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.
“I keep forgetting I’m on a boat!” Huw Bunford, lead guitarist of Wales’ Super Furry Animals, is sitting in a booth on the Hornblower Infinity, 4 Knots’s designated artists lounge for the one-day festival on Pier 84. “Sorry, I just saw the horizon go up and down (laughs).” It is mildly unsettling trying to hold composure for an interview while feeling the slightest swells rock us left and right. All around are musicians snacking on buffet cheeses and crackers, chatting and ordering drinks from the bar. In all honesty, I keep forgetting we’re on a boat too.
Bunford, or as he cordially introduces himself, “Bunf,” is soft spoken, gracious, and exceedingly kind. These are not three adjectives that leap to mind when one imagines a rock star who’s been in the biz twenty-odd years. There’s a lot more ease about him – a casual uncertainty regarding the future that typically marks bands in their first year. Perhaps it’s the well-rested temperament of a man whose band has just emerged from a six-year hiatus.
Super Furry Animals are not only touring again for the first time since 2009, they’re also riding high on the deluxe edition rerelease of their 2000 album Mwng(pronounced Mung as I learned the hard way). The record, sung entirely in Welsh, was anomalous not only to the band (all prior recordings were in English) but also to the U.K. music industry of the time, which was strongly steeped in Britpop. But as opposed to the Beatle-ific, Kink-centric nods from contemporaries such as Oasis and Blur, Super Furry Animals took on everything from funk to psychedelic, to space rock. Their diverse sonic anatomy makes it difficult to solder them to any specific time period – which may be why a reissue and a resurrection is so appropriate.
Bunf was kind enough to take the time to answer a few pressing questions, and chat about iTunes, wltimate painting, and SFA’s biggest fan.
AudioFemme: Welcome back to New York!
Huw Bunford: Thank you.
AF: So you’re back from a hiatus, you just played Glastonbury, and you’ve reissued Mwng after 15 years; what’s it like touring together as a band now? Is there a different dynamic?
HB: No. It’s strange really, it’s just like none of us have been away. It’s a very bizarre feeling. Before we did Glastonbury we did a short tour just to publicize Mwng really-the reissue-and there were about eight dates around Britain, and that was the first time we’d played for six years and we rehearsed before it and Cian [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Ciaran: keyboards, synths, etc] said when he walked in the first day, he looked in and our roadies had set up everything exactly as we’d remembered.
AF: It’s like when you talk to a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while and it’s as if no time has passed.
HB: Yeah, it’s very strange.
AF: What was it about Mwng in particular that you wanted to rerelease it instead of other records in your archive?
HB: Well, one thing about this is that there was no plan, it’s quite shambolic, a super loose idea where we had a few record companies like Sony and Domino who mentioned doing it years ago, and we sort of just never got our shit together and sorted it out. And then for some reason a year ago a guy from Domino bumped into Gruff [Rhys: lead vocals, guitar] and said “oh, we never did get that reissue….”
AF: I’ve read about it and I love that you all just say “oh we just forgot….”
HB: (laughs) Yeah, basically we were all just like (looks quizzical) “oh yeah….” But it just seemed right at the time. The idea of [reissuing] Mwng came out and Domino really jumped on it and was really amazing, and they made a really nice pressing. And Kliph Spurlock, who used to be the drummer for Flaming Lips is a massive fan-
AF: I would assume that the Flaming Lips may have been a fan of yours…
HB: Yeah, Kliph is, he’s a superfan. I first saw him in a gig in Lawrence, Kansas and I didn’t know who he was and he knew all the songs, all air drumming. So he then compiled a lot of outtakes and ATPs of Mwng so [the reissue] has about six sides. So that was worth pushing…worth doing something around it.
AF: I know one of the defining features of Mwng is that it’s sung entirely in Welsh. Looking back do you feel like that’s made a mark on contemporary Welsh music? Is it a thriving tradition or kind of an oddity?
HB: No, no, Wales has got a thriving musical scene, the Welsh language has its own radio station, and a lot of quite amazing bands really…a lot of young bands that really hold their own against anybody. And it’s healthy, you know, it’s not contrived I don’t think in any way, even though it’s a language that you might not associate with pop music, but it doesn’t matter really. In the end in a way, ironically, when we finally played America it was only when we came back and toured Mwng that’s when audiences in America thought ‘oh, these aren’t Britpop then’ because we’d been slightly lumped in by association.
