You Win, Every Time: An Interview with Bear Mountain

You Win, Every Time: An Interview with Bear Mountain

Four years ago I met Ian Bevis at a charity event. He was raising money and I was throwing out my best moves in a dance circle. When I shake hands with him again he seems to recognize me and I shudder to think it’s because of my trademark Round-the-World move that I’ve been perfecting since high school. Since that night Bear Mountain has gone from relatively obscure musical peanut to being deemed Canada’s indie prodigies. It’s surreal. Perhaps it’s because I met him outside the context of his music that I’m having a hard time believing the person in front of me is human. Together with the rest of the band we are sitting on leather couches in the foyer of their record label and I scarcely believe what I’m experiencing. I am overcome with the feeling that I am interviewing a future version of him, an apparition. Like the entire band is the physical manifestation of the letter your tenth grade teacher asked you to write to yourself five years down the line; like I’m getting a privileged glimpse into Bear Mountain’s certain future. I have an eerie feeling that when I’m done they will disappear as puffs of smoke into triangular windows, and I will wonder if it was all just a dream; for me and for them.

Bear Mountain does not have a collective idea of how they met. When I asked after the band’s history I received muddled responses and even some alarm as to when Ian and Greg truly met Kenji. What did come through loud and clear was what Kenji remembered of meeting Kyle. “I fell in love with his guitar,” he says, and everyone turns their heads in mock amusement. “Seriously. He had this really awesome double sided guitar.”
Kyle nods as he remembers. “I built this little attachment to my guitar,” he says. “It’s like a kaossilator, like a chord synth unit. I hacked into the electronics and rewired it to a Guitar Hero neck. Then I built this thing, and got a metal plate, and all this; rewired it. I made it into a mini guitar that I could attached to my real guitar so I could drop down and do all these weird sound effects with it. Like a double neck guitar.” He raises his hands up and gives me a few spectacular seconds of air guitar. The piece itself, which I will boldly name The Kylossilator, is not on tour with them at the moment, but we can expect a 2.0 version to come out soon.
The band is experiencing what you might perceive to be a sling shot ride into the limelight. If you were to place their rise to fame on a life graph it would look like a vertical line; as proven by transitioning from the underground Vancouver scene to playing Governor’s Ball inside of a year. Talking with them you hardly notice that notoriety has touched them at all. They still sound amazed that this is happening to them, and talk humbly about the changes in their trajectory. “It’s been less than a year,” says Ian. “Playing NXNE last year, no one knew who we were. It was a fluke we got to play at all.”

So what was the spark? Bear Mountain’s story is of a contemporary design, one seen more and more nowadays. No one can deny that the industry experienced massive shifts with the invention of GarageBand and its equivalents. Expectations of both the artist and the label have undergone complete overhauls culminating in a discernable power shift; relationships are changing and what each needs the other for is no longer universal.

“It used to be that people thought that [labels] were the gatekeepers to the industry. A lot of bands still try to go through that gate; traditional ways, traditional press, traditional labels…getting a manager. So many bands are struggling by playing that game,” says Greg. “I think we saw a different opportunity, a different road. We produced, recorded, and released. We did everything ourselves. We put it on the internet and let people decide if it was any good or not, as opposed to whatever industry was there. The music speaks for itself, it got itself to that platform, without any help from industry.” He thinks for a moment then says plainly, “whatever tools you need to make your music, use them.”

“We uploaded some tracks onto Soundcloud, and it was nuts,” says Ian. “Some of them got 40 000 hits the first day. The record got a lot of blog love too.” And then the inevitable happened. “An A & R guy at a major label heard Congo on an underground radio station and started a relationship with us, flew us down to LA, hooked us up with managers, booked shows for us.” And just like that, Bear Mountain went from taxiing down the runway to liftoff.

I asked them how much bootleg stuff was still out there. “There’s a version of Two Step out there on the internet, like an original version. Some of the original Garage Band stuff too,” says Ian. “I bet if you looked on our MySpace there’s still some tracks on there, or LastFM. There’s song called River of the Goods, a song called A Song For the Kids. I was just making this stuff and posting it the same day.”
I asked them if it was true for everyone, if their path was available to the entire Canadian music landscape, that if you have the will you can find a way. Was Garage Band opening up the industry to kids in the prairies and Peggy’s Cove? “It’s free software,” says Kyle. “It’s giving everyone the chance to create. If you have a laptop, you’re good to go.”

“The recording thing is a little more tricky,” says Kenji. “What people don’t acquire is the skill to capture sound and then properly process that sound; cause that’s a totally different technique. People [using Garage Band] get packages of already made nice sounds. The art of capturing sound takes a lot more time and resources.”
Greg agrees. “A full studio is completely different. You see this more though, people make do with what they have, get a buzz from it, then get some money together, then go make a record in the studio and when they start playing with the sound engineering they do it in a really creative way because they’ve had to do it creatively the hole time because they had no resources. Daft Punk started that way.”
What do you think of Daft Punk’s new album? “Amazing,” says Ian, “I don’t even think we’re going to know how amazing it will be for a couple more years; see what comes from it.”

“You know they’re not touring with it,” I say.

“I didn’t expect them to,” he replies.

“Here’s the thing,” says Kenji. “They’re going to remix it.”

We are in the midst of NXNE 2013, and the scope of the festival doesn’t escape me. All week I’ve been wondering about the differences between concrete festivals, namely those in cities, and field festivals, which are self explanatory. Bear Mountain is one of few bands that played both NXNE and SXSW, and Sasquatch, and Governor’s Ball. I asked them if they had a preference between one or the other.

“The Gorge is amazing,” says Ian, and when asked about it compared to concrete festivals, “Sasquatch; there’s nowhere else to go when you’re there. There’s no going into a bar down the street for one, or over to a friend’s house for a nap. You’re just locked in this beautiful space and you’re all together.”

“Governor’s ball was muddy,” says Kyle. “But when you’re locked on a field and nobody cares, that kicks ass.”

“When were in Austin we saw so many bands, though,” Ian says.

Greg, “Every band was there. It was mayhem.”

“It was crazy to walk down the street; a parking lot, show going on; a little café, show going on. Show. Show. Rooftop show.” Said Kenji. “Across the street, rooftop show. It was pretty wild, actually.”

Many are torn, myself included. Each space brings with it its own set of good and bad, reasons to sit back in amazement, and hurdles you’d rather give to the next guy. When you’re out in the city with a wristband there’s this sense that anything could happen. It’s the expanse. Lots of stuff happens in field festivals, but the number will always be limited to what can be contained within the fairgrounds. In the city, avenues are infinite. With so many choices there is no paradigm with which to make any. Your night will be determined by the unpredictability of a red light. You’ll stumble into a bar with decent line and ask the bartender what you’re in store for. “You’re in luck,” she’ll say, and Bear Mountain will be the band powering up on stage. That band you discovered because of a random event, the perfection of which begs no explanation. They are chance, the belief that all things have purpose, if not for a road map.

Ian sings just as we want him to, calling to us from an early nineties iridescent dreamscape. Greg’s drums are hands inviting you onto the dance floor; Kyle your feeling of adventure, and Kenji is the assurance that everything is going to work out the way it’s supposed to. This is the epitome of what youth feels like; visions through triangles hanging in the sky. Bear Mountain’s music pulls us places that we had forgotten could exist, places where deep relaxation and invigoration live in harmony. To places where every day is spent atop fresh cut grass, luscious yellow light moving in beams through the branches above; where every night culminates in a slow motion dance party with your best friends, heat from your skin vibrating against the cool summer breeze.


