New Updates Weekly & Ticket Giveaways
Thu 10/06 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Neon Indian / Classics
Thu 11/03 at Stage AE
Sat 11/05 at Club Cafe
Thu 12/01 at Club Cafe
Mon 09/12 at Club Cafe
The Marcus King Band
Wed 09/14 at Club Cafe
Sat 10/01 at Club Cafe
Smooth Hound Smith
Mon 10/17 at Club Cafe
Gaelynn Lea / Jess Klein
Wed 10/26 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Mon 11/14 at Club Cafe
Wed 11/16 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Crown The Empire
Tue 10/25 at Club Cafe
Thu 10/27 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Wed 11/09 at Stage AE
Tue 11/15 at Club Cafe
Wed 09/21 at Club Cafe
Tue 10/11 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Tue 11/15 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Tue 12/06 at Club Cafe
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 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
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 the breakout success of their self-titled 2010 debut album and widespread acclaim for their exhilarating live shows, Fueled By Ramen recording group Young The Giant has quickly established itself as one of the most exciting new bands to come out of Southern California in recent memory.
For their highly anticipated second album "MIND OVER MATTER," Young The Giant enlisted Grammy-nominated producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen -- known for his work with such diverse artists as Beck, Nine Inch Nails, Paramore, and M83. Featuring the electrifying lead single "It's About Time," the collection of songs finds the young band challenging themselves both lyrically and musically. "MIND OVER MATTER" follows the band's debut, "YOUNG THE GIANT," which featured singles as "Apartment" and the RIAA gold certified smashes, "My Body" and "Cough Syrup." "My Body" was a top 5 hit at Alternative radio and closed 2011 as the year's fifth most-played song at the format. "Cough Syrup" drew even greater success, peaking at #2 at Alternative, and enjoying crossover chart success at both Hot AC and Triple A radio. "Cough Syrup" remains in regular rotation at radio outlets nationwide and was recently performed on the season premiere of NBC's top-rated show "The Voice."
In addition to its popular success, "YOUNG THE GIANT" also drew reams of critical acclaim from SPIN, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal who hailed the album as "a pop masterpiece with well-crafted songs, surprising arrangements and soaring vocal harmonies." "YOUNG THE GIANT" also received rare applause from British musical icon Morrissey, who enthused, "I could break down with happiness at the new debut CD by Young The Giant. It is the whole thing... It is the perfect tone... and Sameer's voice is unbreakable. If there is any justice in the world (and we all know there isn't) Young The Giant will own most of it... Every three thousand years, a band comes along who restore that precious component of faith."
Young The Giant spent much of 2011 and 2012 traveling the globe, with sold out headline tours, top-billing on mtvU's inaugural "Woodies Tour," and show-stopping appearances at such festivals as Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and Lollapalooza. A dynamic and distinctive live act, the band also made a range of high profile TV performances, spanning ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and NBC's TODAY and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to With the breakout success of their self-titled 2010 debut album and widespread acclaim for their exhilarating live shows, Fueled By Ramen recording group Young The Giant has quickly established itself as one of the most exciting new bands to come out of Southern California in recent memory. Read More
A free monthly open mic night for all performers. Signup for Performers begins at 7pm. Starving Artist Special from 7pm-8pm featuring half off food, $2 Yuengling Drafts, Free Coffee & Tea. Ages: +21. Club Cafe's 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 monthly open mic night for all performers. Signup for Performers begins at 7pm. Starving Artist Special from 7pm-8pm featuring half off food, $2 Yuengling Drafts, Free Coffee & Tea. Ages: +21. Club Cafe's open stage is one of Pittsburgh's longest running and most revered open mic events Read More
After 16 years of performing over 100 concerts annually, releasing seven studio albums and selling more than 3.3 million tracks online, Umphrey’s McGee might be forgiven if they chose to rest on their laurels and attend to their lives as husbands and fathers. But you’d be wrong. With their eighth studio album, Similar Skin, and first for their own indie label, Nothing Too Fancy (N2F) Music (distributed by RED), the group - which formed on the Notre Dame campus outside of South Bend, Indiana in 1997 - has something to prove. And that’s not just to their ever-loyal fan base, but to those who have never heard a note, or worse - dismiss them as “too sophisticated, too complex” or think they know what Umphrey’s McGee is all about.
“We’re definitely not associated with a three-minute verse-chorus-verse song structure,” admits singer-songwriter-guitarist Brendan Bayliss about the new album’s “trim the fat” direction, which saw them aim to strut their rock and progressive roots. This time around, those musical touchstones range from the melodicism of Police, U2, the Beatles and Nirvana, the symphonic prog of Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Yes, and Genesis to the heavy metal thunder of Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Soundgarden, and Pantera. “Every night, we have the opportunity to play whatever and however long we want. Going into the studio, the challenge was to be as concise as possible, to trim all the fat we could.”
Produced by Umphrey’s McGee in conjunction with Manny Sanchez and Greg Magers and recorded in between tour dates at I.V. Labs in Chicago, Similar Skin was conceived as “a coherent vision,” featuring plenty of dynamics and contrast, with many of the songs coming from their live repertoire. Thematically, Bayliss was inspired by his own fatherhood, tackling such issues as living in the moment (“The Linear”), his own mortality (“Cut the Cable,” “Hourglass”), having children (“No Diablo”), the things that bring us together (“Similar Skin”), pondering the existence of a higher power, (the Ryan Stasik slap-bass-driven “Puppet String”), sleep-walking (“Educated Guess”), the art of storytelling and, according to Brendan, adding mysteriously, “some unresolved issues from the past” (“Loose Ends”).
“We tried to get the most concise, exact version of each particular song,” explains Jake Cinninger, who wrote and sang lead on two new songs for the album, “Little Gift” and “Hindsight,” composed at his own Boondock Studio in Michigan, not far from his South Bend home. “I like to look at songs as babies you prepare to go out in the world. And the studio is where you can craft all those little corners and edges, cross the t’s and dot the i’s. What needs to be there and what doesn’t, because every moment on a record counts.”
In a shrinking music business, Umphrey’s McGee have found a way to connect to their fans on a grassroots, one-to-one level that keeps them returning for more, a sentiment that comes off loud and clear on Similar Skin, a paean to the complementary relationship between band and audience that has marked their 16-year career. Now, their DIY ethos is reflected in a new independent label, leaving Umphrey’s McGee free to chase their muse wherever it leads them.
“Success for me means sustaining it,” concludes Brendan. “If you told me 16 years ago, I’d be sitting here, I would have taken it in a minute. The whole goal is to keep this thing going. We’re now completely independent and in control of our own destinies. My motivation is for my children to be old enough to see me do this with their own eyes, and to be proud of me.” After 16 years of performing over 100 concerts annually, releasing seven studio albums and selling more than 3.3 million tracks online, Umphrey’s McGee might be forgiven if they chose to rest on their laurels and attend to their lives as husbands and fathers. But you’d be wrong. With their Read More
The past isn't finished with us yet. Love can be like that, too. A couple of years ago I found love in different forms leaving my life at once. In a single month I lost my closest group of friends, my 13 year relationship ended, and my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I had just stopped touring to write the next Blind Pilot album, but instead I was watching each of my plans unthread as a new season pulled forward relentlessly.
