Latest Features

Introducing: Royal Bangs

By Lucien Flores; November 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM 

Royal Bangs have carved a niche with their brand of genre-defying kinetic rock but they’ve yet to conquer the radio. The band released their fourth album, Brass, in September and are highly touted by Black Keys drummer/producer Patrick Carney. Even though mainstream success eludes the group, they still put out captivating songs — the band hits the road this fall in support of Crocodiles after playing gigs with Phoenix, Ra Ra Riot, and Portugal. The Man.

I talked to lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Schaefer about their latest record, their relationship with drummer/producer Patrick Carney, Knoxville, and the band’s dynamic.

 

Photo Credit: Ramon Hess

Photo Credit: Ramon Hess

Lucien Flores: Flux Outside and Let If Beep have a cool chaotic sound that I enjoy a lot but with Brass, there’s a more simplified and controlled sound. It’s a nice refreshing change to the band. What inspired the change? What was the process of recording the new album and what were you trying to bring into the studio?

Ryan Schaefer: I think that’s right. That was deliberate. Especially after the last album, I think we set out to make a certain kind of album. It was noisy, it was big and there were a lot of things going on and I feel like after we made that album, we all felt that we had gone as far as we could go in a direction and maybe it would be interesting to try to do something else. So, all of our other records, we basically had skeletal demos and then fleshed them out in the studio as we were recording them. …and then see if we could play them live later. This record was really all just about the songs. Everything was written out beforehand and we rehearsed it as a band and then tracked it almost live. There are overdubs of keyboards and vibraphone and all kinds of stuff like that, but mostly the core of all the songs the songs is a live performance, which is sort of different for us. It was fun to make. It was pretty relaxed. It was pretty laid back because we had all of our bases covered before we got into the studio. I’m sure the next record we make will probably go in a different direction but with this one we wanted to try and experiment and do things differently than we’ve done on any of our other records.

LF: You had Patrick Carney (of the Black Keys) producing you guys for this one, right?

RS: Yeah and that was a big part of it. That made it really fun too because we’ve been friends with Patrick for a long time but we’ve never actually got to work together. His label put out our first two records but we didn’t actually get to work in the studio together. He was always on tour or we were on tour. It was something we’ve wanted to do for a long time and it just so happened that our schedules lined up. He lives in Nashville now so we went and made the record in Nashville, which was cool because Nashville is only a couple of hours away from us but we never really spend any time there. So we were in Nashville for about a month making the record and it’s a cool town. There’s a lot going on there now. All around it was a good time. It was very laid back working with him. We’ve known each other for a while so it wasn’t hard to figure out how to talk to each other. It was pretty relaxed.

LF: I want to talk about being in Knoxville and coming out of that music scene. Do you prefer coming out of a music scene like Knoxville, which makes you one of the more popular bands of the area and gives that communal support? How do you prefer that to being just another band out of New York or LA?

RS: Well we’ve never lived in either of those places so it’s hard to say what it would be like to be from there but I know what it feels like to go there. We’ve always had really good luck in both places. Chicago, New York, LA, Austin…we’ve always had good shows there. We’ve stayed here as long as we have because, honestly, it’s just economics. It’s so cheap to live here and to have a studio. We make a music video this past weekend where we built sets and stuff for nothing. It’s like you can do whatever you want here. The cost of living is low enough that you can go on tour for a while and not worry about it and take time to set up a studio and record stuff on our own. There are definite tradeoffs to living in a place like this. If we were to live in New York, there’s the cultural aspect of it that you can’t get anywhere else for sure. There’s a certain freedom that comes with living in a place like this where money isn’t as big as a concern. For instance, there’s a couple of arts spaces and venues here where it’s just not a big deal if you want to go try out some new songs. I built a lighting system for the band recently and we just wanted to have a night where we just go try it out. I just called up our friend who runs [a venue] here and just scheduled a show the day of. We spend so much time traveling anyway. We’re in New York all the time. We like traveling and I think it’s nice to come home to some place where it’s not super stressful when we can go visit those places as often as we want. I think it’s a good thing. It seems like people are always surprised when we say we’re from Knoxville but there’s more going on here than you would think at least in terms of music. There are a lot of cool bands here, a lot of people making interesting music. I think that’s why we stay here as long as we have. We’ve played around with moving at different points in the past but it’s a nice place when you spend all your time traveling, it’s a nice place to have as a home base.

LF: You, Sam, and Chris started playing music together in high school. I’m wondering how the creative process has changed because back in high school, it’s a little different playing music together compared to now. What has stayed the same and what has changed?

RS: I think when you play together for that long and spend that much time together, it’s not even just playing music together, it’s just spending that much time together, we’ve listened to so many records together or seen movies or read the same books, or whatever, we all have so many cultural reference points in common and shared experiences. I think after that long of a time, you just develop shorthand for expressing ideas so it’s really easy to communicate things. I think the difference is that when you’re in high school you’re still trying to figure out what kind of music you want to make or what kind of sound. When it comes to high school, you’re figuring a lot of things out and very early on, I feel like…we’d discover some new thing and then we’d be like, ‘oh, we want to do this’ and we bounced around a lot for a really long time. Then by the time we made our first record as Royal Bangs, we kind of had some idea of what we wanted to do. There’s a lot of jumping around still but I think the longer we’ve been together, it’s less like ‘let’s make something in the style of this.’ We never really have those types of conversations anymore. It’s easier to talk about ideas and to understand where the other person is coming from and so I think it gets easier to make stuff that is actually creative.

LF: You’re not a trio anymore after Dylan recently joined the band. How did he come to join you guys?