Lady Lamb The Beekeeper Interview

Lady Lamb The Beekeeper Interview

A small little girl from Brunswick, Maine by the name of Aly Spaltro had the dream and the desire to get her sound out to the world. In a surprisingly short period of time, she’s accomplished a rather incredible amount of hype, a number of EP’s, mixtapes, music videos, a newly released full-length studio album, and a now growing group of invested fans that hang off her every word. Not bad for a 23 year old in the world of indie rock (hers is more eerie at times and always more interesting than most, so it may not actually be that surprising to anyone, really). I thought, as I was new to her sound and her music that I’d start at the beginning. And that’s just what I did.

Back in Brunswick, Maine, your hometown, did you have musical chops as a child or was it more of a performance deal for young Lady Lamb?

Lady Lamb: I had musical leanings but never any desire to perform. It was basically just an obsession with music from an early age. Between the two of them, my parents listened to a very eclectic mix; my mother loved the 80’s or classical music pretty much exclusively and then my dad listened classic rock, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and all those guitar heroes.

And then…

… Oh! And then when I was five I lived in Arizona. My next door neighbour was my babysitter: she was 13 and kind of a weird kid and really into the Beatles, late Beatles, you know?

The more experimental Beatles…

Absolutely. White Album and all that. We hung out a lot and became good friends, which made me a very strange five year-old! So we would just sit around and listen to The White Album and Rubber Soul all the time and through that I started listening to “oldies radio” on my own. I started making mix-tapes cause I was really into The Supremes, Mamas and The Papas, Leslie Gore, Otis Redding… basically everything on oldies radio stations.

So it was just an obsession at that point?

For sure. I didn’t have any desire to really play it, I didn’t think of it that way. I was a shy kid to begin with so I never wanted to perform or be in talent shows or sing or take lessons or anything like that.

And your first recordings, kind of show that shyness. You recorded it all yourself, packaged them all yourself, brought them to your local record store; you did everything on your own. Was that more of an experiment or did it just get to a point where you needed to start sharing what you were creating?

It was both but it really started as a way for me to express myself in a way that was really focused and dedicated. I wrote a lot of poetry in high school and I wanted to do something, honestly, with my year, because I took a gap year between highschool and college, and I wanted to do something that was really involved before college. I taught myself how to play and started singing at that point and for the first few months I had no desire to share any of it. But then, after packaging it up and giving a bit away for free I really just sort of fell into [the industry] by accident. I started performing and really getting something out of that which I don’t think I expected.

Did you feel you really had any specific pushes to get more into the spotlight and stray from that shy girl you were as a kid?

I never felt any “pressure” from anyone I knew really. I worked at an independent DVD rental store for four years and they became my second family. My boss at that store was a huge film and music buff and after hearing my stuff he was the first to really encourage me to play a show. And then my dad told me to try but it was really up to me and it took me a long time to get up the courage to get on stage.

Typing your name into any search engine, a whole lot of videos come up and many from early on in your career. For someone self-admittedly shy, do you feel there’s something visually you need to present with your music as well as lyrically?

It has to do with a number of things. I know that “I” as a music fan want to see artist’s visuals. If I’m checking out a band for the first time I will most likely look up a music video. And it comes from that; it comes from being a fan and thinking that video is an integral part to the art. Also, as a kid I loved to draw, paint, collage, make movies, and all that so naturally the visual came ingrained, for me, in the music. It makes me feel really lucky that I’m doing something that I love that has room for other mediums as well.

In just about all of your videos, although serious at times depending on the subject of the lyrics, there seems to be an undercurrent of light heartedness. Is that and uncontrollable element of your personality just breaking through or is that something planned that you want in your music and your creative process?

Well, in the case of the videos, it’s probably just me coming through. I have this one video where it’s a one-take, pretty serious video called “Between Two Trees” where I’m just standing in front of a wall… I’m singing along (so that it doesn’t just look like I’m lip-synching), I’m singing in the room but then I mess up the lyrics. I got all flustered, laughed, but then kept singing. That happened, so why do the take again, you know? Just let it be, because I’m a little silly so just keep that in there.

Your album Mammoth Swoon, a 2010 release, received some well-deserved attention for being a pieced together album of demos and b-sides. Did that come together naturally for you?

That I put out myself and is just a mix of stuff. It wasn’t really meant to be released it was honestly meant as something I wanted to leave with Portland, Maine when I left for New York. But then when I moved I needed something to give to people so I kind of just kept making it and so any press it got wasn’t intentional. I mean I didn’t even have a publicist until this newest record.

Working so much on your own, do you find that knowing more about the business side of the industry; booking shows, handling publicity, etc. is something you’re pleased about or are you just happy to leave that up to others now?

I’m super pleased I learned that way! I don’t know if other artists really talk about this but for me, I’m first in line to hear about anything and everything that comes through about my music cause that’s the way I like it. I like answering e-mails and talking directly with promoters and publicists because that’s just part of my personality! I wouldn’t have it any other way, really.

Your newest and first studio album Ripely Pine (released May 2013) having dropped now, do you have expectations for the work?

I made sure to not have any expectations what-so-ever. I’ve learned in my life that it’s a pretty good rule to not have any expectations on anything you do, or people for that matter. You make these high expectations and then you’re disappointed. So I decided that if I went into the studio with that [expectation filled] attitude that I would end up making something that wasn’t entirely honest because I’d likely be too focused on what other people thought. Pleasing others, hoping to get good reviews, stuff like that I tried not to think about at all. In that way, I’ve made something that I’m ultra proud of and I worked for more than a year on this because, well, I had the luxury to work with my producer for that long, but also because I didn’t want to cap it until it was fully finished. I needed to work on it until I knew that I wouldn’t have a single regret about the way it was made and that’s what happened. This sounds so… I don’t know… but the feeling of finishing it and the fact that it took so long, so much hard work, sweat and tears and all that, and just the joy that it’s done and it’s real and it’s out and now the rest doesn’t matter, really. So to really answer your question, because I had no expectations I’m pleasantly, pleasantly surprised and I’m very happy that people seem to really like it and are responding to it.

Touring for this release seems pretty hectic by the looks of your schedule. You mentioned earlier that you’ve got a three week break coming up; do you feel that needs to be a “re-charge and relax” break or can you just not shut the creativity faucet off?

I haven’t written a song in a long time because I’ve just been in a different space: “Work this record. Tour. Go. Go. Go!” you know? So I’ve been feeling the urge to write again. I was on tour in Europe before this and the urge started there and when that happens generally the lyrics come first for me. I can’t just grab a guitar and go, I write a lot of poetry and then when I get home I put music to it. I’ve written a lot of lyrics in the last month that I’m really excited to use the three weeks coming up to get home and put music to. I’m also gonna eat a tonne of Brooklyn food. That’s number one [laughs].

On your website you have a section called “In The Books” where you can scroll through random pages of some of your notebooks. Is that just a fun outlet for you in posting that?

I can’t remember how that came about but I just thought that might be a really intimate thing that people might appreciate. As a music fan I know I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool to see a musicians notebook or scribbles on song or the original lyrics to a song by the Beatles or something like that?” That’s so amazing to look at! There’s a lot of personality in the way a person writes and what they’re saying when they’re just writing in a notebook and not thinking about two years down the road when it gets posted on the internet or whatever. What I really like about it is that there are the “beginnings” to a lot of songs in there randomly. The beginnings of ideas from years ago are in there that ended up in this record and that’s pretty neat.

