Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:46 PM ( 3706 views ) - Show Reviews - Posted by AdministratorWith a triple bill of Monsters Are Waiting, Stellastarr*, and Editors I needed to stake my place early right in front of the stage to get pictures. The show was sold out and I didnít feel like the audience would have let me back up to the front if I had left for one moment, so in total I stood about three and a half hours. Festival-goers can snicker at what appears to be my lack of fortitude. And it was scorching in Chop Suey (donít get me wrong, itís a lovely venue), leading to a mammoth thirst on my part. Those are the only down sides from the show. Well there is one other to come up later. Not one of these issues was the fault of the bands, who were all just brilliant.
After listening to Monsters Are Waiting I was curious to see them live. Their music has such a vim and drive to it I wondered if they would duplicate it live. In fact, the four-piece, often called sexy - well they are that - played marvelously together and charmed with tender and sensual vocals from Annalee, slinky bass playing and sparkling guitar playing by Andrew and Jonathan respectively, and drummer Ericís responsive drumming (They seem to prefer being known by first names only.) Songs like Fascination and Ha Ha were particularly groovy live, and their set closer, the lusty Christine saw the band go quite mental - in the best way possible. I am in awe of bassist Andrewís ability to play guitar, after he and Jonathan switched places, while nearly stretched out on the floor.
Meanwhile it got hotter and the woman next to me still wore a sweater - a sweater I ask you! When Stellastarr* came on I was really starting to hurt for water but was stubborn and I kept my place even when another photographer burst his way in and out of the crowd with impunity. For some reason crew from backstage periodically came out and mopped up water on the stage floor.
Iíve admired Stellastarr* since I saw them open for the Raveonettes in 2003. Thereís something loveable about them and the other two bands of the evening and I just canít place my finger on what it is. Perhaps itís singer/guitaristís Shawn Christensenís tortured and disturbing presence, or Michael Jurinís culinary guitar work, or the centered drumming by Arthur Kremer. Or it might be the bass playing, some of the most sophisticated bass playing you will ever hear, coming from the seriously foxy Amanda Tannen. Itís probably all these things. And each time I have seen Christensen I feel like he must fall apart every night. He seemed to break down in earnest. This was good stuff and made me flinch. After they finished the classic My Coco - a guy yelled, ĎAgain!í. This got a smile from Tannen, who really seemed to play joyfully.
Editors headlined and even though I had been listening to their cd and really loving it I was a bit concerned about the hype around the band. By that point, after seeing shows by bands who would more than capably headline, I had decided they needed to be something special for me to stay in the front through their entire set. I was not disappointed - only more than a bit thirsty, which was when I realized that a pipe above the stage was leaking, and that was where the mystery water came from. It was slightly distracting let alone quite dangerous around the plugged in equipment. I was tempted several times to jump on stage to get some of the water. Guitarist Chris Urbanowiczís (joking and very funny) comments such as ĎDonít panicí and ĎIím going oní were very apt.
At one point singer Tom Smith knocked out the speakers leaping around the stage - I had never seen this happen at Chop Suey before and I enjoyed the danger. Smith, trapped like an animal, seemed to want to climb the walls.
They are a beautiful band and I fell in love them from the start of their set. Songs such as Blood and All Sparks are pure wonders. I was deeply touched by Camera, and Fingers in the Factories was aggressive and salty. Several audience members were already familiar with the songs and that gave me hope that important music has made it. Smithís resonant vocals recall more of Jim Morrison rather than Paul Banks. Ed Layís drumming stunned me. And Russell Leetchís bass and Urbanowiczís guitar playing joined in perfect sounds and grace.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:42 PM ( 6993 views ) - Interviews - Posted by AdministratorBritainís White Rose Movement is one of the top British bands to have visited the States this decade. Two members of the five-piece, guitarist Jasper Milton and singer/guitarist Finn Vine, talked with me before their show in Seattle in early May.
Q: Do you like making videos of your songs? Is it fun?
Finn: In a way it is - in another way itís always a bit of a risk -
(thereís an interruption as the band learns they will get to their next show date in Chicago)
Finn: Someone brings you a treatment and itís really hard when you read the treatment and not to look at it and think this looks really corny or, . . . we really enjoyed doing the Alsation video (or I did personally).
Jasper: Yeah it seemed like there was more a structural idea of what was going on.
Q: How did you pick Paul Epworth as your producer?
Finn: He did sound for us at a club night that he was kind of affiliated with - that was three years before he started producing. He did sound for us and the gig went really, like, tits up and everything went wrong and he ended having a fighting match.
Jasper: Not with you.
Jasper: With the promoter.
Finn: He saw something in it [the show] and said heíd like to make a point of coming up to us afterwards. I thought that was really special.
Jasper: And then we didnít see him for two years. We tried recording with a couple of producers and it wasnít working out. We were in the studio with a producer and it was all going horribly wrong and we bumped into him - he was working downstairs with a band called Maximo Park. I hadnít realized he had become a producer. I gave him a cd of what were doing and we did one track with him which was Love Is A Number and from then on in it just clicked really, just jelled.
Q: Itís a question you probably hate and difficult to answer - describe your sound - it has so many elements of music that I love, like disco and 80s music.
Jasper: Itís got an element of 80s and some of the beats are quite disco but itís also got some of the bands we love from the 90s like My Bloody Valentine and stuff like that going on in it. I think itís quite diverse itís not just sort of influenced by the 80s - I think itís influenced by the 90s - itís a 21st century record. Itís a mixture of a lot of different things. But yeah, like you said, itís really hard to ask a band to describe its sound (Jasper laughs and I agree). Invariably we get 80s references and lazy journalists say we sound like A Flock of Seagulls but I donít see the reference myself.
Finn: Itís just not true.
Q: Who writes the music and lyrics?
Finn: Me and Jasper write the lyrics and we usually write the beginning sparks of a song as well but more and more weíre doing stuff in a rehearse room situation and working on grooves and it can start from anything like a circular phrase or a riff -
Jasper: Or it can start from a bass line. . . every oneís writing music to a certain extent but me and Finn are the major song writers in the band.
Q: Reports are the entire band besides keyboardist Taxxi grew up together in Norfolk in what has been called a commune. Is this true?
Finn: It wasnít really a commune. It was just like -
Jasper: it wasnít really a commune by the time we were living there really. It did start out as a commune. It was a broken idea(l) of a commune. I donít know, by the time it had hit the 80s a lot of the people who had moved out there in the 60s and 70s had fallen out and fences had gone up -
Finn: It wasnít idealist in that way. It was just lots of young waifs and strays living there and getting blitzed and playing music and stuff, and doing bits of art and photography.
Jasper: I think as kids you had a free run, that was thing - the kids were kind out of control, which is great for kids - just do what you want -
Finn: there was no discipline.
Q: So you were able to take up music?
Jasper: Yeah, no sound restrictions or anything like that.
Q: Whatís the story behind your song Deborah Carne?
Jasper: It was about something I read in the papers in England that happened a while back. It was basically a school kid - her boyfriend had a one night stand with another girl and she decided to get revenge [with her mates] and took her out and set her on fire. It was pretty nasty. Just one of those stories you read and youíre just absolutely fucking horrified, you know, that somehow children . . . barely teenagers could do that to each other. It kind of touched on that whole . . . way people seemed to have become, especially with computer games - separated from the reality of the harm that you can inflict on each other and theyíre playing these games where they go around and blast each other and itís not real. I suppose itís kind of like -
Finn: the social repercussions of having a Prime Minister whoís up for going to war and is a real war monger and his policies -
Jasper: I guess to a certain extent if heís at the top of the ladder . . . heís setting the example at the top . . . and blasting away innocent people, then that kind of thing just goes down. I donít know, I just found it a horrific scenario. Itís a touchy subject - writing about something thatís obviously personal and painful to that family.
Q: Finn, how did you start singing? Itís a very flexible voice.
Finn: Iíve always sung - not in a professional way or in a vocational way. I just always loved singing, even as a kid.
Jasper: I think thereís a whole bit to his voice thatís not even on this record yet thatís really good as well. Maybe you hear it on the secret track on the album. Itís called Luna Park.
Q: How about Pig Heil Jam?
Jasper: I canít believe how many people have referred to that as a yelp.
Finn: I associate yelps with puppies. I donít know how I feel about being called a puppy. Puppies are nice, soft and cuddly. And open to abuse.
Q: Howís America? Is this your first trip here?
Finn: Second. This is more extensive than the first one - we only did like four or five shows the first time we came over. We love it.
Jasper: Itís been great, we love it.
