I think we’ve said as much in the past, but this really is one of our favorite mixes.
(Related side-note, if you’re interested in hearing our past monthly mixtapes, which we’ve been doing for a little over two years now, you can search ‘mixtape’ on this site or, for the more recent ones and ongoing, listen and explore via our Mixcloud page.)
But, with one foot out the door as we head for our first visit to Japan ٩(◕‿◕)۶ we give you our May 2017 mix.
We’re starting off with a really lovely song from Brooklyn newcomer Kate Kay Es (wait for the horns). Next we feature our favorite track off Future Island‘s new album and a driving new single from Portland, Oregon’s Grace Mitchell (one of a few post-Coachella finds) before hitting an Australian rock block with two new favorites of ours—Golden Vessel out of Brisbane + Vallis Alps out of Sydney (who happens to be playing Lightening in a Bottle up the coast at the end of the month and are fucking awesome). Next, a great, upbeat track from French producer Kidswaste; a hella catchy song from London duo Oh Wonder (another Coachella find); one of our favorite tracks from English singer-songwriter, Shura (ditto on the Coachella); a cool, quirkily beautiful new single by Sleep Party People (AKA, Copenhagen’s Brian Batz); a great introduction to the new album from California’s own Kacey Johansing (album out June 2); a catchy electronic number from Brooklyn duo Beacon; a great, vocal-centric new one from Salt Lake City/Chapel Hill’s Mideau, who we interviewed back in 2014; the welcome new single from LCD Soundsystem; and ending out with a beautiful, dreamy track from DC’s Humble Fire that melts into a haunting new song by New Zealand artist Aldous Harding. Throwing in the very cool video Humble Fire did for their track below our playlist too just because we like it so much.
One Hundred Songs That Inspire Progress and Benefit a Cause for Change
May 9, 2017
This new reality we’ve all been living since January 20th has resulted in many firsts. Regardless of political leanings, we’re all being pushed into new realms, it seems; some of us who’ve chronically felt unheard and under-represented by our government have someone who claims to hold their interests close to heart in power of our country’s highest seat; others feel causes we believe in strongly as core to our identity as Americans are now under threat. In that latter category, many groups and individuals have been moved to find creative ways to support these endangered causes—community fund-raising events, apparel with positive messaging that go to benefit non-profits, prints and posters that do the same.
Now the people that brought us indie record label Secretly Canadian and the team behind 30 Songs, 30 Days have brought us Our First 100 Days, a project that brought together 100 artists, releasing one rare, unreleased, or exclusive song each with the goal “to raise funds and awareness for organizations supporting causes that are under threat by the proposed policies of a Trump administration.”
As they say:
“For a minimum contribution of $30, supporters will be able to access all 100 songs in the project, including new music from Angel Olsen, How To Dress Well, Toro Y Moi, The Range and many more. All profits raised from Our First 100 Days will go directly to organizations working on the front lines of climate, women’s rights, immigration and fairness.”
And the artists involved aren’t skimping. From totally heretofore unheard of original tracks to covers to live recordings to rare b-sides, with 100 artists and groups involved, chances are someone you love is doing something awesome on here. And you can get it all at a cool 3o bucks, all while helping worthy causes.
You can view more information about the six specific organizations the project is supporting on their website and listen to the whole thing below. The stream starts with the compilation’s final track by default—Phosphorescent‘s version of “This Land is Your Land”—but you can start from the beginning with Angel Olsen‘s beautiful intro song once that’s played through.
ACTION MUST BE TAKEN TO PROTECT THE CAUSES THAT WILL COME UNDER THREAT FROM THIS ADMINISTRATION.
We just posted our April mixtape over the weekend and it’s got some great new work on it, both from longtime favorites of ours and from newcomers.
Starting things off with the latter in the form of an excellent single from Brooklyn-Toronto duo ginla before moving on to a track from an interesting, crowd-funded album by Sheffield’s Diagrams (AKA Sam Genders), Dorothy (out May 12), a project on which Genders collaborated with 90-year-old Orca Island poet Dorothy Trogdon.