In terms of future dates, you’ve got Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh, NC as your last posted date this year. Another break then or is that just as far into the future as the site has been updated?

That’s in early September, ya. I would like to have the month of September mostly off because I’m planning a tonne of stuff after that. It’s not up yet but I’ll be touring again in October, November, December at least!

Touring for this new album seems to be taking up all your time but is there something upcoming that you’re really excited about in terms of releasing a single, a new video, some more b-sides possibly?

I’m definitely getting to the point where I’m itching to make another video so I’m keeping my mind open in terms of thinking up concepts for another video. I’d also just love to go back into my studio where I made Ripely Pine and do a cover. Maybe a duet cover with a guy [quickly adds]… friend… in New York. I’ve been thinking a lot about doing a Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks cover. I think that’d be really fun to put out just for no reason other than just to do it. We could just nail it in a day then put it on the internet…

… Just let the creative muse fly, right?


Pay attention, oh muses. This New Yorker may put you out of the business Lady Lamb The Beekeeper’s music continues to be creative, full of personality, charm, and, seemingly, there’s no end in sight.

Ripely Pine is available on iTunes and more than likely multiple physical copies can be found at that little record store in Portland, Maine along with a throng of happy fans!


Lenka Interview

Born and raised in the Australian “bush” (her words, “… it’s not the outback, it’s just known as the bush.”) Lenka Kripac, who goes simply by her first name in the music world, has recently seen her poppy, happy, and all around fun single Everything at Once the centre of quite a lot of attention thanks to it’s use by Microsoft 8’s newest commercial and tag-line for the product that states, ready for it, that Microsoft 8 is, “Everything at Once.” I know… original thinking in marketing has always been a staple at Microsoft, at least they’re fantastically gifted at choosing great music.

Lenka’s career in music started long ago and not specifically aimed at just one form of artistic impression: “I was running and dancing since the day I knew how and singing to the gumtrees…” she states over the phone just before heading on stage in L.A., “I began ballet when I was four but I remember always wanting the little solos or the sort of, spotlight parts, even that young.” As someone that clearly finds the arts all-encompassing, being creative seems to be a part of who she is as much as it is something she does for a living now. Curious about a first memory she might be able to recall in terms of really grabbing the spotlight, she laughed and then answered immediately, “There’s this picture of me wearing an elf-costume when I’m about five years old, I think, and, again, it’s just one of those plays where the teachers must have recognized the fact that I wasn’t afraid to step out on my own in front of an audience cause it’s just me in my elf costume!”

After her stint as one of Santa’s helpers, Lenka and her family left the “bush” and headed to Sydney where she studied acting at the Australian Theatre for Young People. She was quite inspired by one of the young instructors there and wasn’t afraid to let the world know, “… Cate (Blanchett) was a teacher, of sorts, for a bit when I was there. She was probably 20, or at least in her young 20s, when I was still a teen. She was wonderful though and is definitely one of the reasons I kept pursuing acting. She really was a terrific teacher.” From soaps to teen series, Lenka starred or guest starred in a number of Australian productions and feels that her music being tied to film and television isn’t so much of a mystery if you really think about it, “I’ve always been tied to that [film and television] world so I don’t think it’s a coincidence…” she states very matter-of-factly, “There’s something very visual about many of my lyrics that people seem to respond to and see a use for in their projects.” One such person was a young Kerris Dorsey, the American actress that is now best known for her role as Billy Beane’s (played by Brad Pitt) daughter. “It’s so fantastic that it was used in the film…” she laughingly states of her song The Show. “I really owe a lot to that young actress, Kerris. She was a fan of mine I guess and actually played that song in her audition. [The studio] decided they wanted her for the part and that song for the scene on the spot, or so I heard.” A touching scene between a father and his daughter in a guitar store, Lenka says that the lyrics weren’t meant for that sort of situation but that, “… the small part of the song that Kerris sings to her screen dad just worked so well. It was interesting to hear the song that way. I was really proud of that.”

Having music in advertising isn’t as easy of a decision as when your management calls and tells you that your song could possibly be in the next Brad Pitt money-maker. Stating that she usually does research on any companies asking for her work before hand, she’s also, at the same time, not concerned with the idea of selling out: “I want to make sure they’re not evil corporations or anything but really, most of my songs are used for really cute spots or happy ones and that’s the sort of music that I make. So of course!” She’s also not one to complain about her songs being used in other mediums such as television shows or YouTube compilations, “There are so many channels for musicians to get their work out to fans now and this is just one way that I feel very fortunate people are responding so positively towards.”

When asked about her music and its happy vibe she just laughs in a most delighted way. “I think people always need happy music!” Her newest album, however, is much softer… still happy, but the full length album Shadows has been described as a lullaby album for adults and she confirms that was her very intention, “I was pregnant during some and had just had my son for the rest so I intentionally made it as much of a lullaby album as possible. It’s very soft, very comforting I feel.” She pauses, I’m guessing to reflect on how to properly describe what she was feeling at the time of making the album, “My previous albums and music are absolutely wonderful but there’s plenty of full volume vocals, drum spikes, and a feeling of faster tempo pop music… which is great! But I love softer music you can put on to fall asleep to as well and this was my chance to make an album like that.” After a moment, she adds a final thought to that train, “I obviously want to please my fans but this was as much for me and my new family as for my fans.”

But as her success is tied to very happy and poppy music, I was curious if she was heading in a new direction? “I don’t ever want to make angry or moody, depressing music. I’m a very happy person and I enjoy listening to upbeat music so that’s what I strive to create!” I wonder if her happiness can now be directly correlated to having her husband and young child on tour with her and she’s quick to agree and yet set the record straight, “It’s difficult at times and so not always feasible. We choose ‘home bases’ where they can stay, like New York as I do an east coast tour or L.A. for a west coast one. It works for now because my boy is really into maps [laughs] so he loves travelling! I love having them around though and it’s so great to be able to see them in between shows!”

As for new projects, don’t you worry, you big fan of Lenka, you. She’s just about to release a new video for a song that her husband, visual artist James Gulliver Hancock, has wanted to do for a long time. “We turned my body into the landscape for the video so I had model makers, miniature specialists, and so many others around using little train sets and buildings on my body! It was a much larger endeavor that anything we’ve ever done before but it was absolutely worth it.” I can tell she’s smiling even over the phone, “It’s such an amazing video.”

Lenka played only a select few dates in a handful of major Canadian cities but I was there in Vancouver with a smile on my face as her “happy” music kept me in a great mood for the entirety of her set. And then the smile just wouldn’t go away as her catchy hooks kept rolling around in my head, and I hope they stay right where they are for as long as possible.

Lenka’s newest album, Shadows is available on iTunes now as are her previous two solo albums, the self-titled Lenka and her sophomore follow-up, aptly titled, Two.


The Damn Truth Interview

The Damn Truth Interview

The Damn Truth’s debut album Dear in the Headlights has huge sound. So huge in fact, that as a listener you can actually feel the epicness of their vision and this in turn connects you to the legendary status classic rock n roll has always held in your heart; big drums, a guitar that rips through chords and drips gold, psychedelic bass that turns your vision kaleidoscopic, and a voice that literally opens your mind. You can actually see the spinning colours when you close your eyes. ..As a consequence you feel a tremendous amount of nostalgia; probably a little too much nostalgia for The Damn Truth’s liking. I asked them what they thought about being called a revival band.

“We mind,” says Tom Shemer simply, and he’s only half kidding.