RS: He’s from South Carolina and he always played music on his own… He was looking for a change of scenery and wanted to move somewhere and knew some mutual friends of ours that played music here and ended up moving to Knoxville. We had been doing the three-piece thing for a while and we were really trying to add somebody to the band that could cover bass and keyboards but we just couldn’t find anybody that could do all of the things that we wanted to do or that we felt would be a good fit so we continued the three-piece thing for a long time. Dylan just kind of showed up one day. He had moved here and we met him through these mutual friends and it was immediate when he started playing with us. That’s the amazing thing, we talked about that musical shorthand that we developed, and he’s a couple years younger than us but seems to know all the same records and quickly fell right into that stuff and there was very little catch-up, which was pretty unusual. I think anybody else, there would have to be a period of catching them up. First they would have to learn all the songs and then they would have to learn the way you get in and out of songs and the transitions and there was none of that. He basically listened to the record, showed up, and got what we were going for. He plays very similarly to the way that we do, so it was really easy to relate on a bunch of different levels. It’s been great. The shows are so much more fun to play now. The three-piece thing was an interesting experiment for a little while but it’s definitely a lot more fun for us now. It’s a little looser and we’re not as tied down to the computer and technology quite so much.

LF: The album cover is quite interesting. Was that taken the same day as the “Better Run” shoot? What’s the story behind the cover.

Well the album cover was actually our friend Eric that was shot from a couple different angles so it’s him twice on the front. That was a couple of months before the music video then when it came time to make a music video, we had a different friend of ours, Josh. It was kind of a last minute thing, he was going to be in the rest of the video and the director [Brandon Langley] had an idea at the last minute to go back to the same place as we shot the album cover and then basically recreate it with Josh. So it’s not actually the same person but it was shot in the same place.

LF: I imagine you’re going to go on the road somewhat soon. How do you guys stay entertained and relax when you’re playing so many shows in so many cities?

RS: I don’t get super stressed out about going on tour. I like going on tour but I think that there’s usually one or two shows that we all kind of try to watch together. So when we’re on tour, it’s usually Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones or whatever seems to be going on at that time that we all try to watch together and catch up on. There’s definitely been times when we have a drive day and we have chosen where to stay based on whether we could get there one time to watch Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. I feel it’s nice to have that kind of interaction…that super heavy involved with shows when you’re on tour for a really long time. It seems like that’s a good time. It’s a pretty deep distraction.

LF: How is your relationship with Modern Art Records? How have they helped you with this record? Have you had a lot of freedom to do essentially what you’ve wanted?

RS: It’s great. It’s been really nice so far. They do exactly what we had hoped a record label would be able to do for us. They give us the resources, budgets, and stuff to make music videos. We like to do it where we don’t ask for a ton of money but we also have complete creative control over it. That last music video, we made it here in Knoxville with our friends [“Better Run”]. We made an album and gave it to them. We made [a music video for “Octagon”] that’s going to be really awesome…and they just trust us. We don’t ask for a crazy amount of money. We just ask for enough to cover our own expenses and then we’ll do a good job, we’ll work hard and then everybody is going to be happy. So far it’s been working really well. I think it’s the best way that it can work at this point. You work with somebody that you trust and nobody goes crazy on spending half a million dollars on a music video and expect something insane to happen. I think with this kind of relationship, it’s much easier to be creative and do the things you actually want to do. So far it’s been great, it’s been really fun.

Introducing: Jonwayne

By Joshua Pickard; October 30, 2013 at 1:26 PM 

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There’s been an ongoing debate among many professionals and behavioral theorists regarding the effects of nature vs. nurture on the development of an individual.  Some agree that it’s a little bit of both, while others concentrate on one aspect over the other.  The same argument could be made for musicians.  What shapes an artist’s musical outlook more – the environment that they find themselves in or some instinctual sense of rhythmic composition?  Personally, I tend to lean more toward a composite view of these arguments, with experience telling me that it does tend to be both nature and nurture that influences a person’s musical growth – it’s inevitable really.  What we’re exposed to will always act as a guiding force on our lives.  

Los Angeles producer and MC Jonwayne would seem to be a perfect example of this duality of growth.  Coming up via East LA club Low End Theory, he rubbed elbows and shared musical growing pains with artists like Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, and Gaslamp Killer.  And it’s here that the nature vs. nurture aspect of his music starts to emerge.  There is a sense of musical exchange that can be heard across his various Cassette mixtapes and on Bowser (an instrumental album he released a few years ago) that speaks to the assimilation of communal influences, while also displaying an innate understanding of how music – and in particular, beats and electronic textures – can be combined.  It becomes even more apparent when you hear the music spread out across his latest release, Rap Album One – this time as a certified MC.

On Rap Album One, he grafts bits and pieces of his LA upbringing onto wildly euphoric beats and casts out wide nets of verbal viscosity that entangle and snare the listener.  There are nods to the work on his previous mixes, but RAO is an entirely new beast.  Detailing the often anesthetized viewpoint of life in a large city, Jonwayne’s utilization of a highly stylized braggadocio paints him as the last conscious soothsayer among the masses.  With only a single guest rhyme (from Scoop DeVille), you get the feeling that he wanted these tracks to feel particularly insular and sound like the frenzied examinations of a single hotwired brain feeding off a buffet of pop culture and ingrained musical instincts.

Blending an imaginative sense of what hip-hop can and should be with the typically off-kilter Stones Throw beat aesthetic, Jonwayne creates music that speaks to his formative musical upbringing while also drawing inspiration from the music and artists that he comes into contact with on a daily basis.  There are allusions to artists and music from the 70’s on up through the 00’s, but there is never a sense of creative obligation.  The kinetic beats and often labyrinthine rhythms that pop up on all of his releases only heighten the listener’s awareness that over the past few years Jonwayne has developed into a singularly gifted producer and a MC worthy of that title.  Recently, I was able to sit down and ask him a few questions about his upcoming debut for Stones Throw and how his professional relationship with label head leader Peanut Butter Wolf had come about.  We also discuss his recent tour with Mount Kimbie, as well as the future of any non-LP releases.  Check out my full interview with Jonwayne below.


