New Updates Weekly & Ticket Giveaways
Thu 09/29 at Club Cafe
Mon 10/10 at Club Cafe
Tue 10/11 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Wed 10/26 at Club Cafe
Parsonsfield (formerly Poor Old Shine)
Tue 10/27 at Club Cafe
Har Mar Superstar
Tue 11/15 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Tue 12/06 at Club Cafe
Wed 08/10 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Kesha and The Creepies
Thu 09/01 at Club Cafe
Thu 09/15 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Thu 09/22 at Club Cafe
Sun 10/09 at Club Cafe
Thu 10/20 at Club Cafe
Mon 10/24 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Wed 11/02 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Sat 09/03 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
The Mountain Goats
Sun 09/18 at Stage AE Outdoors
Sat 11/05 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Wed 11/09 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
The Wood Brothers
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats practically explodes with deep, primal and ecstatic soulfulness. This stunning work isn’t just soul stirring, it’s also soul baring, and the combination is absolutely devastating to behold. You don’t just listen to this record—you experience it. So it’s entirely fitting that the self-titled album will bear the iconic logo of Stax Records, because at certain moments Rateliff seems to be channeling soul greats like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. But as this gifted multi-instrumentalist honors the legacy of the legendary Memphis label, he’s also setting out into audacious new territory.
Those who were beguiled by In Memory of Loss, Rateliff’s folky, bittersweet 2010 Rounder album, will be in for an initial shock when they spin Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. But when you delve beneath the rawboned surface of the new album’s wall-rattling presentation, with its deep-gut grooves, snaky guitars, churning Hammond and irresistible horns, you’ll find that same sensitive, introspective dude, who bravely tells it like it is, breaking through his reticence to expose often harsh truths about the life he’s lived, the people he’s hurt and the despair he’s struggled with. The difference between the two albums is that the Nights Sweats’ funkiness insulates the starkly confessional nature of Rateliff’s songs while at the same time underscoring their emotional extremes.
The place where Rateliff is coming from is intensely real and intimate. Doing what he does is an act of bravery. “These songs are about the struggles I’ve had in my life—drinking too much, that kind of crap,” he says with characteristic candor, punctuating the admission with a rueful laugh. “And then the relationships we all have. I’m not a great communicator in my personal life, so it’s funny to be writing songs that say the things that I’m never very good at saying. It’s taken me a long time to figure that out. I’m trying to be a better communicator, but it’s horribly awkward—it’s awful—to tell somebody something you know is gonna hurt their feelings. I’ve always been one to go, oh, I’ll just eat this one; it’ll be okay.”
As the band blazes away on the soul-rock rave-up “I Need Never Get Old,” the visceral “Howling at Nothing” and the supercharged “Trying So Hard Not to Know” (key line: “Who gives a damn and very few can”), which open the album with a sustained outpouring of torrid intensity, Rateliff is opening himself up emotionally as well as physically, the raw grit in his voice conveying anguish and hope in equal measure. The buoyant immediacy of the music makes the hard truths embedded in the songs easier to swallow than it would be in Rateliff’s other primary mode—a solitary guy with a guitar, the brim of his baseball cap pulled down, putting his heart and guts on the line without the protection of his simpatico cohorts. Make no mistake, these songs would stop you in their tracks presented in that naked way as well, but the additional layers of soulfulness provided by the Night Sweats—its core comprising guitarist Joseph Pope III, drummer Patrick Meese and keyboardist Mark Shusterman—bring a convergence of intensities, musical and psychological, to the performances.
“S.O.B.” sits at the dead center of the album, between the brutally honest confessionals “I’ve Been Failing” and “Wasted Time.” Thematically, the song is the album’s linchpin—partly a rebuke, partly a cry of defiance, “S.O.B” is the “fuck it all” anthem of a blue-collar kid from the Heartland whose conditioned idea of therapy is a shot and a beer chaser, and then another round, on the way to sweet oblivion. In live performance, Rateliff and the Sweats have been known to mash together “S.O.B.” and The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” as the double-barreled climax of their sets (you can find it on YouTube), the frontman high-stepping and boogalooing across the stage with controlled abandon, bearing a striking resemblance in his physicality to the young Van Morrison. These moments of revelry are also revelatory, singling out two of Rateliff’s biggest influences. Indeed, he hears distinct evocations of The Band on his new album, and he was listening to “TB Sheets” and the rest of Morrison’s The Bang Masters as he was writing it.
From there Rateliff contemplates some of the sustaining aspects of existence, from redemption by way of the forgiving love of another in “Thank You,” “Look It Here” and “I’d Be Waiting” to sexual heat in the N’awlins-style strutter “Shake.” The album ends on a hopeful note with the relatively laidback “Mellow Out,” which could certainly be heard as Rateliff admonishing himself to do just that. “Originally, I had it ending with a song called ‘How to Make Friends,’” he says. “The chorus is ‘When everybody knows you, nobody’s gonna want you.’” Another laugh follows, this one self-mocking. “But I replaced it with ‘Mellow Out,’ which is more of a release rather than a total bummer.”
When it came time to pick a producer, Rateliff went with Richard Swift, a polymath who has made records under his own name, helmed projects for Damien Jurado, the Mynabirds and others, and has played with The Black Keys and the Shins. Swift’s specialty is summoning (and capturing) inspired performances in the moment, and the synergy in the studio, first with Rateliff and then with his band, was instant and palpable. Rateliff and the Sweats already had the arrangements of the new songs down cold, having shaped them on the road. Swift, knowing a good thing when he heard it, set the mics, honed the sound, giving it plenty of space so that the studio itself served as an integral sonic component. Then he pressed “record” and coaxed it into happening organically. “Richard has such great ears, and he really knows how to play to the room,” Rateliff notes. “We have similar theories of recording: basically, you just need to play it right.”
Rateliff, who’s 36, traveled a long road to get to this point. He left school after his dad passed away at the end of 7th grade, left his home in the small town of Herman, Missouri, where his future would’ve likely involved endless shifts in a nearby plastic factory; and worked as a janitor for a high school. Not long afterward, he followed some local missionaries to Denver, thereby escaping what he describes as “the Midwestern lifestyle of working and growing up too fast.” He soon outgrew his childhood understanding of religion, realizing that “there are so many books out there besides that one,” as his worldview expanded exponentially. Rateliff spent the next 10 years on the loading dock of a trucking company before becoming a gardener and getting married along the way. But as the years passed, he became increasingly focused on writing songs and performing them at any watering hole that would have him, in time becoming part of the city’s burgeoning folk scene. “I got kind of a late start making music,” he says, “but eventually I went out on the road,” first with Born in the Flood, which he’d formed with Pope, and then The Wheel, the forerunner of the Night Sweats. By then, he’d overcome his longstanding discomfort at playing his songs in public.
