Recent Posts in interviews
June 17, 2014
Slowdive back in the day...
Having left an indelible mark of influence on a multitude of bands and musicians since their initial breakup in 1995, Slowdive's reunion announcement earlier this year was more than welcomed by fans who'd discovered the band's remarkable shoegaze sound during its early 90s heyday and those new listeners who'd discovered the band well after their last release, Pygmalion. These new listeners come by way of a myriad of genres, not limited by any particular scene or sound, giving a broad picture of just how impactful Slowdive was and continues to be. Hearing the band's music even two decades later gives a striking sense of connectivity to bands on every side of the spectrum, from the experimental metal of Deafheaven to the psychedelic pop atmospherics of Deerhunter.
Founding member and vocalist/guitarist Neil Halstead, who we last talked to in 2008, immediately reveals a kind of quiet modesty concerning the band, satisfied to see Slowdive's story and eventual massive influence as something that simply fell into the band's lap. It's the kind of subdued quality and characteristic that's underlined Slowdive's music and those influenced by it, with a sound that seemingly builds the wealth of its power under a steady haze of melodic noise. With several festival appearances slated for this summer, the anticipation now points to what lies ahead for Slowdive. In our conversation with Halstead, the answer is not so much vague as it is deliberately positive and hopeful, with the vocalist/guitarist seeming as excited for the band's future in 2014 as he likely was over twenty years ago.
BV: I'm always interested to learn what initially brought a musician to their craft, and I'm curious as to what that was like for you personally, Neil. Was there a specific band or song or sound that brought you to music in the first place and provided that initial creative spark for you where you knew that this was something you had to do yourself?
Neil: I don't know. [Laughs] I mean, for me, I suppose - just I was super influenced by bands specifically like Jesus and the Mary Chain, The Cure, and I guess the Byrds, The Beatles, and stuff like that. I think that my interest in music was seeing The Beatles documentary when I was about eleven years old and just being like "Shit, that looks like fun," then, the next day, trying to get my dad to buy me a guitar so I could learn that. I don't know if I ever reached that point where I felt like "Oh, this is the thing I do." I still don't know if I feel like that, to be honest. Slowdive, we kind of got a record deal by accident as we'd really not done a lot of gigs or anything. We were sort of quite lucky in that we just so happened to be in the right place at the right time. And we were all quite young, and I suppose it was - we were all just obviously super obsessed with music and Creation, the label that we signed to, had a bunch of our favorite bands on them. I think all of us felt that we were extremely lucky to do it, and it was something that we were totally into, I think back then. I suppose, for me, personally, you reach a certain point in playing music and you sort of actually realize "I'm sort of really useless at doing anything else." [Laughs] It's not like how you can change a career. I've always really loved doing it, and I'm sort of lucky because I've been able to do it for quite a while now. But I never felt like it was a calling.
May 13, 2014
"I've got better moves than Mick Jagger, or at least I used to," - Robert Pollard
jump shot @ Riot Fest Chicago (more by Kirstie Shanley)
Robert Pollard is a rock star. Instead of having his autobiography written by TMZ or wielding some messianic delusion over his fans however, the frontman for the indelibly influential Guided By Voices has simply continued to make the music he wants in the way he wants as much as he wants. With this month's Cool Planet, Pollard has released twenty-two full-lengths with Guided By Voices since 1987. Add in the multiple EPs, collaborations, solo records, and other projects, and it's immediately apparent that creative inspiration is not in short supply for the singer. Adding to the prolific nature of that creativity is Pollard's unadorned perspective on the fame and respect he's garnered over the years from fans, critics, and fellow musicians alike. There's nothing overly simplistic about it being "just about the music" for Pollard, and that's precisely what continues to compel the singer who, upon approaching sixty, is as creatively vibrant and productive as he ever was with no end in sight. Guided By Voices will be touring throughout May and June, with a sold out Bowery Ballroom show on 5/23 and more dates to be announced soon too.
UPDATE: Three more NY-Area shows in July and August.
Going back to the Forever Since Breakfast EP and fast forwarding to now with the myriad of releases, both solo and with Guided By Voices, that have come since then, what's your perspective on that journey so far, and how have you seen yourself evolve both personally and musically in that time?
Robert: Hopefully I continue to improve as a songwriter, a person and a musician or artist. If there's no improvement, and I guess that's a subjective thing, I don't see any reason to continue. Obviously, by the sheer output of releases, I'm still having a good time. That's also very important.