Avoiding suffering, is avoiding real happiness too. My reason to tell this story isn’t because it broke me and pinned me breathless. There was suffering, but those two years, as I moved to my hometown to help my parents through my dad’s sickness and eventually his death, also brought me true closeness, a deeper will to care and hope, and many moments of beauty I can barely describe.
This album came from love for my family, my town, my friends, my community. We don’t have to be so afraid of loss. We can speak and share its name, knowing we are together in it. If these songs are invitations to talk about loss and death, the invitation is to talk closely of the courage we find when we face loss honestly, cracked open and unsure of what we will become.
-Blind Pilot’s Israel Nebeker
Blind Pilot’s ‘And Then Like Lions’ on ATO Records is the third LP from the Portland, Oregon-based sextet consisting of frontman Israel Nebeker, fellow founding member Ryan Dobrowski, Luke Ydstie, Kati Claborn, Ian Krist and Dave Jorgensen. The album was produced by Israel Nebeker and Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Neko Case, My Morning Jacket), and was written and composed by Nebeker. It comes five years after the band’s well-received ‘We Are the Tide’ and three years after Nebeker thought he’d be starting the songs that would become the band’s third album.
‘And Then Like Lions’ opens with “Umpqua Rushing,” the first single from the album and the track that most directly deals with the end of his relationship. It’s inspired by memories of visiting the Umpqua River with his then girlfriend. The song connects images of a forest fire to the destruction and new beginning found in love’s wake.
“Umpqua Rushing” has a strong, mid-tempo flow built on major chords and rich instrumentation that matches the river the song’s named for. Nebeker’s voice soars on strings to an uplifting ending, and it’s as vulnerable and open as he’s ever been.
Packed Powder is an upbeat, solidly-driven song filled with elevated textures of guitar hooks and trumpets. It comes from an idea Nebeker had as a teenager, when he and his friends found they could repack fireworks to different outcomes: “We’re all made of the same stuff, but who knows how we’re packed and what we’ll show as we burn across the black sky of our own time?” The song speaks lightheartedly of ironic outcomes when trying to better a life through different career paths, and then sings a chorus that surrenders and desires life to reveal what we are made of.
‘And Then Like Lions’ ends triumphantly on “Like Lions,” a song inspired by various stories of courage Nebeker has whitenessed in his recent years, including watching his father fight for life and, before the end, find strength enough to give himself and be at peace with his own mortality.
Blind Pilot has performed on Ellen and The Late Show with David Letterman, at the Newport Folk Festival, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. The group has shared stages with The Shins, Local Natives, Andrew Bird, and more. The project began in 2007 when Israel and co-founding member Ryan Dobrowski went on a West Coast tour via bicycle. Blind Pilot's six members recorded for this new album and will tour through 2016. The past isn't finished with us yet. Love can be like that, too. A couple of years ago I found love in different forms leaving my life at once. In a single month I lost my closest group of friends, my 13 year relationship ended, and my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I had just stopped Read More
Over the course of the last 15 years, Rocky Votolato has produced some of the most powerful music to come out of Seattle, an impressive canon anchored by earnest, lyrical songwriting, and delivered in a unique indie-folk-punk style that has evolved out of the Pacific Northwest music scene he was raised in. He has matured over the course of seven increasingly accomplished solo albums, and writes songs that seem to have been scratched into a boxcar wall by a worn-out and lonesome ghost. He has recently finished work on his eighth solo album, Hospital Handshakes, with producer Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) and signed a deal with both No Sleep Records for a US release and Glitterhouse Records for release all across Europe.
But this isn’t just another album. The new full length will mark a turning point in Rocky’s career, the end result of a tumultuous transition that began with the songwriter second-guessing his gift and even considering retiring from music.
Those doubts began to creep in shortly after the release of his seventh album, Television of Saints, in 2012. The wellspring of songs that had flowed out of him since his days in post-punk group Waxwing and through six critically acclaimed solo albums had stopped. "It became painful for me to make music," Votolato recalls. "I was hemmed in by the construct of who I thought I was supposed to be and I stopped believing in myself as a writer. On the surface I looked like a functioning artist, but behind the scenes I was completely blocked creatively, fighting a battle with severe depression, and struggling to keep my sanity."
By the time he had finished the cycle for that album-culminating with a tour with mewithoutYou-Rocky had not written a new song in more than a year.
Frustrated, he decided to get off the road for a while and sought therapy for his deteriorating mental health. It was then, in the summer of 2014, that the creative floodgates finally opened and he recommitted himself to his music with a renewed passion and sense of purpose.
In the following 3 months alone, Rocky wrote more than 30 new songs. In October he took the new batch of songs into the Hall of Justice studio in Seattle, working in the same room where he created one of his most beloved albums, 2003’s Suicide Medicine. There he collaborated with Chris Walla, an old friend who is going through his own transition after recently retiring from his longtime role as guitarist and producer for Death Cab for Cutie. Speaking on his own involvement, Walla says, "This collection of songs hit me really hard, and at a really good time. It's shaping up to be a visceral and tactile album; the band is incredible, and Rocky's writing is spring tight right now. This is a good one."
Hospital Handshakes, is a surprisingly positive exploration that examines themes of healing from trauma, overcoming depression, spiritual longing and finding what's really important in life. "I feel like this record was all about pushing the boundaries of what I'm capable of creatively, experimenting with collaboration, and finding a new environment for the kind of lyric focused songwriting that I've always loved," Votolato explains. "To stay on the path of a life in music I knew I was gonna have to find a new direction and step outside of my comfort zone. It wasn't always easy but I'm so excited about the energy this album captures and can't wait to share these songs with people."
Teaming up with a standout cast of Seattle musicians, including his brother Cody Votolato on electric guitar (The Blood Brothers), Eric Corson on bass (The Long Winters), Andy Lum on drums (Craft Spells/My Goodness), and Casey Foubert contributing Aux instrumentation (Sufjan Stevens), the album that will emerge promises to be unlike anything Rocky has released before. At the core of Rocky’s new music is the same earnest, impassioned, seeking voice, but now with a little more perspective, the product of self-realization hard-earned from a period of darkness and doubt. "I’m writing about trauma," Votolato says. "A lot of the material I’m working with is dark and scary, but I know there is light and healing coming through in the process, and I hope that will show up in the music as well." Over the course of the last 15 years, Rocky Votolato has produced some of the most powerful music to come out of Seattle, an impressive canon anchored by earnest, lyrical songwriting, and delivered in a unique indie-folk-punk style that has evolved out of the Pacific Northwest music scene Read More
In the fall of 2006 a group of 10 cellists got on stage at Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge to perform western classical music in an informal setting.
Many of the cellists that night thought it would only happen once.
But slowly that one-off event became a second, and a third, playing Portland's most popular clubs (Holocene, Mississippi Studios), and by 2009 the group had evolved into a nationally recognized performance and educational group with a revolving cast of cellists, releasing full-length albums, performing everywhere from punk rock clubs to, loading dock street parties, to exclusive private events, and symphony halls all over North America, spending more than a quarter of the year touring, and featuring a diverse repertoire of well over 1,000 pieces of music.
While the group changed and evolved in a hundred different ways over the last decade, the one consistent focus has always been building bridges between different musical communities through collaboration with myriad artists to educational and community outreach at schools and universities around the country. The group absorbed an all-star team of Portland Cellists (including folks like Skip vonKuske, Diane Chaplin, Nancy Ives, and Kevin Jackson). Musical collaborators have included everyone from The Dandy Warhols to Garrison Keillor to Trampled By Turtles to Corin Tucker to Laura Veirs to Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, and cellists Maya Beiser, Ben Sollee and Zoe Keating.