“Writing at home is one of my favorite things to do,” says this constitutionally solitary man. “But for years touring was really hard for me—being alone, being married and having my relationship run through the mire, because a lot of my songs are about that. Sometimes it sucks to sing those songs and have to relive those situations. It leaves you pretty exposed, and your partner too; it can be unfair. But now I love being on stage and cracking jokes, trying not to take myself too seriously, even if the material is about failed relationships and alcoholism, that kind of stuff”—there’s that rueful laugh again.
“I try to be lighthearted,” Rateliff continues, “because, although the songs are heavy, I want it to be a release for people. I’m trying to do something that’s emotionally charged and heartfelt, and I want the experience to be joyous, for people to feel excited and dance around instead of being super-bummed by reality—I mean, things are hard. But I can remember dancing around to some song that was breakin’ my heart, dancin’ with tears in my eyes. I love that feeling, and I wanna share it with people, and hopefully they’ll feel it too.”
—Bud Scoppa Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats practically explodes with deep, primal and ecstatic soulfulness. This stunning work isn’t just soul stirring, it’s also soul baring, and the combination is absolutely devastating to behold. You don’t just listen to this record—you experience it Read More
The story of The Besnard Lakes begins at Besnard Lake: a spectacular yet secluded water feature in rural Saskatchewan which the Montreal group's husband and wife core, Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, visit each summer for inspiration and escape. This year the couple's campsite was surrounded for a worrying few days by forest flames, a literal ring of fire which informed the devil-may-care spirit of their exuberant fifth album.
"Besnard Lake is usually the place where we get the germination of ideas," explains Jace. "We set up a small recording rig in the trailer we have up there .This time there were also helicopters with giant water tanks flying over us while we were fishing on the lake!"
Armed with demos and memories from their trip, the pair returned to the city and entered Breakglass Studios. Co-founded by Lasek a decade ago, this popular recording facility has long been a hub for Montreal's fertile, collaborative and proudly DIY music community. Having met and fallen in love in Vancouver, where Jace was a photography-trained art student and Olga a bass-slinging star on the underground rock circuit, the pair relocated at the turn of the millennium. Vancouver had gotten too expensive. By contrast, "Montreal was super cheap because there had been the Quebec referendum in '95 and a lot of the Anglos had left. There was a political teeter-totter happening, so there were tons of empty places. We moved out here and were able to live, rehearse and record in a loft for next to nothing."
The predominantly French-speaking province's economic depression birthed an ever-evolving scene that's become internationally renowned for such disparate independent avatars as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and The Arcade Fire. Unique among their furrowed brow peers, The Besnard Lakes are unafraid to marry textured, questing headphone sonics to the honeyed pleasure of radio hits past: the rapture of My Bloody Valentine entwined with the romance of Fleetwood Mac. (Echoing prime FM they actually now have two girl/boy couplings in the line-up, keyboard player Sheenah Ko and guitarist Robbie MacArthur joining powerhouse drummer Kevin Laing and non-touring studio axe hero Richard White.) Imagine dreamy Beach House riding Led Zeppelin dynamics, with unabashedly androgynous vocal harmonies. This melodic yet mountainous soundworld was sculpted at Breakglass, their own modest Paisley Park. As the longterm sporter of a Love Symbol tattoo, Prince's pop alchemy is especially potent for Jace.
"You look on the back of his early records and it's produced, arranged, recorded and performed by Prince. When I realised that as a 12-year-old I was like, Oh fuck! So this kid can make a record all by himself. So then why can't I? He was also the guy who made me realise that it was ok to sing high. Just throw caution to the wind. He's not concerned about being super macho. Once I started getting into punk rock in high school, Prince was still there. He didn't lose relevancy for me. Prince was still there when I started getting into prog rock, too. We're just absorbed in music of all sorts."
Olga, meanwhile, has been exploring a new creative outlet via her domestic interpretation of the occult, inspired by a Disinformation lecture given by comic book writer Grant Morrison. "He was talking about sigils," remembers her adoring partner. "It was really personal for Oggy, like a meditation she would do in the morning, and also just a fun thing. She developed these 11 sigils, which you can see on the inside of the record's jacket. For the deluxe edition she's hand engraved them onto these little tags. The meanings are very simple: one is love, another is empathy. That leads back to this whole idea of mystery and the myth of the band."
Channelling their obsessions with the paranormal - Jace was a teenage ghost hunter - as well as the dark arts, A Coliseum Complex Museum is populated by cryptozoological creatures (The Bray Road Beast, Golden Lion) while also luxuriating in natural phenomena and beauty (The Plain Moon, Nightingale). These themes are sincere yet good-humoured. The LP's title jokily refers to a landmark-heavy road sign spotted on tour in Texas, the varied emotional impulses within reflected by its environmentally warped artwork.
"For a long time we were trying to keep secret that we love being out in nature," admits Jace. "Because it's kinda cliche. But with this record we decided to stop fighting what we love so much. So the front cover actually has a lake on it, but it's also got this giant orb shooting light into the water, which is creating a hole that's opening a portal to the coliseum complex museum. It's kinda fucked." The story of The Besnard Lakes begins at Besnard Lake: a spectacular yet secluded water feature in rural Saskatchewan which the Montreal group's husband and wife core, Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, visit each summer for inspiration and escape. This year the couple's campsite Read More
A free weekly open mic night for all performers. Starving Artist Special from 7pm-8pm featuring half off food, $2 Yuengling Drafts, free coffee & tea. Club Cafe's Monday night open stage is one of Pittsburgh's longest running and most revered open mic events for performers of all genres. Fashioned after some of the high profile and wildly successful open stages in Nashville, New York and LA, Club Cafe's open stage provides artists with the chance to perform on a world renowned stage while fostering a friendly and supportive environment enabling performers to network with their peers, attract new audiences and extend their reach. A free weekly open mic night for all performers. Starving Artist Special from 7pm-8pm featuring half off food, $2 Yuengling Drafts, free coffee & tea. Club Cafe's Monday night open stage is one of Pittsburgh's longest running and most revered open mic events Read More
Blasted grassland, the thin ribbon line of the freeway unspooling beneath wheels, skies stretched wide between mountaintop. It is dream music, foggy, atmospheric, the melodies you hear while you gazing out through fingerprint smeared windows into a constantly moving, metamorphing - landscape...