Finn: Especially at the moment because itís not like weíre going everywhere in the States - itís not that extensive - itís quite leisurely, the pace weíre doing it. Itís more like a kind of holiday really. Going to lots of different places.
Jasper: Like a holiday but thereís some really long drives in between. Itís not all like a holiday but -
Finn: for me it is. Itís nice looking out the window and seeing different sights.
Jasper: Yeah itís a beautiful country. Itís a fucked up beautiful country but . . . From day one weíve always wanted to get out here. A lot of our heroes in music are from here and itís great to be here. Coachella was amazing.
Finn: Amazing. Two to three thousand people, and theyíre all packed into this tent - people who had turned up to see us and it was really encouraging.
Jasper: And thatís pretty much myspace really because weíve got nothing out over here at all. People seemed to know our songs in the audience.
Q: Whatís the strangest thing on your rider?
Finn: Itís pretty thin over here. Weíre lucky if we get a bit of fruit. We usually get some piss water beer and thatís about it.
Jasper: Thereís nothing unusual on our rider. We just try to get some vodka and red bull. Especially if youíve had a long trip you need something to pep you up a bit. Nothing that exciting. Weíre on a shoe-string [budget]. We havenít got a record out here at the moment.
Q: When does the cd come out here?
Jasper: Weíre negotiating with [American] labels cause weíre signed to an independent in England. Everything that we do, and all the gigs that we do are purely by word of mouth. [Through myspace] weíve picked up a lot of American fans. We came out here and did SXSW and the Troubador in L.A., which was full. They told us no one dances at the Troubador, and then they all started dancing.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:37 PM ( 3390 views )Influences Ė musical or otherwise?
Kreskin! his e.s.p. powers! And we got the game with the mystery pendulum. I'm really into Sylvester (the mummy of a forty-five year old man found, half naked and half buried, by two cowboys in the wild west Arizona desert 1895) - I got the poster at Ye Olde Curiosity shop last time we played in Seattle. Also Miracle Mike, the chicken that lived a year without a head, he preened around the other birds and ate from an eye dropper. Marlin Perkins did such a great job with the whole Mutual of Omaha thing too. I read that some people like lemurs because they think they are mutant monkeys.
How do you describe your music?
Hopefully something like who I imagine Brian Eno to be on the back of another green world with cowboy boots - sitting under the moon next to someone he finds beautiful and funny, listening to a mix tape of Martin Denny, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Clash, and the song 'harborcoat' is on it just before Jesus and Mary Chain, Nick Cave and then Peggy Lee walks by and then there's this party and people are happy and lauging and comfortable enough to share bizarre ideas, and unicorns.
How did the band come together?
It was purely scientific. 4 parts water, 3 parts smoke and 2 parts mirrors. We are from all over the country (St. Louis, Kansas City, Missouri, California) and now we are all in Portland. We were just lucky to find each other as we careen through space headed for the beginning.
Is there something as a Ďshoegazerí scene?
A shoegazer almost never gets seen, they are always looking down. Rim shot...and crash cymbol. I like Elvis. My favorite shoegazer band is the High Violets. There is a return to music with ethereal qualities - there are bands that use a lot of classic pedals and sounds but I think everyone adds their own dynamic or twist.
How/when did you start music?
Soon after being raised by lemurs - music started us. I think we were all gigantic music fans all our lives and decided to start becoming a part of the music rather listening exclusively. Once music started us, we were born, small, winged, and transparent.
How are things progressing on the new album?
Marvelously. It's definitely the album I feel being involved with is closest to my life's work thus far. So proud of it and we are only about 63% finished.
Spirit in the Sky Ė Why do a cover of this song (not saying you shouldnít have)? It was something that happened in the practice space between songs, as things often do, the distortion sounds had not come to us and then curiosity killed the cat and Matt got ahold of Norman Greenbaum and began conversing about how to get that fuzzed out tone and the next thing you knew it was on our album.
Which ones of you were in the Bella Low?
That was a magical time. When you look back at the footage in the movie DIG! The Bella Low was opening those shows and just getting to be a part of that whole scene as it exploded, we were experimenting with sitar and film and... it's funny, last night at Courtneyís someone called me "bella low jsun!". Clint and Luke (other Bella Low) have an amazing band (The High Violets) now and someone has put up the bella low myspace.
What contemporary music do you like?
The Black Angels, The Get Hustle, Hypatia Lake, Wolf Parade, and just got the Kings of Leon Day Old Beglian Blues, Things on the radio I really like are Gorillaz and Interpol and The Strokes. Lately I know there's been a lot of Dolly Parton going around and I love to listen to Percy Faith plays music from South Pacific.
One of your influences listed on your myspace account is John Waters. What is it about him you like?
The way he allows things to be as twisted and cubist as he sees them. The camp is always good for a ha ha ah-ha.
How do you describe the Oregon music scene?
It's so interesting all the bands that are in Portland now. I think it says something about the live-ability for artists. There are so many amazing local bands that are taking off , e.g. The Village Green, Talkdemonic and there are so many great national/international acts too e.g. Modest Mouse, the shins, Sleater-Kinney, Spoon, Pink Martini, and my favorite, The Dandy Warhols. It's a healthy mix right now.
What has touring been like? Where have you gone & where next? Touring has been full of high jinks and tomfoolery. We've gone through 37 states over the last 2 years from sea to shining sea. We love New York and Los Angeles. Itís also brought merriment to get off the beaten path sometimes too.
How was it opening for Richard Butler?
He was a true gentleman. When he sings Love My Way and Heaven it sent those first gala feelings down my spinal column. It was a dream. It always is.
If an animal embodied your band - not as mascot though - what would it be and why?
It would be child's play to say the duck-billed platypus. I would say the animal we would manifest ourselves as is the Aye-aye of Madagascar, threatened by the people it shares the island with because of its odd appearance. To the Malagasy people, the Aye-aye is magical, and is believed to bring death to the village it appears in. The reason I believe we are most like the Aye Aye is because the Aye-aye owes its "notoriety" much to its odd appearance, especially its long middle digit. This toe and claw is most important to the Aye-aye, as this is how it fishes tasty, fat grubs from rotting logs and branches. Much the same way The Upsidedown forages with a fine toothed comb for tasty musical morsels. And because it's Matt's favorite animal.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:36 PM ( 959 views )Seattle seems to have gone back to its roots, back to rock ní roll, pure rock ní roll harking to the 70s. Perhaps itís a trend in other places because one of several transplant bands from Eastern Washington, Shim, have swiftly and deservedly garnered major local attention. Itís as if Seattle has longed for unpretentious, inclusive, natural rock, and while other excellent bands have been playing the area for years, it feels like Shim are hitting at just the right time.
Shim released their first full-length cd, In the Veins, last week with a party at Fremontís High Dive. Shimís an easy band to fall in love with live and on cd. Their songs, while being instantly likeable and fresh, are sexily masterful.
Tracks such as Satisfied and Man from the Desert are classic rock at its best.
Animal, a track I cannot get enough of live, is pure lust and wonder.
Onstage each member has presence and gift. Singer/guitarist Ragan Crowe is captivating and Iím going to use this word classic again to describe his iconic appeal. Drummer Jeremy Crowe is powerful and fit to kill. Guitarist/keyboardist/singer Mike Notter injects absolute soul into whatever role heís taking on, and Micah Simler is a truly grand and stunning bassist.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:32 PM ( 999 views )Bumbershoot Ė A late recap
I used to collect those mini albums with bubble gum in them. Which I suppose is neither here nor there but I had one of Blondie's Parallel Lines and gum never tasted so good as it did while admiring that album cover and listening to any Blondie song. Live, they have wonderful energy and sound fantastic. My favorite moment: when they first came out with Call Me. This was my first time seeing Blondie, and I do absolutely recommend them.
I also caught the Rishi Rich Project, a group of acts brought together by producer Rishpal Singh Rekhi (aka Rishi) that included Jay Sean, Juggy D and Veronica Mehta. All were in excellent form - it was fantastic to see these artists. They are all top acts Ė each one could have easily put on a show alone. Veronica has this amazing voice that just should move any one. Girls in the audience went crazy, screaming for Juggy D and Jay Sean. It was a great moment to share.
However, my focus of Bumbershoot was to catch Seattle bands. Specifically I was on the lookout for Romance, Thee Emergency and Daylight Basement. Each of these bands played at the EMP Skychurch, a beautiful venue I wish was used more often for concerts.
First was Daylight Basement, led by Bre Loughlin. They have smooth, instantly likeable and tasty songs with - and this is not a dirty word at all - pop appeal. They are also a fun and beautiful band to watch. Whatever form Loughlinís work takes next I will be sure to check it out. Daylight Basement will be on hiatus until 2007, which is coming up fast, and with this band Loughlin has created magic.