Beats Per Minute (Joshua Pickard): There is usually a specific point in a musician’s life when they decide that all they want to do is make music. It’s often tied to a particular experience or even an album that feels attuned to their own circumstances. For you, was there a definite personal experience or a musical association that really solidified your decision to make music?

Jonwayne: I don’t think there was, and if there were then I have forgotten it. It was real gradual for me. Maybe it’s when I realized I COULDN’T do anything else.

BPM: Growing up together (musically speaking) with artists like The Gaslamp Killer, Flying Lotus, and Nosaj Thing must have made for a very chaotic environment. As you worked on your own music, did you ever bounce ideas or sounds off each other as a way of refining your own individual styles?

J: I think we all connected through Low End. We’d go and have a listen to what people were playing and what was going on and all those styles and experiences accumulated in our heads differently. Then we would go home and make new stuff to play out and the cycle started all over again.

BPM: As a producer, you released an instrumental album (Bowser) a few years ago, but it was Stones Throw honcho Peanut Butter Wolf who signed you to record an album as an MC. How did he initially contact you and what were the circumstances of that meeting?

J: He and Mayer Hawthorne saw me at a show in LA. They didn’t intend on seeing me, and I don’t think wolf had ever heard of me at that point. I think Mayer had. Wolf then asked for a demo and when he liked what he heard he brought me to the office where we discussed a possible 45 deal that eventually fizzled and became an artist deal.

BPM: As you were recording your MC debut, Rap Album One, for Stones Throw, there was a series of tapes that were released as a kind of primer to your previous work. Cassette,Cassette 2, and Cassette 3 were mixtapes culled from your prolific output at the time. Did you have a specific aim with these releases or was it simply an issue of getting as much music out to your fans as possible before your debut came out?

J: Cassette 1 was the only of these 3 that was born out of the concept, the other two came because I had content to release. Cassette 2 was from the early sessions of the album, and Cassette 3 was made months after the album was turned in.

BPM: With a title like Rap Album One, there’s a pretty good assumption that we’ll have more albums in this musical chronology. But was there a particular reason (besides the obvious debut aspect) that you chose to call your record Rap Album One—possibly an allusion to this being your first record as an MC?

J: Well…yeah, you hit the nail on the head. I want the releases I do from now on to have a catalog-esque feel. Organization is key.

BPM: You provided the bulk of the beats and rhymes for Rap Album One yourself, but you did get some studio help from producer Scoop DeVille. On those occasions, did he follow your lead with the tracks or did he play a more substantive role in their development?

J: Scoop had given me the beats to write to but that was the extent of his involvement of those songs. It was my album and he understood it was my vision and decided to trust me, which I thank him for doing. Even on the song he did a verse for I encouraged him to write about his youth regarding his place in hip-hop. HIs ability to be such a team player is what also makes him a great producer, and he’s able to take the directional reigns when he wants and does with a lot of our other collaborative work.

BPM: And because your music seems to draw on so many different influences, I’d like to ask about some of your favorite records. Were there any particular artists or records from which you drew specific inspiration?

J: For this album in particular? I had been drawn toward last decade’s Dre productions and how those albums are put together when he’s involved. Cannibal Ox, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead…a lot of progressive music.

BPM: You’re currently touring with electronic duo Mount Kimbie. How did you hook up with those guys? And what’s been the most memorable aspect of the tour so far?

J: I had just finished the other day. They expressed interest over Facebook and so did I. The next think I knew I was getting a call about opening up for them for their US dates. It was a wonderful experience. The friendship between all of us is what I’ll take away from the tour the most. All those guys are like brothers, now.

BPM: With your mixtapes getting so much love from fans and critics, would it be wrong to think that we might be seeing more of those after Rap Album One is released?

J: I’m not done with non-album format material, but future releases will take a different form. The cassette series is done.

Jonwayne’s MC debut, Rap Album One, is out now on Stones Throw Records. 

Introducing: River Tiber

By Rob Hakimian; September 16, 2013 at 12:00 PM 

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River Tiber is the moniker of young Canadian multi-instrumentalist Tommy Paxton-Beesley. Hailing from one of alt-music’s perennial hotspots of Toronto, Paxton-Beesley manages to combine both the Canadians’ penchant for melodic and atmospheric indie music and their more recent trend towards bassier and glitchier electronics, resulting in a sound that is instantly arresting and unique.

Although Toronto is surely one of the friendliest cities on the planet, it can also be cold, dark and lonely, and it’s in these spaces that River Tiber’s sound seems to lurk, ready to catch you unaware and haunt you with its beauty. Across glacial soundscapes that incorporate skittering drums, delicate chimes, and mists of beautiful electronic haze hovering in the middle-distance, Paxton-Beesley unfolds his soul in the most honest and rending vocals. Ranging from the simple and bare sing-speaking to soaring and soulful crooning, the emotional range he traverses is astounding in a similar way to fellow Canadian act Majical Cloudz.

The three songs released by River Tiber so far “What Are You Afraid Of,” “The City,” and “The Star Falls” are all distinct musical pieces but very much of-a-piece aesthetically and thematically, addressing Paxton-Beesley’s own inner turmoils and apparent shortcomings. “What Are You Afraid Of” and “The City” have videos that were shot and edited by Paxton-Beesley himself that perfectly capture the mood and style of the music, and speak to the completeness of the vision of River Tiber that he already has. Both videos can be watched below.

All three songs are taken from his debut album Synapses which will be released this Fall.

