. We had the opportunity to get inside the craft of Matt King, as he shared the art school 101 behind the magnificent On The Beach 12″ in rich, thoughtful detail.

Your new single feels like the soundtrack of an impressionistic coastal painting (not unlike the art from the 12″), from the A-side “On the Beach” to the observant “Clothed Woman, Sitting”. What is the story behind these 2 beautiful songs?

Lyrically, both songs are about art and memory. 'Clothed Woman, Sitting' is a mistaken title of a Henry Moore sculpture. When I found out I got the title wrong, I wrote lyrics about how new ideas come from misinterpretations of other people’s ideas. The crescendo has another misquote of I think, Goethe.

'On The Beach' is about the connection between music and memories and how they can color each other. This theme continues with the cover image which is an artwork by Petrina Ng where she re-appropriates a painting her mother made in the 70s.

Carried on via the b-side's kraut-beat locomotion rhythms, how did you go about composing the kind of barrel bass density to seagull flying synths of “On the Beach”?

It started with one beat, then we added another and fortified the point where they connected. Synths and vocals flutter in like the winds of change, propelling the composition and carrying forth.

As those big brass bass tones break into the song and new drum sequence scheme that initiates with, “that time I saw you smoking on the beach, I got so scared I thought that you would never wake up”, that dream-like paralysis takes form, like awakening in a dream where you cannot move but you are aware that you are in a dream. Is this interpretation an approximation of the song's creation?

'On The Beach' is not a regular song; it was grown in watermelon sugar and its creation is entirely dependent on whatever is in your mind.

If you are thinking about something that happened a long time ago: Somebody asked you a question and you did not know the answer. That is its creation.

Perhaps it was raining very hard. That is its creation.

Or somebody wanted you to do something. You did it. Then they told you what you did was wrong—'Sorry for the mistake,'—and you had to do something else. That is its creation.

Perhaps you stared into a river. There was somebody near you who loved you. They were about to touch you. You could feel this before it happened. Then it happened. That is its creation.

What does your moniker of Absolutely Free, and absolute freedom mean to you, Matt King?

It means doing what feels right. The name has so many interpretations and contradictions about it and we love playing with that fact. It’s the perfect name for our band and I couldn’t feel happier about it.

What building blocks are taking form for a future full-length and/or EP?

There is a large cache of songs being held in a secret location and heard only by Absolutely Free. They will be made very public in 2014.

Toronto is on top of the electro-redefining world these days, how, and why has this all come about? Can't get enough, really, ha.

The stiffness of the city lends itself to quantizing. As sterile beanstalks develop and envelope, we’re forced to soar above the skyline to glimpse the music of the sun and the stars. We share this daily horoscope with Zacht Automaat, Man Made Hill and Fleshtone Aura.

What is the secret of creating music that creates a lucid consciousness from within the narratives of the unconsciousness?

Years of practice.

Keep pushing the musical boundaries, my friend.

Let it grow.

Read more here, here, and here.

HALO CIRCUS

(photo courtesy of Carla Van Wagoner)

Halo Circus premiere “Gone“, as Allison Iraheta returns to the stage, through the dusty trails of discotheques and dives offered by way of the Sunset Strip. Today Allison debuts one of the first listens to her a-side off the upcoming single that includes the b-side of “Yo Me Voy”, available now from from Manimal Vinyl / Badlands Recordings. Making an entrance that echoes like the darker patches of Cher's confessional 70s epoch; Allison and her Circus stare directly into the gazing-glass with reflections of “looking at someone I don't know, I fight her reflection until I let go, she tells me the feed off the poison I'm sold, keep falling, keep falling, get used to the cold”. The heart moves with a learned eagerness away from things that are too easy to believe, as the showstopping chorus turns the wheels of self-definition and re-invention. We had the chance and privilege to have an extensive conversation with with Allison Iraheta, where she takes us on an exclusive biographical tour through the wild, real life dreams from a story that begins straight of South Central, LA to her new grounds and new travels along the new circuits with her new project, Halo Circus.

From your well noted accolades from appearances on Telemundo's Quinceañera: Mamá Quiero Ser Artista to Fox's American Idol; how do you feel these pageants both provide people with a showcase platform by perhaps betraying, exploiting and preying on their talents?

