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Category Archives: Interview

[interview] Dan from Joywave

joywave-sxsw 

A few weeks ago my inbox revealed a PR email that proved, at least initially, mildly surprising. In short time however, it made complete sense. I receive a good deal of email from this particular agency, so it wasn’t that I received written relations of a public nature from them, but rather that its subject happened to be Rochester’s own Joywave. A band with whom, as you should probably know if you’ve visited this site before or happen to be fans of the band themselves, we have a shared history. We collaborated on releasing a 7″ vinyl single a few years back, one which you may still purchase here. We happen to live in the same town, so our paths have crossed many times in the interim, though with less frequency as of late. The PR email made sense when considering the band’s upward trajectory (major PR firm/cross country tour) – inverse to that of our now twice halted blog – but as ever, we remain invested in their future and hope to continue to lend a hand as best we can with our limited influence. As such, I sent mustachioed front-man Dan a few brief questions about the contents of that email as well as other band happenings, and he was kind enough to respond.

It has been a while since we (personally) have gotten any official updates on the world of Joywave. What projects have you been working on individually and as a band in the last year or so?
Writing and recording has taken up most of our time this past year. We started working on our full length in the fall, and 4 of the songs from that will be coming out March 11th on our new EP. I spent quite a bit of time working on a project called “Big Data” with my friend Alan Wilkis as well.

Give us a primer on Big Data. How do you separate the projects? Do you approach writing lyrics differently?
Totally different. Big Data is very much social commentary on the digital age, and I try to keep everything with Joywave personal and real. It’s pretty easy for me to keep them separate in my head.

You were just in California, you’re headed to Texas for SXSW next week, and in April you’re headed out West again sharing some dates with RAC. Is more touring a goal moving forward?
I think we’ll take some time off to finish the record after the April dates, but hopefully we’re touring a lot once that’s wrapped up.

How did you get set up with RAC? Are there other bands you’d like to tour with?
Andre (RAC) did a remix of our song, “Tongues”, and asked me to do it live with them late last year at Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall of Williamsburg. We met there and he was nice enough to ask us to join them for the West Coast leg of their tour.

The band seems to write songs that are eminently remix-able, and you’ve also contributed some excellent reworks of other band’s music. How do you feel about remixes in general? What role do they serve for you when being remixed, as opposed to doing the remixing?
It’s always interesting to hear someone else’s take on your song. We just got in a really cool “Tongues” one that hopefully the world will hear soon. Sean does all the remixes for us, but it’s usually a good way to experiment with new techniques and different genres. We don’t ever feel like we have to turn someone else’s song into a Joywave song.

Recently, we talked briefly on twitter about bands ‘making’ it. You said that 2014 was going to be a good year. Where do you see yourselves heading in 2014 and beyond?
The top. Kidding. That’s always a subjective thing. Hopefully we have a record out by the end of the year and get to experience some new places/things.

Despite our hard hitting questions lending no real new insights into the Joyworld, regardless, it’s good to keep up with the band’s happenings. Presently down in Austin initiating their world takeover, there are a number of dates over the next few days that you can catch if you happen to be attending SXSW. If not, at least sample new EP How Do You Feel? below, and hope they make a stop in your neck of the woods sometime in the near future.

[interview] Spanish Prisoners

Months ago, when I first found the band and began swooning over their music, frontman Leo Maymind of Spanish Prisoners sent me an email. Since that time we’ve been talking back and forth about a show in Rochester, world peace, and a potential interview. With that formerly hypothetical show turning to reality this evening, I figured it was about time to move on the interview as well. In typical fashion, I procrastinated and just got these few questions to him at the last minute. I tried to keep it brief since they are on the road with spotty internet service, but ever the sport, Leo sent over his answers. Here they are.

I’ve read a little bit about the formation of the band, but could give us the brief version of the Spanish Prisoners origin story?

I started the band a while ago, around 2008, as a bedroom recording project. I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to try out and I knew nothing about recording. It was impetus to learn some software I had and try to figure things out on my own. I also played some solo shows and a few shows with friends of mine, but nothing really too solidified.