You can find River Tiber at his official site or on pretty much any of your social networks of choice:
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Soundcloud
Tumblr

“What Are You Afraid Of” video:

“The City” video:

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Introducing: Sarah Neufeld

By Joshua Pickard; August 16, 2013 at 10:47 AM 

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As a general rule, we tend to take backing musicians and session players for granted.  We have the tendency to focus on lead singers and charismatic stage performers, but those particular musicians tasked with creating and sustaining the body of the music are often relegated to backstage seating or the rare periphery acknowledgement.  Every so often though, there comes an artist who steps out of the musical shadow of the bands to which they have added so much character and rhythmic insight and releases music on par with anything by the artists with whom they’ve previously been associated.  It’s an unusual feat and one that never fails to amaze and impress.

Montreal’s Sarah Neufeld – member of, and composer for, bands such as Arcade Fire, Bell Orchestre, and Little Scream, among many others – was drawn into music at an early age and developed a particular affinity for the violin, which soon became her weapon of choice. Drawing inspiration from the great classical composers but also skewing toward the more avant spectrum of stringed arrangement, Neufeld counts Bela Bartok, Steve Reich, Iva Bittova, and Arthur Russell among her most dearly held influences.  And as Montreal has always been a birthing ground for remarkable musicians and bands, it didn’t take very long for her to find like-minded artists who were more than happy to join her in indulging in her musical sweet tooth.

The ideas that would form and coalesce into the sounds and textures of her upcoming debut record, Hero Brother (August 20th via Constellation Records), were initially shaped during her residency with Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre around 2011 – though the argument could be made that it began when she picked up her first violin. Beginning with compositions intended for solo violin and slowly unfurling them to include brief appearances from other instruments and rhythms, she toned down the grandiose indie rock aspects of Arcade Fire and melded them with the mostly formal orchestrations found in the work of Bell Orchestre.  And though her time in these bands do shape the way in which her new, solo songs develop, there is always something unique and surprising about the music that drifts capriciously throughout her debut.

Recently, Neufeld sat down with Beats Per Minute to discuss the recording of Hero Brother, how the musical community of Montreal has helped to provide a creatively conducive atmosphere for artists, and how she intends to replicate the sound of the songs on her debut in a live setting.  She’s quite forthcoming about her influences and even talks about recording the songs for Bell Orchestre’s debut in the loft of Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Regine Chassagne.  Check out our brief conversation with the extraordinary violinist below.


Beats Per Minute (Joshua Pickard): You’ve worked, and shared the stage, with many well-known Canadian artists such as Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre, and you’ll soon be sharing a stage with fellow Constellation Records label-mate Colin Stetson. Is there a particularly close knit feeling among the bands there in Montreal? Rebecca Foon (of Saltland, also on Constellation Records) made mention of an almost familial feeling to the music scene there.

Sarah Neufeld: There is a really lovely sense of community amongst musicians in Montreal. Richard Parry and I formed Bell Orchestre while studying music at Concordia. We rehearsed in Win and Regines loft; I began playing with Arcade Fire shortly thereafter. Rebecca Foon and I have been collaborating in one way or another for even longer. The past 15 years of my being a musician in Montreal has unfolded alongside many peers; different collaborations evolving at different times. It’s been inspiring and heart warming to be part of the growing community. I think its part of what makes us all survive The Winters.

BPM: Arthur Russell, Steve Reich, and Bela Bartok have all been mentioned when talking about the influences that you brought together for the recording of your debut record Hero Brother. When and how were you first exposed to these artists?

SN: I grew up playing a lot of Bartok, mainly duets with my mother. Bartok was a very formative composer for me- the harmonic and melodic landscape made total sense to me as a child and informed the way I improvised and later composed music. I’d connected with Reich’s music at a young age as well, also to that of Philip Glass. As I grew up, minimalist music began to feel like home; minimal techno became a huge staple for me as well. I remember feeling so touched, surprised and excited upon first hearing Arthur Russel in my twenties. It made me cheer for cello and dance music and improvisation and it made me want to make music like that!

BPM: Seeing as how you’ve spent years adding your own unique sound to other people’s songs, what finally made you decide that it was time for you to stand apart and release your own debut record?

SN: There’s been the idea to write solo violin music in the back of my head for some time. I love collaborating with people so much. And I hadn’t spent much in solitary composition mode since my early twenties, making electroacoustic-ified minimal techno for my arts degree. I knew I wanted to push myself alone, with my heart instrument in a way that I hadn’t yet fully. A couple of film makers asked me to write whatever form of composition I felt compelled to for their short films at around the same time. I took that as a cue from the universe to start working really hard on solo violin music. Then, after The Suburbs tour, I found myself alone in a room with a million tiny ideas.

BPM: Having heard the lead single (and title track) from Hero Brother, and hearing how dynamic the track sounds without feeling overly complicated—and with a seemingly bare minimum of moving parts—was there a conscious decision to keep the compositions on the record simple while still retaining an almost tangible sense of space and distance within the instrumentation? Or is this track possibly less indicative musically in regards to the rest of the album?

SN: No that’s it- I find it exciting to push a bare idea into all these different emotional worlds. Re-reading that sentence I realize that its often the bare idea that’s pushing me. But that retaining an amount of simplicity and then finding these vast colors of character and emotion is often a starting place for these compositions.

BPM: Were there any particular pointers or recording techniques that you picked up in your tenure recording with Arcade Fire or Bell Orchestre or any other bands which came into play during the recording of Hero Brother?

SN: The style of writing and playing I explored making Hero Brother is more linked to the work that Bell Orchestre was doing. That group created a forum for all of its voices to really explore their individual quirks and potential. It was a free for all in a lot of ways, but then we would painstakingly craft the chaos into thoroughly-composed band pieces. Its a similar process that I go through alone, but the line between my own musical chaos and the direction I choose to sculpt toward is a lot shorter and more clear cut.