First and foremost, these are talent shows. Every jr. high and high school has talent shows. Generally, these things turn into popularity contests, but occasionally you can find something really special. I think the same is true for these types of shows. Right now, there are a million of them so the concept is pretty diluted. Anytime you have ratings involved, things are crafted in a way to make anything interesting for the viewers. It's a form of manipulation, but it's not new. Performers and artists want to be discovered and they tend to be willing to go to any length to do so. We all at some point have to discover what is true for us and what isn't. Once you know what is true for you, I'm not sure you would enter a contest like that. For me, I was very young and very grateful to meet all those wonderful and talented people. I didn't think like an artist yet and it was a dream come true coming from where I came from. At the end of the day when you enter a competition like that, your goal is instant recognition. When that doesn't happen, you can either try to hold on to any recognition you got or you can try to find out who you really are and risk starting over again like everybody else. Turns out, there are no shortcuts if you are in for the long run.

How had these Artista and Idol experiences effect you then?

I was ecstatic, but I was nervous all the time. I was happy to not have to go to school and my family and friends were very proud of me. That was really fun. For Quincenera, my Mom and I moved to Mexico City for a few months. There were 9 other contestants who each stayed in the same apartment building. It was kind of a scary building and all of the girls shared a room (and a bed) with their Mothers. It was actually a very challenging time for me. The dichotomy of the living conditions and the lights and glamor of the stage was a great preparation for a life as an artist.

Afterward?

As an adult, I look back at these experiences and I am very proud of what I did. I don't love every performance, but I was very young and it was an incredible education. Not everyone knows this, but the Idol brand is a mixed blessing. For those who skyrocket fast, it's a wonderful platform and even a wonderful support system. I consider many of the people I met and performed with close friends and extremely talented people. I loved recording my first album and going on my first tour.I didn't contribute much artistically, but as a singer I am very proud of it. Being dropped from the record label was terrifying. When you are on top, or even seemingly on your way there, there are no consequences. If you are 10 years old and you want to do drink or do drugs, as long as you perform there's nobody telling you no. You are insulated from the outside world and whatever medicine or “help” you need in order to keep up the insane pace of modern promotion is always around. There are managers, labels, publicists, producers, musicians, etc. all around you and it's easy to confuse that for a life. When all of that was taken away, I fell apart. I quit singing and I thought a lot about whether or not this is really something I want to do for the rest of my life. While Idol allows me to have an open door in this industry, nobody wants to take a chance on somebody who didn't sell a million albums from Idol. Certainly, they do not want you to write your own material.

What do you feel is the future of these ongoing star searches, like America/UK's Got Talent, The Voice, etc? Have these kind of pomp and pageantries outlived their functions, what with the rapid rate of music's true progression?

It's either on it's last leg or on it's way to becoming what it's been all along; a popularity contest. Variety shows are nothing new and talent shows are nothing new. They go through phases where they are very popular and then phases when they seem cheesy. A friend once told me that variety shows and musicals are very popular in decades where there is war or economical strife. I don't know if that's true but it makes sense. When people are comfortable, they don't mind exploring things that may make them uneasy or challenge them. When people are uncomfortable, things that are joyous and happy are very healing.

“Gone” has this triumphant slow burning march forward that reflects back on a kind of void without looking or walking backwards. Am I reading too much into this as being an autobiographical statement from leaving behind those previous duplicitous spotlights for the tried and trued proving grounds of The Troubadour, Whiskey-A-Go-Go?

I think 'Gone' was my first admission of what my past had actually taken from me. I can spend hours talking about what good my past brought me and how grateful I am, but at the point of writing 'Gone', I was gone, so to speak. It only looks back enough to be honest about myself so I can move forward. Triumphant is a good word, actually. I think the song is split into two parts. The verses and the chorus. The verses are relentless and are both vulnerable and angry. The chorus is accepting my vulnerabilities and hopefully making something beautiful out of them. We wanted the whole album to feel like a diary entry.

Tell us the scoop on the future rock and roll circus of Halo Circus, along with the any inside the artist's studio glimpses into future Manimal Vinyl releases.