It makes sense then, that BRONCHO, born out of out a film project, its initial incarnation sparked when founder Ryan Lindsey was asked to create music, "to set to an early 80s punk film." "That's all I knew about it," he remembers, "they were looking for songs that touched this era. And songs kept coming to me and turned something on inside of me artistically." Lindsey found himself in the midst of prolific run of songs and he liked the idea "of starting out there and seeing where it could go."
What’s evolved from those first tracks there has been a steady run of success, critical accolades and two full- length albums; 2011’s Can't Get Past the Lips, 2014's Just Enough Hip to Be Woman. And beneath it all – the music has been constantly mutating and ceaselessly experimental. From that first inception as a soundtrack in 2010, BRONCHO has taken on a life of its' own - initial inspiration still there, but now pushing far beyond the stiff confines of score. And what began as an ode to ramshackle, high-energy early punk has become something deeper, weirder, and much more nuanced. The undercurrent of early 1980 punk is still there, but The Ramones pogo has been replaced more often by a kind of Love and Rockets inspired, honeyed, cotton-mouthed drift.
Double Vanity is Lindsey and band mates Ben King, Nathan Price and Penny Pitchlynn steadily moving ahead, transforming the raw angst of the first record into a sound decidedly more layered and complex. Tracks like "New Karma" or "Two Step" riff off the later explorations of punk, culling up refracted images of John Hughes prom nights, love songs echoing from a boom box held high. "Jenny Loves Jenae" and "Speed Demon" strut with an when 80s met 50s swagger, discord transformed into a jagged, frenetic pop. "Señora Borealis" is all bad boy sneer - sensual, moody, with a sly and predatory swagger. "I Know You" is simultaneously infectious and brooding, somehow both exalting and heartsick.
The result is a record that veers gleefully from BRONCHO's roots, moving from graffiti spray backrooms into a sleeker, plusher sound, a place bright with the polished gleam of chrome and bleached white sunlight. Close your eyes and what you feel is the raw wound pulse of adolescence, what you see behind your lids is suburban shopping mall wastelands, glazed eyes, dead grass, lips glossed in bubblegum pink. There is the burst chest thump of teenage longing, the smell of hairspray and cigarette.
There is glow of neon and the glint of streetlight rolling across hood. Double Vanity evokes a shared nostalgia, for the past and for the unknown future, as BRONCHO takes a turn off the wide freeways and into a world of intimate, intricate - but always universal - emotion. Blasted grassland, the thin ribbon line of the freeway unspooling beneath wheels, skies stretched wide between mountaintop. It is dream music, foggy, atmospheric, the melodies you hear while you gazing out through fingerprint smeared windows into a constantly moving Read More
Halsey: a better combination of lovable pop and provocative grunge could not have been better engineered in a lab. The alter ego of 21-year-old Ashley Frangipane was conceived from the "Halsey" stop on the L train to Brooklyn (and is an anagram of her first name) -- appropriately so, having been born in New Jersey, but defined by the city of New York.
Halsey seeks to combine honest, unashamed, and androgynous lyrics with the sugary feminine allure of pop music. Biracial and shaped by the discography of a black father and a white mother, she brings a sense of diversity and a realness to the pop idiom. Her sound is hook-bait-catchy, and unapologetic in nature. "Ghost," her lead single," is a perfect example: She plays no victim, instead exploiting the tragic and laughable intimacy of human relationships. Signed to Astralwerks/Capitol, Halsey has all the undeniable makings of a pop star, with a bitter aftertaste that is so tongue-in-cheek Halsey: a better combination of lovable pop and provocative grunge could not have been better engineered in a lab. The alter ego of 21-year-old Ashley Frangipane was conceived from the "Halsey" stop on the L train to Brooklyn (and is an anagram of her first name) Read More
The Bronx's swaggering interpretation of hardcore punk found them a quick audience in Los Angeles, where guitarist Joby J. Ford, bassist James Tweedy, vocalist Matt Caughthran, and drummer Jorma Vik founded the band in 2002. Known for a blistering live show, the quintet attracted attention from major labels after only a handful of performances. An offer from Island/Def Jam materialized after the Bronx's 12th gig, but the band decided to issue several recordings on its own label, White Drugs, before partnering with a major. Former Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke helped the Bronx compose an intense rock sound for their first demo, and the band's debut, The Bronx, appeared in August 2003 via the Ferret Records label. Three years later, a second self-titled album marked the band's first effort for Island Records, and the band supported its release by joining Priestess, the Riverboat Gamblers, and Wires on Fire on the WHODOYOUVOODOO Tour.
The Bronx  The quintet then parted ways with Island and issued a third eponymous release, unofficially known as The Bronx III, with help from Original Signal Recordings. Also in 2006, after being asked to play an acoustic set, the Bronx gave their sound a new spin, shifting from hardcore to Latin sounds. This led to the formation of alter ego band Mariachi el Bronx, who made their recorded debut in 2009. In 2013, a fourth volume of proper Bronx material arrived. IV leaned more toward a polished hard rock approach than the group's earlier, punkier sound.
Born out of a desire to challenge themselves musically, Mariachi El Bronx is the alter ego of Los Angeles punk band the Bronx. Conceived in 2006, the idea came about when the Bronx were asked to play an acoustic set and, rather than simply pare down their sound, they took their music in a whole new direction, moving away from hardcore and exploring Latin sounds. The band worked on material for the new project while the Bronx toured, and in 2009, Mariachi El Bronx released their eponymous debut. True to the form of their main gig, the band members followed up with a second self-titled album in 2011. In 2014, the group returned with Mariachi El Bronx (III), which found them fusing synthesizers and electronics into their traditional mariachi sound. QUILT was formed in late 2008 in Boston, MA. Shane Butler, Anna Fox Rochinski and Taylor McVay met at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and spent the next couple of years honing a strange yet magnetic ramshackle sound in the smoke-filled basements and living rooms of Read More
California Nights is a brighter, more sparkly, more sophisticated, more psychedelic Best Coast album across the board, embodying the rich lightness and stinging darkness of a California state of mind. The love stories Bethany spins on California Nights all detail the highs and the lows of relationships, similar to the juxtaposition of a the band’s native Los Angeles – a place tinted by candy-colored palm trees and pale blue skies while existing within the loneliness and desperation of waterless place. More than that, there is a literal meaning to the record’s title – Cosentino is a well-documented insomniac whose creativity spirals out in the early hours of the morning, allowing her to write, undisturbed, the finest album Best Coast has made to date.