[mp3] Spanish Prisoners // November Third

Your first record Songs to Forget came out several years ago, how has the band and your sound changed leading up to Gold Fools?

The band has changed pretty dramatically- now its a consistent four piece that has been together for almost three years. It took us a while to figure out our individual roles and how to play to our strengths. Our drummer Mike was initially the bass player, and our bassist James was playing second guitar. We shuffled things around a bit till we landed on this particular configuration. The recording stretched over two years and the band was evolving that whole time.

You’re coming towards the end of a fairly lengthy tour in support of Gold Fools, is this the first tour like this you have embarked upon? Is this something you would like to do more of, or is there another direction you’re leaning towards with the band?

This is the first tour we’ve done. It’s been really rewarding so far and its been great to meet new people in every city. It has been fairly lengthy though, and unfortunately we’ve all gotten sick at various points throughout the tour, which has made things slightly harder. Overall though I think we’re really enjoying it. It’s a totally different experience playing to people in Arkansas than it is playing in New York. I think you can gauge people’s reactions much more naturally.

What are your plans for the near and distant future?

We definitely have more touring on our agenda, but we are also going to try to work on a new record when we get back to Brooklyn. We have about half of it written and I think that is the most pressing thing right now, as it’s been a while since we’ve really been able to be creative and write. We will probably try to do another tour of some sorts in summer. And I know I’m gonna be drinking a lot of iced coffee. That is my top priority.

If you live in Rochester, it would be a shame for you to miss the opportunity to catch this supremely talented band at Bug Jar, and to repay them for all the free music they’ve given us. Andy and I will both be there, and so should you be.

[interview/mp3] Woodsman

Woodsman

Woodsman has been one of the most intriguing and hard-working bands of 2011. The psychedelic quartet released a full-length album back in January (Rare Forms) and an EP (Mystic Places) on October 25. The best part about the band’s music is that you never know what you’re going to get, whether live or on wax. Improvisation is important to the band, allowing them to take a malleable, shape-shifting form that never seems to sound the same twice.

We were fortunate to catch Woodsman at NxNE back in June and they were easily one of my favorite performances the weekend. They’ve toured relentlessly throughout the year, supporting their studio material and introducing new audiences to their unique brand of seamless psychedelic rock that’s focused on experimentation and pushing musical boundaries. The band was kind enough to take some time out of their busy schedules to answer some of my questions that hopefully shed some new light on this talented, mind-bending group of musicians. They talk about their writing styles, origins, influences, and how Mystic Places on vinyl is a different experience than the digital version:

Can you provide some background on Woodsman? How did the band come into existence?

Trevor: Eston and I grew up making music together in various formations. In 2006 or so, I had just moved to Denver from a small mountain town called Frisco and Eston was living in Minneapolis. We started working on this little seven-song EP that was comprised mostly of ambient guitar work, minimal drums and field recordings. Meanwhile, Mark and Dylan were playing together in a two-piece themselves. We finished that EP and called it Woodsman right around that time I met Mark at art/film school and showed them the tunes. A couple months later Eston moved to Denver and the four of us started playing a bit. Then Eston and I booked a show with the intention of playing it as a two-piece but last minute asked Dylan and Mark to join. Since we didn’t really have any material together at the time we were playing 40-minute improv sets pretty much with no breaks in sound.

After a couple months and only about 5 proper shows under our belt, I decided it’d be fun to try and book a tour and see what that world was like. At the time we were running a small DIY space with our painter friend Greg Tait called, “The Imperial Shithole” and were booking bands etc., which made the idea of touring and booking ourselves seem like a real possibility. After we got back from that tour the four of us went up to a cabin in Evergreen, Colorado and recorded live for three days straight. Those sessions would later be broken down into what is now Collages our first record. I sent it out to Mexican Summer and they seemed pretty stoked and agreed to do a limited vinyl release. Up to that point we had made one EP called Humdrum and I guess around that time we decided making more records seemed like something we’d all be doing anyway so we decided to keep going as the four-piece.