AF: Which is so funny to me because I could not think of a further diversion from Britpop…
HB: It’s probably just because Creation [Records] and Oasis were out then and we came out then…I could see why people would sometimes think it…but not when they heard us (laughs). Once we started playing they were like “Oh, no, right.”
AF: What are you listening to now? Are there any new bands that you’re excited about or do you just go to the classics?
HB: Yeah, they’re amazing. I love them. And um, Van Etten.
AF: Sharon Van Etten? She’s great.
HB: I’m kind of into Soundscapes as well, though they don’t really figure much in the Billboard 100, but yeah, it’s kind of weird…and documentaries as well…that’s what I listen to and watch really.
AF: This is actually paraphrasing something Gruff said from about 2009, but it was regarding the fact that you guys have always been a very album-centric band, and that was a time period when people really constructed albums from start to finish as a whole composition. And now we really are in this era of individual downloads. How do you feel as a band kind of in those two spaces? Do you feel like there’s even a chance for bands to have longevity anymore based on that?
HB: Well, no not really. I suppose to be cynical it’s a completely different business model now. Cuz in a way that’s how everything effects everything in the end, unfortunately. You know peoples’ habits change, technology has in a way pushed that into the way people have changed. There’s a small little niche for vinyl…it’ll never die out, because I think bands love to do albums in the end. If you’re a band you might not want to just stop at one song, even though the record company does…
AF: I know bands will continue to make albums, I just wonder if there are any bands that we listen to now that we’ll still be excited about in 15 years…that I question a lot. I hope, but I don’t know.
HB: Yeah, I know what you mean, because there might not be enough…
AF: Attention span.
HB: Yeah, it’s kinda crazy. I mean there’s so much new stuff and then you get indie music, which is almost quite generic indie music, and then you get other indie music which is really out-there indie music and you can always see subtle differences and I think that’s because there’s just more of it. And I suppose peoples’ tastes become more sophisticated. We keep getting more sophisticated with our tastes.
AF: Some of us do….
HB: Well, yeah, but when you think about it it’s inevitable. Pop will eat itself.
AF: Not to age you guys with this statement, but as a pre-internet band-
HB: Oh, yes. We’re proud of that.
AF: I’m sure, I mean I would be if I had a band. Pre-internet. But, how do you feel about streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music? It’s complicated…
HB: Well, yeah, it is. It’s a minefield really isn’t it? Some bands like U2 totally missed the point spectacularly and put out everything on iTunes and get a separate contracted deal with Ttunes for a zillion pounds but make it look like “hey, we’re giving it away!” and it’s a lot of massive bands that do that, so it must be quite difficult for bands who are starting out now if the precedent is: ‘give it away and something might happen’ it’s a very upside down business plan. You can embrace it as a way of getting something out there. When we were around starting, you’d have to have a press officer, you’d have to have an agency, all these kinds of things which were all parasitic of the record company, but they needed them to be there and the whole apparatus would work and you’d get onto morning shows and TV shows. But now that’s all out the window. I think that people were just too slow to realize it…if you stand still in this game you die.
AF: Yeah and once your standing you’re not even there for that long.
HB: Yeah. That’s hard.
AF: I’ve read interviewers ask you guys about how having kids has affected your careers, but I’m curious to know how you guys have affected your kids with music. What kind of stuff are they listening to?
HB: Well now they’re just about getting to that age where they can really see what we did. Before they were a bit too young. They didn’t get it. So now they kind of, my kids are beginning to see that.
AF: Are they like ‘dad’s cool’ or are they kind of embarrassed?
HB: Yeaaaah, my kid’s eight-they’re all under 10 so still young, but you know, they don’t have any qualms saying ‘my dad’s a rock star’ to the milkman or something like that (laughs) that’s what they see, you know. But it’s funny you know, you try and downplay it but it’s sweet.
AF: I guess my last question would be, what’s next for you guys? A new album?
HB: Yeah, it’s just super loose. We don’t know. We’re taking it a week at a time. Well, not really, we’re doing almost like a festival tour up until the end of the season really. And then after that we’ll do something next year like the festivals and some of the things we didn’t get a chance to do, and that’s about as far as we’ve really stuck our necks out. But it’s good; it’s a nice feeling.