Next up, a great track from a band we haven’t heard from for a little while, San Francisco duo, Cathedrals; then we feature an experimentally bombastic track from Iceland’s JFDR (AKA Jófríður Ákadóttir), who just opened the LA Phil’s Reykjavik Festival on Friday; some slacker hip hop from Wicca Phase Springs Eternal; the triumphant return of Canadian super-group, Broken Social Scene; another very welcome return from yet another wonderful Canadian indie band that’s been on hiatus for years now, Land of Talk; new music from Danish indie-prog rockers, Mew; a new one from a favorite electronic artist of ours, Chad Valley; a new, seemingly pro-refugee track from Marnie, formerly of Ladytron (remember Ladytron‽); an excellent song from Seattle’s Perfume Genius (AKA Mike Hadreas); a track from Dublin’s Bonzai that effortlessly moves from quiet glitch to roof-raising chorus; a nice one from Perth’s Our Man in Berlin; some catchy as hell self-empowered rock by London trio Dream Wife; and ending out by following up on a band we first featured this time last year, Brooklyn six-piece Arthur Moon, who craft darkly beautiful, introspective art-pop.
Enjoy! And if you hear something you like, check the track list and please do buy songs/albums and supports these great artists’ work.
I feel that the message here is that you can sometimes ease your suffering by observing the world without reacting to or intellectualising it. That's a battle I occasionally win and it's a special thing when it happens.
Sam Genders on his collaboration with poet Dorothy Trogdon
We’re releasing a special edition of our monthly mixtape today to coincide with South By Southwest, going on now in Austin, Texas.
Usually, our mixtapes are about discovery + exploration—for us as much as listeners. We comb through the music sent to our way through the various PR and management company lists we’ve ended up on over the years, track bands we like and regular tastemakers like Oh My Rockness, and, of course, being fans of indie music in Southern California, listen to a lot of KCRW (while making an effort not to parrot them), picking favorite new songs every month and presenting 15 of them in a mix. This month, we’re focusing on what bands we’d like see if we were in Austin this week—a musical wish list, if you will—featuring one track from the top twenty artists we’d recommend (an extra five to both reflect the vast array of wonderful bands playing and make up for the five lost when we do our year-end top ten albums).
With a few notable exceptions—we totally Chad Valley recommend to anyone down there that you check out out of the UK; we would have included him, but his new single won’t be out for a couple weeks, so we’ll be sure to add it to next month’s mix. And we feel terrible that we’ve missed him the past couple times he’s been in Los Angeles. And we would have included Middle Kids, but we just included them on last month’s mix; again, highly recommended—we did catch them when they were in town recently and they killed, as the kids say. And Phoebe-fucking-Bridgers—same deal, we just featured her recently, but really want to catch her live. Luckily, like many awesome musicians of late, she lives in LA.
Like the year-end mix, this one will lift our usual rule that don’t include a band more than once in a year’s time.
But who cares about any of that—let’s get to the music. We’re staring out with a track from one of our absolute favorite new artists, New York/Maryland’s Maggie Rogers. By all appearances, she can’t not write an amazing, jaw-dropping song and it’d be a shame to miss her live. Moving on, we’ve got a nice woozy track from Minneapolis’ Dem Yoot; our favorite track from The Japanese House‘s most recent EP; one from the excellent Deep Sea Diver out of Seattle; Chi-Town’s Noname; Nnamdi Ogbonnaya also out of Chicago; a beautiful song from Brighton’s Phoria (totally recommend that whole album); an emotion-packed song from NYC’s Vagabon; long-time favorite, The Lighthouse and the Whaler; the title track off the recent EP from Melbourne quintet Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever; the Bay Area’s Jay Som (AKA Melina Détente); our favorite off of the awesome new full-length from LA-based and NPR-loving Cherry Glazer; an excellent new find for us, Baltimore’s Outer Spaces; Cloud Castle Lake, who’s been on our radar for a while now and is making a welcome trek over from Dublin; a new one from Melbourne’s Woodes; Brooklyn’s Gabriel Garzón-Montano; a new one from London’s Little Simz, who we had one of 2015’s best albums; another new one for us, Austin’s own Migrant Kids; some clever indie rock from St. Paul’s hippo campus; and we’re ending things out with Lizzo, also out of the Twin Cities, whom everyone should see live—we did on the night of this year’s presidential inauguration, and was exactly the dance party of positivity we needed.
So, check out the mix and, if you’re in Austin reading this, check out these bands; you can run a Find command on this page if you’re on your computer (command + f on Macs) and search for the band you’re looking for on the long list of artists. And if you’re not in Austin, track a band you like on Facebook or the like and check them out when they come to your town.