We've worked on this record for nearly two years. Our goal was to carefully find the right home for the songs and for us. We are planning to start touring soon and are hoping to find an audience that likes what we do. Manimal is a label that falls in love with the art. Nobody is asking me to sound like Pink or anyone else. I love Pink, but she already exists and I think she does a great job at being Pink. I just wanna be myself. I wanted to take everything I have learned up to this point and put it all in one musical environment. Halo Circus is the culmination of all of my experiences and is a family of incredible musicians. We've played to 20 people and we've played to 8,000 and we play just as hard to both. We are ready to find our place in this crazy world. I think we stand for something and I'm proud of that. We want a career, not a hit. I think when you explore lyrical territories that aren't solely about relationships or partying, there's a well of songs out there waiting to be written. I think it's endless.

Read the whole interview here.

SIRS

Sirs dropped their track “Imposter” off their self-titled EP cassette from Double Double Whammy. The Purchase NY quartet of Justin Jurgens, Kyle Seely, Hart Seely, and Mike Caridi may have a plethora of modern influences at the helm of their style and in mind; but their execution is something that dispells the fakers and posers for something real and visceral. With the imprint DDW presenting the variety of bedroom punk and garage scenes happening about the East Coast these days, Sirs makes themselves at home amongst the strategic shouts and yells. Keeping the attitude raw and real, these dudes fly their banner and streamers of torn fabrics to take on the feigned titans of totalitarianism for a new kind of pop order of the unchained punk variety. .The band wrote us the following bit on today's featured single and the upcoming tape that counts influences and lots of high-energy that is a trademark of their sound.

“Impostor', and pretty much the whole EP found inspiration musically from a wide range of bands and artists – from contemporary bands like The Marked Men, early punk and power pop bands like The Clash and The Nerves, and reaching even further back bands like The Beatles and The Band; this is the very short list. The influences on this EP really stray from the influences of our last release, but we still keep to our high-energy style that's been present on our earlier releases. Hope you enjoy!”

Read more here.

TRENDS

Introducing Trends, the solo project of East LA's Marina Paiz who strikes a light with the grand premiere of her self-made video for the single “Mind Of Man“. Having just signed to Manimal Vinyl, Marina takes you through the doors of perception with vintage analogue film clips to mimic a kind of visual confusion and euphoria that sucks your brain into those match lit places in the night. Paiz layers images of pistol wielding noir movie clips, electrifying and cascading arrays of lights, animated cut-out displays of designs in motion, and simulations of enchanted black light flights. Trends makes a sound statement of fortitude and strength, dedicated to the exaltation of the self-made artist who takes on the world's stage with Marina's spark of ingenuity; armed with her guitar and soul quaking compendium of samples that transcend the tired arms of the clock. “Mind of Man” is also available for download from Marina's Trends Bandcamp. Trends' Marina Paiz talked with us at length about her project, East versus West coasts differences and similarities, dissections of sound, conceptual musings, and the evolution of trends, what they are, how things become trending, and how Trends came to be the one of the coolest things from LA the rest of the world is just now discovering.

Disassociated for a moment from the name, what are trends to you.

I wasn't really thinking of styles or genres at the time I came up with the name. It was more of the concept behind trends. Time passes, people's preferences change and so do the styles. Some things go out of fashion, others come into popularity. Then in a matter of a ten years the trends come full circle. Just imagine how crappy 80s style was in the 90s and early 2000s. It's 2013 now and people are getting back into those Members Only jackets. In a way I kind of want my music to be as immortal and constant as that jacket-even if I end up being the last member.

Why are we obsessed with them?

It seems society as a whole is so obsessed with trends because no one wants to seem outdated and obsolete. I think trends are based on the concept of growth, everyone wants to bloom but no one wants to feel old. People evolve as the years pass by and as a result so do the styles of music, fashion, art, and literature we all take part in. Everyone wants to be a part of something, and most importantly we all want to be that person who starts something new. It's the race to create a new mold and get everyone else to follow suit.

How did you go about titling your musical vehicle, Trends?
Not that I'm saying your sound is 'trendy' in any kind of diminutive sense but, is the title in anyway a commentary on your style of sound?