Woodsman // In Circles [mp3] from Mystic Places

Having two percussionists is kind of a rarity is the scene. Why did you guys decide to go heavy on the drums?

Dylan: We didn’t start out thinking that we should have two drummers. That’s just the way things worked out. Our band formed by combining two pre-existing drum/guitar duos, Trevor and Eston, and Mark and myself. Our band formed through the four of us getting together to try something new. Two drummers and two guitar players was simply what we had to work with from the beginning and it seemed to work well with the improvisational nature of the music we were playing.

One characteristic of Woodsman is that the band never seems to stay in one place stylistically. With the band’s new EP, Mystic Places, there’s similarities to Rare Forms, but overall it feels much different —more structure to the songs when compared to previous releases. What was the reasoning behind this? Why the change, or to put it more appropriately, the evolution?

Mark: Rare Forms was recorded over a period of time when we felt like going out on a limb to push our comfort zone, try new directions to create some room for experimentation. When we took it out on the road, overtime the songs became more natural. Our new EP, Mystic Places, was created from that experience. We toured a ton, and over those six months or so recorded in segments. It helped us capture that live feeling we had on the road–the chemistry we created over that time. Moving stylistically is something that just happens.

Dylan: Evolution is a necessity for any band. Unless you’re making a conscious effort to stay the same, your sound is going to evolve. I remember thinking before starting this record that we wanted to try to get back to a darker atmosphere that we felt was lacking on Mystic Places but that we had been touching on consistently during our live sets leading up to making the record. There are a lot of ideas floating around in Woodsman; there’s not one person in charge of making the decisions or writing the songs. It’s very much a product of the four of us. That being said, there are a lot of directions we are capable of taking our sound. As far as structuring goes, I guess we have realized that its more challenging to keep songs short and succinct when recording, and that the record flows a little better when this is accomplished. Rather than putting all the improvisational stuff on the record now, we chip away at jams until we glean out an idea that we can turn into a song. However, our live sets still contain a good bit of experimentation.

Woodsman has a strong experimental, improvisational feel that makes it seem difficult to create cohesive songs. Can you describe Woodsman’s writing style? Is it more of a free flow of ideas where you guys jam, see what develops, and then pull from that material? Or are the songs written in a more traditional fashion?

Mark: This EP especially uses many different writing styles. We often record long sections and mine for gems, but I think that was one song on Mystic Places. Sometimes it’s a melody written first, sometimes it comes last and sometimes we have to write in a practical sense, like write a song in your bedroom and e-mail it, or we only have this many microphones so record it like this. Everyone writes their own part and the song often forms by whose idea is played first. I’m not sure of any of us have ever even thought to entertain the verse chorus verse style.

The band lists experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage as a major influence. Being unfamiliar with his work, what characteristics from his films make their way into Woodsman’s music?

Mark: Brakhage was a visionary. He pushed boundaries of perception. Every time I experience his work I think what would these pictures sound like. He experimented with film in a way that broke the language and expectation of the art form. His process, and ideas inspire the feeling of a hidden world or a world beyond what can be seen. I’ve always felt like that world can be heard as well. Sound can lure you to an unknown place. Brakhage had a much better knack for explaining these concepts:

“Imagine an eye unruled by man made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life by an adventure of perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of “Green?” – Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on Vision 

Woodsman // Specdrum [mp3] from Mystic Places

One thing I love about your live shows, based on what I saw at NxNE, is that the songs are strung together seamlessly so there’s really never a break in the set. How would you describe your live performances? How have the Mystic Places songs been fitting into this structure?

Dylan: We figured out a long time ago that the most interesting moments in our set happen between songs when we try to figure out how to transition from one song to the next. These are the areas that allow us to be the most creative. To have a musical discussion, if you will. It’s also about keeping the energy level up and holding the audience’s attention. Breaks between songs give people the chance to lose focus, start talking, go take a piss, get a beer etc. Our sets are meant to contain a continuity. It’s the same with a good movie or record, you have to experience it in its entirety to get the full effect.