Celebrate ten years of PCP with special performances throughout the fall of 2016, culminating in a huge gala event at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland!
"Before this recent Portland Cello Project concert, I’m not sure that I’d truly realized how important live performances can be in helping you appreciate music." Time Magazine Online
"It doesn't get much more genre-crossing than this," - MTV.com
"This indie orchestra gives classical music a jolt of energy," - Spin Magazine
"PCP has come to epitomize Portland's offbeat music scene, one where boundaries are blurred and cellos are in abundance." - The Strad
"If you could see how crazy everyone around here gets whenever the PCP cello-izes a new hip-hop or pop hit (which is a lot), you'd understand why their Thing is the best Thing going in Portland," - IFC's Portlandia Blog
"A group of cello-wielding maniacs" - Spacelab Magazine
"An ace group of rotating cellists who take on everything from Britney's "Toxic" to the Dandy Warhols and postmodern Estonian composer Arvo Pärt in their one-off performances" - Entertainment Weekly In the fall of 2006 a group of 10 cellists got on stage at Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge to perform western classical music in an informal setting. Many of the cellists that night thought it would only happen once. But slowly that one-off event became a second, and a third, playing Portland's Read More
Coming on the scene with a throwback style that betrayed his years, Pittsburgh-based rapper Mac Miller had just turned 18 when he spent 2010 making his name through mixtapes and video-sharing websites. Born Malcolm McCormick, Miller first used the alias "Easy Mac," a name referenced on his debut mixtape, 2007's But My Mackin' Ain't Easy. His K.I.D.S. mixtape became his breakthrough when it was released in August of 2010, earning plenty of attention from hip-hop blogs and landing Miller a recording contract with Rostrum Records. Rostrum released his debut EP, On and on and Beyond, and his debut album, Blue Slide Park, in 2011. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. The more experimental effort Watching Movies with the Sound Off followed in 2013, with left-field hip-hop names like Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt, and Flying Lotus lending a hand. A year later he signed with Warner Bros. and launched his own imprint, REMember Music, under the major label. GO:OD AM followed in 2015 with Lil B, Chief Keef, and Miguel on the album's guest list. Just a year after GO:OD AM ascended to the Top Five of the Billboard 200 and Rap charts, Miller returned with his fourth LP, The Divine Feminine. The album featured contributions from guests like Kendrick Lamar, Cee Lo Green, Robert Glasper, and Anderson.Paak, who lent his soulful rasp to first single "Dang!" - David Jeffries, AllMusic.com Coming on the scene with a throwback style that betrayed his years, Pittsburgh-based rapper Mac Miller had just turned 18 when he spent 2010 making his name through mixtapes and video-sharing websites. Born Malcolm McCormick, Miller first used the alias "Easy Mac," a name referenced on his debut Read More
Ghost is the name of a devil worshipping ministry, that in order to spread its unholy gospels and, furthermore, trick mankind into believing the end is ultimately a good thing, have decided to use the ever so popular rock music medium as a way to achieve their ends.
Standing motionless and anonymous beneath the painted faces, hoods and robes which their sect demand, the six nameless ghouls of Ghost deliver litanies of sexually pulsating heavy rock music and romantic lyrics, which glorify and glamorise the disgusting and sacrilegious, with the simple intention to communicate a message of pure evil via the most effective device they can find: Entertainment. This is Black Metal at it’s most original and deceiving; compositions such as “Ritual” and “Death Knell” majestically weave their melodic spell of evil through the senses until the listener finds themselves utterly possessed and open to any diabolical suggestion.
In May 2010 Ghost were contracted to a UK based gramophone company called Rise Above Ltd, who swore an oath stating that they will assist the group in the task of spreading their musical blasphemies through formats such as Compact Discs, Long Playing Vinyl Records and Digital Downloading.
The first full-length Ghost album ‘Opus Eponymous’, a daringly beautiful combination of satanic rock music with an almost unthinkable pop sensibility, is to be released on 18th October 2010. It is understood and agreed that Rise Above Ltd will invest heavily in areas such as magazine advertising and retail marketing and employ the services of music publicity specialists in order to expose the music of Ghost to the wider public. Specific attention will be paid to targeting people (research suggests these are most likely to be adolescents) who have a void in their life, perhaps caused by some form of emotional trauma or upset, that can be filled by the music and philosophies of Ghost. In time, these easily manipulated children will come to share the views and goals of the Ghost ministry and can prepare their own plans for the downfall of humanity.... Ghost is the name of a devil worshipping ministry, that in order to spread its unholy gospels and, furthermore, trick mankind into believing the end is ultimately a good thing, have decided to use the ever so popular rock music medium as a way to achieve their ends. Standing Read More
Grammy and Oscar- winning singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham was born in New Mexico but raised all across the Southwestern United States. He set out on his own, at a young age, shuffling from town to town and performing gigs at local no-frills bars. It’s this spirit of having done plenty of living early on, that has informed the singer- songwriters world-weary and jagged, weather-beaten vocals.
At only 34 years of age, Bingham has five studio albums under his belt ('Mescalito', 'Roadhouse Sun', 'Junky Star', 'Tomorrowland' & 'Fear And Saturday Night') the two most recent of which were released under his own label Axster Bingham Records.
For his 2015 release 'Fear and Saturday Night', Bingham needed some peace and quiet, free of the burdens that had saddled him during the writing and recording of his recent albums. Bingham lost both his parents to alcoholism, and parted ways with his former band “The Dead Horses.” He relocated to an old airstream trailer tucked away in the mountains of California, camping out for several weeks and embracing the solitude to dig down deep and craft his most powerful album yet. The album was recorded mostly live, with a brand new backing band and under the guidance of producer/engineer Jim Scott near Bingham’s home in Los Angeles, CA.
In 2015 Bingham will be touring the US and Europe in support of his new album Fear And Saturday Night, in which Bingham faces down his past with a poetic grace throughout. It’s the hard-learned lessons, through both good times and bad, which helped make Bingham the man he is today. Fear and Saturday Night is the most authentic, personal, and deeply moving portrait of that man we've heard yet.
“This one is different,” says Brian Fallon. “This one is mine.”
Bursting at its seams with huge hooks, big choruses, and enormous heart, PAINKILLERS marks the first solo album from Brian Fallon, known far and wide as singer/guitarist of the Gaslight Anthem, as well as such acclaimed outfits as The Horrible Crowes and Molly & The Zombies. Produced by studio superstar Butch Walker (Taylor Swift, Frank Turner, Keith Urban), richly textured songs like “Long Drives” and the addictive title track encompass the great rush and flow of American music, fusing sonic hits of heartland country and folk with hardcore punk energy and classic rock ‘n’ roll swagger. PAINKILLERS once again affirms the NJ-based rocker’s elemental gifts as a songwriter and storyteller, booming with insistent imagery, narrative craft, and the extraordinary emotional acuity that has informed his music since the very start.
“I’ve had this sound kicking around in my head for so long,” says Fallon, “but it took maturity to get it out.”
Fallon decided to begin work on PAINKILLERS immediately following the announcement of The Gaslight Anthem’s indefinite hiatus. Though his prior extracurricular projects were made under alternate band monikers, a dear friend suggested that this time perhaps he might think otherwise.