Honestly I was just throwing names around. I was going through some old drawers the other day and found a notebook from when i was 12 or 13. It was filled with so many shitty band names like 'Banana Boners' and “Sharpened Carrots”, in reference to that one 1,000 Ways to Die episode. I'm barely realizing why I didn't have a lot of friends in middle school. I came up with the name when I was still in high school. I never really considered myself trendy or anything. I basically wear jeans and a band tee every day. It's too hot to put effort into any outfit when you're living in the LA area. In terms of my sound, I'm not really sure how to categorize the music. It's all over the place. Sometimes I want to write a thrashy song, other days the material is a bit darker. Trends reflects the concept of longevity and permanence, not necessarily the sounds I create. And I won't ever consider my music to be trendy until Gary Numan declares it so. Or if I somehow make a shitgaze/chillwave/lo-fi experimental song and it gets played at a Raf Simons show, or something along those lines.

Do you fancy yourself a more LA type of artist or an NYC sort of an artist?

It's a bit hard to say. I've never been to New York so I'd feel like a bit of a douche if I said I related more to East coast culture than the SoCal life. But I'm gonna go ahead and say it anyways. I really do hate the slowness of LA culture. In that sense I feel a bit more like a New Yorker. I've watched the Sex and the City series about 4 times and The Devil Wears Prada another 20 times (God Bless HBO and Meryl Streep), so it's to my understanding that NYC life is fast-paced. I hate slowing down for others. Just the fact that I get really angry when handicapped people decide to cross the street when there's 9 seconds left on the crosswalk tells me I shouldn't be here (and that I'm a horrible person). And on a more artistic level, I like to make my music quickly. It takes me about a day to complete a song. If I give myself more time my mood changes and I'll turn a happy song into something about death. “Liv fa$t die yung, bad girlz do it well” is the best way to put it. So yes. New York is my answer based solely off of Home Alone 1 and 2, The Devil Wears Prada, and HBO.

What do you feel are the defining differences between what the two East and West Coasts?

Definitely not the people. People are the same everywhere; There are pretentious assholes and then there are nice folk, the crowd probably just depends on the location or district you find yourself in at the moment. The defining difference between the coasts would probably have to be the time difference. I don't mean that NY is three hours ahead. I mean time in the sense that Los Angeles is super laid back and the pace of things is not a main concern. Things seem to be more on a “do it when you can” basis. Not meeting deadlines isn't as harsh of a crime here as it might be in New York. Then again Los Angelenos probably suffer from less back pain and stress-related health issues.

What do you feel brings both coasts together in a kind of united mind and vibe?

Both cities are big on the arts. New York and Los Angeles are essentially the two cities that every tourist wants to visit simply because of the artistic culture each city provides. The 2 produce so much talent, and have so many outlets for all types of artists to use to their benefit. I think the East coast and West coast populations understand the importance of art and expression. LA and New York are constantly sharing new sounds and movements. The 3 hour time difference doesn't really matter. If a band gets big in Los Angeles, New York is the first to hear of it, and vice versa. In that sense the two cities are great at collaborating and forming a sense of unity. Art, fashion, music, and literature are exciting, and both coasts realize that.

Tell us about the psychological exploration of gender mental deconstructions, as featured in the rec-room-rock and roll rager of “Mind of Man”.

'The Mind of Man' was written when I was reading a book by Aldous Huxley called “The Doors of Perception.” Huxley wrote about his experiences and trips while under the influence of mescaline. The song I wrote doesn't necessarily tackle the issue of gender so much as the general philosophies of man and the amount of information we can process before going on a trip ourselves. Consciousness is relative. We all think differently and experiment with life in different ways. As a result, the process of thought itself is abstract. The experiences I have and the experiences you have will vary because of individual perception. The song is about getting lost in one's own mind. Lost to the point of madness, disillusionment and essentially the loss of one's true self. The guitar riff during the chorus reminds me of a chainsaw. So just imagine you are closed up in your own head with an overwhelming amount of thoughts. It's as if a chainsaw is ripping the very nerves of your brain and at the end of it, you find yourself in a limbo between knowing everything and knowing nothing at all.

Read the full interview here, and read more and hear more from Trends here.