Trevor: When laying out the structure for this record it was a conscious exercise in dissecting those in between moments and laying them down in a recording. From the way we approached building each song at a time and especially the way the record was mastered. If you listen to the digital version it might seem a little weird because all the songs were faded in and out of each other so that on vinyl there would be no breaks. Digitally it just sounds like abrupt stops between tracks but in our minds the record was designed to be heard on a turntable anyway.

Where’s a lot of your inspiration coming from these days? Besides being heavily influenced by a filmmaker, are there any musicians, or other artists outside of the music world, that move you guys to write?

Trevor: We’re always sharing ideas we’ve taken in from other artists. Because we’ve been traveling so much we all have been afforded more time to read and I think that ideas from authors like Philip K Dick, Alan Watts, Terrence McKenna and other outsider thinkers have always influenced the mood in our music. We’ve also recently relocated to New York City, so I think for future compositions that’s going to play a large part in what comes next.

Mark: We each have our favorites in terms of music, but we’ve always had common ground with kraut rock. Also jammed a lot of Sonic Boom’s material on our last tour and got to see Spectrum live. Seeing so much live music is a huge inspiration, but we take a lot of inspiration from the places we’ve been and the experiences we’ve had on the road. Seeing the whole country numerous times in a year you tend to learn a lot from people you would otherwise never run into. I have heard sounds I didn’t know existed. I personally have a hard time making a distinction of what influences end up in our music.

Dylan: We have always been largely influenced by landscape; our surroundings tend to have an impact on the sounds we make. This idea is how the name Woodsman came about. Living in and around the mountains in Colorado, we spent a lot of time in nature, and even recorded our first record in a cabin in the mountains. As of recently, we are all residing in Brooklyn, so it will be interesting to see what effect living in a city has on what we play.

2011 has been a big year for Woodsman with the release of Rare Forms and now the Mystic Places EP. What were the big highlights from the year? Any lessons learned from the recording and touring that you’d like to take in to 2012?

Mark: Psych Fest was a great time. And seeing Swans live will change a man. In terms of lessons learned: Don’t tour with a cracked muffler leaking carbon monoxide. It slowly poisons you.

Dylan: We toured more this year than any previous year, which we love to do. It’s always a highlight seeing new places for the first time, including Toronto for NxNe. All of the festivals we did this year were amazing including SxSw, the Austin Psych Fest, Hopscotch in Raleigh, NC, and Boomslang in Lexington, Ky. Touring is always a learning experience, in so many ways its difficult to articulate, but we are excited to keep doing it and hopefully take it to farther away places.

Trevor: The carbon monoxide thing is real, for sure. I think that being on the road is beneficial in so many ways, not just musically. I guess the biggest thing is to never feel satisfied and constantly keep moving forward.

Connect with Woodsman // Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr

[mp3] Secret Cities // NxNE

As I wrote in the post about Tape Deck Mountain, concert goers always experience scheduling conflicts at the big music festivals. Intense festivals such as NxNE can have as many as 25 bands playing at the same time, so there’s bound to be at least two artists playing during a given time-slot that you want to catch. But without the correct formula for time travel, you’re out of luck. Unfortunately, this was the case for me and my mission to try and catch Secret Cities’ sets over the NxNE weekend. Things didn’t pan out and now the more I listen to their 2011 sophomore album, Strange Hearts, the more I regret not catching them. Luckily, I was able to sit down with them for a little bit at Wrongbar to discuss the new album, their current tour, biggest influences, and their unique songwriting process.

The name Secret Cities fits perfectly with these musicians. The band is an anomaly of sorts when compared to the practice schedules and writing styles of a majority of other bands. Fargo, ND and Kansas City are Secret Cities’ two hometowns, but the band really only gets together when it hits the road for long stretches. The formation began on an Elephant Six message board when guitarist Charlie started speaking with drummer Alex and decided that it would be best to start recording some pop songs. MJ (vocals, piano) joined the mix as a good friend of Charlie’s, and thus began the creation of the penpal pop band. Sure, Postal Service may be the best known for this writing M.O., but that was a duo. Adding more minds and opinions to the mix doesn’t make the process any easier, but Secret Cities pull it off successfully.