The drummer, Dave Traina, agrees. “What are you going to do about it? People are going to label you no matter what. You are what you do. You could be the most innovative band and people will find a way to tell you that you sound like something they’ve already heard.”

For any band, being told you sound like Janis Joplin fronting Black Sabbath is never a bad thing. It’s not the comparisons that itch, their sound has been likened to the greats of classic rock; it’s about respecting an album that they poured their hearts and souls into, an album that demanded they delve into the darker parts of themselves. Dear in the Headlights is the sum of their individual experiences as humans. For them, defending themselves against the revival claims is more about honouring the process and what came from it, than denying that they sound one way or the other.

Their experience in the studio was enlightening, to say the least. I asked them if they cared to comment on the correlation between music and madness. “Oh, ya. The line is a thin one, man,” says Lee-La, the singer. “I think it’s not only music though, it’s artistry; to be able to put yourself in that place where, you know- you’re doing this- you’re naked in front of the world. I try not to think about it otherwise I’ll get lost in that part of it. For me, it’s my healing. Whenever I’ve been down, anxious, angry, in pain, I would sit and write. I feel like if I’m not writing, I’m screaming. I would break things.”

Do good artists need to touch madness? Downtown’s lyrics would suggest there’s some truth to the notion; I feel so grand, my friends, they all say I’m crazy. I’m not crazy. “I don’t think it’s direct; that to be a successful artist you have to have something off-putting about you,” says Tom. “But to be in a band, and maintain your relationships; to do this four way marriage, and family, and the rest of the stuff that comes with it. That’s where the madness would probably come from. If madness were to accompany being artistic, it would definitely come from everything being thrown together, but trying to focus on only one thing.”

You don’t seem insane to me, I say. David Masse smiles, “You put four people into a room with amplification, and anything can happen.” He continues. “We work in a collaborative way, so her madness affects everything, his madness is affecting everything. On a day to day basis I think everyone has to deal with madness. That’s the nature of the beast.”

In fact, their grassroots approach to recording is something undeniably classic about them. “We use a really old school tape,” says Lee-La. “There’s a lot of things we really like to capture. We just record the four of us in a studio. Then afterwards we re-record the harmonies and layer them on top. That’s the core of it. That’s how they used to do it in the 60’s and 70’s. It’s really important for us because that’s how we work best. I love looking into these guys’ eyes and feeding off of them.”

“It’s true,” agrees Tom. “We do draw a lot from the past in terms of the way we work as a band. We don’t go into the studio and do drums, and then bass, and then fix it all up. We just play in a room. We’re a live band.”

You can really hear this on the track, I Want You(He’s a Lightweight.) The recording session even captures the light static on their amps, and Lee-La as she inhales. If you listen closely, you can even hear them pulling energy out of one another, all the way to the climatic finish which I know culminated in a Technicolor-group-head-bang. I know this because I participated in their particular brand of gypsy-love-dance party when I danced my face off at The Horseshoe when they played there for NXNE. “We just like to play as if technology isn’t there to save our ass,” says David.

Fun fact about The Damn Truth, they were actually a backup band for someone else before they broke free and went out on their own. That was where they first fell for one another, where their onstage presence was first formed, and it is a powerful presence at that. “You never know what to expect when you go on stage,” says Lee-La. “ You never know what the people are going to give you, what the band is going to give you; what each and every one of us is going through that certain day. Every day is a surprise. We love it. I always find different things to tap into, and the more we play, the deeper it’s gonna get.”

I like that they’re looking into the future. Even though I looked into the past when I first heard them, I have high hopes that the rock movement coming out of Montreal will be the next big wave in the Canadian music tide pool. Tom nods, “There are a lot of really great bands coming out of Montreal all the time,” and about their sound specifically, Tom says, “The rock crowd there right now is thirsty for it.”
Lee-La nods. “The Besnard Lakes are definitely doing something interesting. I like them! They’ve got a psychedelic tip to them I like that a whole lot.”

Psychedelic folk is another label that has been applied to them. “If there were to be a rock revival coming out of Montreal, that would be a great thing,” says David. “Reading about the Beatles back in the day and The Stones and Hendrix, and knowing they hung out together. These epic musicians all at the same place at the same time, it’s a great thing. If we could be a part of something like that, that would be awesome.”

If that’s the case, they must be having a hell of the time on the bus, I say. “We don’t have a bus. I was projecting into the future,” says David, then points. “That’s the bus right there.”

Is that what you guys drove in? The one with the duct tape? That’s spectacular! …Well, that’s all. I don’t have any more questions.

“You can’t leave it at duct tape,” says David.

All too correct, sir.

The Damn Truth’s sound will raise questions in your mind, but isn’t that what the best bands do? Notions about the cyclical nature of art and of innovation may not escape you, but that to me is the icing on the cake. Rarely does a band with such strong ties to the golden age of rock present themselves as the exception to the rule. Rarely does sound come at you presented as a conundrum: How does this music take me back and push me into the future at the same time? The chords make me want to lie out in the sun picking petals off of wild flowers, makes me want to spin in an open field as the sun rises up in the East, makes me want to dust off that velvet top hat and descend into a cavernous pub so I can melt into the music calling out to me. I’ll settle for a leather fringe vest and the front porch of my two-storey walk-up; summer BBQ throwing smoke into the air, and me tipping my hat to every single person who walks by nodding in appreciation of Dear in the Headlights which is blaring through the screened window. I’ll yell “The Damn Truth!” at them, they will slow to a halt, and together we will share a moment of deep music appreciation, because the songs tell us the good times are just around the corner. No other message is more rock n roll. No other message is more The Damn Truth.


This Hisses Interview

This Hisses Interview

Hard Luck Bar is located on one of the less glitzy streets of Toronto. It’s downtown, but it’s on Dundas St. W, in a undeveloped area of the city where random taped up storefronts abound and franchises are the only thing adding colour. Hard Luck Bar is everything the name suggests. A rose by any other name would still invoke feelings of latent anger and disenfranchisement. It is a haunt for punk music and the burgeoning post-punk scene. You can tell everyone has made a conscious choice to be there and that’s a powerful thing for a bar. I asked This Hisses what they thought of the venue; “As long as there’s a good PA and they can hear the vocals, then it’s good. We’re a loud band. We don’t like to play places where they tell us to turn it down.” Just hearing them say it makes me believe it. “We’re loud,” they say simply. “We need to play loud.” I nod emphatically.

Well sure, who wants to play to be merry when you can melt people’s faces off? “He’s the most beautiful dynamic drummer I have ever seen,” Julia says of JP Perron. “I saw him play in another band and when he came home from touring I plucked up the courage and I shyly asked him what he was up to. We didn’t know if was going to work but it did.” Julia and Patrick Short, lead guitar, had known each other for years. The two met when Patrick played with her brother. Afterwards she ‘cherry picked’ him for This Hisses.

I tell them that I’ve been listening to their album, that I was curious about the name Anhedonia. The title in the strictest sense describes a person who is unable to experience pleasure from normal things, but the song of the same name is specifically about a person whose warmth is unsung. I ask them if they feel that this can be said for punk music; it being inaccessible for most, but essentially having a message of courage and loyalty (louder and darker for some reason means seldom understood). “I think we’re drawn to hard music for different reasons,” says Julia. “It’s a little bit of a protective sphere. We let ourselves get honest, but there will always this wall of tough sound that protects us.”