QUARTERBACKS

QUARTERBACKS have reseructed their Miscreant Records release, Loveseat, on limited cassette from Double Double Whammy. The team of Dean Engle, Thom Christie and Max Restaino form a huddle and return with modern classics that give the 9 yard kickoff of the invitational exhibition of, “Point Nine”. The title track “Loveseat” presents the over self-awareness and nervousness full of idiotic optimism and the New Paltz group's shamblecore sound. The guitars and lovesick in the loveseat songs continue on “Stay in Luv”, and the jittering life plan deficiency lamentation, “Simple Songs”. QUARTERBACKS have also nailed the condensed-economy minded punk vignettes that take on the growing pains of adulthood, responsibility and more, like on “Twenty”, “Don't Wanna”, “Never Go”. And though the songwriting thrives on acknowledging all the blemishes and shortcomings of the self but operates, the drive always is motivated by that glimmer of chance and this idea that everything great in life is possible. Their aims rings true on “Space”, “Invitation”, and “Lauren”, where the unending affinity for significant others lost, or ones that never were are placed on the pedestal of constant goddess worship. But never do they ever drop their indie punk cred, where the guitars gear out the very sound of affinity and lyrics that are at times completely dumb on purpose like on, “Schmictionary”, and “Last Boy”. Their upbeat “who loves you baby” and self-referential “writing songs about girls” stands as the band's raison d'être where their energy is going steady but their style is loose. When news of the re-release broke, we tracked down Dean Engle to talk about the band's origins, getting all emotional over football, and all about the New Paltz scene.

How did the QUARTERBACKS trio first begin?

I've known Max and Tom for a long time but we didn't all play music together until we formed a Star Wars-themed hardcore band called Ken Griffey Junior with our friend Andy, who is now in a cool band called Sex Dream. That band played a few shows locally and then inexplicably opened for WAVVES in an old opera house and then broke up. I missed playing music with Max and Tom, and I had a pile of songs I'd written back in 2009, so I asked if they wanted to be a band and play those songs. And because we live in upstate New York and there's nothing else to do, they said yes.

How did you choose the name QUARTERBACKS? Was it like banter over Sunday Night, Monday Night, or Thursday night football kind of thing?

The name's been rolling around since I first started a band in middle school, and it was picked pretty arbitrarily from a text message full of potential names I sent to my first QBs bandmate. So: not very intentional. But now, 4 years into using it as the name for my music, I've started to care about it. I have a complicated relationship with NFL football and, specifically, the Buffalo Bills, a team with chronic QB troubles. I know football's a macho, shitty, exploitative thing, but I get really emotional about the games unfortunately. There's a Bills flag above my bed. No one in this band has ever played any kind of contact sport, so maybe it's a reclamation thing. All boy punks want to be jocks right. I'm watching the Thursday night game as I type this.

Romanticism plays a big part in your jangly lo-fi DIY sound from “Never Go”, “Space”, “Lauren”, etc. How do you all come together with this poppy fun little song vignettes?

I've been teaching myself guitar for something like seven years and I'm still so so bad. I just play the easiest chords and move the capo around and strum really fast. I'll play the same four chords over and over for a year and a half before a song falls out. The only good ones are about real stuff. “Never Go” was just me three years ago trying to write a twee song so we don't play it anymore. “Lauren” is about a friend I met at an Episcopalian youth conference in San Antonio, Texas. We play that song at every show even though I wrote it when I was 17. Maybe that's bad.

What's happening in New Paltz these days?

New Paltz has a long cool DIY history, but because it's a college town the collective memory sort of gets reset every semester. The show basements stay the same, the 'venue' names just change when someone new signs the lease. Kids have started booking on campus. We have shows outside of the record store where I work. There are shows at the library sometimes. People play acoustic sets in my apartment. It's improvised and unprofitable, just in it for the tunes, etc. More bands have started stopping here when they're on tour, but overall it's a pretty insular place.

QUARTERBACKS' re-released tape Loveseat is available on tape in a batch limited to 100 from Double Double Whammy. Read more here.