“When millions of us stood together in January, we saw clearly that our army of love greatly outnumbers that of fear, greed and hatred. Let’s raise our voices together again, to say that women’s rights are human rights, regardless of a woman’s race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, gender expression, economic status, age or disability.”
Print above by the talented Oregon-based author + illustrator Carson Ellis (with profits benefitting the ACLU).
Alright, we’re dating both ourselves and our guest here, but we’ve been fans of Matt Pond for a long time; since at least 2002 or so. These pages have pretty accurately reflected that, with an interview from way back in 2010 and various other related posts throughout his prolific and ever-evolving career. Late last fall, Matt Pond PA (his band name/stage name) released Winter Lives, what, by my count, is the band/Matt’s 11th studio full-length (not counting a tall stack of EPs + singles).
With Pond + co. currently winding down their west coast tour—with a living room show in Burbank tonight, a show at the Arts District’s Resident Friday, and closing things out with a sold-out show in San Diego—we thought we’d again catch up with Matt (above, left) to talk over what’s changed both on a personal level and a larger industry level in the past few years, what went into the new record, and, for good measure, whiskey. Give the album a listen below and read on.
raven + crow: Okay, I want this to mainly be about the excellent new record, but I have to start with this—What happened over the past year or so? We saw you earlier in 2015 at the Troubadour when you were touring for the 10 year anniversary of Several Arrows Later, then again at the Echo, and on that latter one you seemed really…down; talking about maybe never touring again, quitting music and opening a whiskey distillery…we were kind of worried about you, man. Was that all label/industry stuff? What was going on?
Matt Pond: Thanks for the kind words about the new album. I’m proud of that little, humble beast.
Doubts. I think there are always doubts. I think I’ve always thought it a little ridiculous, driving around the country, singing and scratching away at the guitar.
Still, I love it more than anything. And the doubt forces me to work more, to be self-critical in a way that helps me get closer to some kind of truth. (Right?)
As far as the music industry, it can no longer hurt me because I’m almost completely independent.
Yeah, we were honestly happy to hear that that’s what came at the end of everything, the independence. It suits you and the music. So were the anniversary tours something you all wanted to do or were those pushed on you by the label?
Those were my idea. Many people know us through singular albums. Since we have scores of albums, I wanted to give those people what they wanted, and Emblems and Several Arrows Later seemed to resonate with a lot of them. It was thrill to see that happening in real time.
They were a lot of fun. You also put out one record a few years back under your own name, no PA; what brought that on?
I’d moved to Florida with a broken leg. I thought I needed to present myself in a decidedly different way. Because now I was (am) partially made of titanium. That, and our label encouraged it. (Honestly, I didn’t think anyone would notice. Almost like a new set of trousers. Who cares what I’m wearing when I’m alone in the dark corner of a gritty bar?)
I mean, I pride myself on noticing such things as snappy new trousers, but I get the point. Do you think labels are being pushed themselves to have to essentially be super-shitty to their artists, just with the financial end of things being so much tighter and more difficult to traverse for all involved? Do you think that translates to so much more grabbing for the little money that is left on the table?
I think the problem with the industry is that everyone is out for themselves. From the artists, to the labels, to the management and beyond. There’s a P&L attached to all time, money, and effort. “Labor of Love” is an antiquated term for sentimentalists. In some ways, you have to be out for yourself. You have to be cutthroat in terms of planning, foresight. That doesn’t mean that there’s no room for empathy or understanding. (Still, never sign anything without a lawyer’s undivided attention. That is a massive mistake I’ll never make again.)
The thing about music is that nothing is going to happen unless the musician makes it happen. To contradict my previous point about cutthroatedness, if musicians were to take some kind of initiative, things might change. That would require Radiohead, Wilco, etc., to take some kind of egalitarian, focused stance.
I used to be much more competitive about the whole thing. But now I don’t care. I want people to succeed. Because the more people there are succeeding, the better it is for everyone. It’s hard to convince people that shared interests and goals makes sense. Maybe someday. Hopefully.
Yeah, I feel like with most any profession these days, globalization and the single-market effect wrought by the internet mean that most all of us have to chose to either be poor but in control or (if you can swing it) rich but gigantic and, yeah, totally cutthroat. So how, as an independent artist, do you make ends meet? …I’m looking for advice/inspiration here as much as anything else….
I’ve found ways. We used to get a lot of syncs, we stream albums and get the lion’s share (kitten’s share) of royalties. Being independent allows me to make all the money that’s there to be made. I’ve accepted having less in a more-is-everything society.