Post-punk music, and I use the word traditionally lightly here, describes heavy guitar and drums akin to punk with an intrusive element of experimentation. For This Hisses, that translates to an insanely amazing guitar that sounds like it’s pouring out of the speaker, and drums that you literally have to shake out of your body; all that and Julia’s opera trained voice calling to you from somewhere out of the darkness. It’s intense and oddly languid at the same time, all in the best way possible. “This person is seeking pleasure and achieving disappointment. So it’s about the wonderment of ‘Wow, if you could be free of this path of pursuing pleasure, then maybe you could get on with things in life, and not risk that disappointment and that vulnerability’.”

Thank God someone is taking the time to take this message on, I think. We really should just be getting on with the doing of things. I asked JP if he always felt that way. “I started in Toronto playing music cause I wanted to be cool,” he says. “Then I realized I wasn’t cool, so I just focused on being a better songwriter.”
“You’ve got a Slater from Empire Records thing going on,” I respond.

He doesn’t flinch, just continues. “I got into punk rock because all my guitar heroes’ bands broke up and I was like, what now?” I can’t tell if he’s kidding or not, he says it stone cold. JP laughs.

They’re from Winnipeg , they say, which apparently isn’t so obscure after all, and they have no plans on moving to Toronto any time soon. “It would give us more access to the industry, but we’re still cultivating our artistic sensibilities. Winnipeg has a great art scene and it’s a great affordable city to live in. We want an audience that’s into a great product.” For them, the size of the market is not important, and they feel that taking on bigger markets is not something to be taken lightly. “We get the confidence and the support in Winnipeg to try to tackle the bigger markets. There’s nothing wrong with that. There is high quality music and high quality art in Winnipeg. It’s a bit of secret but it’s a good one.” I can’t imagine a better reason to be in Winnipeg than taking the time to respect the craft. Then Julia sips her tea, and says, “I don’t think people make a living in music anymore anyway.”

JP is nodding his head at Julia. He’s standing just to the side of her twirling his moustache and listening. He agrees with her. “We’ve all played in plenty of bands and done lots of different stuff. With this one, we trying to hone our sound to keep it distilled, compact and tight. As far as trying to get other people to hear it, I don’t know man.”

“Trim the fat,” says Patrick, and they both look at him. He catches Julia’s eye, “Just keep trimming the fat.” She smiles and shakes her at him. This is one of the things I really like about this band; you can tell that they’re really good friends who share a common goal of making beautiful music. I interrupt the moment and ask Patrick what the future holds for him. He answers me deadpan, ‘Try to be cool again.”

“I get such joy out of playing live shows that I won’t be able to stop,” says JP. “I’ll keep pushing myself to try things that I’m uncomfortable with, like making an electronic jump. I want to challenge myself to do different things.”

Julia is nodding in agreement to this too. This seemingly would open too many doors wouldn’t it? If people pursued every possible path in life we would get nowhere. Does this mean that they’ll be jumping mediums one day? “I find that everything I have to say I can say through music,” says Julia. “A lot of my powerful emotions… music is the way that I can most strongly present them. That’s how I deal. I want to write the songs and put the words to them.”

The Torontoist called their song ‘My Love He Shot a Sparrow’ The Best Song About Murder at NXNE, and for obvious reasons. The lyrical content of that song is so expansive yet precise at the same time that it literally focuses the mind into a calmness and oddly invigorates the soul that same time. This can be said about their entire album; incredible musicianship, heavy themes and notes, tremendous depth of character, and darkness that cloaks your world in a black glitterscape.

When I roll up to the Hard Luck Bar later that night, I step into its grimy splendor with immense anticipation. I walk over to the bar, do my best Clint Eastwood to the bartender, and order a bottle of 50. I take a seat in front of the sound booth and rest my legs across the bench. When Julia stands up the microphone, her sheer closeness to the mic, and the subtle breath that escapes her, starts the pull you feel when speakers power up. Everything that is nailed to the floor, which in Hard Luck Bar means everything, starts vibrating from the force of the sound coming from the speakers; the guitar pours from them, the hard sizzle of the drums jangles, Julia’s voice pushes from their great depths.

Brace yourself, I whisper.


Ell V Gore Interview

Ell V Gore has slowly but surely been creating rifts in the Toronto music scene. With the recent release of his debut EP, Sex Static, Ell V has enveloped the darkness and has been sending gothic chills of pure no-wave and punk-inspired darkwave bliss to anyone willing to lose themselves in the seedy, ethereal black world of Gore. With blood-curdling howls, scathing guitar, and frantic, paranoid percussion, Sex Static is a very well composed EP that could be filed along with a Joy Division that maybe spent a little too much time at that one industrial rave warehouse that you have always felt uncomfortable walking by. Having played a couple of showcases at NXNE, opening up for the likes of Iceage, I recently got a chance to sit down with the lead madman himself, Ell V. Seated on a eerily yet hysterically appropriate leopard print chair, I spoke to Elliot about his past, his influences, and he even gave a nod to my Sonic Youth shirt, which is a definite thumbs-up.

Ell V: Sorry about this leopard print chair, which was here, I didn’t put it here.

MV: No don’t worry about it, it looks awesome.

So how have you been liking the festival so far?

Well it’s only the second night, so I haven’t really checked anything out too much yet. I saw Merchandise the other night; there were a few songs that were good.

Yeah, that was the secret show right?

Yeah, well they were playing the same night as us so I wanted to catch them at least once. At first I wasn’t really into them, but then I found out that they have a full drummer now so I thought I would check it out. There were a couple good tunes.

Are there any acts that you are really looking forward to?

The next act going on after this band, Cellphone, they’re like one of my favourite Toronto bands. They’re crazy and need to get out there. Wild, spastic, punk shit. Really cool.

You probably know Iceage right? I really want to check them out.

Oh yeah, we’re playing with them! On Sunday at The Garrison.  They’re the “secret band”.

Oh wow, thanks for that! That’ll be awesome.

[Laughs] Totally. Iceage is cool but I haven’t seen them live. Their records are pretty good though,

I hear their shows get pretty wild. Congratulations on the EP, I’m a really big fan.

Cool, man, glad you dig it.

Can you tell me how Ell V Gore got started?

I was in a nosier, no-wave punk band a couple of years ago called Brides. We were recording a record but then broke up during that and I still wanted to do my own thing so I started doing some solo stuff. My middle name is Vincent so I kept the Ell-V and then just added ‘Gore’ on the end because why the fuck not, like it doesn’t really make any sense, but I just did it and kept it going. I got a band together and it took a while to get started and eventually release an EP but I had done other recordings, but I just was not happy with them. Now I have learned that when you record something, to just put it out and not to be a fucking diva.

Ell V Gore is a badass name though.

Is it? [Laughs] Nobody really knows what it is though yet but like it was hard getting shows or getting my record label to pass that name through, they thought I was a Spanish rocker or something.

What would you say inspires your sound, musically or otherwise?

I have always been into that really abrasive, jarring 80’s stuff like Swans but I wanted to put my own take on the aggressive punk sound. I have also been listening to a lot of synth stuff too, so I just blended the two together. And influences… I don’t really know. I guess when I started working at the strip club and seeing a certain side of Toronto like every day, going to work and not seeing the sun for 24 hours, and getting in a weird head space. It wasn’t angry, but I don’t know, I just sort of threw it out there.

Exactly, I wouldn’t call your music angry per se, but there is just a lot of energy behind it.

Yeah, there’s a lot of energy and is sort of like hyper ‘rock’, fuck, I don’t even know.

I would consider your sound dark right?


