It would seem that Pier 84 is the place to be this summer. With 4Knots boasting an impressive lineup of bands a few weeks ago, Hudson RiverRocks is upholding the more independent side of things, considering the bands and the cost, which is zero dollars. The lineup consisted of Santa Monica’s Weyes Blood, Speedy Ortiz out of Massachusetts, and Alabama’s own Waxahatchee. The shows start around six, and they’re a great way to spend the hours between work and bed. Weyes Blood is a sleepy start to the evening, and for a moment I wonder if the weather is bending to meet their mood. Violet grey clouds hang overhead, and everyone is wondering at the possibility of a downpour.
Natalie Mering, who essentially is Weyes Blood, is wearing a red polka-dot dress under a white trench. Her long black hair is in a low, slack ponytail that lends her a Joan Baez quality. At first she plays solo, singing over her keyboard, but shortly after the first couple of tracks her band mates trickle onstage. Mering’s music is cinematic, almost score-like. Her voice is stunning, sweeping and angelic, but admittedly, depressing. It’s a winter sound, and though I enjoy it very much, I’m not sure it’s fitting for a Pier 84 summer stage. The crowd is mixed, half of them swaying calmly while the rest chuckle. It’s not for everyone I guess.
Speedy Ortiz on the other hand, sound like the headliners at a house party after a long day at the beach. They could be the band playing your prom in an eighties movie, or in a dark club in a nineties movie. In a word, they’re fun. Sadie Dupuis is a powerhouse front-woman who looks a bit riot grrrrl in her pleated skirt and knee socks. You can hear a lot of Sonic Youth and Pavement in their set, but Dupuis’ girlish vocals matched with stern delivery make for a fresh sound. And I can’t take my eyes of drummer Mike Falcone, who’s bang-on and provides quite the punch. Having just made a riotous appearance at South by Southwest (Hannibal Buress sat in on drums) and released their sophomore record Foil Deer, the band is turning out to be much loved by fans as well as fellow musicians. At Happyness’s Cake Shop gig in April, drummer Ash Cooper sported one of their t-shirts. “They’re great!” he beamed. Rightly so.
Towards the end of their set, we all feel a sprinkle. Just like that it’s lights out and go home. There’s fear of a massive thunder and lightning storm, and given the very electric nature of all the equipment on stage, the good people of Hudson River Park decide it’s not worth the risk. The show mustn’t go on after all. It’s sad and unfair news for Waxahatchee.
Be sure to check out the final installment of Hudson RiverRocks featuring Yuck and U.S. Girls this Thursday, August 6th at Pier 84. And don’t forget to bring an umbrella. Just in case.
While last year’s 4Knots was downtown and gratis, the updated version boasts an impressive list of food vendors, top notch sound quality, and a killer lineup. And though you have to shell out a lot more than nothing this time ‘round, rest assured that all proceeds go to benefit Hudson River Park itself.
As you can see from our interview with the Grand Rapids trio, these boys are straightforward and approachable as human beings as well as musicians. They play psych rock straight up. Their set was incredibly tight and focused. It’s always interesting for a band’s sound to be so raucous and raw and their composure so stoic and professional. Guitarist/vocalist Andrew Tamlyn, drummer Joshua Korf, and bassist/vocalist Nolan Kreb all look like they could be in three different bands, but they sure as hell sound like one. Despite a little pestilence from a “Free Bird!” shouting audience member, the crowd loved them, and so did I.
In my opinion the most surprising act of the evening, Los Angeles-based Meatbodies kicked ass. It’s a pedestrian description, but an accurate one. They’re a shambolic bunch whose stage banter is far from sophisticated and all the better for it. “We’re sorry we’re sick. We ate too much cheese last night. We’re sick on cheeeeeeeeeese!!!!!” they shout out phlegmy throats. Lead man Chad Ubovich is freakishly talented, and when you consider his resume it makes sense; he was long the lead guitarist for Mikal Cronin and currently plays bass in Fuzz. Each Meat Body has palpable chops, but Ubovich is a real showman and potentially a savant; his solos are wild and wailing, seeming at once impossible and effortless. As his guitar squeals his eyes roll back in his head and his mouth twitches in unembarrassed focus. The lot of them come off like your shithead little brother – that all your friends would rather hang out with.
You may have noticed by now that we’re a bit hung up on Happyness, and that won’t be changing anytime soon. They play a familiar set-at least to someone who’s seen them three times in the past couple of months-but it never grows stale. The thing that continues to surprise and delight me about these boys is that despite their all-too-clever lyrics and flippant interview responses, they perform with an intense and joyous sincerity. Drummer Ash Cooper, though only in his early twenties, comes off like a seasoned jazz session man, mouthing each brush on the high hat, squinting and smiling in a surely unconscious way. Benji Compston and Jonny Allan do all the talking to the crowd, but as a trio they seem to be speaking to each other with a ease and professionalism that typically marks bands who’ve been together much longer than they.