BETHANY COSENTINO on CALIFORNIA NIGHTS:
If you have ever lived in California, you know what nighttime here feels like. You know what the sky looks like when those epic sunsets begin, and you understand that feeling and the way things change when the sun finally sets. In LA, or maybe just personally to me, when the sun sets – I feel like there is a large sense of calmness in the air, and I feel like everything that happened to me prior in the day, whether crappy experiences or good ones, at night, it all goes away and I sink deep into this different kind of “world.”
When we decided to name the record California Nights, it just felt right because there is not only a song on the album – one of the biggest, most different songs we’ve written – with the same name, but because I do so much of my thinking and creative work at night. It also ties in with the idea that, as natives of LA, Bobb and I know a lot of spots and places within and around the city that a lot of people don’t really know or care to know. There is a grittiness to Los Angeles that isn’t seen via “E! Live At The Red Carpet.” There is a darkness in this city that you don’t see unless you know where to look. I think that to an outsider, California, or more specifically Los Angeles, seems like it’s this amazing place with perfect weather and sunny skies with just the right amount of clouds and tall palm trees. And let’s face it, it kind of is – but there are also a lot of other things here — crime, homelessness, and some of the most spirit-crushing elements of the entertainment industry that outsiders never see. That’s a theme we very consciously decided to explore and play with when making this record. We related to the idea that things may LOOK or SOUND fun and upbeat, but they may not actually always BE that way – much like our songs.
Writing this album, for me, was a way of taking myself though a step by step journey of learning so much about myself and the world around me. By the end of it, I got to a place where I was able to come to terms with just how much I can control, and how much I can’t — with the dichotomy of fun vs. dark; happy vs. sad; crazy vs. sane; anxiety vs. calm; perfect vs. screwed up. I realized that I am, more often than not, the creator of my own anxiety and my own stress, and throughout this album, I talk to myself about that and challenge myself to cut the bullshit and just be okay with being okay.
I have definitely been the cause for a lot of my own problems in life, and this is something that I am 100% able to own up to and admit. I may not have been able to admit that 5 years ago, when I started this band at age 23, but I can see it now and I can address it, so I decided to try and build a record around that idea. I understand that no one and nothing will ever be perfect, but I also realize that THAT is okay and it’s just a part of life.
A lot of the writing for this record consisted of me getting to know myself again and remembering where Bethany ended and Best Coast began. I took a much needed step back and I was able to breathe deep for a moment and really focus on what I was doing. The end result of all of that, is California Nights. It’s about a journey, it’s about self acceptance, it’s about learning to let go, it’s about accepting the things you have no control over, it’s about dealing with life like an adult and at the end of the day reminding yourself that there really is no reason to be sad, and you have every right to feel okay. California Nights is a brighter, more sparkly, more sophisticated, more psychedelic Best Coast album across the board, embodying the rich lightness and stinging darkness of a California state of mind. The love stories Bethany spins on California Nights all detail the highs Read More
"Rock and roll's been very very good to me," Rhett Miller sings on "Longer Than You've Been Alive," an epic six-minute stream-of-consciousness meditation on his life in music. It's a rare moment of pulling back the curtain, on both the excesses and tedium of the world of a touring musician, and it's the perfect way to open the Old 97's new album, 'Most Messed Up.'
"I wrote that song very quickly and didn’t rewrite one word of it," Miller explains. "It's sort of a thesis statement not just for this record, but for my life's work."
To say that rock and roll has been good to the Old 97's (guitarist/vocalist Miller, bassist/vocalist Murry Hammond, guitarist Ken Bethea, and drummer Philip Peeples) would be an understatement. The band emerged from Dallas twenty years ago at the forefront of a musical movement blending rootsy, country-influenced songwriting with punk rock energy and delivery. The New York Times has described their major label debut, 'Too Far To Care,' as "a cornerstone of the 'alternative country' movement…[that] leaned more toward the Clash than the Carter Family." They've released a slew of records since then, garnering praise from NPR and Billboard to SPIN and Rolling Stone, who hailed the band as "four Texans raised on the Beatles and Johnny Cash in equal measures, whose shiny melodies, and fatalistic character studies, do their forefathers proud." The band performed on television from Letterman to Austin City Limits and had their music appear in countless film and TV soundtracks (they appeared as themselves in the Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston movie 'The Break Up'). Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan told The Hollywood Reporter that he put the band on a continuous loop on his iPod while writing the show's final scene.
'Most Messed Up' finds the Old 97's at their raucous, boozy best, all swagger and heart. Titles like "Wasted," "Intervention," "Wheels Off," "Let's Get Drunk And Get It On," and "Most Messed Up" hint at the kind of narrators Miller likes to inhabit, men who possess an appetite for indulgence and won't let a few bad decisions get in the way of a good story.
"A few people in my life said, 'You can't sing 'Let's get drunk and get it on,'" Miller remembers. "I said, 'What do you mean? I've been singing that sentiment for 20 years! I was just never so straightforward about it.'"
It was a trip to Music City that inspired Miller to throw away his inhibitions as songwriter and cut right to the heart of things.
"For me, this record really started in Nashville on a co-write session with John McElroy," he says. "I really admired his wheels off approach to songwriting, And I liked the idea he had for how he thought I should interact with my audience. He said, 'I think your fans want you to walk up to the mic and say fuck.' It was liberating." It reminded me that I don’t have to be too serious or too sincere or heartfelt. I just have to have fun and be honest. I felt like I kind of had free reign to go ahead and write these songs that were bawdier and more adult-themed."
The magic in Miller's songwriting lies in the depth that he lends his characters. Upon closer inspection, the hard partying and endless pursuit of a good time often reveals itself to be a band-aid covering up deeper wounds and emotional scars.
"There's a lot of darkness hidden in this record," he explains. "One of the big Old 97's tricks is when we write about something kind of dark and depressing, it works best when it's a fun sounding song. So it's not until the third or fourth listen that you realize the narrator of this song is a complete disaster."
If that description calls to mind The Replacements, it's no coincidence. Miller is a fan of the Minneapolis cult heroes, and now counts Tommy Stinson among his own friends and fans. Best known as bassist for the Mats and more recently Guns 'n' Roses, Stinson joined the Old 97's in the studio in Austin, Texas, to lay down electric guitar on ## tracks, elevating the sense of reckless musical abandon to new heights and lending the album an air of the Rolling Stones' double-guitar attack. It's a collaboration Miller never would have even imagined in 1994 when the band released their debut.
"We didn’t think we'd last until the year 1997," Miller laughs. "We thought the name would get a little weird when it became 1997, but we decided none of our bands had ever lasted that long, so let's not even worry about it. But as it all started to unfold, we realized we could maybe make a living doing this, and we were all really conscious of wanting to be a career band. It was way more important to us to maintain a really high level of quality, at the expense, perhaps, of having hit singles or fitting in with the trends of the time, and I'm glad we did that."