BPM: You’re playing quite a few shows in the lead up to the album’s release. Are there any plans for trying to alter the songs for a live audience or are you going to stay fairly faithful to the studio versions?

SN: The recordings for the most part are quite live, with the exception of Nils Frahm treating one of them (“Forcelessness”) to his piano, and another (“Breathing Black Ground”) to a wonderful bass harmonium drone. We experimented a ton with a portable recording set-up (a tape machine from the 60’s called the Nagra 4) in spaces with extreme natural acoustics: a geodesic dome, a train station, and a parking garage. The ambient noise occupying much of the record, weaving in and out of the pieces, is the actual wind blowing through a hole in a concrete wall very high up in the air overlooking Berlin. It ends up sounding like the ocean. This effect I wish I could take with me, though some sort of portal would be needed.

Sarah Neufeld’s debut record, Hero Brother, is due out August 20th via Constellation Records. 

Introducing + Track Premiere: La Vega

By Joshua Pickard; August 1, 2013 at 11:43 AM 

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Despite moving inland from his coastal homeland in California, multi-instrumentalist Evan Magers is still inexorably attuned to his summer seaside party genetics.  Settling in Austin, TX, and pairing with guitarist/singer Daniel Vega – though the two were initially not looking to form a band – the surf-rock duo La Vega was born.  And beach or no beach, La Vega churns out chiming guitar riffs and 60’s-indebted harmonies that would make Frankie Avalon proud.  But far from being just another clump of surf detritus in the wake of bands like Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls, the band’s easygoing approach to their music never comes across as lazy or careless.  There is a ramshackle but resolute direction to their music that keeps it from shuddering apart under its own relaxed attitude.

Recently, we sat down with Evan to talk about the initial process of collaboration with Daniel and how that first meeting turned into something that neither of them had anticipated.  Bonding over The Beatles and a shared love of a wide variety of artists, La Vega became a way to express this communal appreciation of music with other people.  You can hear subtle – and not so subtle – threads of influence running throughout their music, but it never smacks of wholesale impersonation.  Vega and Magers have a clear idea of what their own musical tendencies are and feel the need to conform to a set of assumed stylized aesthetics.  And while La Vega trade in the same kind of nostalgia-tinged summer euphoria that their pop peers are happy to imitate, the songs on their upcoming debut record Wave never settle into any sort of  homogenous summer rut.

The band has also just released the latest single from Wave, which comes in the form of shimmering pop nugget “Jackie” – which you can stream below.  Digging into the recesses of their surf-pop aesthetic and coming away with something sugary and prone to start impromptu beach parties, “Jackie” successfully triggers that innate summer longing that lodges itself in the back of your mind.  Twisting strands of sparkling guitars and laid-back percussion with vocals that are reminiscent of the laid-back beach pop of the 50’s and 60’s, the band fully embraces their pop lineage without succumbing to its occasionally disposable tendencies.  Beats Per Minute is pleased to premiere this latest track from the surf-rock duo.  Tune in below the stream for our full conversation with Evan from La Vega.


Beats Per Minute (Joshua Pickard): I know that La Vega was somewhat of a happy accident, with Daniel Vega approaching you initially to only produce some songs that he had written. Tell me a bit about how did those early sessions go? Did you both fall into a communal musical mindset fairly quickly, or did it take some time before you synced up musically with each other?

Evan Magers (La Vega): It felt like kismet, really. That transition, from what we thought we were getting together to do to what we ended up doing, was almost unspoken. It just sort of happened, and we both just let it happen, hopped in the boat and let it carry us down river, with hardly any discussion or deliberation or forethought. Daniel didn’t have any actual songs when he came to me; he had two or three guitar riffs and an idea for a hook (the fifth song on our album, called “Slow Down”), but more importantly he had a broad concept for this hypothetical EP he wanted to explore making together.

At the time I was playing keys in Wild Child and producing other music on the side, but what I really wanted, deep down, was to find the right outlet for my own songwriting. I was writing a lot of stuff, I’ve always been really prolific as a writer, but the music I was making then was kind of all over the place, unfocused. The self-imposed constraints of Daniel’s general concept–all analog, basically, music that could have been made before synthesizers and digital production and so forth came into the fold–turned out to be just the thing I needed to find my focus. For me as a writer, I found those limitations to be paradoxically incredibly liberating. The opposite of the idea of option paralysis.

So basically he came over to my home studio one afternoon, showed me these couple ideas he had, we recorded them and then he left, and within a few hours I’d teased out one of those ideas into our first song, all multi-tracked and fully written, sort of defining what our sound and basic instrumentation would be, and that was pretty much that. Then we were off to the races. It was a totally frictionless transition.

BPM: Were there any particular artists (older or more recent) that you both felt a kindred spirit with during the recording of Wave? Were there any specific albums making the rounds in the studio during those sessions?

EM: Man, I know it’s a boring answer, but our bond really formed over the Beatles. They’ve been a huge touchstone from the beginning, and one we’ve returned to along every step of the process of writing and recording and mixing our first album. I guess if you’re gonna look to somebody for inspiration, you might as well look to the best.

BPM: The songs on Wave practically bleed the idea of “Summer.” Were there any circumstances or influences that led you and Daniel to adopt this aesthetic?

EM: I actually think of Wave as being more about nostalgia for the summer than about summer itself. It feels really appropriate to me that we’re putting it out in August. Summer, the beach, that whole motif–it’s more a metaphor than anything else. There’s vivid imagery inherent in it, and the feelings associated with it, of youth and freedom and possibility, are resonant fairly universally, at least with everybody who grew up in the States. No matter how old you are, if you think about summer there’s almost surely some specific poignancy to the memories that it calls to mind.