SO MANY WIZARDS

It's been a few years, and at long last we are proud to present the return of Nima Kazerouni and his band, So Many Wizards. Have just caught up with Mr. Kazerouni after a long while, we discussed the previous album Warm Nothing, and Nima's side project Crown Plaza, when he hipped us to the Night Chills / Daydream So Many Wizards 7” available now from new LA indie pop label, Lolipop Records. Now with a home in Tucson, AZ and a newborn baby girl; Nima has been working between Southern California, Arizona and everywhere in between that has contributed greatly the development expansions of his sound. With the new addition of Melody Carrillo's guitars, Erik Felix's drums and Devon Ratliff's bass lines; So Many Wizards cast spells that reach regions further than the extent of Merlin's shooting star like spells, and greater than all the land that King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table could ever capture and control. The b-side “Daydream” opens with an awakened Nima exclaiming, “oh my god, where did the day go”, with a sleepy-eyed exclaimed whispered. The visions held tight to the awakened mind bring the half-panicked quandaries of piecing together fragments of thought, and the process of self-psychiatry that attempt to figure out what and why is going on within them. As Nima repeatedly states “I don't know what to do”, and the reasonable doubts of “what's wrong with me”; the romantic heart and core comes out with, “oohh, oh I need you”. We had the pleasure to catch up with Nima Kazerouni, as we follow the long trails and traveled roads that embody the “Daydream”, the evolutions and progressions of life, bouncing between LA and Tucson, and all about the newest and upcoming chapters from So Many Wizards.

From the guitar progression, your delivery, and love-drunk, twitterpation on the track; what is “Daydream” to you personified by sound?

All those elements play a huge part in sinking deep into the song. The sludgy repetitive guitar progression is like a hypnotic sound pendulum and when I daydream, I find that I’m thinking about the same thing over and over again. The heavy fast pace strumming that comes in half way in the track is like that jolt that sometimes takes you out of that repetitive thought and onto to the next tangent. This song is basically my typical daydream cycle in sound form.

How has your recent family expansion, moving from LA to Tucson, AZ impacted the “oohh I need you” romanticism of the track?

Moving from LA to the foothills of Tucson AZ turned me into a person with two lives; half the time a family man in the country and the other an urban gypsy staying in many different housing scenarios and situations. The constant going back and forth created a habitual and simultaneous yearning for both sides of the coin.

How does the rest of the band feel about the move?

The rest of the band has been understanding and supportive. Huge efforts have been made to keep the band seamlessly chugging along despite the many technical obstacles that have come our way. I think the bottom line is we love this project so we'll do whatever it takes to keep it going; even if in the last year it meant having to figure out the logistics of flying over 30 round-trip flights and driving thousands of miles back and forth. But this craziness thankfully is finally over. I just moved back to Long Beach 3 weeks ago so things with the band are much easier to accomplish.

How has the move impacted the recording of the upcoming record, balancing between home recording in Tucson and at The Smell and elsewhere in LA?

We basically had to be much more strategic with our time. Whenever I was in L.A, we would go 150 % for days straight getting drums bass and lead guitar tracked. Thankfully, we had the support of our friends at the Smell and elsewhere to record at a moment’s notice. We couldn't have done it without them. Taking the recordings back to Tucson allowed the songs to breathe before working on them further. That part of it definitely came to our advantage.

Give us the lowdown on fledgling label, Lolipop Records.

We are more than stoked to be part of that family. Lolipop continues to consistently put out some of the raddest bands not only in Southern California, but all over the country. Their new record store in Echo Park has also become a staple in the neighborhood. It's right by Echoplex on Glendale Blvd. We highly recommend checking out both the store and the label.

Read the full interview here.

TAPES

The pop hubs burst open with infectious artillery from Knoxville, TN artist, Tapes, and his notorious WEAPONS EP. A mysterious artist who over the past year has been offering up home recorded beats and old analogue consoles for the digital revolution. Tapes busts out the bond binders and breakers that abound with tricked out tracks like “MUTE/TRUSTME”, the muscle memory mesmerization of “414/411”, the silk slow slide of “LXVE V:1.04”, or the blazing synth fire of “2LT”. “FIVE FIVE”, picks up where 4-quarter rhythm sequences are not quite enough. Vocal vagueries traverse roads of romantic trails that walk into the hovering production flux that dips down into the electric synth sitting pool where the drums ride sequential lines like warm jet water bubble streams. The continued interest here is how Tapes takes on the world by coasting down the shared tributaries that find his work running through the fresh electronic waters where new sorts of rhythm and blues and hip-hop canvases work in cleverly combined harmonies. Check out our exclusive chat with Tapes, where we discuss the emotions behind the beats, cryptic Final Fantasy VII allusions of inspiration, messages of autonomy and independence, and an open letter to the Knoxville, TN scene.

What were some of your guiding lights and inspirations behind the Weapons EP?