The following day was Romance, a band both lyrical and brooding. The entire band has a striking presence and though they created an ambience with their show that could be insular,
they somehow managed to pull me in. I think itís their hypnotic quality that does it. I admire this band not only for their talent but for their stylistic clarity.
Thee Emergency was the last band I set out to cover. I believe they could play anywhere and convert fans. They sent shivers up and down my spine and they play blues as wonderfully as they do rock. Their stage presence is truly staggering and itís hard to come by sexier music and a sexier band.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:30 PM ( 2595 views )
Shaz, where does you nickname come from?
Shaz: My name Shaz? When I was little I used to live in Essex and I used to go to clubs in Essex. There used to be girls called Sharon and their nickname was Shaz cause theyíd go to the clubs in their high heels when they were like sixteen Ė
Chris Ė They were easy.
Shaz Ė Quite easy. They were called Sharons and their nicknames or short for that was Shaz.
Chris Ė You should see him in high heels. Itís a very Indian name as well.
Shaz Ė Is it?
Chris Ė Shabba.
On your website you mention a Jekyl & Hyde quality to your music.
Chris Ė I think itís to be exploited more really. Itís something to do with our personalities of the group. Thereís a definite split in the personalities Ė not one person Ė us all being similar in the ways we can all be extreme characters. The music has to follow suit with that. But really itís in the same way that, not in the most gloriously same way, the Smiths would play around with happy tunes with melancholic vocals . . . thereís nothing wrong with dynamics changing within a song . . . the name really follows.
How did you find Fierce Panda?
Shaz -We stalked them for a little while.
Chris - Weíve always loved them and sort of dreamt of being with them- we were really lucky because it was, I think it was our second ever gig, it was a night called Ė
Shaz Ė Club Fandango Ė
Chris Ė Which is a night that Fierce Panda put on in London with a few bands that they are liking at the time and just as our second ever gig we got off at thatĖ we played it and they liked it and we decided to work together.
Shaz- We did one release with them.
Chris- That was actually Suzie, which is out at the moment in England. The single - which weíve re-recorded and re-released which goes with the album - at the time it was the first song that we got out there so it was a quite exciting time it went straight to radio. We owe a lot to Simon and the family at Fierce Panda. Heís a bit of a maverick, Simon Williams, he has a fuck the law kind of attitude, which is very unusual. It was nice to start off our journey with some one who cares about music.
Your cd has a wonderful balance of instrumentsí sound.
Chris Ė the keys and the guitars fight a lot with each other, totally. When it comes to recording weíve got a really set idea of the way weíd like it to sound. Itís quite difficult to actually do that. Weíve done it on this record. When weíve done it on demos and things like that before itís quite easy to get it wrong because itís all on the same frequency Ė youíre bashing the ride cymbal and you get a guitar and keyboards in there and theyíre all sort of similar frequencies but you can give it enough space for everything to jump out. . . . thatís down to John (Cornfield) our producer. Heís well into making bands getting their balls out and making it sound like it does live. Heís just great at capturing the acoustic sounds. We wanted it to sound like it was the next step but at the same time trying to be careful not to overproduce it. I think itís quite easy to slap a whole lot of shit on top of it and ruin it.
Your music is kind of an edgy pop.
Chris - Eggy pop. Kind of stinky. Eggy, whiffy pop.
Is it a bad word? Do you embrace it?
We give it a nice big cuddle, like a hug for about an hour and then stick a knife in the back of it and then chuck it away and then give it another cuddle and apologize and try to heal it up again. Weíre not afraid of being pop at all because pop means people dig it on a general level Ė not to say that we havenít had years and years of making music that was a bit more Ė letís put it this way, we just finished listening to music of bands that we were in when we were about fifteen, cause me and Pete and Shaz weíve known each other for a long time at school and weíve been in bands together before, and saying what the fuck were we thinking? When we made this band we said we were going to open the floodgates and concentrate more on the songwriting side of it.
Shaz Ė I think a lot people would just call pop anything with a hint of a melody. Weíre not scared of melodies. Theyíre great. If thatís what constitutes pop then thatís what weíre doing.
You list Prince as a hero.
Chris Ė Iím obsessed. I always have been.
What in particular about him?
Chris Ė Oh my god, how long should we spend sharing our love for Prince music? I think for me, as a kid it was about buying an album that can tell a story. It was about the variety and the total, fucking looseness of his ideas and at the same time how he could capture it and snap it all together in the same family. It was amazing. I think itís sexy and itís filthy and dirty at the same time. I think the music itself is really intelligent but I think the fact that he was a total weirdo got me intrigued when I was a little kid. It was the first concert I ever went to Ė a Prince concert when I was ten and that just totally and utterly fucked me up for the rest of my life basically, because otherwise I could have been a successful businessman. I canít now, because heís fucked it all.
Shaz Ė Now I just want to be a weirdo.
Chris Ė Yeah, I just want to be a weirdo. The most recent stuff Iím not too hip to. Prince to me sums up the pop star icon in the sense that to me, a true, amazing pop star should be someone you think is from some kind of other world, Michael Jackson included. His music seemed to be coming from some sort of bizarre land that we werenít allowed to go near. And heíd do an album every year it was just amazing every time. I could go on and on.
What is that sound in one of the songs? A xylaphone (I am told itís Shoot me Down).
Itís from a melotron, which is a thing the Beatles used a lot in the 60s. You can have the strings melotron and the vibraphone melotron and lots of different trumpet melatron . The melotron is a type of keyboard. We used two or three sounds off this melotron.
Any activities in Seattle?
Chris - We just had a Chinese that was very special, met Tim Burgess outside. Heís very friendly.
Shaz Ė We met a guy with a really good mustache.
Chris Ė He said heís currently growing a mullet. We met a girl who tried to make me like I was chatting her up even though I was only asking if she worked in the cigarette shop and she said her boyfriend was coming back at any minute.
Shaz- The old classic.
Chris Ė I just said Iím only here to get a packet of cigarettes and that I wasnít trying to chat her up and she said youíd better go now and be safe, be careful, these streets are dangerous. And as I left there and went next door to the venue I felt very safe. We havenít really had a chance cause weíve been stuck in this weird vessel.
Shaz Ė Weíve just come off a tour where when after playing a gig you kind of have to leave.
What was Top of the pops like?
Chris Ė Itís something that we always wanted to do. Itís quite a milestone. If people want to take the piss out of the fact that youíve spent the last five years not working and just trying to be in a band then they always ask so when are you going to be on the Totp then? We were really quite excited about doing, but then when we actually got to do it was just like doing a tv show.
Shaz Ė Thatís what it was.
Chris - Itís a lot more exciting doing gigs. We did love it though. We loved it because Ė who was playing on the other side of the ring to us who had all those fit backup singers who were winking and sort of fluttering their eyelids ?
Shaz Ė Atomic Kitten.
Chris Ė Fucking Stevie Wonder was in there wasnít he? Kanye West.
Shaz - Yeah. We wandered around the corridors.
Chris Ė They stuff lots of makeup on you though, man. I saw that and I looked like an old birthday cake, without the candles. My face looked like I was just one big piece of old icing, which upset me. Other than that . . . Iím not letting them get anywhere near my face again, Shaz.
Shaz Ė I was quite happy with my eyelids.
Chris - You donít get as many close ups though. My Grandma was happy I was on it though. Youíre on totp and she realizes itís not a total waste of time. Your records out there and people are buying it.
Itís validation for you.
Chris Ė yeah.
Shaz Ė In other peopleís eyes.
Are you all from London?
Chris Ė Essex, which is the country.
Shaz Ė Just outside London.
Chris Ė You get on a train and youíre in central London in twenty minutes, but then you can hear cows. Englandís like that, itís all squashed together. Here everythingís so fucking massive. In London you can be standing in a cow field. Basically Essex has got a bit of a bad name for the slag factor in England. Essex has a bad name for being easy, like people from Essex are easy, boys and girls give out. The reputation around the country, people are like . . . I donít know why that is. Why is that?
Shaz- Cause itís true.
Chris Ė Is it? How do you know? Youíve never lived anywhere else.
Shaz Ė Thatís true.
Chris Ė We live in East London now and thatís not so easy, is it?
Shaz Ė No.
Chris Ė We live right around the corner to each other so itís kind of handy, like for practice. We can all play knock down ginger on each other every now and then.
Chris Ė Maybe it has a different name in America. Itís a game in England where you run up and tap on someoneís door and then run away. Then you find out itís your best mate, around the corner, laughing. Do you do that thing when you put poo in a paper bag and light it and leave it at the door and they have the flaming poo.