Speaking of the States, we also wanted Wave to be a distinctly American record, reminiscent of the brand of simple, optimistic patriotism you sense from baby boomer era movies and books and post-war American culture in general. Before being quote-unquote proud to be an American became as complicated a notion as it is today.

BPM: Whenever an album is described as summer-y, there are often common thematic elements binding the tracks together: love lost and gained, nostalgia, and the unsuccessful (and occasionally effective) methods of getting laid. Were there any specific instances in your past that fed into Wave’s summer-themed narrative?

EM: Well, the entire album is essentially about one thing, one relationship with one very special, very complicated girl. The failure and dissolution of that relationship, more specifically. Summer, as I said, is a metaphor for the better days, you know, before the leaves of that love began to fall.

BPM: The term “surf-rock” has been thrown around in describing La Vega’s sound, but given that your hometown of Austin, TX is landlocked and beach-less, how did you go about interpreting those genre archetypes on the record?

EM: I’m not from Texas–I moved there from California only two years ago. That coastal culture is definitely a big part of me still, and I’m sure always will be. It’s not something you just shake off when you leave a place, especially a place with so much character, and no doubt the time I spent there informs a lot of my instincts as a songwriter.

BPM: Lastly, and if you can think of anything in particular, describe the wildest show that the band has ever played?

EM: We could both answer that in regard to other bands we’ve played in. But La Vega has never played a show. On the album, Daniel played the drums, and I did pretty much everything else. We’re in the middle now of putting the rest of the live band together and preparing to tour. So, um, ask us that question again in a few months?

La Vega’s debut album Wave is due out August 13th via Major Nation records.

Introducing: Free Time

By Joshua Pickard; July 19, 2013 at 12:01 PM 

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Brooklyn jangle rock outfit Free Time know their way around a good melody. They are also keenly aware of their own place within indie rock’s long and storied history–specifically the jangle rock heyday (or years) of the late 80’s and early 90’s. And even though the band was only formed in the summer of 2012, their roots reach all the way back to those golden years of shimmering guitars and brilliant, poptastic melodies. Originally consisting of only Melbourne singer/songwriter Dion Nania, it took a trip to New York City in 2011 for the idea of Free Time to coalesce and for him to meet the people who would eventually fill out the ranks of the band.

After first landing in New York, Nania spent his initial few months kicking around New York playing guitar with fellow Melbourne transplants Scott and Charlene’s Wedding and with eventual Underwater Peoples label-mates The Twerps. Building a considerable reputation for his guitar chops, he soon came to the attention of bassist Adrienne Humblet, guitarist Jonah Maurer, and drummer Michael Mimoun—though not necessarily in that order. The four soon found that they shared a communal sense of what kind of music they wanted to make, and they soon began playing and recording together, resulting in the formation of Free Time. Prior to the band’s official creation however, Nania had already been writing songs with the intent of gathering together musicians to perform them, and so these early songs became the basis for what would eventually be shaped into the band’s debut record.

We recently spoke with Nania about the band’s inception, along with the details of his preliminary trip from Melbourne to New York and how the band came to release their debut on Underwater Peoples. He also talked about some of the records that were circulating through his own collection during the recording of the band’s debut, while also touching briefly upon his previous groups, including his high school band, Golden Lifestyle Band, and later on, his time in Panel of Judges. Read our full conversation with the Free Time singer/guitarist below.


Beats Per Minute (Joshua Pickard): You moved to New York from Melbourne a few years ago and played guitar for bands like Scott and Charlene’s Wedding and The Twerps. When you started writing the songs that would eventually form the basis of Free Time’s debut, did you take anything particular from your time playing in these other bands?

Dion Nania: Yeah I’d say so. With S&CW I was playing lead guitar all the time, which I’d hardly done before and I got a huge kick out of that and so was more inclined to work in lead break parts for myself for the Free Time songs. With Twerps, not so much. I was playing (great) pre-written bass lines, though I got to see that touring around the USA is fun, and got to know Free Time guitarist Jonah since we were touring with his other band.

BPM: You had spent some time playing with Panel of Judges and Golden Lifestyle Band in Melbourne. But after leaving those bands, what led to your decision to move to New York?

DN: GLB is from way back, started that with pals in high school. Panel sort of came to a natural break point since the other songwriter in that, Alison Bolger, had twin girls. So we launched Panel’s 4th album just in Melbourne and Sydney, with Al super pregnant. Then I headed to NYC mostly because my girlfriend had just moved there to work for Jeff Koons, but also because I was keen to see what it was like.

BPM: When you were looking for people to join you in Free Time, what were the circumstances that led to your finding and recruiting Adrienne Humblet on bass, Jonah Maurer on guitar, and Michael Mimoun on drums?

DN: I’d already been playing with Mike Mimoun in S&CW, then toured with Jonah and had met Adrienne, and I’d grown fond of all of them so I thought it would be fun to have a band with them.

BPM: You and the band recorded most of the album the day before you headed back to Melbourne to mix it. Did this compressed recording schedule affect the way the songs developed?

DN: A bit, since the other three weren’t around to make calls on the mix all the way through for that batch, but then there were three more songs which were recorded and mixed here in New York. The thing is it’s not like we would have spent heaps more time recording even if I didn’t pop back to Australia at that point because we didn’t really have more money to spend.

BPM: Your debut album was released very recently on Underwater Peoples. How did you first come in contact with them, and what led to the decision to let them release the record?

DN: I guess I first became aware of them back home via them doing Twerps, then through playing with Mike and meeting Ari and so on. It wasn’t like we had a record to shop around, I think it was more like they asked and I was like, “are you kidding? Of course! I’d love to!” and then I thought, “ok, better make a record!”

BPM: What were some of the records that you were listening to before or during the recording of your debut that might have influenced the record’s sound? For that matter, what were some of the albums that pushed you—maybe when you were younger—into deciding that you wanted to make music yourself?