Just as well known as your music itself has been the sheer amount you've produced over the last three decades. What was the initial creative catalyst for you in the beginning, and do you see yourself still engaging that source of inspiration even now with every new song you write?
I'm always pushing myself to come up with new techniques for creating art and writing songs. In the last couple of years I've actually developed a formula for writing songs, that's a little too involved for me to elaborate on right now. The initial catalyst for me to write songs, I think, was to be an active participant instead of just a passive listener. To hear more of what I really like by writing them myself.
May 8, 2014
This month will see the follow up to Owen Pallett's Heartland, the 2010 release that saw the artist formerly known as Final Fantasy forming a gorgeous and curiously unnerving collection of songs pairing lush orchestration against lyrical themes of mental isolation and self-doubt. For In Conflict (Domino/Secret City), Pallett's compositions are no less complex but now find the experimental composer giving focus to the benefit of dissonance and the abrasion of sound. For a songwriter whose music and exploration with sound already has the proclivity for expansion in the auditory space, Pallett is at his absolute best within those deliberately muted and subdued moments just before the eruption. Brooklyn Vegan reached out to Pallett to discuss the new record, his recent pop music commentaries, and his thoughts on music criticism in 2014. Owen Pallett is touring with Doldrums this month, two NYC shows included.
My first question just concerns your relationship with music and where you were when music first found you, Owen. When was that moment for you when you knew that creating music was something you absolutely had to do?
Owen: There's kind of two answers to that. My entire life, it's been me realizing over and over again that I'm much more comfortable working with musical material than I am with verbal information. [Laughs] I just feel much more at home in dealing with sound than with text or with speech, but I certainly from age three or whatever, I was jamming Bach and Pachelbel and in an obsessive way. But the sort of second moment was the real moment when there was the transition from being a music appreciator into being a professional musician, and that happened much later when I was twenty-four, I guess. That's when I was working for a radio program, and I had been offered these tours that I didn't want to do because I was committed to my job working for the radio, and I didn't want to take these tours, but they effectively, when they heard about it, told me to go do it. They were thinking with more clarity than I was about what was best for me, but also it was kind of a vote of confidence in what I was doing having my boss say, "No, take the time off work. You should really go do this tour."
May 1, 2014
Future Islands in Austin (more by Sarah Frankie Linder)
2014 has been kind to North Carolina's Future Islands, but be sure to recognize where credit is due for the band's success. Few would argue that in the viral age that often gives musicians a shelf life of "until the next distraction", that an otherwise unassuming band might buckle under the pressure. But this is nothing new for Future Islands, whose members have been writing together, touring together, and working together to simply make the music they want in the way that they want for the audience they need. Their fourth full-length, Singles, has seen the band appear on just about everyone's radar, and while their hugely popular performance on Letterman certainly helped in every possible, it simply spotlighted what fans have known for the past decade about Future Islands and their proclivity for creating the simple but no less invaluable joy that comes from pop.
Tonight (5/1) you can stream the band's performance from the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC live via NPR. Last night Future Islands headlined and sold out their biggest NYC show to date at Webster Hall. We recently caught them in Austin, at Coachella, in Portland, in Chicago, and at the start of the tour in NYC at Bowery Ballroom.
We caught up with the band ---Gerrit Welmers, William Cashion, and frontman Samuel Herring---for an interview before their show last week at the Bottletree Café in Birmingham, Alabama, to talk about the shockwaves of going viral, the new album, and where the music started.
You guys are mid tour. What's been the response from audiences so far with where you guys are currently?
SH: We're in the middle of about ten weeks of straight touring. We've got six shows left on this run, and then we have a couple of days off back in Baltimore. Then we fly to the West Coast to do Jimmy Kimmel, and then immediately fly from there to London to start a month and a half Euro and UK tour. Things have been good. Most of all these shows have sold out. I think we would have had a lot of sellouts in the big cities we've been playing for in years, but being able to play a lot of smaller cities and see huge turnout has been really awesome. A lot of people are being turned on to our music for the first time and coming out, and that's always been the hope with the new record. It's been two and a half years since we put out our last album, and then we took all of last year off, so we were kind of hoping this record would explode out on people. We were able to work with 4AD for the first time, and they've been amazing, so yeah, everything's been going really good.