“She said I was limiting myself,” Fallon says. “’If you make a Horrible Crowes record, then you’ve got to make Horrible Crowes music. You have to float within those guidelines. But if you use your own name you can make any record, you can change throughout your career, work with different musicians, be whatever you want to be and then wrap it all together.’ That’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten.”
Solo or otherwise, Fallon knew he couldn’t make his record all alone. He considered a number of potential collaborators but again and again, Butch Walker’s name kept coming up as an ideal match. A meeting was arranged and the two musicians hit it off from the jump, tracking four demos in three days, including fleshed out versions of “Painkillers” and “Nobody Wins.”
“It was just like fast friends,” Fallon says. “All the sounds fell into place. There wasn’t any searching – it was all right there. We had a blueprint from the records we grew up on.”
Fallon set to work in September, spending three weeks at Nashville’s Taxidermy Studios backed by a crack outfit featuring Walker, Molly & The Zombies bassist Catherine Popper (Jack White, Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Willie Nelson), and drummer Mark Stepro (Hayes Carll, Ben Kweller, Jackson Browne). Freed from any brand, Fallon felt more comfortable and confident than ever before, unrestrained and able to fully articulate himself in the studio.
“I felt like I was doing exactly what I should be doing, at exactly the moment I should be doing it,” he says. “There was a very nice feeling, like, you’ve been working towards this record your whole career and here you are getting to do it.
Fallon had spent much of the past decade pushing himself in different directions, challenging himself as a songwriter by trying on various guises and techniques. This being his solo debut, he decided to return to his initial path, cutting through the craft to simply write “couch songs” on his trusty acoustic guitar.
“I’d been trying different things for the past few years now,” Fallon says, “but there’s a path that I started on. I thought, let me go back to the very basics of where I started writing songs and maybe see if I’ve gotten any better. I know I haven’t mastered the craft but now that I’ve learned a bit, let me see what I can pull out now.”
Inspiration came, as it often does, from Fallon’s lifelong canon, specifically BORN IN THE USA and FULL MOON FEVER, milestone rock records unafraid to work as mass appeal pop statements. Classic sounds abound throughout PAINKILLERS, from the ringing Rickenbackers that drive “Among Other Foolish Things” to the shingled backing vocals that give lift and spirit to each of the album’s dozen songs. “A Wonderful Life” is perhaps Fallon’s greatest anthem thus far, a righteous slice of 60s-fueled dance party rock ‘n’ roll brought full stop into the new century.
“It’s got all the bits,” Fallon says, “the riff, the whoa-whoa-whoas, the chorus, the whole thing. It’s simple but we just knew right away that that one was something else.”
Other high spots include “Red Lights” and the intensely orchestrated “Long Drives,” both originally written and demoed by the country rock-inspired Molly & The Zombies but never properly recorded. Walker helped Fallon retrofit the Molly tunes by “straightening out the beat,” bringing them in from the front porch and placing them square on the boardwalk where they belong.
“I didn’t want to make a country record,” Fallon says. “I’m from New Jersey, not Nashville. But I thought those songs were too good to throw away.”
Fallon’s garrulous lyricism – as ever, ribboned with spot on setting, telling character study, and cultural references spanning “Famous Blue Raincoat” to DC post-hardcore heroes Rites of Spring – is more than matched here by his musical ambition, for the first time truly weaving his wide-ranging tastes into a distinctive and dramatic unified whole. Remarkably, PAINKILLERS was recorded with but one amp, the very same Tone King Imperial 20th Anniversary Edition Fallon used to record his initial demos.
“This thing does everything,” Fallon says. “Sounds like the Byrds when you plug in the 12-string, it rocks when you plug the Les Paul in, it does country, everything. I showed it to Butch and he was like, alright, cool, we’ll use your amp. He plugs into it, we recorded all the guitars for one song on it, he goes, wow, that amp’s pretty good. Let’s use it tomorrow. And that’s what we did. At the end of the session, Butch said to me, I don’t think I turned on another amp this whole time. It was awesome!”
Fallon – with Tone King Imperial in tow – plans to spend much of 2016 on the road, accompanied by a stellar combo comprised of The Gaslight Anthem guitarist Alex Rosamilia, The Horrible Crowes’ Ian Perkins, and the aforementioned Catherine Popper. With PAINKILLERS largely crafted in the studio, transitioning its songs to the stage offers yet another happy challenge.
“You just do it when you’re making a record,” Fallon says. “Then to play it live you kind of have to pull it all apart and put it back together again. So the songs take on a whole new life, which is the benefit of going to see a band live.”
The Gaslight Anthem will return, avows Fallon, but for the time being his focus is firmly locked on the present moment. For him, PAINKILLERS marks neither an end nor even a beginning – where he’s at now is all that matters.
“Pseudo-philosophically,” Brian Fallon says, “you really only have what’s in front of you today. That’s kind of where my head’s at with this. I’m doing this now, I’ve always wanted to do it, let’s see where it goes. And that’s kind of it.” Grammy and Oscar- winning singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham was born in New Mexico but raised all across the Southwestern United States. He set out on his own, at a young age, shuffling from town to town and performing gigs at local no-frills bars. It’s this spirit of having done plenty of living early on Read More
In November 2015, at the end of a ten month period which saw him play over 200 shows, Ryley Walker decided that he should probably head home. However you wished to measure it, he was surely due some sort of holiday. The preceding months had been extraordinary. In March, his second album Primrose Green, emerged to critical hosannas from the likes of NPR, Village Voice, Uncut, and Mojo - in the process, earning admiration of musicians who had chalked up no shortage of turntable miles in Walker’s life. Robert Plant declared himself a fan - as did double-bass legend Danny Thompson, with whom Ryley would later embark on a British tour. For all of that, a holiday was the last thing on Ryley’s mind - and certainly not a holiday in his adopted hometown. After a year spent on the road, all that Ryley could associate with Chicago was the emotional debris he had left behind.
Indeed, anyone who caught his performances throughout the course of 2015, will attest to Ryley’s apparently effortless facility to conjure a breath-taking spectacle from a standing start. By the time of his 26th birthday last summer though, it became increasingly clear to Ryley that his recorded work was becoming less and less representative of the directions he and his close-knit group of musicians were taking in the live shows. Word of mouth and critical acclaim ensured sell-out audiences at his British shows, whilst a sprawling tour of the USA around Primrose Green presented a perfect chance to workshop ideas for what would eventually become his third studio album, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung. Last May, before an audience of "about four people" in Cleveland Ohio, Ryley remembers springing a new riff upon long-time guitar foil Brian Sulpizio, over which he found himself singing the line, "I only have a Christian education." Over a period of successive nights, this riff, attached to a single lyrical fragment, broadened out into what would become one of the signature songs on the next record - with Ryley as much a fascinated witness to its creation as those who saw it taking shape. Of "Sullen Mind", the song which grew out of those improvisations, Ryley explains, "I felt like I wasn’t raised to have to deal with negative, dark things in my life, but the reality is that I do. Everyone does. And a Christian education isn’t likely to save you from that."