DN: I remember the day we recorded “It’s Alright” I was like, “ok, I want you guys to hear the Reels (Australian band from the 80s who I love),” but maybe it’s a stretch to suggest that that had any reel impact (pun intended). In terms of early inspiration, maybe the indie bands I listened to in high school like Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth and Pavement, then after that The Clean and the NZ stuff, and so on and so on. I think that loving bands is one thing, but coming up around people that show how it is doable and fun was important too…

Free Time’s self-titled debut LP is out now on Underwater Peoples.

Introducing: Young Fathers

By Joshua Pickard; June 7, 2013 at 4:43 PM 

Young Fathers

A group of three lifelong friends who grew up together in Edinburgh, Scotland, Young Fathers (aka Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and “G” Hastings) make music that reflects the world around them—dark corners where light struggles to exist, hard truths afraid to be faced, and desperately intimate narratives. But far from feeling completely hopeless, all these thematic threads are framed through an unexpectedly boundless sense of inspired creation. Jumping genres with the enthusiasm of young kids playing cops and robbers in their backyard, Young Fathers switch between rhythms and sounds at a moment’s notice—oftentimes within the same song. This dedication to innovation allows them the opportunity to follow their unbridled creativity without pause or interference. Drawing influence from traditional African music as much as they do modern electronic and R&B genres, their songs feel inclusive but aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with someone who challenges them.

They self-released their debut record Tape One in November of 2011, but Anticon Records—seeing and hearing the amazing musical aptitude of these guys—picked it up and re-released it in January of this year. Their second album Tape Two will see release on June 11th on Anticon as well. Favorable comparisons have already been made to like-minded and innovative groups such as Shabazz Palaces and TV On The Radio. But Young Fathers are not merely the sum of their admittedly varied influences. Displaying a preternatural ability to combine and re-contextualize sounds and genres, they have developed a fantastic ability to quickly and seamlessly meld disparate influences into something unique and wholly their own. And from directing their own videos to throwing their own shows and even making their own posters, the group infuses the spirit of DIY punk into everything they do.

We recently spoke with G about Tape One and Tape Two and how the familiarity between the members of Young Fathers helps to shape the direction and approach of their music. We also talk about the thematic connections between these two records and how the recording process is less about rigid structure and more about instinctual response. And in going against the accepted practice, don’t expect them to bring on guests any time soon. According to G, Young Fathers is and will continue to be three friends who have a communal love of music, and they are all that you need. Check out our full conversation below.


Beats Per Minute (Joshua Pickard): I know that you’ve been making music together since you were all 14, but did your individual musical tendencies initially line up or was there a period of time before that group dynamic developed–even when you were that young?

Young Fathers (G): We line up enough for this to be something, we love each other. We met 11 years ago and we’re still the same boys. We can put each other outside our comforts as part of the process cos we know we’ll get something special out of it. Its good to feel uncomfortable. We dealt with wrong people for a long time. Holding us back. Outside voices became quiet the week we did Tape One. Tim told us to get in the basement with no hesitations and we let the demons go.

BPM: And speaking of your influences, what kind of music did you all listen to growing up? Were there any particular artists that you can point to in regards to the development of Young Fathers’ sound?

G: Influences are destroyed and put together again. Bent outta shape just how we like. We take it too far away from anything direct, naturally. Its gotta be us all over every song. We got too too many ideas.

BPM: Now Tape One was originally independently released in November of 2011. And then it was picked up by Anticon and released in January of this year. Were there any changes made to the tracks in the interim? Or were there any changes that you wish you could have made?

G: Nothing changed. Wouldn’t dream of touching it. Tape One means more to us than you know. Going back over things is the opposite of how we work. Bang it out and move on then decide what it is, or don’t.

BPM: When did Anticon come into the picture for Young Fathers? What led to your decision to release music for them?

G: Early 2012 was when we first spoke. Emails then skype with Shaun. He understands YF, he understands we have a fascination with the almost state run pop machine business along with our loves of hooks, but also that its not straight. We liked that they were American too, Jimmy Page said something about kicking Americas door in when it comes a knockin’.

BPM: With Anticon’s re-release of Tape One done, you’re now getting ready to drop its sequel Tape Two in June. Naming them sequentially would make it appear as though the two albums are related in some way. Is there any connective tissue between these two records?

G: Recorded a month apart. What was going on with us was still the same but where Tape One is a blowout, Tape Two is us learning to be free. The way we work we dont know what it is til we stop and listen back to everything. Its instinctual so you can’t be influenced to do the same thing twice.

BPM: The songs on Tape Two seem to skip across genres without even noticing the borders. Was this a natural result of your combined influences or was it a conscious effort of wanting to incorporate various aspects of different genres into your songs?

G: Its never conscious. We’ve always sounded like nothing else. Knowing ur genre before creation is a sin for YF. Honestly couldn’t think of anything worse.

BPM: Given the collaborative nature of Young Fathers, is there any artist with whom you haven’t worked that you would like to if given the chance?

G: No. All you need to hear is us.

Young Fathers’ upcoming record Tape Two is due out June 11th via Anticon Records. 

Introducing: Saltland

By Joshua Pickard; April 23, 2013 at 10:24 AM 

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Having spent time as a member of A Silver Mt. Zion, modern chamber group Esmerine, and Set Fire To Flames, Rebecca Foon has been no stranger to the more experimental and loosely constructed aspects of instrumental music.  But it wasn’t until 2010 that she began to write solo material with a view toward recording it herself.  Blending together the aesthetics of dream pop, no wave, and classical improvisation, this solo material would eventually form the basis of her debut record as Saltland.  Titled I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us, the album is set to be released on May 14th via Constellation Records.