It’s kind of refreshing. I love what I do. I’m not killing time to make it til the next hilltop. I’m there. (With ripped jeans and failing engine. But it still feels good.)
Well, the jeans are still in, but sorry to hear about the engine. I know a guy, if you want.
We’re both roughly the same age, so we remember how the music scene used to be pre-internet/pre-now. And it’s hard not to think back to the 90s and be nostalgic for those times; easier maybe to just throw up your hands and say everything sucks now. But do you think the current landscape might make it easier too to get your music out there? I know it’s a lot of work, but it does seem like it’s easier to be totally independent but still have an audience, even thought that audience also has a lot more choice in what they consume.
People definitely don’t purchase music the way they used to. They don’t listen the way they used to. In a lot of ways, the internet gives us access to things we always needed a record label for—manufacturing, distribution, connection to our audience. But the channels are flooded right now. So all I can do is try my hardest and hope for the best.
I’ve never wanted to change or adjust for the sake of commercial viability. I want to do this and feel like I’ve made something that matters, that means something. Even if that means having a little less. (I would like some new trousers. I hope that doesn’t sound greedy.)
We’ll totally bring some to the show.
So with the new album, you put that out totally on your own—131, that’s you right?
Yes. The label is me. With a ton of help from some great friends. In this department, I am one lucky dude.
Sidenote: Where was the photo taken for the 131 site? You seem to be trapped in some beautiful pit.
That photo was from a cave in Iceland. It was nothing less than epic. The explosive visions from that country are endless. I can’t wait to go back.
Goddammit. I feel like every single person I know other than myself has gone to Iceland at this point. I need to get on that.
Are ya’ll putting out anyone else’s music or is it mostly just for MPPA?
As far as production? Chris (above, right) and I recorded a local gentleman named JK Vanderbilt. And our friend Caroline. Chris also mixed an album for gentleman named Mark Poro. We would definitely do more if there were more offers. We don’t have amazing gear or a great space. But we make what we have work. (That is the title of my memoir.)
I would release an album of something I love by someone else. It’s just a lot of work and I would want to put everything I have into it. Meaning, heart attack.
But We Make What We Have Work, The Matt Pond Story; I like it.
So, like I’d mentioned off-line, we really love the new album. It’s (aptly) very wintery, which we dig given our new Southern California locale and resulting nostalgia for snow. Was that sound intentional or did the Winter Lives theme just seem to tie up well thematically the kind of songs you were writing leading up to the record? …I feel like that was an unnecessarily complicated question, but I’m going to stick with it.
This is all intentional. Even some of the mistakes.
The point is to talk myself—and anyone who wishes to listen—through the winter. These times are tough on the mind. Especially “these times.” So in some ways, it makes more sense than ever. At least to me. (I think I matched your complication and raised you.)
Fold. Did you feel a need to re-present the band, post-label-strife though? I really liked The State of Gold, but this sounds like a little bit of a return to a sound that suits you well; like a musical coming home, almost.
I don’t think I would give any credit to any evil forces. I enjoy making a thread of albums. Tying everything together, but always adjusting the sound. That could be the mistake of my lifetime. Everyone seems to want rigid consistency. And I am not rigidly consistent. I’m more of a loose cannon? Or a curve ball? Or a bat out of hell? Regrettably, I gravitate toward unpredictability.
I mean, it’s not like you’re suddenly putting out house music or anything, but, again, point taken.
We always have to ask about album art—who did that for you?
Jenna Casey did the album art. She’s an incredibly talented person. Another member of the team who gives everything and is not a millionaire. I have ideas. Then she takes those ideas and makes them great. Although Winter Lives was 100% Jenna.
The next album cover is a photograph shot by an amazing old friend. I’m thrilled beyond belief.
Well, we like it. Can you talk about the tour?
We’re splitting living room shows with bigger venue shows. I’m trying to see if there’s a way of making this work on multiple levels, even simultaneously.
For me — I don’t want to fall into a comfort zone. I like every night to be a challenge. (In a good way. I don’t want the challenge to be some kind of cage match with a knife-wielding throng of haters. That never turns out well.)
I’m guessing that’s a reference to the aforementioned broken leg, but I’m going to let sleeping dogs lie.
I know you’d said a year or so back that you were interested in being on the road less and investing more in your relationships in the community; are you able to do that more these days?