AF: But that’s nice, not being stressed out.
HB: Like I said, you know, people don’t really listen to albums anyway, so wha’ts the point of writing one? (Laughs)
The 5th annual 4Knots Music Festival approaches. Held Saturday, July 11 at Pier 84, this year brings performances from Welsh psych-stars Super Furry Animals and Portland rockers Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks along with: Twin Peaks, Mikal Cronin, Screaming Females, Happyness, Meatbodies, Heaters, Heaven, and Surfbort. Thankfully nothing overlaps so you can see them all ’cause they all rock. I just picked the top three to talk about that at this point in my existence made me feel something.
You can’t miss these London boys, who also make the list of one of our favorite AudioFemme interviews of all time. My favorite part of their songs is their lyrics, in particular the highly intelligent yet playful musings on love. They just make it sound so fun!
The fourth annual 4Knots Music Festival is slated to wash ashore at South Street Seaport this Saturday, July 12th, and we couldn’t be more excited. The festival, curated by The Village Voice, gets better each year, with Dinosaur Jr., Mac DeMarco, Re-TROS, Dead Stars,Those Darlins, Speedy Ortiz, Radkey, Viet Cong, Nude Beach, and Juan Wauters slated to grace the 2014 celebration – and it’s all FREE. There’s also an after party at Webster Hall following the day-long extravaganza, and you can get $5 off tickets with the code VOICE by clicking here.
Though 4Knots might seem relatively new, VV cut its festival booking chops on the now-legendary Siren Music Festival, held every summer at Coney Island from 2001-2010. As our anticipation grows for 4Knots 2014, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the best performers to grace 4Knots and Siren stages.
2001 – Peaches
We’re sure Rainer Maria, Guided By Voices and Superchunk were all lovely, but come on… at the time, the gender-bending, sex-positive performance artist was riding on high on the release of The Teaches of Peaches, her debut album that featured hits like “Fuck the Pain Away” and “Set it Off.” The quirk and kitsch of Coney Island was a perfect backdrop for Peaches, who looked every bit the part of sideshow provocateur in her bright red lingerie.
2002 – Sleater-Kinney
2002 was kind of THE banner year for Siren Fest, helped in part by the fact that there was a dance-punk renaissance happening in NYC. We can just picture Karen O smooching Angus Andrew at the top of the Wonder Wheel (they were deep in lurrrrv when their bands – Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars, respectively – played the fest), and I’m sure like-minded rockers Les Savy Fav, Mooney Suzuki, The Donnas, and Rye Coalition tore shit up, while The Shins mellowed crowds out with “New Slang” years before it rocked Zach Braff’s world. But Sleater-Kinney is the best band EVER, and their live performances were unparalleled. Even some dude who writes about music a lot agrees.
2003 – !!!
No, I’m not so excited about the history of 4Knots/Siren Fest that I’ve resorted to superfluous punctuation – !!! (usually pronounced Chk Chk Chk but otherwise represented by any three repetitive monosyllables other than Yeah Yeah Yeah since that was taken) gave every ounce of energy they had into converting a boring old rock show into a full tilt dance party. The band had a rotating, often huge lineup of talented musicians, fronted by lead singer Nic Offer, whose spastic showmanship mimed the outsized gestures of arena rock performers like Mick Jagger, but in a weirder, disco-punk context. !!! were known to encourage audience participation, adoration, and most of all satisfaction – you could rest assured they’d at least give you your money’s worth. But Siren Fest, just like 4Knots, has always been free.
2004 – …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead
TV on the Radio were still a baby band, Mission of Burma were already and aging punk dad band, Har Mar Superstar probably grossed everyone out (that was his thing), and Death Cab for Cutie probably made everyone too sad. Blonde Redhead is an amazing band that almost no one appreciated or remembers. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead smashed their gear and dove into the audience.
2005 – Dungen
While Q And Not U kept dance-punk alive, and Spoon continued the mellow indie dude vibes set forth by Death Cab the year before, Swedish psych rockers Dungen, who had apparently just visited Other Music, like, that day, must have thrown the audience for a real loop. Ta Det Lungt had just begun to help them establish an international reputation, and even though none of their songs were sung in English, there’s no doubt the weed cloud hanging over the Cyclone after their set helped with the language barrier.