April 29, 2014
by Bill Pearis
Luke Haines has a long and impressive musical resume, having been in a number of notable bands over the last 30 years (C86 indiepop band The Servants in the '80s, the Kinks-y group The Auteurs in the '90s, and frostbit synthpop trio Black Box Recorder), and a few high concept one-offs (Baader Meinhof, The North Sea Scrolls). Over the last decade, Haines has been especially prolific, with a string of solo albums, including his "Psychedelic Trilogy" that began with 2011's 9½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early '80s, continued with last year's Rock and Roll Animals and will conclude with new album New York in the '70s that will be released May 19 via Cherry Red. (Stream a couple tracks below.) He's also released two highly entertaining memoirs, the first of which, Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in Its Downfall, is especially recommended. If there's a thread running through his many projects, it's Haines' understated acerbic (often pitch black) wit -- that, and they're all pretty much worth checking out.
Haines is best known in America for his work with The Auteurs, whose albums spawned a few college radio / 120 Minutes hits (including "Show Girl," and "Lenny Valentino") which the band toured here for a few times. Along with his new album, The Auteurs' underrated catalog is getting the expanded reissue treatment. 1993's terrific debut, New Wave was released earlier this year, and the three remaining albums -- 1994's overdriven Now I'm a Cowboy, 1996's Steve Albini-produced After Murder Park, and 1999's glammy How I Learned to Love The Bootboys -- will be out in June. A reissue of 1996's Baader Meinhof, essentially a solo concept album about the German terrorist organization The Red Army Faction, is out now too. And Captured Tracks reissued The Servants albums last year.
Haines, who's also working on a few art projects (one being an opera about Mark E. Smith of The Fall!), took time out of his very busy schedule to talk about the new solo album, the Auteurs reissues, Britpop, the mythology of NYC and more. Read it, and check out a few tracks from New York in the '70s, as well as some Auteurs material, below...
April 15, 2014
by Andrew Sacher
The Menzingers will release their fourth album, Rented World, next week (4/22) via Epitaph (pre-order), and after revealing singles "In Remission" and "I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore," they've now made the whole album available to stream. The new album has some more studio shine than their past material (they worked with engineer Jon Low, who normally works with non-punk musicians like Kurt Vile and The National), but there's more aggression in the songs too. Many of them favor big, heavy '90s grunge riffs over the pop punk of their last album. Their knack for Craig Finn-like storytelling still shows up too, like on album highlight "Nothing Feels Good Anymore": "I'm at the party in a cloud of nicotine exhaled by drunk twentysomethings / there's a couple arguing in the bathroom, some couple kids trying to get high." Listen to the new record, via Spin, below.
The band are also supporting the new album on a previously discussed tour with Lemuria, PUP and Cayetana which hits NYC for what will by far be their largest headlining show here yet on May 30 at Webster Hall. Tickets for that show are still available.
Ahead of the tour and album release, I cornered co-vocalist/guitarist Tom May and talked to him about their NYC shows, the new record and their thriving Philly scene (which includes tourmates Cayetana). You can check out the interview, with their list of tour dates and the album stream, below...
April 14, 2014
words and photos by Joshua Ford
Upon his return home to Paris after the 2014 Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN (and after touching down on four continents in just four weeks, a NYC show at Baby's All Right included), Stephen O'Malley of Sunn O))), Nazoranai and countless other projects, graciously took some time to discuss his three performances at this exceptional U.S. festival with Joshua Ford.
Friday's lineup at Big Ears had O'Malley performing a solo set, focused on the volume/tone/drone aspects of his body of work most commonly associated with Sunn O))). On Saturday the festival reached critical mass at one o'clock am with O'Malley, Oren Ambarchi and Keiji Haino performing a smoldering improvisational set as Nazoranai (who play the Wick in Brooklyn on May 21). A scant nine hours later, at noon on Sunday, O'Malley and Ambarchi switched gears and performed two written compositions by modern composers Alvin Lucier and Iancu Dumitrescu.
FORD: How did your involvement with Big Ears come about? Was it the plan from square one to have you be involved in that capacity, on multiple days, and have you play three sets?
SOMA: We got an offer for Nazoranai to play, but at the time we didn't have any other things going on in the states, so it would have been very expensive to fly everyone over. I'm American but I live in Paris; flying myself from Europe, Mr. Haino from Japan and Oren from Australia to play one show is pretty expensive. You know, it's to the advantage of the festival to try and get more out of it. We all play in different formations, we're up for that, and it gives a chance to stay for the weekend. It kind of blossomed from there, and I'm really glad that happened.