I admire the the idea of community. In action, it doesn’t always seem possible. There’s a lot of fracturing and fraying these days. Socially, politically. I think staying vibrant through music and through other musicians is the best way for me to survive.
I’m also incredibly keen on quiet.
You’re in (or near) Saugerties, right? How is it there?
I’m near Saugerties. When spring finally comes, it will be perfect. Right now, the cold has worn out its welcome. When that blue hue of Catskills comes back into view, I’ll forget all about the merciless winter.
And does the new album mean that’s a hard pass on the whiskey distillery or can we still hope for Matt Pond PA whiskey some day?
The point of the whiskey was really just to make something with a group of motivated, talented people. To split profits and invigorate the community. Whiskey seemed like the perfect tonic. But other things would work—beer, brandy.
In my mind and in my life, collaboration has always yielded the best results. Unfortunately, trying to do everything at once seems nearly impossible.
Maybe in the next life.
We’ll take the music in the meantime; thank you for it and the time.
I like every night to be a challenge. (In a good way. I don't want the challenge to be some kind of cage match with a knife-wielding throng of haters. That never turns out well.)
Matt Pond on changing things up and avoiding knife-fights.
February in Los Angeles has been a literal deluge of welcome rain that we’re nonetheless unaccustomed to in these parts—thus the watery motif with the art. Extending that theme into the aural realm, we’re also awash in excellent new music in the new year.
This month’s mix tape starts off with some quietly beautiful pop that explodes into pulsing rhythms courtesy of Montreal’s KROY before hitting one of our favorite of a number of new, excellent songs from Newcastle upon Tyne’s Joy Atlas. Side note, here: it only happens once in a blue moon, but there are times when we hear new music and it brings us to an blindingly blissful halt in our tracks. Music from bands like Efterklang or Boxed In or Micachu + the Shapes or Sylvan Esso or Purity Ring or Braids—music that seems so perfectly written just for us and that we’re hooked on from the very first listen. We know very little about them, but Joy Atlas seems to be the newest entry in this very short list of bands—we highly recommend keeping an eye on them.
Moving on, we’ve got a track from another UK-based band blending melodies with hyper-rhythmic drums + bass, the Dutch Uncles; more dreamy, 80s-inspired Brit-pop from Treasureseason; a dip back into deep glitch with Clap! Clap! (AKA Cristiano Crisci); some nice deadpan bedroom pop from Jonathan “Yoni” Wolf’s WHY?; some solid, sleekly done R+B from LA’s own Syd; a catchy pop song from Nashville’s Bantug; the first track from the just-released EP by one of favorites from 2016, Sydney’s Middle Kids (whom we just caught at the Echo this weekend and blew our collective socks off); a wonderful song from London’s Wyldest (their whole EP is great; you should check it out); a subtle dance track from another London band, Little Cub; a sprawling, epic number from Scandinavian artist Skott; a fun one from Oslo-/Madrid-based duo BLØSH; a slow-burning-yet-beautiful song from Canadian artist Bernache; and we’re ending out with great song from Brooklyn-based trio Half Waif‘s just-released EP.
And, a reminder, if you’re ever playing a Mixcloud mix below or on our page and wondering who you’re listening to, just click the Show Tracklist button to find out.
Now dive in, my friends.
That shouldn’t feel progressive, it should be the norm by now, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s amazing how little credit some of these women get for how they curate their art.
Joy Atlas keyboardist Adam Kent in conversation with Eugenie Johnson on working with strong women.
A few weeks back, we were sent an advance album from a New-York-City-based musician who created almost all of his melodic and many rhythmic sounds on his new album using a banjo. Needless to say, we were intrigued. We expected something interesting; what we didn’t expect was one of our favorite albums of the new year. Regardless, that’s exactly what Mike Savino—performing under the moniker, Tall Tall Trees—gave us. The full-length traverses epic soundscapes, moving from swelling, orchestral moments to quiet, contemplative ones that make you feel that you’re standing in the middle of a hushed forest (appropriately enough). And all the while, you’d never know that most of what you’re hearing is a banjo.
In anticipation of the release of his new album, Freedays, next week, we took the opportunity to speak with Savino about how he made the record, what inspired it, and what it’s like to write music on a massive abandoned resort in the mountains of Georgia. Below, the introductory track from the album and our conversation.
raven + crow: First off, thanks for taking the time to talk—we really dig the album. I know you’ve released two other records under the Tall Tall Trees moniker, but this is much more a solo record for you than they previous two, right?