The music that came out of me at the time was all inspired by a relationship I was in. I didn't have any musical intentions for this release it just all came together the way it did because of where I was emotionally.

In the titling of the EP Weapons, did you have something like that Aerosmith arcade game in your head, that had the tag line of something like, “Music is the weapon”? Ha, just wondering!

Ha! The title first came about in conversation with a friend about an old RPG we used to play. In the game there were these impossible bosses known as “WEAPONS”, so that was the title tentatively. Once the music was written, I found that the name was appropriate in that it was a metaphor for how relationships can be. Both parties fighting a war with their respective “WEAPONS”.

Tell us the story behind the show stopping sounds of “FIVE FIVE”.

It's about being independent, the lyrical content, while in a relationship, but also feeling guilty about it, evoked by the musical content, at the same time.

Thoughts on the the electronic medium moving closer to the r n' b and hip-hop arenas and stages more and more so as of recent?

It's definitely interesting, as a lot of influences from hip hop and r n'b can be heard in a lot of music these days, but if we take a step back and look at music in general, we can see influences from all different genres coming into play here, and that is what makes new music exciting and interesting to listen to.

What's happening in the Knoxville circuits these days?

To Knoxville,
Not enough.
Love,
TAPES

Can you give us any hints and previews of what an upcoming Tapes full-length might entail?

That's a great question. One that I am currently figuring out myself. No plans set in stone, but you will most definitely hear more TAPES in the future.

Thanks for making our week rad!

No my friend, Thank You!

Tapes' WEAPONS EP is available now via Bandcamp. Read more here.

AUDACITY

Giving you the kickoff, Audacity gives you a “Cold Rush” to the head with garage rock anthemics straight from the heart of Fullerton, California. Their album Butter Knife from Suicide Squeeze cuts sharper than the cutlery of choice reserved for coagulated dairy products. Taking it from the man, the four piece bring you everything you love about the rock coming from the Burger Record capital of indie, interjecting the audio into the semantic root of the term audacity that presents a new hope that keeps the noise, melody and meaning on the meter and always on point. The ambivalence of lyrics like “thinking about things that I can't decide” manage to capture the essence of being stuck in neutral, caught between the quandaries of choosing careers, choosing what life decisions to make, choosing between burgers and burritos, and choosing between fucking up, slacking off, or making the grade. Audacity's Cameron and Matt cruised by this morning to talk a bit about the forthcoming record Butter Knife, Burger Records, Suicide Squeeze, and everything and more you could need and want to know about Fullerton, California, and still so much more.

What was the driving force and vision for you all in making the upcoming Butter Knife album?

C: We had a ton of new material and it was time to get it down on record and Mellow Cruisers had been out a year already.

Matt: We didn't really have a concept either for the record. The material was already there figuring itself out. A lot of songs are about looking at situations from different angles for example what life would be like without a baby.

What was different this time around with Butter Knife than prior release from over the years?

C: Unlike our previous full lengths we did this record with 2″ tape and digital combined instead one or the other and we did the recording out of town for 2 weeks non stop.

M: We also self-produced this record as opposed to Rob Barbato on Mellow Cruisers. This was a much more hands on experience.

Can any of you all share any rowdy stories from backing up King Tuff and Todd Congelliere?

C: Oh man, well, hmm well we're a bit younger than both those dudes and they're pretty mellow now. It did get pretty wild at times. Todd used to yell at us, 'I was in Baghdad when you were in your dads bag!'

M: Once we sat with Todd for 3 days straight watching 'The Kardashian's' in a hotel room in Federal Way, just South of Seattle.

What's it like in living in Burger Records capital, Fullerton?

C: It's our home we all grew up here and are attached to the place. Quite suburban middle class town nothing special on a surface level but when you look close its an important place musically. Fender guitars started here, Jackson Browne grew up here, lots of punk roots here too, ie: Adolescents, The Middle Class, Social Distortion. Burger is here now too of course to add to the secret culture, and it trips us out to hear that some people think of moving here cause of Burger.

Favorite recent Burger releases?

C: MASSENGER is rad. Also new White Knight, we love dat.

M: The Garden is also great. Chad & the Meatbodies too.

Favorite recent Suicide Squeeze releases? Antwon is killing it these days, stoked to see him on the 'Squeeze.

C: Dig Antwon, and we love The Coathangers.

M: N

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