Over the ensuing months, Ryley’s increasing desire to push himself beyond the strictures of songs he had already recorded, increased his hunger for concocting new material before ever increasing audiences. In September, over 1500 people turned up to watch Ryley and his band at Amsterdam’s legendary Paradiso club. "I didn’t really have any lyrics at that point. All I had was ‘You could find me at the Roundabout’. I was thinking about a bar just outside of Appleton, Wisconsin, called The Roundabout, that I’d sometimes go to with my parents." What is ostensibly a song about "any of those bars in the mid-West where the beer is $2 for a giant glass of beer, and they’ve got chicken fingers and fries for $5" opens a portal into Ryley’s own blue-collar psychogeography, with inspired gambolling double bass from Anton Hatwich to help propel us there.
If "The Roundabout" represented a symbolic return to Chicago, other songs were directly wedded to Ryley’s actual return there. Some of his formative musical memories had been shaped by the work of pioneering Chicago acts such as Gastr del Sol and Tortoise. "Jeff Parker was the guitarist with Tortoise, and I used to listen to him a lot," recalls Ryley, who figured that, for the first time in his career, it might be helpful to enlist the services of a producer. With only one person on his shortlist, once again, all roads led back to Chicago. Ryley had been a long-time admirer of sometime Wilco multi-instrumentalist LeRoy Bach. Back in 2009, still in his teens, he had frequented the improv nights hosted by Bach at a restaurant/gallery space called Whistler. "For me, it was an incredible opportunity," recalls Ryley, "...because you would sometimes also have Dan Bitney, the drummer with Tortoise, and I’d get to play with these people. I mean, they were twice my age. I’m sure they thought I was annoying at first, maybe some of them still do, but I kind of looked at them like gurus - and to have these old school Chicago heads taking me in was just amazing."
For Ryley then, the prospect of having Bach produce his album was something of a no-brainer. "It was everything I wanted it to be," he enthuses. "I would go to LeRoy’s house every other day with a riff, and we would take it from there." Perhaps more than any other song on the record, the somnambulant sun-dappled intimacies of opening track "The Halfwit In Me" most audibly bear the imprint of those Whistler sessions. "Absolutely," concurs Ryley, "I have to give LeRoy a hand for that. He helped shape that song, especially the clarinet parts. We went into the studio over the Christmas vacation - in fact, I think we actually recorded that song on Christmas Day." Here and elsewhere, it’s impossible to miss the concerted lyrical shift away from the rapt generalities of Primrose Green and into avowedly personal territory. "Funny Thing She Said" is a case in point - an unflinching study of separation set to a shimmeringly supple ensemble performance, at times calling to mind David Sylvian’s late 80s solo albums or the humid euphoria of Iron & Wine’s best work.
Perhaps the most exciting moment of these recordings though, came right at the very end, when he and LeRoy Bach assembled them in a line and began to realise the distance they had covered together. "It isn’t always obvious to you, when you’re in the thick of it," he explains. "But, for the first time, I thought we had something that corresponds to what I was hearing in my head." No less exciting for Ryley, and for those of us who have followed his path with increasing enthusiasm, are the new possibilities mapped out by these songs: the soft, slo-mo explosions of melody on "A Choir Apart" that intermittently burst through the distant thunder of the verses; the intriguing surreal images meted out by "I Will Ask You Twice", like a malfunctioning slide projector; and, perhaps best of all, the stunning finale, "Age Old Tale", which spiders out from an Alice Coltrane-inspired reverie into a sustained rapture that very few artists beyond perhaps Talk Talk on Laughing Stock, have managed to achieve. This is music made for the dewy magic hour when night and day have yet to meet and, as long as the song is playing, you feel might briefly leave the corporeal world with them. This is the music you might imagine the woodland animals making once the humans have left for the night. This is Ryley Walker’s coming of age. In November 2015, at the end of a ten month period which saw him play over 200 shows, Ryley Walker decided that he should probably head home. However you wished to measure it, he was surely due some sort of holiday. The preceding months had been extraordinary. In March, his second album Read More
moe. is the preeminent progressive rock band on the music scene today—a quintet of world class musicians, whose creative output equals that of their longevity. In a remarkable career that has touched three decades and produced a discography of 24 albums, the Sugar Hill Records recording artist of Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey on guitars and vocals, Rob Derhak on bass and vocals, Jim Loughlin on percussion and vibes, and Vinnie Amico on drums, continue to push the standard for performance art higher and further.
Whether touring around the globe, headlining music festivals, or sharing the stage with such diverse acts as the Allman Brothers, Dave Matthews Band, The Who, Robert Plant, Government Mule, or Blues Traveler, among many others, what keeps moe. at the forefront of the music scene is not only the energy and vitality of their music and songwriting, but the showmanship in which it is delivered. Their music is clever, melodic, refined, filled with “ferocious guitar riffs” and “intricate rhythms” (Relix); their performances are entertaining, mesmerizing, and epic.
From their humble, inconspicuous beginnings as a local bar band in Buffalo, NY, to headlining Radio City Music Hall on New Year’s Eve, moe.’s journey has been one of hard work, perseverance, and dedication. Critical acclaim and a solid national and international fan base has resulted in a dedicated following that grows each year. Rolling Stone magazine named Chuck and Al among the top twenty new “guitar gods,” The pair have been featured in Guitar World and Modern Guitar, Jim and Vinnie in Drum!, and Rob in Bass Player. The renowned guitar play between Al and Chuck has become the stuff of legend. The exceptional vibe and percussion work by Jim is brilliant. The understated bass play by Rob is masterful. The seamless, efficiency of Vinnie’s drumming is extraordinary. Together, the five create a musical synergy greater than the sum of their parts.
The news about moe. keeps getting better, too, in the studio and on tour. A new album, their second on Sugar Hill Records, is set for a 2014 release. It follows the critically acclaimed 2012 release, What Happened To The LA LAs, and the 2010 Smash Hits, Volume One—a rerecording of some of moe.’s most endearing classics. The band’s tour schedule is extensive, playing in venues, intimate and grand, from NYC to LA, San Fran to Atlanta, Chi Town to Bean Town, from Tokyo to Toronto, and across the Atlantic to Paris, Amsterdam, London, Hamburg, and Milano. Long a featured act at music festivals, they’ve performed and headlined at the likes of Bonnaroo, All Good, and High Sierra, in the US, and Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, and Burg Herzberg in Germany, to name a few; yet made time to promote and perform at their own festivals—Summer Camp, Snoe.down, and moe.down.
By all accounts, for this “legendary jam band,” as Rolling Stone described them, moe. represents rock and roll at its best. Welcome news for the moe. faithful and the band’s ever-expanding fan base. Even better news for the world of rock and roll, for moe. is just hitting their creative stride. moe. is the preeminent progressive rock band on the music scene today—a quintet of world class musicians, whose creative output equals that of their longevity. In a remarkable career that has touched three decades and produced a discography of 24 albums, the Sugar Hill Records recording Read More
An hour or so drive outside of London, at the point where the city’s vast swathes of suburbs become the green fields of the countryside, you’ll find Hitchin, home of the Rhythms of the Worlds Festival and hometown of 23-year-old singer-songwriter James Bay. It’s this kind of environment that has the habit of breeding the very best kind of British vocalist, singers and songwriters grounded by melodic truth and raw emotion. “I’m trying to make songs that make people feel something and, if I’m lucky, even move them,” he explains.