Mike Savino: Yes, Freedays is the first full-length that I approached as a solo project. The first two TTT records we’re made in a collaborative band setting but, for this one, I produced it and played most of the instruments myself. I later got Philip Mayer and Claude Coleman Jr. to add drum set and Kishi Bashi to add some magic to a few tracks.
I thought I heard Kishi—or at least Kishi-influenced moments—there. We’re big fans. I haven’t seen the liner notes or anything on the album—is he on there a good bit?
Only on a few tracks if I remember correctly, be he definitely helped me shape and refine what I was going for.
That’s great. So, how else does the album differ in your mind, besides being your first solo endeavor?
This is the first record in which I used a set palette of sounds to create an entire album. It is purely my style without the dilution of collaboration which, for me, makes it a very vulnerable record. There was no one there to question me or lead me in a different direction or say that’s crazy or stupid. I went through a lot of soul-searching and convincing myself that it was okay to just say how I feel or what I’m thinking about very plainly in song.
I heard you wrote at least part of it while acting as the sole caretaker at an abandoned resort in the mountains of Georgia? Is that right?
That is correct. I spent eight months living at a place called The Bird’s Nest, nestled on the edge of the Chattahoochie National Forest. The owners spend most of the year teaching Biodynamic Agriculture abroad, so I was offered the opportunity to live there, take care of their dogs, and mail packages for them. It’s an enormous house that just happened to have a 1500sq foot wood paneled meditation room with vaulted ceilings overlooking a mountain and small pond. It turned out to be perfect for recording. The owner’s first husband was Christopher Bird, the author of—The Secret Life of Plants—who spent his final years there. There were seven libraries filled with incredible books including his lifework. The house sat on 15 acres, so there were only a handful of neighbors and they were too far away to hear my late night experiments, which allowed me to work any time I wanted.
That sounds amazing. How’d that all come about?
The house is owned by a good friend’s mother. He grew up and was home-schooled there before they had electricity. He knew I was looking for a special place to record my album and offered me the caretaker gig. I packed my car and drove fourteen hours to get there after seeing only one picture of the house.
Sounds like tit was well worth it. What it very Shining-esque? Tell me you didn’t chase anyone through hedge maze.
It kinda was, excepting I was completely alone and had no one to murder. The house, when it was built in the seventies, had eight sides with a stone fireplace in the center to heat it. Over the years, they built on to it many times giving it a maze-like quality. It was very easy to get lost in there and, needless to say, I did.
Is the Georgia connection how you know Kishi Bashi?
Kishi Bashi and I are old friends from New York City. We met there in 2003 when we we’re both cutting our teeth in the jazz and improvisational music scene. I had a group that was playing Brazilian music inspired by Hermeto Pascoal and a friend brought him to rehearsal and we clicked right away. We stayed in touch throughout the years and when his first album started to take off, he called and asked me to join him on the road. We share a sensibility and background that makes us natural collaborators and friends. He was vital in the making of Freedays as a co-producer because, when you are making music start to finish on your own, it’s hard to know when to step away from it. I would always send my tracks to him and he gave me a fresh perspective that I respect.
You guys are touring together a bit too, right? Will you be joining each other on songs at all?
We tour together all the time. We’ve played hundreds of shows all over the world, initially as a duo, and now the band has grown to five people. It’s been a wild ride.
I actually saw you’re playing the small town that hosts our alma mater, James Madison, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. That’s a pretty small town—do you have a connection there or is it just a random stop along the tour?
I’ve been there once before and had a really nice time. Sometimes you need to fill a date on a tour and there it was.
Yeah, it was a great place to spend four years. And it’s always had a surprisingly vibrant music scene. Any plans to come to the west coast at all? We’d love to see you play Los Angeles.
We’re working on that now. I’m hoping to get out to the west coast this summer or fall.
So, instrument-wise, is most of what we’re hearing on Freedays banjo in one form or another?
Yep. For this record, I tried to implement all the banjo experiments I’ve been utilizing on the road these past few years. Most of the songs are hinged on banjo drum loops I created on the spot and built from there. I’ve rigged my pedal board so I can play a note and treat it like an oscillator as you would on a synthesizer so it’s infinitely manipulatable. I also used this beautiful banjola that a generous Austrian fellow made for me, which is essentially a five string banjo with an acoustic guitar type body. That opened up some doors for me sonically. There is also some electric and double bass, ARP synthesizer, oboe, omnichord, and drum set. I think that’s pretty much the pallete I used.