And what would you say attracts people to the darker side of things?

I guess it’s just some sort of taboo, like it just may not be your average, everyday lifestyle but everyone has their own dark side. It’s good to get it out sometimes.

What sort of music were you into growing up?

My father was into jazz, so I grew up listening to a lot of jazz stuff and that led to me getting into more ‘out-there’ experimental jazz and avant-garde shit like certain Cole Train records and Sun Re and all that weird junk stuff. So I got into that and that led to me, well you’re wearing a Sonic Youth t-shirt, and Sonic Youth was one of those influences. I had an older brother who listened to them and I was terrified at first when I listened to them because I was a little kid. They’re one of the bands that altered a lot of things. I grew up listening to a lot of no-wave and all that crap.

I find that Sonic Youth is a great entry point for more abstract music. And so Pretty Pretty, that was a monthly party at first?

Yeah, at first.

How did it evolve into a label?

This friend just came in, my friend Cam who was recording a record, Kontravoid, I don’t know if you know him?

I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago. He’s a really cool guy.

Yeah, he’s a cool guy. And basically friend John was looking to put out a record and Kontravoid had finished his and then I was doing these parties and they I guess they wanted to bring me in and there was already this momentum behind it and we just decided to put the records out as Pretty Pretty Records.

I loved that video where Ell V Gore and Kontravoid played ‘Lobotomy’ together.

That was funny and a while ago actually. Yeah, that was a completely different version of the song.

I loved the cheesiness and the vibe from it. [laughs]

Oh yeah, it’s cheesy. You can’t take everything too seriously.

Did you always want to go into music?

Sure. I wasn’t really good at anything else. I got a guitar one day and started banging on it and experimented until I found something that I thought sounded good.

If it weren’t for music, where could you see yourself?

I don’t know how to answer that, man. Drug addict maybe? It keeps me busy during the day and at night.

interviews reviews

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival 2013 – Saturday June 15th, Day Three Preview

Welcome to Day Three! Friday was a blast but don’t expect it to stop quite yet. We still have all of today and tomorrow to see before we all start the long trek home and both days hold some really exciting acts. The shows start today at 12:15 to give all of us tired, huddled, yearning masses a chance to sleep in a little bit before  it’s back into full swing. The first show I plan on seeing is the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. When my family visited New Orleans a few years ago, they caught this act in their hometown and raved about them for months so I’m psyched to see whether all the hullaballoo surrounding their live show lives up to expectations. Next up for me is Gov’t Mule, a Southern rock jam band founded by Allman Brothers band members and an act that tours every summer as sure as the sun rises. They’re a staple at festivals across the country and you don’t get to that level of popularity by being less than stellar. If you’re into house and electronic music, check out Four Tet over in “The Other Tent” while I check out alternative psychedelic band Portugal. The Man, whose newest album has been on repeat in my apartment since it came out June 4th. That being said, I will be leaving that show early so that I don’t miss a single minute of hip hop legend Nas who will be rocking “What Stage” from 5:00-6:15.

After Nas’ show, the evening begins the semi-awkward period of time where Beach House, A-Trak, and The Lumineers will be playing their sets but everyone will be looking forward to the main headliner of the night on “What Stage”, Mumford & Sons. For those of you who aren’t predisposed to white guys and banjoes though, immediately after Mumford & Sons, r&b superstar R.Kelly will be crooning through his hit filled set from 11:30-1:00 after which the Rock n’ Soul Superjam with Jim James, John Oates, Zigaboo Modeliste and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be kickin’ out the jams until 2:00 when those who are still awake will be treated to their choice of Empire of the Sun, Boys Noize, or Bustle In Your Hedgerow as the final shows of the evening.

It’s important to note that there are many other stages at Bonnaroo this year as there are every year and while I have only been focusing my previews on the main music stages, there is tons to experience beyond the normal shows. Many performers are also performing DJ sets or dancing in the tents beyond the regular stages so be sure to explore. Remember to stay fueled and hydrated and get ready for the last day!

Bonnaroo 2013 Schedule | Saturday, June 15th

What Stage:
Preservation Hall Jazz Band 1:00 – 2:00
Nas 5:00 – 6:15
Björk 7:00 – 8:30
Mumford & Sons 9:30 – 11:30
Which Stage:
Gov’t Mule 2:45 – 4:15
Solange 2:25 – 3:15
Cults 12:30 – 1:30
Portugal. The Man 4:00 – 5:15
Cat Power 6:15 – 7:15
The Lumineers 8:15 – 9:30
R. Kelly 11:30 – 1:00
This Tent:
Patrick Watson 12:30 – 1:30
Lord Huron 2:00 – 3:00
Tallest Man On Earth 3:30 – 4:45
Dirty Projectors 5:15 – 6:30
Beach House 7:00 – 8:30
Rock n’ Soul Dance Party Superjam featuring Jim James with John Oates, Zigaboo Modeliste (of the Meters), Preservation Hall Jazz 12:00 – 2:00
Bustle In Your Hedgerow 2:30 – 4:30
That Tent:
Two Gallants 1:45 – 3:00
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls 3:30 – 4:45
Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors 5:15 – 6:30
Dwight Yoakam 7:00 – 8:30
Billy Idol 12:00 – 1:30
Empire of the Sun 2:00 – 3:00
The Other Tent:
Clockwork 12:30 – 1:30
Death Grips 2:15 – 3:15
Four Tet 4:00 – 5:00
Matt & Kim 5:45 – 6:45
A-Trak 7:15 – 8:45
“Weird Al” Yankovic 12:00 – 1:30
Boys Noize 2:30 – 4:00
Bonnaroo Comedy Theatre hosted by IFC:
Michael Che, Nikki Glaser, Jared Logan, James Adomian 12:45 – 2:00
Ed Helms’ Whisky Sour Radio Hour 2:45 – 4:00
David Cross ft. James Adomian 4:30 – 5:45
Comedy Bang! Bang! with Scott Aukerman and Reggie Watts 6:30 – 7:45
New Music On Tap Lounge:
Ranch Ghost 12:00 – 12:50
James McCartney 1:20 – 2:10
Chris Stapleton 2:40 – 3:30
Daniel Romano & The Trilliums 4:00 – 4:50
Lucius 5:20 – 6:10
SIMO 8:00 – 8:50
Bean 9:20 – 10:10
William Tyler 10:40 – 11:30
Mac DeMarco 12:00 – 12:50
Cafe Where?:
Stop Light Observations 6:40 – 7:30
Peanut Butter Lovesicle 1:45 – 2:45
Tiny Victories 3:45 – 4:45
Kyng 6:00 – 7:00
The Revivalists 8:30 – 9:30
Silent Disco:
DJ Keebz 4:00 – 6:00
DJ Sam Spiegel of N.A.S.A. 6:00 – 8:00
Jared Dietch 11:00 – 2:00
MSSL CMMND 2:00 – 5:00
Sonic Stage:
Johnnyswim 12:00 – 12:30
Futurebirds 12:45 – 1:15
Rayland Baxter 1:30 – 2:00
JEFF the Brotherhood 2:15 – 2:45
Kalidescope Space Tribe 3:00 – 3:45
Ryan Montbleau Band 4:00 – 4:30
Patrick Watson 4:45 – 5:15
Lord Huron 5:30 – 6:00
Matrimony 6:15 – 6:45
Solar Stage:
MC Yogi 11:30 – 12:30
Ryan Montbleau Band 1:00 – 1:45
Naia Kete 2:00 – 2:45
The Mowgli’s 3:00 – 3:45
Preservation Hall Jazz Band 4:00 – 4:45
Special Guest (Performance & Interview) 5:00 – 5:45
Mawre African Drum & Dance 6:00 – 7:00
The Flavor Savers Beard & Mustache Contest Carnivalesque Entertainment:
Bellydance & Vaudeville 8:30 – 9:30

Sasquatch 2013 Day Two: A Mayan god takes the stage… but Sigur Ros upstages it.