I’ve been looking for Stephen Malkmus all night. Was he in the crow’s nest? Aboard the artists’ lounge? Catching some shade under that enormous prop Deep Eddy Vodka bottle tethered to the bow of the boat? He’d managed to escape my searching eyes until the moment he stepped out from behind the stage (I’m convinced I was the first person to see him). “Hello photographer people” he mutters and leans over the photo pit a bit self-consciously. The Jicks are on the edge of their first song when a resounding ferry horn honks. “Even ships fart,” Malkmus quips, proving he’s still the easily humored dude he’s always been. The band played the bulk of 2014’s Wig Out at Jagbags but no Pavement managed to creep into their set. (I can dream, can’t I?) A particular show high-point peaked during “Freeze The Saints” when Malkmus sauntered over to guitarist/keyboardist Mike Clark to join him on the keys. They plunked away side by side until Malkmus turned to Clark, stating dryly: “You’re stepping on me, bro.”
It’s only fitting that the Super Furries would headline, seeing as they’ve been on hiatus for half a decade. I know that the stage set up won’t be demure (knowing them, and how long it takes for them to come onstage) but I have read the yeti costumes are destroyed, and will therefore not make an appearance this tour. They too find amusement in the ferry horns, pausing after the first and maniacally shouting back at it. SFA fans are not fainthearted, and there is a flock of them. They play all the favorites, mine being “Juxtaposed With You” simply for how much it stands away from their catalog. Their set is long and solid, but of course they deliver a generous encore. And despite all the talk, they play it in yeti suits after all.
It’s surprising to think that after all these years, the above still gets shouted at rock bands who are just trying to finish their set. I personally stopped finding the line funny around age 14, but the same cannot be said for the sad twenty-somethings behind me whose idea of high art is probably the Fast and the Furious franchise.
I digress. The real victims of this sloppy heckle are not my ears, but rather the members of Heaters, a band who has come all the way from Grand Rapids, Michigan to play the annual Village Voice 4Knots Festival. Fortunately the vast majority of the crowd are brimming with enthusiasm for the group, who sound as tight live as they do on their recordings. They’ve recently released their Mean Green 7” on Beyond Beyond is Beyond records and will have a full length come September. Having played SXSW, and the Austin Psych Festival in the past couple of months, the band is still in a perpetual state of momentum. Fortunately for us at AudioFemme, they slowed down ever so slightly to give us an exclusive interview and chatted about the Grand Rapids music scene, playing bass on acid, and stealing other bands’ drummers.
AudioFemme: Welcome to New York!
Heaters: Thank you.
AF: Did you guys just get in this morning?
Nolan Krebs: (bass/vocals) We got in yesterday actually, we had the day off yesterday so we went out to the Rockaways and had a nice ass day.
AF: Are you in town for long?
NK: ‘Til Monday and then we play Boston.
AF: Do you have anything fun planned for the rest of the stay?
Andrew Tamlyn (guitar/vocals): We’re gonna go to Coney Island I think tomorrow.
NK: Yeah, we’ve never been.
AF: I love Coney Island. The Side Show is worth it if they still run it.
NK: Oh I’d be so down.
AF: It’s really good. Don’t go on the Cyclone.
NK: I feel like I would throw up. Is it intense?
AF: It’s not so much the motion sickness, it’s just that it’s made out of wood and it gives you whiplash. Every time you go around it feels like someone’s punching you in the back. So if you’re into that, go on it. So 4Knots! Your set was amazing, I really enjoyed it.
All: Thank you!
AF: Did you hear that guy yelling “play ‘Free Bird’” by any chance?
NK: Yeah, what a tacky, unoriginal thing to say.
AF: Do people still think that’s funny?
AT: I don’t know. It’s kind of like a “your mom” joke, you know?
AF: Who were you most excited to see at 4Knots?
AT: Meat Bodies.
AF: They’re great! I was just kinda like, oh, another band. But then they started playing and I immediately ran to the stage. Their guitarist is fantastic – so animated. I was very impressed by their set.
AT: Most of these bands I haven’t heard of, but I’m excited to see Happyness.
NK: We met them at South by this year and they’re total sweethearts.
AF: Yeah I saw them in April and interviewed them in a tiny bathroom in a venue in Brooklyn, and they’re just adorable. They’re the sweetest guys. So, you guys are from Grand Rapids Michigan; what’s the music scene like over there?
AT: It’s weird, it’s kind of all over the place. There’s lots of metal and folk.
Joshua Korf (drums): There’s a lot of pop punk.
NK: They’re trying though. It’s a cool city and we moved there because we knew there would be places to play. Andrew and I were friends in high school and we kind of split up during college and shit, and then afterwards knew we wanted to try and do something with music so that is the best place in Michigan to try and start something. It’s young and looking for a foothold but it’s trying.
AF: Yeah I was going to ask why you were drawn to that city as opposed to other music hubs like New York…the big ones.
JK: It’s a cheap place to live.
NK: Yeah I feel like we had a little bit of space to breathe there and figure out what we wanted to do and what kind of music we wanted to make. Chicago isn’t very far away and we play there about once a month so sometimes we kind of feel like we’re a Chicago band.