I make jokes about that. Sometimes I think about doing that.
Chris Ė Do it. Why donít you do it this year?
They might get see me.
Chris Ė Wear a balaclava.
Shaz Ė And run fucking fast. Just get in the car and drive off. Chuck it out of the car. Donít even get out of the car.
Chris Ė Get a kid to run out and do it for you. Pay him.
Shaz Ė Pay him a dollar.
Chris Ė Hereís a tip: light it after you let go of it. Thereís an idea if you ever get bored.
On those late nights.
Chris Ė Are you a night owl?
Chris Ė Are you creative?
Yeah. Are you night owls?
Together Ė yeah.
Chris Ė Basically people who are creative are night owls, arenít they? They get haunted.
Shaz Ė By themselves.
Chris Ė Do you go to bed with someone?
Often with my cat.
Chris Ė Your old hairy lover.
Shaz Ė What colour is your cat?
Actually I have two cats. Oneís a cream tortoise/tabby and oneís a calico.
Chris Ė I like that, cozy colours. What about a siamese cat?
Siamese cats are crazy.
Chris Ė If you were a cat what would you be, Shaz?
Shaz Ė I donít get on with cats. I would rather have a dog than a cat. I like big cats. I wouldnít mind a little lion.
Chris Ė Take it on the bus.
What cat would you be?
Chris Ė Iíd be one of those hairless ones. Really ugly, skinny, no friends.
Shaz Ė Eyes looking in different directions.
Chris Ė No tail cause it got cut off when I was little.
Shaz Ė You had some kid bullying you.
Chris - A tuft of hair sticking out of my left ear.
Those are cute cats though.
Chris Ė Scars all over my back from when I got abused before I was even born, before I even came out. That would be me. Suffered as a result of my siblings. But I made it cause I got out and I got strong. I used my ugliness to my advantage. I scared the other cats away so I could eat. I became fat. A big fat bald wrinkly scarred cat.
Those cats are very authentic Ė thatís what they really look like, under that fur.
Chris Ė Itís true, man. Just like if we were still cavemen weíd be big hairy motherfuckers. We probably would be motherfuckers because they were incestuous in those days. That word is too widely used nowadays. No one actually has sex with their mums anymore.
I think some people probably do.
Chris - Do you reckon? In certain parts of the world.
Shaz - Essex.
Chris Ė Remember your mates would say but what if your mom was like Claudia Schiffer, you would do, wouldnít you? I never had a sister but I always wanted one. I mean not for that reason.
Forum Ė single?
Shaz Ė No.
Chris Ė Yes. I am single but Shaz is as well, in his heart.
Have you ever been on a tour bus?
Chris - Our busses in England donít look like this. They look like travelling strip clubs. Theyíre all full of ultramodern neon lights and mirrors everywhere, like you would expect an 80s strip club to be. This is more sort of a 60s brothel.
Shaz - Our bus before this had pink leather seats.
Chris Ė Can you imagine that, first thing in the morning when you wake up?
Like pepto bismol?
Chris - Like that. Itís kind of like going camping, forever. Weíre on the move always now. But I still get that little feeling when I get in my bunk, itís a bit like cosying down in your tent, listen to every one humming away in their beds, a hubbub of boyish chat.
Shaz Ė You even get the rain on the roof as you do in a tent.
Chris Ė The only thing you donít have is the sound of nature, the animals.
You could get a tape of those sounds.
Chris Ė Yeah, that would be nice, depending on what mood youíre in.
You could put on a fierce storm at sea or a dolphin pack.
Shaz Ė I was thinking of cows and sheep.
Chris Ė Like English sounds. It would be nice to have a stereo tape with a babbling brook and then on the other side wind blowing through a weeping willow tree and the sound of a little kid playing by himself, with a bald cat. Slapping its back.
Shaz Ė Itís such a great idea.
Chris Ė Boy Kill Boy sound tapes. Storytelling.
We actually had a bear come into the city.
Chris Ė Really?
Shaz Ė Fucking hell, what did you do?
They killed it. It was looking for food.
Shaz Ė Why did they do that?
Chris - Why didnít they get a cowboy to lassoo it? Itís like the whale in the Thames. Aimals and the big city they donít mix do they? Itís a grave shame.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:24 PM ( 1365 views )Q: I saw you guys open up from someone earlier this year Ė I canít remember who it was-
Q: Yeah, thatís right. I came to see you guys.
Doyle: Oh wow. That would have been in March.
Q: Were they good to tour with?
Doyle: Yeah they were a friendly bunch of people, took an interest in what we were doing Ė which isnít always the case with bands that you support. They borrowed a keyboard from us as well so they were indebted to us at an early stage, which was good. We did about six shows with them.
Q: Was that the first time youíd been to Seattle?
Doyle: Yeah, it was the first time I had been to the West Coast in fact. We came back to L.A. and San Francisco in August and this is our second time going fully down the West Coast.
Q: Is this your first headlining tour of the West Coast?
Doyle: Apart from those two dates in August. Itís good to be in Seattle. We didnít have such great weather but I had a good time. We went to Pike Place Market Ė having a little walk around a few bars and restaurants.
Q: Youíre a classically trained cellist Ė when did you start learning?
Doyle: Maybe six or seven. Iíve been doing music for a long time Ė different kinds. I ended up doing this kind of stuff. I also have a strong left hand. Worked well for the guitar, like I could pick up the guitar quite easily. I still play the cello, record with it now and again. It might be on the next album, hopefully, I donít know. I enjoy playing it from time to time. I should play it more Ė I can still get a sound out of it and everything. Yeah, thatís my background.
I was actually going to ask if you were going to have the cello on any of the CDs?
Doyle: I do some other music with Felix in the band and weíve done some soundtracks for documentaries and stuff like that. We use the cello on that because itís a quite pleasing sound and atmospheric. We have some other string players Ė like on the song Look After Me on The Warning thereís a violin on that. Thereís a really good string quartet that we know in London called the Elysian Quartet that have supported us on a couple of shows. They do from Modern classical stuff to Beethoven and have things written for them by UK composers. So we can always draft them in if we need some strings, which is useful.
Q: What kind of documentaries have you worked on?
Doyle: It was a documentary about the Last Lighthouse Keepers in the UK.
Basically all of the lighthouses were automated in 2002, I think. Up to that point there were about three people on every lighthouse and gradually they would stop working at a lighthouse that was about to be automated and keep running that. It was just a strange life that a lot of them led. Now there really arenít any of them any more. Theyíre getting pretty old now and it was a chance to listen to some of their stories. Itís a really good documentary. Felix and I will also be working on another one next year with the BFI, which is the British Film Institute. Weíre going to have access to their archive to choose a movie and rescore it or possibly score a silent movie. That wonít be towards the end of next year, but thatís going to be a really interesting project. We all do kind of bits and bobs on the side, apart from Hot Chip. Itís kind of good to have that breadth and have different projects that can give you a break from doing the album. That often can inform that process as well Ė you can also be a bit more experimental, like when we do remixes and things for other bands we can try out some things that you wouldnít necessarily think of. Itís useful as a kind of study and just improving your technique, I suppose compositionally Ė like with technology.
The celloís kind of a sorrowful instrument, isnít it?
Doyle: It can be. Itís equivalent to the tenor voice, I suppose. Itís got a very wide range so you can go right down to the bottom there but you can still actually go surprisingly high as well. It seems to be a very expressive instrument Ė all string instruments are but the cello seems to be a lot of peopleís favorite. Iím lucky that I learned it, I suppose.
Q: You do a lot of the remixing?
Doyle: We all do. Joe and Alexis do some and sometimes I might work with Alexis or Felix and I work together mostly. And Owen sometimes as well. It generally ends up doing two teams of remixes, which means we can get a lot more done. Which is great. We enjoy it Ė the only thing thatís bad about it does take up a bit of time, and we donít have that much time to do our own music. So when youíre at home and not touring you sort of like you might prefer to get on with your own stuff rather than do a remix. Up to now itís just been paying the rent basically, they bring in a bit of money and weíve needed it. Now itís got to the stage where we can pick and choose a little bit more, we donít have to take everything is thrown at us. Weíre being a bit more choosy about who weíre remixing. Sometimes it can take a day or something but sometimes it can take 2-3 days. It just depends on what youíre working with or how creative youíre feeling.
Q: Are there songs out youíd really love to do?
Doyle: Anything with a really good vocal. A lot of stuff we do thatís what lets it down. Somebody who hasnít got a voice thatís worth listening to, basically. We did remixes for a lot of UK guitar bands for a while and they were just these kind of shouty, very unsubtle singing basically. So weíd take like one syllable or one word and Ė cause obviously they like you to have a bit of vocal in it but we try to get away with as little as possible if itís bad.