James Bay is a singular modern talent; an old head on young shoulders, a damn good guitar player and an even better songwriter. A true soul singer, chasing “that goose bumps moment” by channeling artists such as Miles Davis, Bruce Springsteen and James Blake, his music is intensely personal. “I’m trying to keep things human and emotional,” he explains. “It’s hard to know what the balance is, but you know it when you hear it. It’s such a personal process that it’s hard to share stuff sometimes.” But share he does, casting a light onto his attempts to make sense of the world, and a young man’s discovery of love and loss.
Bay’s obsession with guitars began around the age of 11, when he asked to take a look at the tatty old axe that that his dad bought from his uncle and had been gathering dust in a cupboard for 15 years. “I’d seen it two or three times in my life and I decided I wanted to get it out. I opened the cupboard and it had five rusty strings on it but I sat down with it and the sensation of holding it was the best thing in the world,” explains Bay. “It just felt really fucking cool.” The idea of creating and listening to music tapped into a whole new level of emotion being felt by the pre-teen Bay. He marched his father off to a local guitar shop to spruce up the instrument. “We didn’t know what we were asking for – we just said make it work better than it does!” Attempts to learn how to play with an instructional CD were quickly spurned in favor of learning how to play by ear, with Bay putting on Van Morrisson and Derek and the Dominos’ ‘Layla’ and strumming along. “I was just putting on things that sounded cool,” says Bay, who plundered his parents’ record collection for Greenwich Village folk and Motown to learn along to. The hobby swiftly turned into an obsession, with the neighbors constantly asking him to turn down his amp. “I was cranking it up!” he remembers. “I was trying to make the windows shake!”
Starting bands with his brothers and friends when he hit his teens, Bay was never the front man, but he knew it wouldn’t always be that way. “I always had it in my mind that I’d do something where I was at the front one day,” he says. Then, when he was 16, he decided to branch out alone, with the idea of playing his songs “to some drunk guys in a pub to see if I could get them to shut up.” His first solo gig saw him opening up for his and his brother’s own band. “I shut up a few drunks and some of them kept talking, but I enjoyed it enough to be desperate to do it again”.
At the age of 18, James Bay moved out of Hitchin to study guitar in the seaside city of Brighton. It was here his solo venture really kicked off. A talented and accomplished painter and drawer, he’d long planned to study fine art, but made a last minute decision to study music instead. “I couldn’t put down the guitar and say it was just a hobby, I couldn’t justify it,” he recalls. Almost as soon as he moved to Brighton he was busking and playing open mic evenings five nights a week in the town’s many small music venues. “If it was bad there was always the opportunity to walk down the street to the next place,” he says. Bay managed to secure himself a residency and though he didn’t make it to the end of his three-year long course, it was at the college’s showcase night that he was spotted by his management company, who’d scouted him online the previous evening. They initially reached out to the college to ask when he was playing next and after being informed it was the next night, they drove down immediately from London to catch Bay’s one song set in a show of 25 performers.
From Brighton, the next step was a move to London. “London was always in the back of my mind. In America, they talk about LA, they talk about New York, but here they talk about London.” Building up a solid live reputation in the capital, prestigious support slots started flooding in, including a life changing opening set for none other than The Rolling Stones at their gigantic Hyde Park show in the summer of 2013. “I almost fell off my stool when I was told,” says Bay, who was on his first trip to Los Angeles when he heard the news. He’s also toured with the likes of ZZ Ward, Kodaline, Tom Odell, John Newman and Beth Orton, playing some of the most prestigious venues in the world in the process, including Los Angeles’ Troubadour and San Francisco’s Fillmore.
One evening would prove particularly life-changing. While performing a solo show in a Kentish Town pub a patron was so impressed by Bay’s set that he took a video and uploaded it to YouTube where a couple of weeks later it caught the attention of a Republic Records A&R executive, who was blown away by what he saw. “That kicked everything off,” he exclaims. “The label flew me over to New York a week later, and I met everybody and ended up signing with them on the spot. It was like they were in that tiny club with me even though they were thousands of miles away.”
Almost one year after Bay began work on his debut album, the final product is on the cusp of release. Recorded in Nashville’s prestigious Blackbird Studios with Kings of Leon’s long term collaborator and Tom Waits engineer Jacquire King, whom Bay found after flipping over a Kings of Leon CD and finding his name, “He was at the top of the list,” says Bay. That same live video of Bay performing in the Kentish Town pub was emailed to the producer, who immediately responded and said he’d love to work on the record. “It knocked my head off,” says Bay. “Suddenly I’m Skyping with Jacquire King from my little flat.” Bay visited Blackbird on and off, in-between tour dates in both the UK and US. “It was ridiculous,” says Bay of the high spec studio, which is often cited as one of the best in the world.. “It still hasn’t quite sunk in. Willie Nelson would be pulling up in the drive!” It was here that he also recorded his upcoming ‘Let It Go’ EP, a stunning collection of five impassioned folk-rooted songs that includes the compelling ‘If You Ever Want To Be In Love’, a song that flits from gospel to drive-time rock, a modern soul-drenched stunner.
This year James Bay will be hitting a run of UK festivals, including his Glastonbury Festival debut, as well as slots at Scotland’s “T in the Park,” a show opening up for Stevie Wonder at London’s Clapham Common, as well as opening for Hozier on tour in the U.S. this fall. He hasn’t ditched his love of art either, and still sketches and draws when on the road. “Music came along and then we fell in love, but art was way before that,” he states. Bay recently bought his first canvas in years and is currently painting his favorite author, James Baldwin. “He’s one of the coolest looking guys,” he says of the ‘Notes of Native Son’ writer. James Bay admits that he doesn’t bother with landscapes and still life, preferring to draw people and faces. His art, like his music, is all about that very human connection. An hour or so drive outside of London, at the point where the city’s vast swathes of suburbs become the green fields of the countryside, you’ll find Hitchin, home of the Rhythms of the Worlds Festival and hometown of 23-year-old singer-songwriter James Bay. It’s this kind of environment Read More
There are few bands that can or will match Sweden’s Opeth. Since forming in the tiny Stockholm suburb of Bandhagen in 1990, the Swedes have eclipsed convention, defiantly crushed the odds, and, most importantly, crafted 12 stunningly beautiful, intrinsically intense albums to become one of the best bands on the planet; whether that be live or on record. Ask any Opeth fan. Enquire with any band that’s shared the proverbial pine with the Swedes. Or, get a label representative to talk Opeth. They’ll all tell you the same thing: Opeth are peerless. And they’re only getting better.
Opeth’s new album, Sorceress, their first for Nuclear Blast via the band’s imprint label Moderbolaget Records, is proof chief architect Mikael Åkerfeldt has a near-endless well of greatness inside. From the album’s opener “Persephone” to “The Wilde Flowers” and “Strange Brew” to the album’s counterpart title tracks “Sorceress” and “Sorceress II”, Opeth’s twelfth full-length is an unparalleled adventure, where visions cleverly and secretly change, colours mute as if weathered by time, and sounds challenge profoundly. Sorceress is, by definition, moored in Åkerfeldt’s impressive record collection—his one true vice—but, as always, there’s more invention than appropriation at play.
“This time around I didn’t think about what I wanted to do,” Åkerfeldt reveals. “I was forced to write. But once I started, it was easy. This record, like the last record, didn’t take long to write. Like five or six months. The thoughts behind this record developed as I was writing. The only thing I was thinking about with this record was to write that songs didn’t musically connect. I made sure if I had a song that was new sounding for this record, I’d make the next song completely different. I think the songs are very different from one another. It’s very diverse.”