I bet Celebration was so, so fucking badass that year because Katrina Ford is a goddess and I’m excited for their upcoming album and I’m excited for their show at Baby’s All Right on July 25th but Jake Shears literally stripped down to a Speedo.
2007 – M.I.A.
Just look at how sweet M.I.A. was before all the Vanity Fair hoopla, before the SuperBowl middle finger, before H/Bollywood got its hands on “Paper Planes,” before the trainwreck that was /\/\/\Y/\… M.I.A’s music has evolved a lot over the years, but she’s always been one of the “Bad Girls,” with enough swagger to last for decades. Though we couldn’t have known it then, her Siren appearance was a rare treat, free of backlash and media sniping and all about the jams. The Black Lips put on a great live show, and are also no stranger to controversy, having recently talked shit on Drake and Lorde, that one time Jared Swilley and Nathan from Wavves got into some fisticuffs in a Brooklyn bar… and oh yeah maybe they’re racist? 2007 Siren, you were a real breeding ground for dissension.
2008 – Times New Viking
While Broken Social Scene is great at cramming a ton of talented musicians on stage, I have to hand it to my Columbus, Ohio hometown heroes Times New Viking for blasting such a huge crowd with their lo-fi gems. I have super fond memories of seeing them play dive bars and basements and living rooms, but their gloriously dingy pop songs harbor all the rickety charm of Astroland, where any ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl in 2007 might have been your last ride on anything, ever.
2009 – Monotonix
When Monotonix crowd surf, they don’t just flop along in a sea of sunburned arms like most bands. First of all, these dudes get pretty much naked except for underpants, socks, and copious amounts of body hair. Second of all, they spend the majority of their set in the audience, as opposed to the casual one-and-done method of even the punkest punks. Third of all, they take their instruments into the crowd with them. These nutso Israelis played over 1000 shows in five years, 400 of them happening between 2006 & 2007, so fourth of all, setting themselves on fire and shit was routine for them.
2010 – Screaming Females
The thing about festivals is that sometimes they’re less than ideal scenarios for the bands that play them. It’s hot, it’s bright, and the sound engineering can be really questionable. After insisting on using his own drums rather than the rented kit Siren provided, Jarrett led Screaming Females on a rambling pre-set jam session to ease any jitters. They also turned their monitors off, because according to this adorable blog post he thought it “better to have no mix than a crazy one.” Anyone who’s heard Marissa Paternoster playing guitar knows she shreds; I can’t imagine headliners Matt & Kim (the only band to play Siren twice!) played a better set than Screaming Females in their 2 o’clock slot.
2011 – Titus Andronicus
Though it made everyone a bit sad when Village Voice moved their annual shindig from an awesome beachfront amusement park with tons of history to, well… a mall with an Uno’s Pizzeria, they at least had the respect for tradition to rename the fest 4knots (the speed at which the East River flows) and booked another expertly curated lineup, which included headliners Titus Andronicus. Their appearance came just after gaining tons of recognition for their intelligently rendered album The Monitor, loosely based on Civil War-inspired themes, not to mention their aggressive live shows. The lineup has since changed but our favorite incarnation of the band featured Amy Klein on violin and guitar. Ahhh, memories.
2012 – The Drums
We’ve always appreciated the swagger of Jonny Pierce, and his band’s beachy vibes practically scream outdoor dance party, so The Drums were a perfect fit with 4knots. 2011’s Portamento saw the group shift from surfy to synthy (the title is a tribute to the analogue settings Pierce and bandmate Jacob Graham bonded over as kids), so we couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming release of their latest album, slated for sometime this year.
2013 – Parquet Courts
There’s a reason these Brooklyn punks quickly gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the best live bands to see, and their ultra-sweaty performance at last year’s sweltering 4Knots is a perfect example. The two things I remember most about last year’s 4Knots were The Men covering Iggy Pop with a rousing horn section, and Andrew Savage extending “Stoned & Starving” with a ten-minute long rant about social media and commodified music that felt both prescient and tongue-in-cheek. You really never know what to expect from a Parquet Courts set except that it will be rowdy. Similarly, we never know what to expect from a Village Voice music fest – so make sure you’re at South Street Seaport on Saturday for this year’s 4Knots!
Each week Audiofemme gives away a set of tickets to our featured shows in NYC! Scroll down to enter for the following shindigs.