Q: Youíre from Leeds?
Doyle: Yeah. Joe, Alexis and Owen are kind of Southwest London. Felix actually grew up near the British Museum in the center of London. Iíve been down in London for the last four-five years. Iím enjoying it, itís good. Now weíre all actually living a bit closer together. Felix lives just up the road. Felix and I have a studio in the building I live in Ė so we can do Hot Chip stuff there. Itís lucky for me, I just roll out of bed and into the studio to do some work.
Q: Do you feel a little different from the rest of them?
Doyle: Yeah, though do sort of mention my different roots now and again. But itís never really a big deal. Iíve had a lot of friends in London for a long time so I know the city pretty well. I like going back and seeing my family. When I go back North I get back more of my accent, but when Iím down in London I donít have that strong of an accent. Iíve been accepted.
Q: Youíre all doing something on stage Ė no oneís lazy up there. How do you do it?
Doyle: Weíre very busy. I personally donít like to be just standing around. I feel uncomfortable if Iím not doing anything. A lot of the songs will have natural gaps in them and Iíll try to find something else to do. At the moment weíve got some congas on stage so Iíll do some percussion. Thereís always something to do because weíve got quite a lot of instruments- more instruments than we can actually play at the same time. Thereís four keyboards, two guitars Ė if someoneís playing a guitar then that means thereís an extra keyboard free Ė for instance on the first song on the album Careful, when we do that live I play both keyboards at the same time. Trying to multitask. It can probably be an error, maybe we should try to tone down the texture a bit in some cases, but itís just too much fun. We can make these big sounds with these keyboards so thatís just whatís been happening. We have actually stripped it down a little bit because weíre playing with a live drummer now so that makes for a much fuller sound straightaway. Weíve had to pull a few things back and incorporate that more into the group. Itís starting to work really, really well. We donít normally have a live drummer but we tour with Pat Mahoney from LCD Soundsystem. Heís done a few shows with us in the US and now heís doing the whole tour with us.
Q: Putting things together and layering. How hard is it not to sound messy?
Doyle: Live weíve just gotten a little bit better at playing. Weíve done so many shows. This year we did twenty-six festivals from May to August, a couple of tours in the middle of that. Weíve been on tour since September, so we did three weeks in Europe, three weeks in the UK and three weeks in the US as well. So pretty much three months on the road and hundreds of shows, so naturally youíll get a lot tighter and the song structures are quite fluid. The instrumentation is quite fluid as well so thereís a lot of room to change and improve and figure out what works and what doesnít. Itís not something that is very consciously decided but itís something thatís more like an evolution. Thereís quite a lot of communication going on onstage. It didnít used to be like that. When we first started out, especially with the stage setup that we had, when we were all in a line, we were basically all locked into what they were doing. Like watching five guys doing individual concerts but they happened to be on the same stage at the same time. Whereas now weíve got more of a curve going on and we can look at each other a bit more. Thereís a bit more of a group feel to what weíre doing and weíre not concentrating so hard on getting our parts right because we play it everyday and we can look around and listen to some other people. Like a proper band.
In terms of recording, itís building things up by layers, constantly listening and figuring out whatís too prominent and what can be tucked underneath. I know that Joe and Alexis wanted the album to be something you could listen to repeatedly and discover new things in the mix you might not have noticed on the first listening. Like there are little things that will reveal themselves as you listen more, which is quite good. I donít think youíd get that in a normal live recording of a band. If you look at some of those songs on the computer thereís so many different tracks and different little bits coming in.
It should be quite rewarding, hopefully, as a listening experience.
Q: How do you decide which sounds youíll use. Like the xylophone, I am obsessed with xylophones.
Doyle: Oh really? Itís actually a glockenspiel thatís on the CD. But funnily enough we just played with Dennis Young, whoís the marimba player in Liquid Liquid, a seminal sort of experimental disco group Ė you know the White Lines by Grandmaster Flash, thatís a sample from one of their songs. Youíd recognize a lot of their songs because theyíre really heavily sampled for hip-hop. Young contacted us through myspace and said hey, youíre playing in New York, mind if I come and play with you? It was like, wow, this is unbelievable Ė heís a real legend. He played about three songs with us on marimba. Weíre a big fan of those kind of sounds although they can be overused sometimes Ė itís difficult to not make them sound a bit twee. But sometimes it is just the right thing. Whenever weíre choosing sounds itís just whateverís best for the song. People always go on about how we use cheap keyboards or casios. Itís not necessarily just because itís cheap that we like it, itís just that happens to be a sound that is nice and maybe we spend 1,500 pounds on another keyboard and use that as well. But thereís nothing to say that oneís better or worse just because how much they cost or where you got it from. Itís just a case of looking at things very objectively and deciding what would work best for the song and what sounds best. Iím sure thatís how most people go about doing this kind of music. Or I hope it is. People shouldnít fetishize certain sounds as being the ultimate thing, like when the 303 kind of acid sounds used to be really popular, I mean itís a really great sound and we have a 303 but itís become this kind of thing above and beyond itself. I donít think thatís very good when that happens.
Q: How surprised are you by the response youíve received in the States? I wasnít the only one you came just to see you as openers.
Doyle: It was crazy Ė I think Stereolab were quite surprised as well. Weíre constantly surprised by people coming to our gigs. Or how they know about us. Because the album is selling alright but itís not flying off the shelves in the US by any means. There are a lot of people who are sharing music and thereís a lot of our tracks on blogs and stuff in the US and also thereís been quite a lot of good reviews and articles in local and national press for us. We deliberately came over (to the States) in August even though it was only going to be a very short trip Ė If we hadnít played in the US as much I think people might have forgotten about us a little bit Ė so it was important to do that. It just sort of helped maintain the interest. I think the live shows are a big part of that. People seem to particularly enjoy some of the live versions of the songs that we do, and theyíre very vocal about them. A lot of our fans seem to be very willing to talk about us and to convert other people, which is great. But otherwise I have no idea why they seem to being picked up on. I mean the songs are poppy and theyíre easy to listen to. Thereís nothing too difficult, weíre not trying to do anything thatís too way out. Obviously thereís some very experimental aspects to the music but weíre not deliberately trying to create any barriers. We want everything to be accessible and danceable. I think people pick up on that and hopefully get excited about that.
Q: Your nickname is Al-Doit?
Doyle: Not really, no. It was just in a press release.
Q: Do people call you that?
Doyle: No, no one calls me that. I think there was just a point where people were trying to put in nicknames. Originally I suppose what it came from was that I was the last person to join the band. It wasnít really clear what my role was going to be. There used to be a live drummer and then Felix started playing drum machines and we didnít have a drummer. Then maybe I was going to play drums, because I was a drummer as well, and then people were saying we need someone to play some synth as well and it became, Iíll do it Ė in every situation. I think thatís sort of where it came from.
Q: They were called Hot Chip when you joined?
Doyle: Yeah, Hot Chip as a music making entity has been going since, like 97 probably, when Alexis and Joe as a duo self-released some stuff in the UK. And then they had an ep out on a very small label called Victory Garden records in the South of England in 99 or something like that. The switch to a more electronic bass kind of poppy sound was only just before Coming on Strong, which was when they started to get the band together. Since weíve become a band itís obviously become a different entity. Hot Chip, as people know Hot Chip, has only been going for just over three years.
Q: Whatís your favorite song to play live?
Doyle: New songs, I suppose, is always going to be the obvious one. Weíve got new songs in the set Ė one is not really a new song for us because weíve been playing it for about seven or eight months, but itís not released yet. Thereís one particular one which is quite pacy and fast and itís a lot of fun Ė youíll probably notice when we play a new song because weíre all a bit more animated. I enjoy playing Over and Over because the crowd reaction that is always amazing. We play it at the end and people always seem to really go for it in that song. We get to do our real, sort of rocking out Status Quo stuff on that song. Weíve also been enjoying playing a lot of new acoustic songs. Weíve been doing some radio sessions here in the US and Europe. For those sessions itís just me, Joe and Alexis, just a guitar, one keyboard and some percussion Ė very stripped down versions of the songs.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:21 PM ( 2616 views )The Blakes are a band I saw for the first time a year ago and was thrilled by their energy, sound, and presence. As a trio comprised of Bob Husak [drums] and brothers Garnet Keim [guitar, vocals] and Snow Keim [bass, vocals], they a truly exciting band.
I recently had dinner with them at a local Greek restaurant, where we talked about touring through unique locations, how they have escaped some dangerous situations, and why they are doing things their way.
Whatís it like visiting home now?
Garnet: We grew up this kind of small town, and every time we go back, itís so small that your mom goes to the grocery store or to the video store and she gets ďso when are the boys coming backĒ? Itís like everybody knows about you Ė
Snow: My therapist says itís called being a celebrity.
Q: You grew up in Maine?
Snow: Kind of. I was born in Alaska Ė I moved to Maine when I was about, 10.
Garnet: I was raised in Maine and grew up on the West Coast, if you want to put it that way.
Q: Garnet, youíre the older brother?
Garnet: Yeah, Iím older than Snow.
Q: Was he an obnoxious little brother?
Garnet: Yeah, he used to beat me up. Iíve always been the weak one in the family. Iím the biggest and tallest but Iíve always been beat on by a lot of people.
Q: Thatís sad.
Garnet: I know. Snow used to take me down - well he was a champion wrestler for a while. He was a wrestler Ė You did really well at wrestling, Snow.
Snow: I was going to pull the family out of poverty. I sprained my ankle at the European Wrestling Ė
Bob: It ended your career.
Q: And that was it?
Garnet: You [Snow] were good in history and you loved the chess club. And then he was really good at jujitsu.
Snow: I was trying to get a job as a bouncer.
Garnet: You were just a tough kid. You grew up tough. You never really had a lot.
Snow: Grew up on the streets of Maine.
Garnet: The mean streets of Maine.
Q: Garnet, I remember talking to one time Ė
Garnet: Oh god what did I say?
Q: You were talking about your artwork.
Garnet: Yeah, I did a comic for our band. We had a really bad show Ė in Walla Walla. We drove all the way to Walla Walla, itís about a 6 and a half, 7-hour drive and we get there and there was no show. They didnít bother to tell us. So we did a 13-hour day. I did a little comic book, about 15 pages. I illustrated it and wrote the whole story to kind of blackball the place. I called it the Glass Ceiling, cause it felt like we werenít getting any bigger or any higher Ė weíre doing all this work and we just hit this flatline. But yeah, I do a lot of the artwork for the albums and stuff like that [along with Heather McElroyís Yep Industries].
[At this point there is an interruption in conversation as a dish is served to a nearby table. The dish is some sort of meal on fire].
Bob: What happened?
Garnet: We should order that next time.
Snow: I want to do that.
Garnet: I donít know what that was but it sounds exciting . . . Yeah, I do some artwork here and there.
Snow: When Garnet was in high school he wanted to move to San Francisco and take drugs and do art.
Garnet: Street art. And then die. Really misdirected. And then I decided that I wanted to be a chiropractor. I started going to the University of Maine at Farmington. I was a bio chem major. I did that for 3 years and I dropped out of that after I got a lead role in a play. That changed my life. I never looked back. We just kept working on our band and moved out here. That was that.
Snow: Most people donít know this about Bob, but he was a championship runner in high school. One of the best on the island.
Bob: I was a pretty fast runner.
Snow: You raced the state champ and you beat him.
Bob: No, I raced the fastest kid in school. He gave me a 50 meter head start. I think it was a tie.
Snow: Oh, well thatís still pretty good.
Bob: When I was younger than that I was the fastest kid in my class, but I never really followed up on it.
[At this point another flaming dish arrives].
Q: So, Bob, you grew up around here Ė in the San Juans?
Bob: No, we had a cabin in the San Juans. I kind of grew up in Edmonds, then we moved to Spokane, then Whidbey Island. Thatís where I went to high school.
Q: So Garnet and Snow, you moved here together and found Bob.
Garnet: We found Bob.
Snow: We found God, I mean Bob Ė
Garnet: He was the first person we met when we pulled in to Seattle.
Q: Oh no he wasnít.
Garnet: Honestly. He was the first person we spoke to in Seattle. Iíll show you how it went. We came down from Vancouver and we were just driving around and we hit Denny and this guy started screaming at us.
Q: And that was Bob.
Garnet: No, that was the first person who spoke to us . . . We got to Queen Anne and I wanted some coffee. So we pulled over to this shop and got talking to this weird guy behind the counter about where was a good place to work or do you know of place we could stay . . . and we just started talking. We all had a common love for British music and British pop.
Snow: He started camping out at our apartment.
Bob: You guys had a tent in there for a while.
Snow: We were living in the hostel. We lived there for about 3 or 4 months.
Q: The one downtown?
Snow: Yeah, the Green Tortoise.
Garnet: We were playing on the streets, busking, just to live. We didnít know anybody. We made about $70 a day on Saturday and Sunday Ė near Tullyís. We would buy McDonaldís burgers. We ended up getting jobs at Tullyís Ė I worked with Bob there and Snow worked in Magnolia.
Snow: We did that (busked) because we couldnít play in the bars Ė we were under 21.
Bob: Things were pretty bad in Seattle in the late 90s.
Snow: The Sit Ní Spin had just closed -
Bob: - and RCKNDY
Garnet: There had been a Mayorís Ordinance.
Snow: DV8 wasnít there, was it?
Garnet: Everything was done.
Bob: One time I went to Swing Night at DV8.
Garnet: Remember that swing craze in the late 90s?
Bob: The worst thing about it was they were doing this class before you actually danced, and they had people there who were really good. I partnered up with this girl who was really good and Ė she was really mean.
Snow: Did she think you had lead feet?
Bob: No, but I didnít know how to lift her up.
Snow: Those girls donít mess around. If youíre a mover and a shaker you can get a date, otherwise . . .
Bob: I never got into it. After that I never went swing dancing.
Garnet: You probably didnít miss that much, honestly. I always like the Squirrel Nut Zippers. I never felt like they were a swing band. I always thought that was a man singing, but it turns it was a woman. I always thought the woman was a cross-dresser. It was weird. I remember I was working out in a weight room and hearing the song Put A Lid On It Ė
Snow: This is getting very homoerotic. Thinking about a man dressed up like a woman and youíre really into it . . .
Garnet: I was doing curls. Snow, youíre disturbing the guests. Youíre screaming - youíre probably drunk.
Q: So, memorable shows, good or bad?
Garnet: Well, probably the worst was Frostburg.
Bob: [Agrees] Frostburg.
Garnet: Getting whipped in the basement with a belt. That was awesome.
Garnet: Our whole band got held down and beaten.
Bob: I never got whipped.
Garnet: He ran away.
Bob: They kept trying to talk to me.
Snow: Okay, Frostburg is some weird mountain town in western Maryland.
Garnet: Close West Virginia.
Bob: All these weird toothless locals. Thereís a college there thatís kind of nice, but Ė
Garnet: And itís cold there all the time.
Snow: [We played at] the Regal Beagle.
Bob: And we played to all these toothless locals. They were crazy.
Snow: They were nice, but crazy.
Garnet: To make a long story short, we had an afterparty at a house, in the basement, and they start hauling out moonshine that theyíd actually made. It was 100 proof.
Garnet: The girls at the party get bent over, quickly - theyíre all kind of punks and the guys have these spiked belts. And the girls start to whip them.
Snow: Squealing like pigs.
Garnet: And then the guys start beating the guys and then theyíre like, wait, we havenít beaten the band yet.
Bob: They started chanting, get the Blakes, get the Blakes.
Snow: I was in the corner trying to mack on some toothless girl I thought was cute. I didnít get hit.
[They did get Garnet]
Garnet: I had my arms held behind my back.
Bob: This one guy, all night, was saying, ĎBob, come hereí. And then Iíd avoid him and heíd forget about it. Then heíd remember.
Garnet: Cause they were so drunk.
Bob: No, no, come here Bob.
Garnet: I donít know if that was the best or the worst, but that was an intense one. I mean, weíve had guns pulled on us.
Snow: In Georgia we went to where they shot Deliverance. We got to tour the slave graves.
Bob: Marked with just flat stones.
Snow: There was a regular cemetery and then there was the slave cemetery.
Garnet: It was really weird to see that. These graves were marked but just with these flat stones.
Snow: You donít see it in Atlanta. It was in these places where only our band, for some reason, has gone. Really out of the way type venues. The band that was opening for us, their hair was down to here, and they werenít wearing shoes. They were barefoot.
Snow: One girlfriend came between their whole band -
Bob: Sheís reading a book the entire time -
Snow: . . .read a book through the entire show. He covered You Spin Me Round. . .
He got down on the table and started shaking his hair. And it was our band, his girlfriend, and about two other people, going yeah.
Bob: Right before the show he was like, we wanna welcome the Blakes to Georgia Ė this is where the players play.
Snow: That was the first tour.
Garnet: That pretty much sums up our touring.
Snow: We had about 200 nights of that.
Bob: We just got an email from the Downtown Lounge in Tennessee Ė he was like, weíre still rockiní your demo.