April 10, 2014
Stephen Malkmus @ Bowery Ballroom in Feb. (more by PSquared)
Whether it's "Independence Street" from this year's Jicks release Wig Out at Jagbags, or a jam like "Range Life" written some twenty years ago during the Pavement days, you know a Stephen Malkmus song when you hear it. The songwriter's mellowed out bari-tenor vocals are just as unmistakable as the abstract lyrics he's been writing now for well over two decades. While his lyrics float in some abstract cross-section of bizarro Americana, Malkmus has always been able to ground the absurdity in the roots of rock 'n roll at its most memorably unadorned. With Pavement, that kind of offhanded simplicity was jarring to an audience of the early 90s who at the same time were already witnessing another revolutionary catalyst for both pop and punk music just a little further north in Seattle. Now six albums deep into his work with The Jicks, that same simplicity is just as relevant and applicable to a listening culture that's changed much more drastically than any music over the timespan of his career. At forty-seven, Malkmus is in no hurry to wax retrospective just yet. The man is not far removed from his music as our conversation finds him carefully gauging his own thoughts in short bursts of curious introspection and an earnest kind of self-doubt devoid of the sort of self-involvement one might expect from one of the most respected and enigmatic songwriters of the last quarter century. None of that really concerns Malkmus, and once we'd performed the awkward formalities of introducing ourselves, it didn't concern me all that much either with the topic of our conversation quickly lending itself to a mutual fascination with how time and age affects our perception of music and art in all its forms, and, perhaps more importantly, what we can hope to learn about ourselves along the way.
BV: From a creative standpoint, how have you seen your approach to songwriting and even music in general change since those high school punk band days, or has that kind of creative impetus largely stayed the same since then?
SM: It's hard to say. The original impetus, when I was doing the punk band, and I was writing our own songs, and having our own identity as a band - that's still there, I guess. I don't really know where it came from. It was fun like writing short stories when you were a kid or doing anything, just creating something. That still exists, but I suppose as time goes on, there's different achievements, and now it's like actually playing with a band or a little bit of working on textures and techniques and production and that kind of thing, I wouldn't have thought about that back then. It wasn't an issue. Those sort of style things - you don't really think about that when you're younger. You kind of just do it. Even in early Pavement stuff we had bands that we emulated, but we didn't really think about what it all meant quite as much when I was doing that. Things inevitably become more curatorial once you have the knowledge and the self-knowledge. It's inevitable and healthy as you get older.
What do you value most about creating music, and how have you seen that specifically evolve or change as you've gotten older?
Just to be surprised. Something may not seem surprising to the listener who's the critical one where it all makes sense how one thing's related to the thing that came before. It's not particularly radical changes, but for me it still is. When you have a germ of an idea that just starts in your house with you searching with the guitar, coming to believe in what you're doing, and then have it however it comes out at the end, and how you can alter that or make it go in a direction or the directions. You're led by what comes before all the time. The end result of making something - I still like that, or it still makes me happy to see it be successful. The process of doing it.
March 14, 2014
Mutual Benefit @ Mercury Lounge, Feb. 2014 (more by Amanda Hatfield)
Brooklyn resident Jordan Lee records under the moniker Mutual Benefit, making lush orch-folk as heard on 2013's gorgeous debut, Love's Crushing Diamond. Now fleshed-out as a band, Mutual Benefit will be busy this week with many appearances at SXSW, including the Friday (TODAY) BrooklynVegan free day party--they play at 1:30PM. While getting ready for that, Lee took time out to answer 5 QUESTIONS:
1) What is your favorite venue to play in the country and why?
Definitely this big outside stage in the middle of the Ozarks in Arkansas that used to be a secret queer club in the 80's but was recently found and re-started again by this group of young kids. Our show was cut short because a girl on psychedelics called the cops on herself and ended up getting tasered when she (perhaps rightfully) confused the police officer with a lizard person.
TPOBPAH @ Indie Pop Prom 2013 (more by Bruno Simões)
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are pretty consistent with their love for '80s and '90s indie, but they don't repeat themselves, and continue to navigate new territory on their upcoming third album, a quieter, poppier record than the Corgan riffs of 2011's Belong.
Folks attending SXSW this week can get an early taste of Days of Abandon (and TPOBPAH's new line-up) and their schedule includes the Saturday BrooklynVegan free BrooklynVegan day party. (For those that aren't, they'll be touring soon too.) Nice guy frontman Kip Berman, a genuine music lover, put some thought into our 5 QUESTIONS:
1) What is your favorite venue to play in the country and why?
Kip: I'm not going to include NYC, because hometown shows are always super special. But the Bottletree Cafe in Birmingham, Alabama is incredible. They have these airstream trailers that serve as the "back stage" area, they feed bands good food, and everyone that works there is pretty awesome.