Certainly, every Opeth record has had diversity. In 1995, Orchid reset the rules of death metal. Six years later, Blackwater Park hit the high note for musicality in a genre generally devoid of it. Damnation, in 2003, was the work of a band determined to upend the norm. Five years after that, Watershed closed Opeth’s chapter on death metal by visiting its darkest corners and holding its native brutality aloft. And in 2014, Pale Communion officially bridged the progressive music gap by twisting the intrepid sounds of ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s into contemporary brilliance. So, really, what’s so different about Sorceress?
“My music taste got a little wider,” grins Åkerfeldt. “I started listening to jazz. I bought a lot of Coltrane records. I never really thought Coltrane would be for me because I like ‘dinner jazz.’ I like comfortable, soft, nice, and lovely jazz. Like Miles Davis’ ‘50s stuff. Porgy and Bess, for example. I guess Dave Brubeck fits in there, too. So, that’s the only new influx of musical inspiration for me. Other than that, I’ve been buying the same type of records I always have. Prog, symphonic rock, singer/songwriter, metal, hard rock… But there wasn’t anything that set me off like The Zombies or Scott Walker. Nothing got me going this time.”
Actually, that’s not entirely true. Åkerfeldt’s always mining for progressive gold. Good, rare music is particularly good at getting his motor running. He found double-gold in one-off Italian outfit Il Paese dei Balocchi and Bobak, Jons, Malone’s ultra-obscure Motherlight album. To wit, get Åkerfeldt talking about either and he’s all too pleased to discuss the finer points of Il Paese dei Balocchi’s string-based darkness or how he fan-boyed Malone via email to get the famed British orchestrator and one-time Iron Maiden producer to contribute to Sorceress.
“I absolutely love Il Paese dei Balocchi,” Åkerfeldt professes. “They did one album. It’s insanely good. It has everything I love about progressive rock in it. This album is so orchestrated and epic. It’s got lots of string sections. It’s very moody, dark, and sad. It’s a mystery they didn’t do any more. As for Will Malone, he did the strings and stuff for the Sabbath records—Sabotage and Never Say Die! But now he does strings for pop artists like Joss Stone, The Verve, Depeche Mode. I looked him up, mostly because he was the house engineer for Morgan Studios in the ‘60s. He was also in a few bands. Like Orange Bicycle and played on the Motherlight album. He also had a solo record, which is also amazing and superbly rare. It’s orchestral. The bulk of it is strings. It’s kind of like Nick Drake.”
Åkerfeldt’s quick to point out, however, his newfound progressive music loves didn’t directly inspire him to write Sorceress. The majority of the album was penned in Opeth’s rehearsal space, where, nestled comfortably in a corner, a computer, a keyboard, and a microphone sit ready for the next Opeth epic. It isn’t plush, but it’s exactly the type of environment the frontman needs to focus his creative self into song.
“When I’m in a writing mode, I have tunnel vision,” says Åkerfeldt. “I have a really good work ethic. I go down to the studio everyday early in the morning and I work. I absolutely love it. It’s so much fun. It’s much easier now, too. I write complete demos. I sequence the songs in the order I want them to be on the record. I do mixing. I do overdubs. Once I’m done, I give copies to the guys so they can listen to the album. They practice to it on their own. When it’s time to go into the studio, everybody does their own thing. It obviously works.”
For Sorceress, Opeth returned to Rockfield Studios in Wales, where the Swedes had tracked Pale Communion in 2014 with Tom Dalgety. The experience was so positive and historical—the countryside studio was also home to pivotal Budgie, Queen, Rush, Judas Priest, and Mike Oldfield recordings—there really was no other option for Opeth and crew. Rockfield Studios or bust! The studio, with Dalgety yet again in tow, provided the necessary isolation, the right bucolic atmosphere, the best gear, and three square meals a day for Sorceress to come out the other end spitting fire. All in 12 bittersweet days, too.
“There was a time when I came out of our recordings a wreck,” Åkerfeldt bemoans. “But now I come out with a wish. I wish it wouldn’t have gone so quickly. There’s emptiness after I leave the studio. I love writing and recording in the studio. It’s lovely at Rockfield. It’s in the sticks. It’s got horses and cows. There’s lots of sheep in Wales. But the studio is just a studio. It’s so beautiful there. So quiet. It’s a residential studio as well, so we live there while we’re recording. We have chefs for us, too. So, we can just be there, playing, recording, and hanging out.”
If life is like a Peter Max poster, the lyrics to Sorceress aren’t. There’s color, but they’ve been treated, corrupted, and befouled. That is to say, they’re much darker. Some of bleak lyrical tones stem from Åkerfeldt’s personal life—and are thusly contorted beyond recognition—while others touch grimly on topics like love and what happens to people on the other side of it. In fact, some of the lyrical ideas are similar to what was happening on Blackwater Park.
“I made sure to write good lyrics,” Åkerfeldt laughs. “This sounds very old-fashioned black metal to say, but the lyrics are misanthropic. It’s not a concept record, so there’s no theme running through the record. Most of the record deals with love. The negative aspects of love. The jealously, the bitterness, the paranoia, and the mind games of love. So, it’s a love record. Love songs. Love can be like a disease or a spell.”
Luckily, for Åkerfeldt and crew—bassist Martín Méndez, drummer Martin Axenrot, guitarist Fredrik Åkesson, and keyboardist Joakim Svalberg—the lineup doesn’t have to deal with Sorceress’ main theme. They’ve been together since Heritage was completed, and according to Åkerfeldt he’s not been in a better band situation before. Not since Orchid. Not since Still Life. Not since Ghost Reveries.
“It’s the best band situation I’ve ever had. Fans will look at our eras and have their favorite lineup, but this is the best. Even the happiest days of the first and second lineups aren’t comparable to what I have now. We never fight. It’s like a good work team. We know each other professionally and personally. As much as we’re a band, we’re also friends. We hang out when we’re not doing Opeth.”
A core team is a good thing, when Opeth’s credibility is in full view of fans and critics. Åkerfeldt’s very aware of what the masses have had to say about Opeth since Watershed. While some disliked the musical shift on Heritage, most have applauded it. They’ve come to expect something new from Opeth. True to form, Sorceress will give long-time fans and weary critics reason to re-think Opeth and what it takes to be musically fearless.
“I hope they’ll like the record,” posits Åkerfeldt. “I can only talk from my perspective and taste here, but we offer diversity that’s not really present in the scene today. Whatever genre. We’ve always been a special band. We’ve gotten a lot of shit for being different. We still do. Our time will come, I think. It comes down to perseverance. It comes down to not giving up or giving in to public opinion. Music is about doing your own thing or going your own way." There are few bands that can or will match Sweden’s Opeth. Since forming in the tiny Stockholm suburb of Bandhagen in 1990, the Swedes have eclipsed convention, defiantly crushed the odds, and, most importantly, crafted 12 stunningly beautiful, intrinsically intense albums to become one of the best Read More
Love doesn’t look the way you’ve imagined it. It is about joy, but it is also about suffering and heartache. It is a choice to keep holding on to love, especially when it’s hard, especially when it hurts. This is the sentiment on which Anthony Green’s fourth solo album centers. The eleven intimate tracks on Pixie Queen, a follow-up to 2013’s Young Legs, are love songs, but they are unlike any love songs you’ve ever heard.