**Block Party

Waking up early has its advantages at a music festival (“early” being a relative term and meaning roughly 8:30 in this case). First: hot water and no line for the showers. Although not an option at all campsites, hot water especially is still a “hot” commodity when this many people are involved. Secondly: a few moments of quiet, the calm before the storm if you will. There will, undoubtedly, be a group of guys playing Lawn-Pong (much like Beer-Pong but substituting a large, grassy area for a ping-pong table, buckets for Dixie cups, and full beers for… well, not everything’s different)either starting early or continuing the previous night’s festivities, but joining it isn’t the worst way to start your morning. And thirdly: the opportunity to go back to sleep in the sunshine on a somehow more comfortable spot of lawn than the one beneath your tent.

As the festival gates open up to a new day, the first must-see of the day is the Vancouver based synth-pop, techno-rock pioneers, Bear Mountain. With choreographed digital graphics interspersed with the camera shots on the big screens, these BC boys threw one hell of a party for those lucky enough to have shaken off their hang-overs. The twin brothers, Ian and Greg Bevis, lead vocals/rhythm guitar and percussion respectively, Kyle Statham on lead guitar, and the tech genius/creative co-ordinator of the group, Kenji Rodriguez pushing out up-tempo hit after hit, they kept the one o’clock crowd dancing from open to close. Looking around the fan-base in the audience, every girl with a tall guy in tow used the shoulders offered to them; partially to get a better view, but mostly just to show off their dance moves and love of the music blasting out of the massive speakers. I got the chance to sit down with a couple of the guys later on in the day so be sure to look out for that interview posting later this week.

The Bigfoot stage seemed to be where it was at on Saturday and it was honestly hard to abandon as the day progressed, regardless of the acts you knew were happening all around you. Atlas Genius garnered a nearly packed area in the middle of the afternoon full of pretty ladies and pretty men. I’m not sure if it was the music or the sunshine, or the combination of the two, but everyone was letting their freak-flag fly by this point and I, for one, was not complaining! With good vibes and moody guitar riffs, the brothers Jeffrey, Keith on vocals and Michael on drums (familiar sounding… are brother musicians the new black and I missed it?), these Adelaide, South Austrailians on stage connected with their fans not only with witty banter and jokes in between songs but also, at one point, Keith jumping into the crowd, still strumming his guitar. Even though there was some humour to the fact that he couldn’t find a way back onstage, it only served to endear him to the fans even more. Once their single, “Trojans” hit, the crowd was in frenzy and calling out for more. Truth be told, the vocals seemed a touch generic at times but there wasn’t much to complain about and the tightness of the music the Jeffrey brothers created made for a hell of an afternoon rock event.

Then the personification of soul walked onstage. Michael Kiwanuka, unknown to me until the moment he walked on stage, I have already found his album, Home Again, bought it off iTunes (because you’ve got to pay to hear music this good in my opinion) and have listened to a number of the tracks every spare second my ears get. With a single song often split between Hendrix-inspired grooves picking you up and then Withers-esque slow jams that force your eyes closed to fully appreciate what you’re hearing, Michael takes his job very seriously, and everyone is the happier for it. His lead guitarist for the show who’s name I couldn’t catch, a Washington State native on his home turf, with full afro in tow, had a non-chalant swagger about him and, once picked out, he didn’t seem to stray more than a foot or two while wooing the crowd into submission with his numerous solos. Had Ben Harper been in attendance, he would’ve applauded and shook the hands of the man that might finally push him to retirement. This, as shown on the faces of all those wandering off aimlessly afterwards, was exactly the relaxing re-charge we all needed.

Devendra Banhart, much to the excitement of the throng of young girls in the front rows, took the stage following Michael Kiwanuka and continued the unique musical stylings that would be the category-defying trend of the day. Fabrizio Moretti, the now recognizable drummer of The Strokes helped Devendra out on the kit and really added some pinache to the already interesting grooves. Opening with a number of songs of his album What Will We Be, Devendra kept the vibe laid back to start, strolling around the stage tipping his hat to his fans and smiling coyly when they responded with affection. The interesting mix of soul, funk, latin-infused folk, and a little bit of rock kept you guessing from song to song whether it was time to sway, swing, or shout along with the band. Already making waves, having just released his seventh studio album, it’ll be exciting to keep an eye on this Texan-born, Venezuelan raised singer-songwriter.

**Bloc Party

And then Bloc Party happened. Near to the top of my own personal favourites list, the re-united Brits filled the Gorge’s main stage with a fury of sound! To open their set with the smash hit “Banquet” from their debut album, well, screaming like a little girl was a thing many grown men found themselves doing for the first time (or maybe I’m alone on that one). After getting the capacity crowd fired up, a simple, “We’re Bloc Party from London… So let’s get this party started…” was all they needed to launch into “Hunting for Witches”; the lead-off single to their sophomore effort. With a catalogue full of hits, playing one after another including, “Waiting for the 7:18”, “Pioneers”, “Positive Tension”, and “Talons”, you could visibly watch as the four bandmate’s smiles get bigger as the set progressed. Lead vocalist /rhythm guitar Kele Okereke played in gym shorts and high-tops showing that playing music is just what he was meant to do, he doesn’t need an image or a look while lead guitarist Russell Lissack, Gordon Moakes on bass guitar, and Matt Tong on drums all did and looked however they pleased to follow suit. A quick note by Kele expressed what everyone was feeling, that they were witnessing something special: “The last time we played here was, no lies, the worst show we’ve ever played. We are having a brilliant time up here forgetting that experience and having the best time while doing it.” To close up an unbelievably upbeat and energetic show, Kele offered up a song he stated, “…is an old song. I don’t know if you’ll remember it.” Less than four notes into “This Modern Love”, Kele broke verse and laughingly played witty with his fans, “…oh, you do remember.” We all remembered and we all crossed off another notch on our bucket lists after seeing a Bloc Party show we’ll never forget.

Strolling through the grounds after that show, I was pulled back to Bigfoot Stage hearing the unique vocal stylings of Divine Fits co-frontman, Dan Boeckner. The Canadian/American “mega-group” is composed of Dan, formerly of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, Britt Daniel, formerly and currently of Spoon, Sam Brown, formerly of The New Bomb Turks, and Alex Fischel (formerly of something I’m sure). Dan and Britt along have played enough shows to know how to rock a crowd proper and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Playing the majority of their tracks off their debut album, A Thing Called Divine Fits, the guys also had fun covering Tom Petty’s classic “You Got Lucky” and finally closing with Britt’s heartbreak cover of “Shivers”, the latter happening after the lights dimmed to deep reds and muted purples conveying the high school pain Nick Cave and the rest of The Boys Next Door no doubt felt when writing the song all those years ago. These boys are good, and they’ve only just begun this mega-group’s work.