Bringing along Jamie Thompson (Esmerine, Unicorns) on percussion and programming and a host of former band-mates and close friends, Saltland definitely feels like the work of a closely-knit group of individuals (as it is), but it also shows the steady hand of Foon standing firmly at the controls.  To assist with the production duties, she also brought on producer and engineer Mark Lawson (Arcade Fire), who helped to shape and mold the sound of Saltland alongside her.  Combining cello loops and ambient textures, along with aspects of intimate folk and dream pop, this album stands as a testament to the cohesion of disparate influences.

We recently spoke with Foon about her experiences writing and recording the material on I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us and how it was extremely important to her that she had her friends to help out with the studio sessions. We also talk about the intrinsic musical nature of Saltland in relation to the other bands in which she has been a member, either currently or at some point in the past. Read below for our full conversation.


Beats Per Minute (Joshua Pickard): As a member of A Silver Mt. Zion and chamber group Esmerine, did you find that your experiences in those bands helped to influence the direction of the music on your debut as Saltland?

Rebecca Foon: Definitely. Playing in Silver Mt. Zion and Esmerine has deeply shaped my approach to music. Esmerine was born out of a desire to explore more acoustic sounds built around the cello and marimba to create a sort of modern chamber music indebted to the emotive melodic lyricism of indie rock on the one hand and to a more rigorous Minimalism/repetition on the other (both influences being a big part of Mt Zion too, but in a more ragged, punk-rock way). Saltland emerged out of my desire to push my own musical boundaries and try something I had never really tried before: writing songs for cello that I would also write words for and take the lead in singing over. I also wanted to explore processed cello, looping and electronics in a more focused and compositional way – things I’d played around with in various capacities, but only casually or in one-off projects. Collaborating with Jamie Thompson has been awesome – he processes my cello sound live, in real time, and transforms it into electronic textures and beats (alongside his own sampling and live percussion as well).

BPM: What was it about these songs-those which would eventually coalesce into your debut I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us-that made you decide that a new moniker was needed? What set them apart from your work in any of your previous bands?

RF: Saltland is a very personal/intimate project. I wrote all the songs in a cabin in Banff during the winter of 2011 – I pretty much just locked myself up there until I felt like I had a framework for a record. It’s the first time I’ve written lyrics and sung like this before. When I first started performing this music, it was billed under my own name. But I wanted the project to have its own identity and a name that evoked the sonic atmospheres and lyrical themes I’m interested in channeling. Also the music has developed with Jamie (and with Mark Lawson as co-producer in the studio, where the material also really evolved) such that I didn’t necessarily want it perceived as my “solo” work – even if I remain the main composer.

BPM: You’ve brought along a fairly sizeable cross-section of Canadian artists to help round out the record, including fellow Constellation Records label-mate Colin Stetson, Laurel Sprengelmeyer and Jess Robertson of Little Scream, and Sarah Neufield and Richard Reed Perry who’ve both had tenure in Arcade Fire. Were these artists that you’d played with previously and had maintained a working relationship or simply musicians with whom you’ve just wanted to work, but never had the chance until now?

RF: This album is very personal, and the initial process of writing was very solitary and isolated, but I wanted to move out of that isolation to record the material. I wanted to bring in people that I have worked with in the past that are very close to my heart. Everyone that plays on the record is a close friend and has been hugely supportive of the whole process. Mark Lawson produced the record – he has been so incredible and artistically generous to work with – and he had a significant impact on the overall aethetic/sound of the record.

BPM: I Thought It was Us But It Was All Of Us establishes a strong and very personal musical identity fairly quickly. How would you compare the recording of these songs to those in A Silver Mt. Zion or Esmerine?

RF:I think some of the themes addressed on I Thought It was Us But It Was All Of Us touch on similar themes that have surfaced on the SMZ records – and on the Esmerine records too, even though these have been primarily instrumental albums. But I think when you say Saltland has a personal musical identity – that’s obviously what differentiates it from SMZ and Esmerine, as both those bands make a much more “collective” sound that is truly the sum (or greater than the sum, hopefully!) if its parts/members. Saltland strips that away (even though many people contributed layers of textures) and I was certainly trying to keep the record very intimate at its core.

BPM: The songs on this record seem to revel in the evocation of tangible places. Each song seems to unfold into a vast landscape of dust-covered hills and barren horizons-all encased in a gauzy analog haze. Was this a conscious effort on your part to make each song seem to be continually in motion, moving outward toward the listener?

RF: This was partly a conscious effort and partly happened organically – because all of the songs were built from cello loops. The record weaves through a lot of themes related to urban landscapes too – urban poverty and youth homelessness, which was a major horizon for me growing up in a pretty gritty part of East Vancouver in the 1980s and 1990s; urban sustainability and environmental issues, which is a big part of the work I do outside of music; urban policing and the control/criminalisation of protest and political action, which is a huge issue in general and particularly in Montreal these days – so I was trying to create a sonic landscape that could allow me to tackle these themes. I don’t consider the music to be reductively dark and cold, I was really seeking to hold a lot of different tones and feelings in tension: clear-eyed observation, reverie, meditation, activism/agency – and hope and warmth too. It’s not a pretty world these days, but I wanted to also leave the listener with a sense of hope.

BPM: The record comes out on May 14th through Constellation Records. Will we be seeing any sort of touring in support of the record? Who would you like to take out on the road with you?

RF: Yes – Jamie Thompson (Esmerine, Unicorns, Islands) will be playing drums and doing live processing and Aaron Lumley will be playing double bass. We have some dates booked in May and June, mostly in Canada for now, and for a few of those shows I’ll also be playing solo, opening for Moonface (including New York).

Saltland’s I Thought It was Us But It Was All Of Us is due out May 14th via Constellation Records.

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