Anthony started writing the songs on Pixie Queen two years ago while Circa Survive was creating their 2014 album Descensus, happening on the theme almost accidentally. “I ended up with all these songs about my wife, who is the love of my life, and about how difficult it is to have a relationship and be a parent and be a touring musician and to have mental health issues and be a recovering addict,” Anthony says. “It’s really difficult to be in a relationship with someone like me. I started writing more songs about that and compiling them into a record. It’s about not being sure whether you’re holding on to a relationship or whether it’s fate. I wanted to put all those feelings into one place.”
Much of Pixie Queen was solidified in early 2016, just before Anthony headed into the studio with producer Will Yip (who the singer refers to as “his Nigel Godrich”) to lay down the tracks over two weeks in April. In the studio, Anthony enlisted the help of Good Old War’s Tim Arnold and Keith Goodwin, who played drums and keyboards on the album. The songs are primarily acoustic, with no electric guitar appearing on the album, and Anthony’s sonic goal was to create a “campfire album” where every track retains the warmth and intimacy it was written with.
“It feels like a shift away from my last solo album,” Anthony notes. “I wanted it to feel like you were listening to a real band. I wanted to keep that sense of the acoustic guitar and vocal without having it be too boring. I was nervous to put drums on it because I didn’t want to take away from that campfire feel, but everyone managed to compliment the vocals and hug the rhythm of the guitar. You can taste those elements, but they’re not overpowering.”
There is a sense of hopefulness throughout the album, despite its moments of introspective sadness. “East Coast Winters,” a soulful, stripped down number, is the last song Anthony wrote while on heroin. The musician was compelled by his tumultuous state to pen the lyrics, which deal with his wife’s steadfast support despite how badly he was going through addiction. “Will It Be,” a buoyant ballad, centers on missing his wife and three young sons while on tour. “It’s about not being sure if I’m doing the right thing by being away from them,” Anthony notes. “It is destroying our relationship or is it creating the ultimate bond?”
As the songs unfold, from chirping opener “You’ll Be Fine” to its lush self-titled closer, Pixie Queen asks questions it can’t necessarily answer. And that, to Anthony, is the point. “A lot of the record is about confusion and trying to understand whether something is worth holding on to,” he explains. “When you’re on a mechanical bull the longer you can keep holding on the easier it becomes to navigate its movements. It makes you stronger, but sometimes it’s really hard and it can be way easier to let go and get flung off. None of it comes with a clear yes or
no – it’s a choice you make. Love is the opposite of what you think it’s supposed to be. It’s about how strong you are. And when you do make it through there are moments that are undeniable and you’re so grateful.”
For Anthony, who rejoined Saosin for their latest album Along The Shadow, which came out in May, these solo albums are a place for him to delve into the most honest and most intimate aspects of himself. He isn’t interested in music as a means of showmanship or theater. Whether it’s his work with Circa Survive, who will begin work on their sixth studio album later this year, or with Saosin, Anthony wants that everything he creates comes from a place of real sincerity. That openness is especially evident on Pixie Queen, which is raw both in its lyrics and in its musical execution. “I can’t pretend about anything,” the singer notes. “The only way it feels good to write and perform music is if it feels almost embarrassing.”
In the end, Pixie Queen is a story about love in all its variations and complexities. It doesn’t sugarcoat or idealize what it means for two people to find each other in the world and hold on. It’s a reminder that we get to choose whether to stick it out through the storms – and that deciding to stay can yield the perfect moments we’ve always imagined.
“These songs aren’t just about how my wife and I love each other,” Anthony says. “They’re about how we hate each other sometimes. We don’t just help each other grow; we’ve held each other back. Love is not one thing all the time. It’s beautiful and it’s wild and it’s free and it’s hard. There’s all these peaks and valleys. It can be creative or destructive. But the only way you’ll ever feel anything remotely like the fairy tale ideas of love is by getting through the suffering.” Love doesn’t look the way you’ve imagined it. It is about joy, but it is also about suffering and heartache. It is a choice to keep holding on to love, especially when it’s hard, especially when it hurts. This is the sentiment on which Anthony Green’s fourth solo album centers. The eleven intimate Read More
It's the parabolic motion of projectiles. Or, as Isaac Newton stated, what goes up must come down — that is, everything except Clutch.
Earth Rocker created an insurmountable peak. But Psychic Warfare has altered laws of physics by elevating the smart songwriting and impressive performances of that last album, setting an even higher benchmark as their now-definitive album to date.
The eleventh Clutch studio album Psychic Warfare goes straight for the throat with “X- Ray Visions” and never lets go. Working again with acclaimed producer Machine, this time in Texas, the concise arrangements that made Earth Rocker so assertive is the same harness for the combustible musical energy on Psychic Warfare. Harder, faster... let the rhythm hit 'em.
Formed in 1991, the Maryland-based band's ability to absorb different musical styles and fabricate them into a distinct Clutch sound continues to be their forté. “A Quick Death In Texas,” overstocked with signature “Clutch heavy” Tim Sult riffs and lonesome guitar licks, and the funk undercurrent of “Your Love Is Incarceration,” color Psychic Warfare with articulate musicality and comfortable familiarity.
The overall intensity of Psychic Warfare would be self-consuming without the pressure valve of a canny rhythm section. Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and bassist Dan Maines have an intuitive sense of dynamics that gives weight and contrast to the forcefulness of the vocals, steering Clutch into the straightaway out of tight, exhilarating corners.
“I listened closely to the rhythm of Neil’s vocals this time around.” Gaster explains. “The rhythms he sings, are very syncopated. It was my goal to articulate these rhythms on the drums while keeping the pulse of the music strong.”
Psychic Warfare is cinematic, a soundtrack to the plot of singer Neil Fallon's imagination. The narrative of “The Affidavit” sets the scene for an album of gunslingers, energy weapons, paranoid neurosis, and the occasional three-legged mule. It's an episodic lyrical landscape populated by abstract characterization, nuance, and clever peculiarity.
“I spent a lot of time doting over the lyrics,” Fallon says. “It was fun because I have a great luxury that I'm a professional liar — that's what a storyteller is. Or at least that’s what I try to be. It's the one socially acceptable way to completely deceive people, and that's what they want. If you sing it with enough conviction, people won't question it. I just love that escapism, the fantasy aspect of it. And fantasy doesn’t necessarily equate to dragons and wizards. It can be seedy hotel rooms and sketchy hitchhikers.”
Gaster says the band knowing Earth Rocker was such a high water mark put them in a position of needing to follow up with an exceptional album. “Looking back on the process, one thing that sticks out in my mind is the amount of rehearsal the band put in. We started each pre-production day by writing out a new album sequence and then playing that sequence straight thru as if it were a set list. I think this allowed us to get inside the songs in a way we had not done before. When it came time to record drum tracks, I had a clear idea of how I wanted to play each song.”
In the past, Clutch consciously made each album conspicuously different from the last one. “We had a sadistic fear of repeating ourselves,” Fallon admits. “But over the last few years, we've realized our strengths and what it is that people like about us. Why deny it? Clutch is Clutch, embrace what you are.”
The bar is set higher, laws of physics be damned. Psychic Warfare is the new adventure, and it has no limit. It's the parabolic motion of projectiles. Or, as Isaac Newton stated, what goes up must come down — that is, everything except Clutch. Earth Rocker created an insurmountable peak. But Psychic Warfare has altered laws of physics by elevating the smart songwriting and impressive 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