Garnet: One of the only two cities in America that has sidewalks that are on a second story.
Bob: They have the regular sidewalk and then another sidewalk thatís above the street. They have shops up there but now itís a ghost town.
Snow: We had so many experiences like that when we first started touring. Itís not like just doing the club circuit.
Bob: We were pioneers.
Garnet: We starved out there. We ate potted meat. People still remember us from Project Rathole, though.
Bob: It wasnít even a club. It was this judge [in Texas] Ė he was a crooked judge. He got disbarred.
Garnet: But he had this nice property.
Snow: And two wolves. Remember the wolves?
Bob: There were these two wolves that were sitting around the swimming pool and every time youíd go to use the bathroom these wolves would come up to you. And they were huge.
Snow: Real wolves.
Bob: Heíd made this venue and called it Project Rathole. And all these crusty punk kids would show up.
Snow: Thereís not one independently owned store in the whole area. Itís all commercial chains. Those [kids] were so extreme with their punk ideals because there just wasnít any normality. It was all new businesses.
Snow: One kid was so carried away during a song, he cut himself with a razor blade across his chest.
Bob: Yeah, he almost died.
Snow: Thatís the kind of stuff you just donít see. After playing all those places, coming back to Seattle, we felt like Ė letís play somewhere where the whole band feels comfortable, where we all like. The city [Seattle] is just a really great place to live. We love it up here.
Bob: You donít know how nice this city is until youíve been everywhere else.
Snow: Youíve got KEXP Ė independent radio.
Q: Whatís happening with the new cd?
Garnet: Weíve done a bunch of showcases for major labels, but weíre not going to go that route. Our goal is to keep producing at least a record a year. We definitely have the songs. I just canít wait to get this one out so we can do the next one. We get tired of material so fast.
Snow: Every one was like, wait to get a label. And we thought about doing that. It didnít feel right. What does it matter if we put out our record now, to our friends and Seattle? If a label wants to come and help out, fine. But weíre not going to sit around and wait.
Garnet: Anytime you sign with a major youíre put on hold for basically a year. The downside is that [doing it on our own] it turns you into a little business mogul. I think thereís a lot more that bands are finding out about this whole thing of doing it for yourself. Itís not as easy as it sounds, and not only that it puts you in a very compromising position.
Snow: You donít want to look at yourself as a product. You have to sell yourself.
Garnet: Itís weird. There are no guarantees.
Snow: You donít have any strings attached.
Garnet: This is the first record weíre really trying to do it right [with] out of the four records weíve done.
Snow: We hoard our records the way the Gollum hoards his ring. We never released anything officially.
Garnet: Weíve been going to the post office a lot.
Snow: Weíre getting fans in the post office. [Theyíll say stuff] ĎThese donít look like demos, these look like press kits. A long time ago there was a little band called Soundgarden. And I was mailing their press kits, tooí.
Q: They talk about stuff?
Garnet: Yeah, he told us the whole story.
Snow: [The guy at his post office says] ĎItís all about numbers. Send enough out and thereís someone out there that loves your band and just doesnít know it yetí.
We call him post office Buddha.
Q: Why the Blakes?
Garnet: I got it in a dream. We had two different names we were using when in L.A. One was Blu and we decide to do this one - Johnny Rockstar.
Snow: What about Call us Girls?
Garnet: We even had a theme song for that one. I had a dream that we had a band called the Blakes.
Snow: It was the Blakes or Pink Junior. The Blakes may morph into Pink Junior at some point.
Q: So no association with anything Blake?
Garnet: When Robert Blake shot his wife the helicopters were circling our studio. He lived a mile down from where we recorded our first record. It could have had something to do with of that.
Snow: Garnet was so traumatized.
Bob: We were recording that album right next to where they were shooting Passions Ė that daytime soap where they were all witches and weird stuff.
Q: Did you see the actors a lot?
Snow: All the time. Weíd go to the pisser and see those actors.
Q: Did they look strange?
Snow: They were beautiful. I didnít realize how beautiful actors were until you got up close.
Garnet: They looked like they were from outer space Ė a galaxy from far, far away.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:15 PM ( 806 views )
Q: What happened with the show with Radio 4 last time you were here?
Thomas: Well, no one showed up. That usually does it. I mean, people were there. We always have a good time no matter what. Weíll always put on a show and weíll always have a good time. Sometimes when youíre on tour and youíre putting in so much time and you look so much forward to the way things are going to happen every night and you kind of have those duds once in a while. The other 20 hours of your day were in preparation for rocking and then you show up Ė I hate the duds. I canít stand the duds.
Q: Was Radio 4 fun to tour with?
Thomas: Yeah, they were great. Weíre nice guys. Maybe itís a Canadian thing, but in our opinion there are no mean bands.
Q: I read you were born on the Isle of Guernsey. Do you visit there?
Thomas: No, I donít even know why that made it into the bio. Itís kind of weird.
Q: Is it the one with the cows? Wait I am thinking of Jersey.
Thomas: Jersey is our rival. Jersey is like ten times as big. Thereís the Jersey cow and the Guernsey cow, but have you ever heard of the Guernsey cow?
Me: Iíve heard of the Jersey cow. Iíve seen the Jersey caramel.
Thomas: Their cows are so sweet.
Q: On tour you have a hand clapper Ė he claps and plays keyboards, too?
Thomas: He doesnít know how to play keyboards. He has a keyboard in front of him. I have all these laser sounds that Iíve created Ė I just program these different laser sounds into the sampler and he can press any button he wants and something is going to come out. Thatís his keyboard ability. And he claps. But today, tomorrow and the next day will be the first shows weíve ever not played with the clapper. Heís not here Ė he went to L.A. I donít know how weíre going to do it Ė weíre supposed to be a five piece band. Itís totally weird. Luckily the stage is pretty small here.
Q: How was San Francisco? A madhouse?
Thomas: I guess when you tour with a band like Scissor Sisters and things are a little bit wacky already Ė SF shows were totally out of control. They were like shows I have never played before in my life. Pretty much the nicest crowd in the world, mostly gay. Tons of very large men dressed as women all over the place. At certain points audience members mouthing the words I love you with little tongue gestures. We had menís shirts thrown at us while playing.
Q: Was that the first time that had happened to you?
Thomas: That is the first time. Scissor Sisters have this hula hooper guy in a tiny little thong Ė it was different than any show. Ever. And the after show party was even crazier.
Q: Are you having a party too?
Thomas: In Seattle? I donít know. They never tell me. They tell me at the last second, like as theyíre leaving. And then we (Small Sins) go and weíre like your dad. Weíre at the gayest place of all time, trying to fit in.
Thomas: Weíre like, I can dance. All these sweaty dudes. Iím all about wearing my gay hat. Trying to fit in.
Q: Have you gotten a vest?
Thomas: You just have to take your shirt off altogether. Itís crazy, so much fun. They (Scissor Sisters) are the funnest band in the world.
Q: I read in RS they read a lot on tour?
Thomas: I havenít seen them read. Iím sure they probably read, on their bus. Iíve never seen them reading while on the dance floor.
Q: Do you like dancing?
Thomas: I love dancing. Iíve been reading, more than ever.
Q: What have you been reading?
Thomas: Iíve just about finished DBC Pierreís Ludmillaís Broken English. Itís pretty good.
Q: Is it a heavy book?
Thomas: No, not really. I really like Chuck Foster. He writes for Spin. He has three books, theyíre all really great. Short chapters Ė you can put it down for a week and then pick it up again and read it all day.
Q: Who made the decision to wear all white on stage?
Thomas: A friend of mine was wearing all white one day and she looked super hot and I was just starting rehearsals with the band for the first time. I was trying to think of things we could do Ė I just wanted to be unified somehow. Itís not like it means anything. I just wanted to look like one unit. That was just a cheap and easy way to do it.
Q: You must use a lot of bleach.
Thomas: The bleach pen is the best Ė the Tide bleach pen. You dab it on every spot thatís like really bad and then wash it in the Tide with bleach.
They come out spotless.
Cool Ė thatís a good tip for my white clothing. I hardly ever buy anything white.
Thomas: It is after labor day.
Q: The bass is my favorite instrument Ė though you play all the instruments on the cd why did you choose to play it?
Thomas: I guess itís the one instrument thatís constant. Everybody else has to make certain changes while they play. I can concentrate on singing Ė in my old band I used to play bass as well so I am used to it. Most of the music is very melody based and if the vocalís not right then nothing else really matters.
Me: Iím not trying to sound like I am sucking up but your voice is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard Ė itís like another instrument.