Twenty years on, it's safe to say rock and roll has indeed been very, very good to the Old 97's. "Rock and roll's been very very good to me," Rhett Miller sings on "Longer Than You've Been Alive," an epic six-minute stream-of-consciousness meditation on his life in music. It's a rare moment of pulling back the curtain, on both the excesses and tedium of the world of Read More
It is a true, and nowadays rare, musician who writes lyrics so vulnerable and authentic that an audience is irrevocably captured by the powerful experience of sharing the journey. An album that is essentially an autobiographical account of personal mistakes, change, and growth, offers listeners a chance to reflect on their own experiences and connect with another’s story.
With Griffin House’s upcoming album, So On and So Forth, it is clear the artist digs deep and offers up his narrative after much reflection. House is now a young family man and artist who is choosing sobriety and celebrating the path to his success, through songs which share his perspective on how people remember the past with rose-colored glasses, how we grow up and realize what we deeply need, and how we must find happiness in ourselves in the present.
"The record has a lot to do with recognizing the ego in one’s self and letting it die. It can feel like your whole identity is being wiped away, and you don’t even know who you are anymore. For the person singing these songs, holding on to one’s own individuality in order to remain special or important in the world has started to became far less important than being content with being a good, decent, and loving person. But old habits die hard," adds House.
The project was tracked last summer at Lakehouse Recording Studios, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. House’s ties to Asbury Park go all the back to 2004, when he was invited to tour with Patti Scialfa. His first show in the boardwalk town was opening a show for Scialfa at the Paramount Theatre. It was there that Griffin met her husband, Bruce Springsteen, and all the wonderful characters in their crew and band. Those memories and experiences made returning to Asbury Park over a decade later to record So On and So Forth feel like a full circle moment in his career.
House recorded the essentially live project with no click track and very little overdubbing. Lakehouse owner, Jon Leidersdorff, helped assemble the band. Prior to walking into the studio, House had never met the musicians and had no idea how the songs would turn out. He adds, "The experience ended up being one of the most fun and positive of my career. The process was stress-free and freeing." The resulting album reflects this journey - a leap of faith with triumphant results.
Recording and performing for over a decade, House has toured with Ron Sexsmith, Patti Scialfa, Josh Ritter, John Mellencamp, Mat Kearney, and The Cranberries. He received early critical acclaim on the CBS Sunday Morning, and his songs have since been featured in countless films and television shows such as One Tree Hill, Army Wives, and Brothers and Sisters. He has also appeared on Late Night with Craig Ferguson. Most recently, CNN Newsroom invited House to perform "Paris Calling," from So On and So Forth, live on the air, and the song has been picked up by radio prior to being serviced. House has released ten albums and continues to headline his own national tours. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Jane and their two daughters. It is a true, and nowadays rare, musician who writes lyrics so vulnerable and authentic that an audience is irrevocably captured by the powerful experience of sharing the journey. An album that is essentially an autobiographical account of personal mistakes, change Read More
In 2012, a young beatmaker called Flume burst on to the scene and single-handedly changed the face of Australian dance music and its possibilities.
The then 20-year old had just one single (‘Sleepless’) and one remix (Hermitude’s Hyperparadise) to his name. The buzz was growing, thanks in part to a standout afternoon performance at Splendour in the Grass, but his audience was confined largely to fans of underground electronica propagated by rising tastemaker label Future Classic. Today, Flume is a multi-platinum selling, internationally recognised career artist, creating his own space in electronic music.
‘Zeitgeist’ is an awkward and overused word, but Flume captured it. Lead single, the double-platinum selling ‘Holdin On’ came out and people went nuts. The album came out in November 2012 to rave reviews (‘scarily close to perfect’, said Rolling Stone) and debuted at #2. ‘On Top’ came out and once again people were hooked.
He played countless festivals in his native country – Golden Plains, Falls and an especially memorable Laneway Festival headline slot – and fans couldn’t get enough. He was the highest- polled local artist and most-polled artist overall in triple j’s Hottest 100. At one point, Flume was playlisted on community radio, triple j and commercial radio simultaneously. In February, Flume peaked at #1 on the ARIA Chart, two months after its release. In April 2013, he sold out a mammoth 37,000 ticket national tour, including two Hordern Pavilions, two Festival Halls and a maximum capacity Riverstage.
Simultaneously, Flume was making serious inroads overseas, selling out headline shows in NYC, LA, London (Coronet), Paris (Trianon) and Berlin. His maiden NZ headline tour saw him play to over 11,000 fans. He joined like-minded producers Disclosure on their massive, sold-out national UK tour in November.
In November 2013, Flume teamed up with friend and collaborator Chet Faker to release the platinum-selling Lockjaw EP, featuring single ‘Drop The Game’, which polled at an impressive #5 on triple j’s Hottest 100.
Flume won the 2013 triple j award for ‘Australian Album Of The Year’, and four ARIA Awards for ‘Producer of the Year’, ‘Best Male’, ‘Breakthrough Artist’ and ‘Best Dance Release’. He capped off an incredible 18 months in Australia with headline slots at the national Big Day Out and Field Day festivals (where he finished with a wild back to back set with Skrillex).
Commercial success is one thing, but the best part? The music is really, really good. The producer (don’t call him a DJ) creates complex, intelligent, original productions that sound great wherever you’re listening – all from the bedroom of his parents’ house.
Flume began 2014 touring internationally, including stops at Coachella and Lollapalooza in South America. His packed out sets at Coachella Week 1 and 2 gave fans their first taste of the long anticipated collaboration with Lorde – a huge remix of ‘Tennis Court’, which was then released on April 24, 2014 initiating an all -out frenzy on the Internet. Having released a virally popular re-work of Chet Faker’s ‘Gold’, Flume returns to North America in July for a massive headline tour, selling out 3 Terminal 5 shows in NYC, 3 Club Nokias in LA – where he premiered his dark, epic 10-minute remix of Arcade Fire’s ‘Afterlife’ – plus Lollapalooza and a couple of Mad Decent Block Party slots. The tour continued to the UK and Europe for a run of festivals including Reading, Leeds, Pukkelpop, Dockville and a massive headline set at Rock En Seine to over 40 000 fans.
In October, he returned to Australia to headline Listen Out and then spent the summer at the beach and in the studio, before bringing in what will be a massive 2015 with a midnight set at SnowGlobe, Lake Tahoe.
