Week in Pop: D.A. Stern, Mary Ocher, Natural Velvet

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D.A. Stern

In the chain link bullpen with D.A. Stern; courtesy of Thaddeus Ruzicka, Talia Shea Levin & Stefan Weinberger.

There is something about the music of David Aaron Stern, otherwise known to the world as the multidisciplinary D.A. Stern. There is something to be said for the sort of music that can turn an indifferent & anxiety-ridden day inside-out in ways of wonder that cannot be described. There is something to be said for artists like D.A. Stern that inspire us to be happier people, who have been inspiring many of our heroes for years behind the scenes. There is something to be said for an artist that can somehow harness the sound that a sun ray conveys from the solar planet in manner that decodes & translates it into song like an esoteric tractate from unfurled scrolls normally reserved for the guarded & obfuscated sections of the tabernacle.
The album Aloha Hola is Stern’s life-affirming work of staggering brilliance, a record that railroads through the cross sections of your favorite songwriters & the album pop shine of well researched record store bins. An artist who cut his teeth at the late great Adam “MCA” Yauch’s studio, D.A. Stern interjects warm-hearted humor in a labor of love that draws considerable influence from the comedic directors of the twentieth century. Utilizing a quick clever wit & actively applying experience as a sound engineer to shape a record according to his specifications; Aloha Hola is a sound that reminds us all that maybe—just maybe—everything might be alright after all. Arriving March 30 from the prestigious Slumberland Records; D.A. Stern’s life inspired song-cycles are the perfect spring/summer record for all time to warm us from the cold bleakness of winter.
In the following world premiere for D.A. Stern’s “Bluedgenes”, get ready to be taken out to a ballgame from warm-up practices to best parody of the American competitive sporting-spirit that Harold Remis never had the opportunity to make. Directed by Thaddeus Ruzicka, produced by Talia Shea Levin with cinematography Stefan Weinberger, Stern & the gang celebrate the all-American pastime with hot dogs, condiments, cigarettes, hand sights & goodluck tookas-slaps. The portmanteau wordplay of “Bluedgene” mixes azure denim nostalgia together in a big epic anthem of Maurice Deebank-fashioned power chords & 80s Martin Duffy-esque organs as Mr. Stern’s delivery emulates the perfect dream air atmosphere. You are invited to kick back with a pack of barbecued Ballpark Franks or Hebrew Nationals & squeeze out the mustard as D.A. & friends get you ready for new baseball season with some pointers to get us all back in to the practice. Stern gets tasked with sweeping off the base plates, utilizing everything from household brushes to dust busters while morale moves to clandestine red wine sessions in between stretching session formations. As the baseball motif takes off as an episode of eccentric team antics & comedic camaraderie; David’s song ponders the histories of hand-me-downs ponders nostalgically the genealogy charts of blue jeans while the game is afoot.

Still from D.A. Stern’s video for “Bluedgenes”; courtesy of Thaddeus Ruzicka, Talia Shea Levin & Stefan Weinberger.

Last year D.A. Stern described the creative processes behind Aloha Hola & this past week took the time to let us pick the artist’s brain on everything from concept albums, the 2018 baseball season & a whole lot more in the following interview feature:
First up, tell us what has been going on in the world of D.A. Stern since our conversation last year.
Well, Aloha Hola came out and I’ve been trying to breathe new life into it over the past year. Slumberland have been amazingly cool and supportive enough to give the album something of a resurrection and I can’t be happier that they’re releasing it. Outside of that, I’ve been working on my backgammon Elo rating, which is climbing steadily thanks to a handful of tournament wins.
Interested in hearing all about the making of the baseball themed video for “Bluedgenes” made with Thaddeus Ruzicka, Talia Shea Levin & Stefan Weinberger.
Yeah! I had a meeting with Thad, who, as it turns out, I have dozens of mutual connections with… one of those people you’re surprised you haven’t met already. Anyway, we were doing some brainstorming and almost immediately realized that not only do we share similar sensibilities, but that we’re also baseball obsessives. More specifically, we love some of the same tropes and gags specific to baseball movies. It didn’t take long for us to amass a list of our favorites and then Thad and his amazing team really put it all together in one day. He brought some of his friends, I brought some of mine; we only got into one brawl.
What are you most excited about with the 2018 baseball season just around the corner?
My goodness, have you seen these Yankees? Now that Giancarlo Stanton pulled what we Jews call the reverse commute—by moving from Miami to New York—there is a strong likelihood that this could be the first team since the Maris/Mantle Yankees of ’61 to have two hitters with over fifty home runs. That and the prospect of Shohei Ohtani being a starting pitcher and hitting in most games is just crazy. Too bad he’s an Angel.
D.A. Stern bringing the baseball & power pop; courtesy of Thaddeus Ruzicka, Talia Shea Levin & Stefan Weinberger.