Thomas: Really? I hate to disappoint you but live I sing everything an octave up. Doesnít that blow the whole cover? I just like it to be more energetic.
Q: You recorded part of the cd in your parentsí basement?
Thomas: A little bit. I moved around a lot. I didnít have much equipment at the time. I hadnít gotten as nerdy about recording as I would become this year. When my parents went on vacation I totally converted their house in to a studio. But that was really only two or three weeks of the process of a year. Later I moved to various rehearsal spaces. These days I am a little bit more secure. I have my own space and a lot more junk. At the time though it was like wherever would have me.
Q: Was it a cleansing cd to make?
Thomas: It was definitely the first music I ever made that was completely just for me. When I first started recording and I had quit my other bands and I was kind of considering not being in a band again and not really trying to put out records. Iím a little older, maybe I should try to find a real job one day. I just started recording music purely for fun and not to play for any body. Like reading a book or playing video games. I really like the process of recording music on my own, itís my hobby. It totally changed the music as soon as I started doing it for myself. I played it for a couple of friends and it got out really fast. People wanted to give me money. That job thing was all just a dream. It made me look at music in a whole new way and learn a lot of different things about myself.
Q: Such as?
Thomas: What I like in music. Not trying to impress any body, except yourself. I could do really silly things, and I like them. Like the keyboard solo on Itís Easy is pretty much the silliest piece of music ever, but I really love stuff like that. In bands before I would never take chances like that. Somebody might think thatís lame or whatever even thoug I really liked that and your tastes become really streamlined. You donít have to worry about anybody saying no, whereas sometimes when youíre in a band with other dudes and you have a musical choice thatís a little bit risky it can kind of go either way. Someoneís gonna veto it every time. I know thereís obviously a lot of great music thatís collaborative but for me it never really worked out for some reason.
Q: Stay? Is it a farewell song?
Thomas: No. Itís about wanting to have a relationship with somebody without wanting to have sex with them. I guess I just havenít had that many female friends that I didnít want to have sex with. Sometimes friends who are beautiful people, who happen to be women and I love the relationship that I have with them, but . . . Iím not the right guy for you, weíre cool. Find a real boyfriend, cause Iím going to be on the road all the time anyway so why would you want me? I want you here all the time but I donít want to have sex with you.
Q: Devo was mentioned in your bio. Youíre a big fan?
Thomas: I love the Devo. I actually only own one Devo record, which is phenomenal, which is Are We Not Men, We Are Devo.
Q: Have you seen them?
Me: I saw them a couple weeks ago.
Thomas: Was it the new Devo?
Thomas: I hear they sent out some kids. Devo 2K or whatever.
Q: Whatís next for you?
Thomas: Weíre co-headlining with a band called the Little Ones. I think they do well in California so I think theyíll headline there and then weíll headline the rest of the country.
Q: And youíll headline here.
Thomas: I think so. I like Seattle.
Q: What about how you fit in with Canadian music. Do you feel separate?
Thomas: Yeah. When other people are doing really well around you, you tend to step it up. When thereís a lot of success happening in your circle, it just feels more possible. Thereís a certain confidence to get it done in the first place. It makes you feel good to see these other bands doing well and you feel like you can do well.
Me: And compete with them.
Thomas: And compete with them.
Q: What bands would you like to tour with?
I really love Spoon. This band called Starlight Mints Ė theyíre from here? Theyíre great.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:07 PM ( 1201 views )The Futureheads is one of my top ten bands ever, hands down. Combining melody, harmony - how do you describe something that you just have to listen to and let it take over your world? For the Futureheads create worlds in each song in the way film plays before your eyes. It jars, it snaps, then it caresses. Their second album, News and Tributes, released on June 13th in the States, seals the deal.
Ross Millard, singer/guitarist/writer and one quarter of the Futureheads, spoke with me just before a show he was set to do in the U.K. There are many things I want to know about the Futureheads, and so narrowed my questions down to a few for Millard, whose voice is perfection spoken and sung.
How did Return of the Berserker come about?
Millard: That was more or less fully improvised. We were very conscious with the new album that it was a little bit more controlled, well, a little bit less crazy in a way. So we made an effort to have certain songs or certain moments on the album that were completely the opposite of that, very much a hark back to the earlier days maybe. We had a couple of rules: Barry would keep a riff going and the rest of us would count in and out at random intervals and he wouldnít have any idea when we were going to join in again. It was just like a little project at first and then it became a really nice piece of music to have in the middle of the record because it was so contrasting with the songs on either side of it.
Thereís singing in it also - in the background.
Millard: Thereís like a lead vocal really heavily distorted.
You did a version of Fit But You Know it with the Streetsí Mike Skinner
Millard: Heís on the same label as us and he wanted a live band to do a version of that song for the single. Heís not really the kind of artist who works with live musicians so much. So 679 asked if weíd submit a version and people liked it enough to use it as the version with a band recording. We didnít actually meet him in the flesh until much later - we just got the track sent to us in the studio.
Would you do another one?
Millard: I donít know. Maybe - it would be nice to see if we could work the other way around. Someone like that remix one of our songs rather than us always reinterpreting other peopleís songs because as much as we like doing that with other musicians and stuff, thereís a temptation to want to just write your own music. Weíll have to wait and see.
Millard: What song would he do?
Area would be a good one, I guess - a similar sort of subject matter to the kind of thing that he would sing about - the town he grew up in, the state of play that itís in. It would be interesting to see what someone like that could do with one of our songs but I shouldnít hold my breath for it to happen.
You never know.
The Song Man Ray, is it about the artist?
Millard: It is absolutely [inspired by him] - itís not really about him. I think the premise of the song is - I didnít write that one - to try and woo a girl by getting into Man Ray and Weston and stuff. Discovering art as a way to woo a woman.
Meatyard article was impressive. You are interested in photography? Have you studied it?
Millard: Iíve never studied it or anything. Iím sort of at an amateur level - Iím very much interested in it. I do always have a camera with us - itís more exciting to take pictures when youíre out of the U.K. for some reason. I never seem to be struck with too much inspiration. I guess because all the towns you end up playing in the U.K. youíve been to a million times before. Itís more a way to document what weíre doing rather than anything else. As far as techniqueís concerned Iím not particularly well versed. Itís nice to keep your fingers in the pie so as to speak.
What did you study at university?
Millard: I did English literature.
Millard: I really like hard-boiled fiction, noirish stuff. Raymond Chandler. Dashiell Hammet. I also like Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man - I love that book). Itís really hard to pin down specific people.
Letís talk about News and Tributes.
Millard: I guess it works in a similar way to what Danger of the Water does in the first record. Itís about the Munich air disaster that involved the Man United Football Team. Itís not at all about that incident because of it specifically being Man United or football but more because thereís elements of a real human tragedy in it. Everyone likes a good tragedy every now and again - itís nice to sink your teeth into something that poignant. Itís a bit of a challenge to write about as well cause you look at the landscape of rock n roll lyrics and itís a bit two dimensional to say the least, isnít it? Iíve always liked bands and artists who write songs about things that you never really would expect to be written about.
Are you a Man U supporter?
Millard:Yeah, I am - thatís kind of where the song started out more as kind of a project to see if I could write a song about that without it necessarily being a Futureheads song in the beginning. When we came to record the other lads liked it enough to want to work out the version for us to do as a group sort of thing. There are a lot of songs like that one of us will have that stylistically would never work in the band so itís always nice to eventually work through that . . . something that doesnít sound like it would work in the band eventually becomes important for the new record.
You said you had a goal to Nasty and abrasive music? Has this changed?
Millard: A little bit in the sense that you donít want to do the same thing too often. Weíre very concerned with being regarded as one of those bands that can be around for a long time, and being known for one thing and one thing only is never very good for that. We love a challenge so there was something nice in trying to prove that we were a band that could be more than just abrasive. Thereís elements in the new record that are still quite s similar to the first album but I think thereís a lot more ambition to the song writing on the second album.
Are the lyrics available?
Millard: Theyíre in the artwork this time. I think weíre a bit more sure of ourselves in terms of what weíre singing about this time. Itís not embarrassing having every one know what youíre singing about - itís quite nice in a way.
What did you get up to last time in Seattle that you might do again?
Millard: There was a vegetarian restaurant that we went to. Last time we had a day off we went to see the baseball. Doing something like that makes you feel like youíre somewhere special. Weíve got a couple of instores lined up, too. Weíre playing Easy Street Records.
What side of your family do your dark looks come from?
My dadís side I think. Thatís an unusual question. The lads sort of slightly take the piss out of us because they think I look a bit Mexican or something. Weíve got this lad for the minute doing merch with us, heís Peruvian, and people say me and him look like brothers.