“It looks as if Flume may have to start getting used to being the centre of attention.” – 4/5 THE GUARDIAN
“Sydney’s electronic producer/ auteur stripling Harley Streten shows what celebrity fans such as the xx, Four Tet and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs have been getting excited about.” – THE INDEPENDENT
“With that kind of control over his songs and performers, Flume could easily evolve into a sought-after producer.” – PITCHFORK
“He’s woven a stunning debut which is as scattershot as it is coherent, and his homeland is certainly right to be heralding him as the next big thing.” – 8.5/10 THE LINE OF BEST FIT In 2012, a young beatmaker called Flume burst on to the scene and single-handedly changed the face of Australian dance music and its possibilities. The then 20-year old had just one single (‘Sleepless’) and one remix (Hermitude’s Hyperparadise) to his name. The buzz was growing Read More
“I would have the musicians keep playing over and over again till the sound made sense. I worked overtime on that; I worked hours to get it right. If the sound didn’t make any sense, then I wouldn’t know what to do — I’d be lost! It’s instinct that tells me. I have an instinct for music, or a feeling about it, and I’ll have my feelings guide my hands.”
He is one of popular music's most deeply revered figures, the main creative force behind some of the most cherished recordings in rock history. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to call Brian Wilson one of the most influential composers of the last century. Wilson’s remarkable journey began in a modest Hawthorne, California home that was filled with music. His mom and dad both played piano, and as a young “boy soprano,” Brian’s vocal gift was immediately evident. He had also started singing harmonies…literally “in their room”…with his two younger brothers (Dennis and Carl). As a teen in the 1950s, he became obsessed with the harmonic blend of groups like the Four Freshmen, and then, in the early 1960s, inspired to combine multi-part vocal harmony with the rock rhythms of Chuck Berry, Brian found his place in the musical sun. He was barely out of his teens when he began to create some of the most beloved records ever... nine consecutive “gold” albums that featured such classics as "Surfer Girl," “In My Room,” “I Get Around,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” "Fun, Fun, Fun," “Help Me Rhonda” and "California Girls"...just to name a handful of the more than two dozen Top 40 hits Brian co-wrote, arranged, produced and performed on with his family band, the Beach Boys. “I would have the musicians keep playing over and over again till the sound made sense. I worked overtime on that; I worked hours to get it right. If the sound didn’t make any sense, then I wouldn’t know what to do — I’d be lost! It’s instinct that tells me. I have Read More
The legendary traditions of progressive rock are not without critics. Detractors say the otherwise celebrated style lacks spirit. It lacks emotion. But Periphery smashed this misconception to bits across two full-length albums and a handful of unconventional releases. The band’s mind-bending instrumentation and diverse vocalizations are delivered with vibrant urgency and inescapable hooks that act as an inviting tip to the sonic iceberg lurking beneath. Periphery’s appropriately titled third full-length collection, Juggernaut, lays waste to all expectations within and without the genre.
The meticulously crafted, thematically driven, two-album masterpiece is the end result of focus, determination and unrelenting ambition from the creatively obsessive and boundlessly skilled heavy music alchemists. Artists as diverse as Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Green Day, The Who and similarly minded Periphery forefathers like Rush, Genesis and Voivod have tackled the concept album before, with earthmoving and genre-shifting results. Juggernaut finds the band creating something engagingly familiar yet altogether unique, resulting in a forward thinking and modernized take on the concept album for a new generation fans. The Juggernaut narrative tells of the birth and re-birth of a main character as he volleys between right and wrong, good and evil.
"Given the nature and complexity of the Juggernaut story, we've actually done something different and exciting in regards to the release,” explains drummer Matt Halpern. “Juggernaut is a story that is told through our music, and we want our audience to fully digest the whole experience. Because Juggernaut is very detailed and dense in terms of character development, peaks and valleys, climaxes and resolutions we've divided the story and music in two, in the form of two separate albums. Juggernaut: Alpha, the first part of the story, focuses on the back story and character development, while part two/album two, Juggernaut: Omega, focuses on some pretty serious and gut-wrenching events, taking you for a thrill ride along the main character's complex journey. Although the albums are split in two physically, the story is only complete when the albums are digested consecutively, allowing the listener to recognize and hear the lyrical and musical overlapping themes, foreshadowing, and connected ideas.”
Periphery’s Juggernaut was a long time in the making, with demos and conceptual ideas gestating long before the bulk of the work began. Perhaps Periphery’s first truly collaborative release, Juggernaut saw all six members of the band work collectively toward a single-minded goal: to fully expand their sound and faithfully render the story.
“This is new ground and it’s exciting,” band founder and guitarist Misha Mansoor says of the decision to embark on such an ambitious undertaking. “It's a way to shake things up. Everyone was allowed to contribute to everything, even if it wasn't his instrument. It wasn’t about confrontation. Everyone was focused on creating a really cool album.”
“That’s not to say it was smooth sailing the whole time,” offers longtime vocalist Spencer Sotelo. “But I think the problems we did face brought us closer and made us better at working together. In the end we ended up with something really, really cool. I can speak for everyone when I say Juggernaut is a huge accomplishment for all of us.”
The conceptual nature of the albums also lends itself to new soundscapes and an overall more adventurous feeling, broadening the dynamic range of the music as dictated by the emotional highs and lows of the story Juggernaut tells. The band brings together all of their experience in Periphery, as well as with outside endeavors (members have contributed to Halo 2 and Grand Theft Auto, for example) into their third full-length.
Mansoor’s justifiably acclaimed performances, onstage and in the studio, serve as unassailable testaments as to why Guitar World put him on their cover and why players across the globe track his every move. Rounding out the Maryland based band’s Iron Maiden-like three-guitar approach, are fellow spider-fingered shredders Jake Bowen and Mark Holcomb.
Periphery’s rhythm section is no less impressive, with drummer Matt Halpern appearing on the cover of Modern Drummer and winning multiple fan-voted drummer awards. Bass player Adam “Nolly” Getgood, another cover star, having been featured on Bass Player’s September 2013 cover, lends a thrilling but tasteful bottom end to Periphery compositions.
A handful of vocalists participated in the band’s early days before Sotelo put a definitive stamp to the front man position in the late stages of the first album’s recording. His guttural growl and high-soaring melodic side are almost completely without parallel among singers who employ the style, drawing from the naked emotion of Trent Reznor, the diverse experimentation of Mike Patton and the croon of Incubus’ Brandon Boyd.
Periphery II: This Time Its Personal was hailed as The Best Metal Album of 2012 in the MetalSucks year-end reader’s poll and Juggernaut is sure to be even better received. Periphery is accumulating a body of work full of different colors and shades. While they enjoy making a living from music and want as many people as possible to have a chance to connect with their creative output, they work in opposition to the idea that music should be created only as a byproduct of completely careerist objectives.