**The XX

The next two shows to hit the main stage were The XX and Sigur Ros, one moody and incredible experience after the other. The XX walked out in all blacks onto an all black stage and immediately started playing a show using stripped down special FX consisting mostly of strobe lights and the occasional white laser light. Although their music is dark and brooding in the best way possible, their stoic facial expressions hit the joy they felt and conveyed to their fans. Romy Madley Croft took the mic after finishing a haunting rendition of Shelter to say, “Three years ago we played the second stage during the day. We watched Massive Attack from the lawn and dreamed of this moment. And it’s all because of you. Thank you so much.” Weaving their way seamlessly through their hits, “VCR”, “Crystallized”, and “Islands” all off their 2009 debut studio album, it was surprising that such highs (both vocally and beat related) came from such sombre-sounding beginnings but there was something undeniably sexy about their presence that pushed the music to another level as they often stood facing each other on stage, forehead to forehead, eyes to the ground, using their guitars with and against one another finding the perfect reverb at precisely the right moment. The climax came with “Infinity”; melodic and tranquil right until the clash of the synthed-up symbol hit and lights and sound combined, actually shocking the audience momentarily with the effect of lightning crashing onstage time the chorus hit.

**Sigur Ros

Sigur Ros, who are capable of an equally moody and down-tempo show, came out in matching uniforms to deliver, seemingly, just that. With the crescendo of the first song hitting however, everyone in attendance knew we were about to witness something entirely out of this world. With visuals ranging from lead crystals reacting to magnets, the cellular growth of membranes, and eerily beautiful underwater close-ups to over-exposed decimation of entire forests akin to nuclear blast waves, the visuals, as per design, were fully a third of the show. The other two thirds, you ask? Frontman and creative wonder-being, Jon “Jonsi” Birgisson. Taking pieces from all of their studio albums, Agaetis Byrjun, (), and through to their latest, Kveikur, the lack of ability to pronounce or even understand any of the lyrics is surprisingly a non-issue to newcomers and a welcome, often spiritual experience for the initiated. Some of their more “popular” songs including “Hoppipola” had the crowd dancing and swaying as digital sparks reigned across the screen behind while other songs took the audience to Pacific depths only to leave them stranded at Everest Heights much to their delight and wonder. The images of burning forests and vehicles often juxtaposed the symphonic moments of quiet reflection within the music before hitting a fever pitch harder than the most intense heavy metal imaginable. This man screams in a more beautiful register than most highly paid performers can sing. With a very simple, “Hello, thank you for having us…” Jonsi is deep into a creative space throughout. So much so that you find yourself waiting for him to look directly at you in the few brief periods he addressed the audience in the vain hope that you might, for just a moment, see the world as he sees is; see things the way someone as creative as this man sees them. This group takes dream-stuff and crafts ethereal, often hypnotizing sounds out of it. And if, on the off chance you didn’t know this was what your dreams were capable of, well, put on any one of the albums they’ve created, or, had you been lucky enough to catch last night’s performance, simply close your eyes and wait.

Stumbling away for an incredible night of unbelievable performances, I was awakened while walking by the images of insanity made real. “Oh yes,” I thought, “Empire of the Sun is performing on Bigfoot Stage.” Four men on pink, furry stilts slammed down on massive, double-deck, neon guitars, all angled out from the god-figure that was Luke Steele who stood on a raised platform covered head to toe in gold with an ornate gold headpiece reminiscent of the Mayan and Incan kings of old. And then shit got weird. By the time their insanely popular single, “Walking on a Dream” began (look it up if you’re unsure, you’ll know it well, I guarantee), my mind couldn’t cope and I decided that I either needed some mind-altering drug to keep going or to just accept that there are still two more days of music to come and prepare myself for the terrifyingly epic dreams that would come with sleep. Sleep it was.

Check out Chelsea Chernobyl’s photos of Sasquatch 2013 Day Two


Adult Swim Announces Free 15-Track Digital Compilation, Garage Swim // Downloadable Today on

Adult Swim, the top-rated television network and arbiter of must-hear, cutting-edge music, enters the world of garage rock for the first time with the May 6 digital launch of Garage Swim. Sponsored by Dr Pepper and curated under Adult Swim’s Williams Street Records label, this free compilation will be available for download at So what exactly IS “Garage Swim”? Why it’s fifteen never-before-released tracks from both emerging and iconic rock bands including Bass Drum of Death, Apache Dropout, Thee Oh Sees, King Tuff feat. Gap Dream, JEFF The Brotherhood, Black Lips, King Khan and The Gris Gris, Mikal Cronin, Mind Spiders, Cheap Time, King Louie’s Missing Monuments, OBN IIIs, The Gories, King Khan, and Weekend. The album also includes custom album art and interview pieces with King Tuff and Mikal Cronin created by the geniuses at Yours Truly.

“There are lots of things we love at Adult Swim. Two of them are music, and giving our fans stuff for free,” said Jason DeMarco, vice president of strategic marketing and promotions for Adult Swim. “Garage Swim represents our first foray into this genre of music, and as longtime fans, we’re happy to be able to offer some great free rock and roll to our fans- and fans of these artists! We hope they like it. And go download it. For free. Right now. Please.”

This year’s Garage Swim **downloadable album is the latest musical offering from Adult Swim and marks the nineteenth (!) release from Williams Street Records. Past albums have spanned a wide range of genres from hip-hop to metal to electronica, and feature an impressive roster of artists such as Young Jeezy, Cee-Lo, LCD Soundsystem, The Hives, Burial, Best Coast, and many more.

The full track listing for Garage Swim is as follows:
1. “Dregs” – Bass Drum of Death
2. “Constant Plaything” – Apache Dropout
3. “Devil Again” – Thee Oh Sees
4. “She’s on Fire” – King Tuff
5. “Melting Place” – JEFF The Brotherhood
6. “Cruising” – Black Lips
7. “Discreate Disguise” – King Khan and The Gris Gris
8. “Better Man” – Mikal Cronin
9. “They Lie” – Mind Spiders
10. “Kill the Light” – Cheap Time
11. “Covered in Ice” – King Louie’s Missing Monuments
12. “A Good Lover” – OBN IIIs
13. “On The Run” – The Gories
14. “Strange Ways” – King Khan
15. “Teal Kia” – Weekend

interviews music videos tour dates

THE STEPKIDS (Stones Throw) Announce New Album, Tour Dates; Premiere New Live Video

THE STEPKIDS will release the anticipated follow up to their self-titled 2011 breakout debut album this fall. Troubadour is set for release this fall on Stones Throw Records. Look for additional album details to be released in the coming weeks. They will also bring their highly praised live show to the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, a headline show at NYC’s Brooklyn Bowl and more. See full tour routing below.

The Connecticut trio is also set to perform tonight on NBC’s Last Call With Carson Daly. Shot at Los Angeles’ Fonda Theater while on tour with Kimbra last fall, they will perform “Suburban Dream” and “Shadows On Behalf.”

The band also recently performed new album track “The Art of Forgetting” as part of the “In The Red Bull Studio” series, a new video series that features influential and emerging artists performing songs from new and upcoming releases live from Red Bull Studio in Los Angeles. The video sees the band playing alongside eclectic geometric art installations that reflect psychedelic lighting that brings the song to life. In the accompanying interview, The Stepkids–Jeff Gitelman, Daniel Edinberg & Tim Walsh–discuss their forthcoming album, their deep roots in jazz music, performing live and more.


“The Art of Forgetting” Video


May 18 Columbus, OH – Woodlands Tavern

May 20 Minneapolis, MN – The Cowles Center

May 22 Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl

Jun 13 Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo Music Festival

Jun 29 Rothbury, MI – Electric Forest Festival

Jul 19 Thornville, OH – All Good Festival