All of the songwriting and recording is done through trading tracks and communicating via G-Chat to discuss ideas and revisions. Alex (drums) is the Kansas City resident, and was by himself throughout the recording process of Secret Cities first album, Pink Graffiti (2010). That album was a five-year-long journey that involved a multitude of correspondence between he, Charlie and MJ, which consisted of a “wait and hope” approach to see if the other members enjoyed what was being sent around. On Strange Hearts, the process was made much easier, especially since Charlie and Alex were able to live together in Kansas City. Instead of a marathon of five years, Strange Hearts took about three months to write, record and master.

The new album sits on my “Best of…” list for the first half of 2011 and is possibly one of the more underrated albums that has been released so far. No other artist or band attempting to channel the vibe of 1960’s psych-pop has done so with the quality that Secret Cities has. And they’re not just playing the role of copycats either. Originality and talent is strung throughout the album, whether it’s sunny acoustic pop, such as “Love Crime”, or an easy-going melodic tune such as “The Park”–every instrument meshes with just the right amount balance.

The vocals are what really stand out on Strange Hearts. The echoed voices of Charlie and MJ sound as if they’re being sung in a great hall or church. MJ’s songs carry a Michelle Phillips type quality to them, particularly during the finale “Portland,” and the moody psychedelic folk of “Pebbles.” Charlie sounds as if his voice was pulled directly off the streets of Haight-Ashbury, with the ability to fit on a bill at a Warfield or Fillmore show out in San Francisco during the 60’s. The versatility, for he and MJ to fluctuate between octaves, is what gives each song its initial jolt. As the pop chord structures fall into place, the songs feel as if they had been a part of my record collection for years. It’s a modern day time-warp that is fun to revisit.

[mp3] Secret Cities // The Park from Strange Hearts

The band is finishing up an intense winter-spring touring schedule that started in February, brought them to SxSW in March with more U.S. dates in April before a month-long European tour in May, and a final U.S. run throughout all of June. The band may only be together when they’re on the road, but when they hit the pavement, they hit it hard. The band finishes up on July 1 (today) and is deserving of some rest and relaxation as they go their separate ways. Which is itself a further challenge as band members will now be living in four separate states (including touring guitarist Trevor). The situation shouldn’t be anything difficult for them though; they’ve been recording in separate cities since their existence, so it appears they wanted to up the ante a bit.

[mp3] Secret Cities // Love Crime from Strange Hearts

Connect with Secret Cities // WebFacebookTwitterMySpace

[mp3/interview] Writer (NxNE Recap)

We covered San Diego’s Writer as part of our NxNE previews and enjoyed their 7” single, Miss Mermaid, so much that we sought them out at the festival for an informal interview the day after they opened for Dum Dum Girls and Cults at Lee’s Palace. Andy and James Ralph, the brothers that comprise the duo, put on a solid show consisting of stripped down lo-fi pop songs that are heavy on the drums and catchy with the guitar riffs.

Before coming to NxNE, the brothers Ralph had been touring the country with Cults and Guards, so they have been able to hit up numerous crowds with their San Diego-fied rock. The city has a ton of great music coming out of it these days, all deserving of investing some time in. It’s definitely one of best music scenes in the U.S. today, consisting of Tape Deck Mountain and Crocodiles as well – other bands that we saw or spoke with at the Toronto festival and will post recaps on in the near future.

Matt and I met up with Andy and James at Rivoli before their 1 a.m. set and inside away from the gorgeous Toronto weather we were fortunate enough to have all weekend. They’re both great guys and we greatly appreciate them stepping inside to talk with us for a bit over some beers. In hindsight, we definitely should’ve conducted the interview outside instead of a dark club. The interview with Andy and James was conversational, so instead of posting the entire thing word for word I included excerpts of the moments that highlight the band, their music, their tour, and future plans.

What are you guys looking forward to the most on the tour? Where are you guys moving on to from here?

Andy: We’ve played all of the major cities up through the northeast with Cults and Guards. We play Montreal tomorrow and that’s actually the last show for about three or four weeks. And then we meet back up with Cults and do the whole West Cost out to Chicago and back.