“By doing a record like this, in attitude even more than in music, we want to encourage people to do what feels right to them, to truly express yourself rather than compromising what you want,” says Mansoor. “We are very involved with the business side, but the music is the one thing that is always sacred, no matter what. It has to be self-expression, which is important to all of us. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t be putting out an eighty minute concept album. We write the music we think is cool and enjoy creating.”
The end result is a record that will sound at once familiar to the band’s fans and yet invitingly new. Mansoor says the process led them into new territory, but all through their established lens. Like the rest of his band, the thoughtful Sotelo is enthusiastic about the Periphery audience’s willingness to come along for the creative ride.
“There’s a signature heavy-groove throughout all of our records, including the newest one,” the singer observes. “But we always introduce new elements, the type of thing where people hear it and go, ‘Wow, this is definitely Periphery, but with a new twist.’”
The guys in Periphery similarly enjoy bringing that music to the masses. The band has built a burgeoning fan base through hard touring, teaming up with the likes of Deftones, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Dream Theater, Fear Factory and Between The Buried And Me, going out as part of the Summer Slaughter Tour and on their own headlining treks. The collaborations, the albums, visual content, touring – it’s all a journey where the trip itself is just as exciting as the destination, wherever Periphery’s trek should lead. The legendary traditions of progressive rock are not without critics. Detractors say the otherwise celebrated style lacks spirit. It lacks emotion. But Periphery smashed this misconception to bits across two full-length albums and a handful of unconventional releases. Read More
The RZA -- and maybe even GZA -- of Odd Future (short for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), Tyler, the Creator is the alternative hip-hop crew's main rapper, producer, and source of inspiration. He got his first taste of fame when The Los Angeles Times ran a "teen on the street"-type story on the then 16-year-old skateboarding enthusiast, who was also interested in music and fashion. In 2007 he began making music with Odd Future's core members -- Earl Sweatshirt, Left Brain, and Hodgy Beats -- and by the summer of 2010 their bizarre, surreal, and filthy material had earned them a loyal following. It was during that year that a video Tyler directed for the Odd Future track "French" took off, topping a million views by December and drawing attention to the slew of crew-related mixtapes that followed, including Tyler's own, Bastard. He was also signed to the XL label in 2010 for a one-album deal. When Tyler's XL album Goblin arrived in 2011, it became the first Odd Future-related product to be released through the usual music industry channels. Wolf followed in 2013, with Left Brain and Frank Ocean returning as guests. Like Earl Sweatshirt's album from the same year, Tyler's 2015 effort Cherry Bomb leaked to online streaming services before its official release date. The album also featured uncredited guest appearances from Kanye West and Lil Wayne. - David Jeffries for AllMusic.com The RZA -- and maybe even GZA -- of Odd Future (short for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), Tyler, the Creator is the alternative hip-hop crew's main rapper, producer, and source of inspiration. He got his first taste of fame when The Los Angeles Times ran a "teen on the street" Read More
Ever since 2010, when Gary Clark Jr. wowed audiences with electrifying live sets everywhere from the Crossroads Festival to Hollywood’s historic Hotel Café, his modus operandi has remained crystal clear: “I listen to everything…so I want to play everything.” The revelation that is the Austin-born virtuoso guitarist, vocalist and songwriter finds him just as much an amalgamation of his myriad influences and inspirations. Anyone who gravitated towards Clark’s, 2011’s Bright Lights EP, heard both the evolution of rock and roll and a savior of blues. The following year’s full-length debut, Blak And Blu, illuminated Clark’s vast spectrum - “Please Come Home” is reminiscent of Smokey Robinson, while “Ain’t Messin’ Around” recalls Sly and the Family Stone. 2014’s double disc Gary Clark Jr–Live projected Clark into 3D by adding palpable dimension and transcendent power –– songs soared and drifted from the epic, psychedelic-blues of “When My Train Comes In” to his anthemic, hip-hop, rock-crunch calling card, “Bright Lights”, all the way down to the deep, dark, muddy water of “When The Sun Goes Down”.
There are a handful of folks who have informed for the mélange of genres and styles, which comprise the genius of Clark. One is Michael Jackson. It was on Denver stop of MJ’s Bad Tour where a four-year-old Gary’s life was altered after witnessing The King of Pop. By the sixth grade, Clark would own his first set of strings (Ibanez RX20).
As a teen, Clark began making a local name by jamming with adult musicians around nearby clubs. He struck a balance by singing in the church choir with his sisters. That gritty & sweet combination imbues the honey-thick soul that oozes from his vocals today. The eclectic Texas circuit, though, was Clark greatest university, where another culprit in the GCJ genesis lives: Clifford Antone, ambassador of the Austin music scene. Antone’s nightclub granted Clark the honor of sharing the stage with local blues heroes like Jimmie Vaughn, Hubert Sumlin Jr, and Pinetop Perkins. This on-the-job training, combined with studying licks by literal Kings like BB, Albert and Freddie, observing the mastery of Curtis Mayfield, Miles Davis, Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Parliament-Funkadelic, and digesting the fresh edge of Tupac and Biggie, lifted the guitar prodigy up into a multi-instrumentalist, adept scribe, and undisputed music festival champ.
Now, after spending the last five years transforming audiences from the California desert to the London metropolis, acquiring fans like Barack Obama, Keith Richards, Alicia Keys and Beyoncé along the way, the 6’4 Texan needs to spread his musical wings and spectrum hues wider. This exhibition will be Clark’s second full-length worldwide album, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim due from Warner Bros. Records on September 11th. The title’s inspiration is one half Clark’s Southern roots––those singers and local musicians who saw the future in this young man ––and other half, his acting debut in John Sayles’ 2007 film Honeydripper. A 23-year-old Clark played the fictitious Sonny, (in fact, already his family-given nick-name), a young musician who transformed the blues and R&B into rock and roll. On his latest, Clark isn’t trying to reinvent any wheel. He’d rather deploy as many wheels as possible in order to lead music fans toward his favorite destinations.
“The Healing” mashes blues and hip-hop into the 21st century with a Marleyesque message of hope and faith. This journey of the soul hits Mississippi on the Delta jam of “Shake,” before pulling into the spiritual station of “Church,” serving gospel made with the purist folk elements: hypnotic strum, sweet harmonica, and aloud prayers as painful as they are beautiful (dare we say, Dylan-esque). “Grinder” makes musical graffiti out of fierce, freeform wah-wah screaming that spars with rap-tough urban tension. The code is completed once Clark’s chordophone wails a salute to all guitar gods.