Where does the attachment to the banjo come from? Have you played it long?
It was something I always messed with as a hobby. I was a committed bass player, went to school for jazz, and thought I would be a touring and recording musician supporting other artists, but it’s hard to predict your life, I guess. After school I pulled my banjo out of the closet and started writing songs after many years of playing instrumental music and people responded to it. I’ve always loved the sound of banjo though and became obsessed with bluegrass and Appalachian folk music, but it was always my inclination to do something different.
Can you break down what exactly’s been done to the banjo (in terms of filter or recording or alteration) on a particular track?
Well, there are so many things. The track “Backroads” (above) is mostly banjo, even the drums. There’s no drum set on that one. On “A Place to Call Your Own” the bass is really banjo. I’m probably using a POG on that one. Basically if I could use banjo to play an untraditional role in a song, I did. The song “The Riverbend” was basically an improvisation that I shaped into a song. There’s a lot of weird banjo on this record.
Man. Very cool. I know it’s a question you might get a lot, but what’s the story behind the name?
I was obsessed with Roger Miller for many years. I loved that he could write a song and make you laugh and the next one crush your heart. He encompassed the wide range of human emotion for me and that’s something I aspired to do from the start. I named the project after a song he and George Jones wrote, not particularly because I loved that song but I was looking for something naturalistic and fantastic to represent my music. Tall Tall Trees just spoke to me. Unfortunately that hokey Alan Jackson cover is the one most people know.
Oh, yeah, that version’s much better. Who did the album artwork? It’s right up our alley.
The photo was taken by my friend Paolo Corradeghini while I was on tour in Italy. I was very close to where many of my ancestors came from and was feeling very connected to the world. The artwork was done by my friend David Woodruff who worked with me to capture the essence of my time at the Bird’s Nest. The album also includes some photos I took while I was there. I’m glad you like it!
Yeah, love it. Well, thanks again for taking the time to talk and, again, honestly, thank you for this album—it’s an unexpected gift and we’re really into it.
Wait. I mean. Not literally. I’m looking around as I write this, I see no wires. More accurately, then—literally, posting the monthly mixtape at nearly the final hour of the month!
This is not a brag, mind you. If anything, it’s a cry for help.
Yes, yes, that quote Winston Churchill likely never actually said and all, but, turns out, when you’re staring the visceral, fang-filled, frothing mouth of the end of the world in the face, it’s very difficult to justify and make time for—energy for—let’s say, your top fifteen songs of the month.
But we motherfuckingdidit. Because, you know what? If we don’t, the terrorists win.
The President of our United States wins.
All signs point to needing some good music, much of it with some suspiciously riotous and activating tones, I might add.
Starting out, we’ve got our favorite track off the new The xx, which, start-to-finish as an album, we’re really loving. Next up, a great song from Teen Daze out of Canada (AKA, That Place All of Your Friends are Moving [really hope we’re kidding—WE CANNOT RETREAT!]). Then we’ve got some great new music from New York artsy banjo guy, Tall Tall Trees; terrible spellers/excellent musicians FAWNN out of Michigan; nice, melodic electro from NYC’s Satellite Mode; gritty pop from Southampton’s Laurel; an excellent excerpt from an excellent new album by Chicago’s Lindenfield; a nice, long-titled, jump-up-and-down-when-this-comes-on-at-the-party number from Melbourne’s Alex Lahey; a new one from London’s Georgia (confusing, yes, but she made our runners up list for best album in 2015 and is awesome); an infectiously beautiful song from Amsterdam’s LUWTEN; some refreshingly new-sounding shoegaze from Montreal’s No Joy; a nice slow burn from Slovenlie; our favorite track from Austra‘s new one; a nice, droney-yet-upbeat track from Göteborg’s Wildhart; and we’re closing out with what has to be the most beautiful, saddest song about Los Angeles in ages from one Ms. Phoebe Bridgers, from whom I’m sure we’ll hear much more soon (she also has the best URL in the biz).
I don’t know.
Let’s enjoy some fucking music—play it as we protest, as we plan, as we motivate, even as we push that extra bit to make ourselves not feel like shit in this feel-like-shit-era.
Not to play sides.
I want to live at the Holiday Inn Where somebody else makes the bed We'll watch TV while the lights on the street Put all the stars to death It's been on my mind since Bowie died Just checking out to hide from life