Oh man, Chicago’s a great town.

Andy: Yeah, we’re really looking forward to that one. I’ve never been to Washington, D.C., so that was a cool show to play. We played at…

9:30 Club?

Andy: Noo…it’s called…I guess I don’t remember the name of it [Laughs].

James: I know, man. We’re playing so many shows…pretty much every night. It’s amazing. And there’s been great crowds everywhere we go.

Andy: We’re pretty lucky to be on tour with Cults because they’re really doing well right now and their songs are awesome, and they’re all becoming a lot better. Their crowds get there early and watch us play. And they like us!

Very nice. So, we’ve heard the single, but are you guys working on anything else right now?

Andy: Well, we actually have a record that’s done.

EP?

Andy: No, full-length! And we play most of the songs live. Right now we’re just figuring out what to do with it. It’s not out, it’s unreleased. We’re holding it.

Jamie: [Laughs] Yeah, in a good way!  We’re holding it…actually, I don’t even know if we’re holding it.

Andy: [Laughs] I don’t know what we’re doing!

[Laughs] Kind of like a wait and see situation?

Jamie: We’re just playing shows and playing to a lot of people.

Andy: And we’re meeting labels and shit. It’s kind of interesting to hear everyone’s different feedback on all of these songs that they’ve never heard before.

How did you guys link up Cults? Did their manager reach out to you guys?

Andy: Our booking agent, Cory Stier played a tour with them. We were out in Austin last year at South by Southwest and we all met and then their booking agent listened to our tracks and they were kind of digging our tracks.

Jamie: Yeah, we got to hang out with them out there and go to a show. A couple weeks after South By, they just emailed us.

What’s the scene like out in San Diego?

Andy: Lately when we’ve been playing in San Diego, we’ve been playing with a lot of bands that have been playing through. And that’s what all of our buddies are doing right now. We used to do shows where it’s four bands, a bunch of friends playing together. I don’t know if we all got sick of doing that or what.

James: It’s like once every two months we’ll play like that. Like Travis’s [Travis Trevisan of Tape Deck Mountain] record release, we’ll play that.

Andy: You don’t want to play too much in your hometown. You just want to hang out with people. I want to hang out with my friends, I don’t really want to play.

And if you guys do play then it’s kind of like a house party with all of your friends?

Andy: Yeah, actually I’d rather just play out of town.

What’s the best band that we haven’t heard from out of San Diego?

Andy: What’s the best band you haven’t heard from…Chairs Missing.

Chairs Missing?

James: Yeah. They have a stand up drummer. They’re a four-piece.

Andy: They’re pretty bad-ass.

So, you guys have been playing together for a while. It just came together naturally?

James: Yeah, actually it’s been more recently. Definitely more recently. This record kind of came out of us just sitting in a room, tired of what we were doing…

“…Here’s a sound we can both agree on.”

James: Exactly. Both of us have played with at least two other people. We have a three-piece, or a four-piece. But none of these songs are incorporated with that. So this is kind of the newest ideal we got going on. It seems to be the better of what we’ve been doing but it’s been good. Hanging out. Spend a lot of time in a single room together just writing.

You guys just go back and forth with each other like brothers usually do?

James: Yeah, but it turns more into us telling each other kind of how to play each other’s instruments.

So, it’s for the better of the band.

James: Yeah. When you play with one other person, that’s the only person who’s going to challenge you. But it tends to work out for us really well though.

Thanks a ton to Andy and James for talking the time out of their day to talk with Matt and I. We greatly appreciate it and we encourage everyone to check out their Miss Mermaid and free Barefoot Art singles that are both available on their Bandcamp page. And fingers crossed, we’ll be hearing that full-length album in the near future. From what we heard at Lee’s Palace, those songs need to get out there. Oh, and thank you for the tip on Chairs Missing. We’ll definitely be looking into them.

Connect with Writer: webBandcampFacebookTwitter

Writer // Head To Toe [mp3] from Barefoot Art [Single]