“Our Love” could’ve easily been a standard in any decade past or present; “Down To Ride”, an avant-garde, soul love letter with its sensual falsetto, classic Casio synths, and outer-space guitar fade, fits into fresh unexplored sonic territories. The trippy flight “Wings” is Clark’s most modern flip as the Outkast fan is heard in his lyrical prime: “We got issues and people get misused/and girl I miss you/but I know that we’ll get through what we go through.”
Sterling songwriting is where Mr. Clark’s evolution is arrayed best. Never has his pen’s moonshine been so in tune with the times. The Lone Star diamond gleams brightest when he’s sketching then voicing his country’s current and evergreen socio-economic tensions simultaneously. When he’s progressing the art of blues by replacing hopeless conclusion with empathy and strength. When he’s reintroducing and redefining red, white, and blue music. “Hold On,” impressively captures the struggle of being African-American in any era by stirring a pungent punch of Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scott-Heron and Buddy Guy influence over some serious (and visual) commentary. “Seems like new news is the old news from a different angle/another mother on TV crying cause her boy didn’t make it/She said, What am I gon’ do? What I’m gon’ tell these babies?”
A 2015 reply is offered on the all-consuming space-age funk of “Star.” “I am devoted to seeing you shine on,” could be a message in falsetto from Clark to those babies, his country, his family, and his innermost self. With a musical palette as gracious and glorious as Gary Clark Jr’s, the target is most likely all of the above. As Clark put his mojo in full motion on the album’s opening track, “The Healing”, he eloquently states his subtle and underlying theme that “this music” is our hope, faith and ultimate healing. Ever since 2010, when Gary Clark Jr. wowed audiences with electrifying live sets everywhere from the Crossroads Festival to Hollywood’s historic Hotel Café, his modus operandi has remained crystal clear: “I listen to everything…so I want to play everything.” The revelation Read More
With his new album, Are You Serious, Andrew Bird has widened the breadth of his art by directly rejecting his own human experience. With key contributions from Fiona Apple and Blake Mills, Are You Serious attains a level of expression that’s a personal, evolutionary leap. “Here I am with my most unguarded, direct, relatable album to date,” Bird says, “Go easy on me.”
“I set out to make a record that’s diferent than any I’ve made before,” he explains. “I wanted to make an album musically crafed like a Wrecking Crew session, where you have to be good. There’s less wordplay and more intention to process some brutal times that I went through. What happens when real ordeals befall someone who has always been happy writing from their imagination and the distance of the third person? Who has time for poetics while grappling with birth and death? What’s the role of sincerity for a songwriter who doesn’t really go in for the confessional thing? This is what I struggled with for this record. I suppose the title could be poking fun at my own foray into the confessional realm.”
Are You Serious is the second record Bird has made with producer Tony Berg, following 2005’s breakthroughThe Mysterious Production of Eggs. “Tony and I spent months preparing for Sound City,” says Bird, referring to the legendary Los Angeles studio where Nirvana recorded Nevermind and Neil Young made After The Gold Rush. “We went through every part of every song, every note, scrutinizing the voicing of the chords, fnding melodically interesting ways to move from one chord to the next. I decided to work with a producer because I wanted the recording process to be more rigorous. Novelists have editors and playwrights workshop their drama. Tony really played that role for me on this album.”
An up-tempo blitz addressing personal chemistry as a rearrangement of molecules, “Roma Fade” may be the album’s centerpiece. Its sense of longing – “from the tips of your fngers, every strand of hair …you may not know me but you feel my stare” – is based in part on how Bird met his wife, or rather, the times he saw her before they met. “It always seemed to be at a party, from ffeen or twenty feet away,” he explains. “‘Roma Fade’ and ‘Truth Lies Low’ present both sides of the phenomenon of observing and being observed. Desire draws a fne line between what’s romantic and what’s creepy.”
The album’s surprise revelation is “Lef Handed Kisses,” a duet with the singular Fiona Apple. With Bird playing the skeptic and Apple the romantic, the stop-start ballad portrays two lovers who are philosophically opposed but inevitably drawn together. It feels like it could be a lost Johnny Cash/June Carter classic.
“The song began as an internal dialogue,” Bird says. “At frst it was just my voice. Then this other voice came creeping in and I thought ‘this should be a duet if I can fnd the right person.’ I needed to find someone really indicting. And Fiona does the pissed of thing really well! She was totally committed. The session was a long whiskey-fueled night. We were unhinged, for sure. All worth it, of course… I can’t write simple love songs. People are complex. My inclination was to write a song about why I can’t write a simple love song.”
“My favorite songs I write are the ones that change and adapt according to my mood,” says Bird. Album opener “Capsized” is a prime example, having been in his live repertoire for close to a decade under various titles and guises. In the album’s recorded incarnation, “Capsized” is a propulsive gem evoking both the chamber-soul of Bill Withers and the backbeat of The Meters. Bird’s vocals are driven onward by drummer Ted Poor and bassist Alan Hampton. The musically expansive nature of Are You Serious is due in part to ace ensemble players like Poor and Hampton, and the guitar playing of Blake Mills. “Blake raises the bar and gets where I’m coming from like few musicians I’ve met. He’s as restless as I am and gets the odd accents and microtonal stuf that’s outside western music.”
The album closer “Valleys of the Young” encapsulates the album’s themes. This is what Andrew means of when he uses the word “brutal.” “For years now, the code I’ve been trying to crack is how to translate plainspoken real life into song and have it meet my melodic, syntactic standards. There are no riddles here. No encryption. I’ve lef the valley of the young, the small-seeming dramas, the brunch and misery, for a far more perilous place where your heart breaks from cradle to grave. The musical setting for this had to ensure that both young and old listeners can relate. Tony kept making us look at photos of the dust bowl storms raging across the prairie, the ones that made Woody Guthrie sing ‘So long it’s been good to know ya.’”
Jettisoning established methods begets reinvention. This is part of the great success of Are You Serious. See how it plays out in person on Bird’s 17-date Spring 2016 tour, kicking of March 30 at The Ryman in Nashville. “I never walk onstage knowing what I’m doing,” says the artist. “It’s a shrug-of-the-shoulders approach and people like it, it seems human to them. I began playing with the idea of reinvention, so that onstage a wild untamed thing can happen. I wanted to make a record that lets me subvert or expand my onstage personality.”A personality now ready to answer the question, Are You Serious. With his new album, Are You Serious, Andrew Bird has widened the breadth of his art by directly rejecting his own human experience. With key contributions from Fiona Apple and Blake Mills, Are You Serious attains a level of expression that’s a personal, evolutionary Read More