What are you least excited about for the 2018 baseball season?
I live about a ten-minute walk away from Dodger Stadium. Going to the games could not be more convenient but my neighborhood gets a lot busier and rowdier for six months. The silver lining here is that the bars open earlier.
Current favorite Albert Brooks & Mel Brooks movies as of right now?
I recently rewatched the original version of The Producers on a flight and I could feel a dreadful stare coming from the guy next to me when all those Hitlers are on the stage. The time I flew before that I watched Blue Velvet, which you should absolutely never watch on an airplane. I thought I figured it out. For Albert, I’m back into Modern Romance.
You’re always listening & watching something entertaining. What other artists, auteurs & authors have been moving you lately?
In anticipation for this Garry Shandling documentary that’s coming out, I’ve started The Larry Sanders Show again. I really can’t think of anything that was so consistent and funny and its own perfect vision of itself right off the bat. The new Chappelle specials were also inspiring to watch and I hope that people will allow themselves to enjoy them as much as they deserve to be.
Talking with the always entertaining D.A. Stern; press photo courtesy of the artist.

What other projects & creative collaborations do you have in the works at the moment?
I’ve been producing and recording a few bands and artists at my home studio in Los Angeles. Currently I’m working on a sophomore album for Nick County, a country artist from Miami, whose first album I also produced. I’m also in talks with Dr. Scholl’s about collaborating on some custom orthotics.
In 2018, not unlike 2017, it can be sometimes hard to find that creative & intuitive spark. What do you recommend to keep inspired & focused?
Go sit in traffic for an hour and a half; you will definitely think of things out of necessity. I’m willing to bet that 80% of my ideas, which I record in Voice Memos on my phone, are from sitting in traffic. In all seriousness, I don’t know. Maybe I’m good at compartmentalizing? I’ve never been one to allow politics or the world to affect me when I feel compelled to write and I think that’s what you’re asking about. If you’re angry or distracted, maybe that’s what you need to be writing about.
Pitching practice with D.A. Stern; courtesy of Thaddeus Ruzicka, Talia Shea Levin & Stefan Weinberger.

Tips on surviving & making the most out of 2018?
Get Movie Pass.
Presuming the world doesn’t end in 2018, what are some of your future hopes & dreams?
Eddie Murphy returns to standup.
What are things that we all can do to make our own communities better, kinder, more conscious, understanding & caring?
I’m not the right guy to ask about this but it seems to me that when two people are in disagreement, they voice their opinions with a side-dish of how could you be so stupid? That’s not effective. Smiles are contagious.
If you were to set about to make a schmaltzy concept record, what would the title(s) be and what would sorts of subjects & notions would they be centered around?
I’m glad you asked. The album, which you should expect next year, is called Vanity Plates and it is comprised of songs inspired by vanity plates that I’ve actually seen in real life. “LITIG8R” is about a lawyer who dreams of being a bayou air-boat pilot, a country song kind of. “ICITAGN (I See It Again)” is about a severely obese guy who drops a ton of weight and, well, sees it again. Another country song. Stuff like that.
D.A. Stern’s Aloha Hola will be available March 30 Slumberland Records.