AF: Well I think midwestern bands kind of get slumped into that one category a bit…Chicago and Minneapolis and such.
AF: I feel like you guys have recorded quite a lot in the small time that you’ve been a band. I know that the Mean Green 7” just came out in April- are you guys already working on anything new?
NK: We have our first full length coming out in September on Beyond Beyond is Beyond, which is a Brooklyn-based label. Our Mean Green record came out through them as well. When September rolls around we’ll be-we’re on a two month tour right now-but by then we’ll have some space to breathe and probably start working on something else.
AF: How far into the tour are you?
AT: Just like a week.
AF: You guys did another pretty long tour in March?
NK: Yeah, March through May we went down to Texas for South By Southwest and Austin Psych Fest so it was kind of like back and forth driving to and from Texas.
AF: Anything ridiculous happen? Any good tour stories?
(Josh starts laughing hysterically)
AF: Oh, something happened.
NK: I took acid way too late in the night before we played at Austin Psych Fest because we were watching Tame Impala and someone politely asked if we wanted LSD, so I said yes and didn’t end up sleeping that night, which sucks. I had a great time but didn’t sleep before our set…
AF: Did you play while you were high?
NK: Um, I wasn’t really high by the time we played but I remember looking at my bass guitar and thinking, “this feels weird. Something’s weird.”
AF: I can’t imagine performing while on acid. That sounds terrifying.
NK: Yeah, some bands can totally pull it off but personally I get confused.
AF: So you two (Andrew and Nolan) moved to Grand Rapids together, and Josh, you were their next-door neighbor. How did that courtship work? Did you just see a drum kit in a window and bring him a Jell-O mold, or?
AT: Actually, he was playing in another band and after his set we were like, “dude, we really like you! Come play with us!” So we stole him and then we all moved in together and just started hammerin’ out tunes.
AF: So now all three of you live together?
NK: Yep. We’ve lived together for like two years.
JK: It’s really convenient for stuff like rehearsing and practicing and recording in general. Instead of having to go to a practice space we can all wake up in the morning, have coffee and go to the basement and play together.
AT: We’re all brothers.
AF: Yeah, it’s impressive. The dynamics must work so well for you to not get sick of each other.
NK: It’s weird because I actually hate them both, so…..
AF: I can tell. I can sense the steely reserve emanating from you.
AF: I was reading an interview with you guys recently and I believe Andrew you said that a lot of new music consists of people doing a kind of karaoke vocal track over prerecorded music.
AT: In certain genres, yeah.
AF: Do you feel semi out-of-touch with contemporary music?
AT: I’d say so, yeah. I feel like we’re a little out of touch with most radio/contemporary music, but I mean when it comes to just playing with other rock n’ roll bands, not at all.
NK: Contemporary music is kind of funny for us to listen to as engineers of our own music. We listen to it and we’re like “oh my god, this is so different from what we try to do in our basement.” But, to each his own.
A: I still respect it all. I’m not hating on anything.
AF: Hate on some things.
(All shake heads)
AF: No? All right. Speaking of contemporary music, what are you listening to right now?
All: The Fat White Family, Vocaloid.
NK: They’re a Chilean Psych band.
AT: On Sacred Bones Records.
NK: Amen Dunes, Mystic Braves…honestly the bands we’ve toured with have come to be our favorite bands. Mystery Lights. Wand.
AF: So your contemporaries.
AF: What are your goals as a band currently? Are there festivals you’re dying to play, or venues you’re trying to get into or radio stations you want to be on?
AT: I think it’d be cool to play the Fillmore in San Francisco. That’s pretty iconic.
JK: My dream was always to play Psych Fest.
AF: You did it!
JK: Yeah, when we got that email it was so surreal.
AF: It sounds like such a blast.
JK: Yeah, it’s the perfect festival in my mind, because everyone that’s there is there to see music. There’s a hang-out-and-do-drugs thing, but I’ve been to so many other festivals where it’s just about how fucked up you can get and it’s not about the music, and everyone I talked to and encountered at that festival was there to see good music.
NK: It was like, record nerds.
AF: Your people.
NK: Yep, our people.
AF: So my last question is kind of a silly one: do you have any music that you love which is a guilty pleasure? And what is it? But un-ironically, like you truly love the band.
JK: The Strokes (who are currently playing on the boat)
AF: They’re playing this for you!
AT: Grizzly Bear????
AF: Oh, come on.
NK: They make beautiful music.
AF: That’s bullshit. They’re a hip band.
NK: I don’t feel bad about any music…
AF: Not bad but embarrassed. Mine’s The Wallflowers if that helps anyone.
NK: Oh, ok.
JK: Guns N’Roses.
NK: Andrew and I listened to a lot of hardcore music when we were teenagers, so now listening back to that it will make me blush.
AF: Like Alkaline Trio or something?
NK: Yeah that sort of bullshit, but whatever, that got us into a lot of guitar music so…
AF: Oh no, you don’t have to defend it.
NK: haha, thank you.
AF: The blushing part is what I mean. The fact that it makes you blush makes it that category.
Be sure to check out the title track off of Mean Green below: