INTERVIEW/EP REVIEW: The Adventures Of The Silver Spaceman


The thought of an adventuring spaceman evokes images of daring travels and wild adventures. But in Zach Ellis’s world, the distance of space is an opportunity for some serious reflection. You can see the whole world from space, and at the moment, the world doesn’t look that great. That gives an ominous tone to The Adventures Of The Silver Spaceman‘s latest release, Electric Earth. It opens with the title track, a song that quickly gains momentum with rapid-fire lyrics and snaking guitar lines that feel as though they’re pulling you down a dark, twisting hallway. Well- placed dissonance creates a visceral sense of unease. But, the dark vibes are balanced out with gentler moments like “Expulsion,” a soaring, hopeful track with brimming space and self-awareness. We spoke to Zach about the recording process, how Electric Earth was inspired by the current times and, of course, space.

AUDIOFEMME: I really love the production on this EP, especially when it comes to the vocals. Can you give us some insights into the recording process?

ZACH: Thanks so much! The recording process on this record was by far the simplest we’ve ever done. You can partially thank Amy Schumer for that. We booked an all day session at Studio G in Greenpoint with my engineer Andy Swerdlow, but the session got turned into a half day because apparently, she needed to do a last minute voice over session for her show. So we ended up cranking out the whole EP in the latter half of the day thinking maybe we’d book another half day to finish, but we ended up not needing it. It took about 6 hours. We did it live. It’s really the antithesis of my earlier work… I used to record everything myself and add layer upon layer and get super anal about editing to sound just right. This record is super raw.

I did a few vocal passes into a U47 with a little slap echo in the monitor and that was pretty much it. It was so awesome recording into that mic. Andy, our engineer, says it’s the best mic in the world.

Andrew Bailey, who plays in DIIV, was with us during the session and I asked him if he’d want to add to the madness at the end of “Breath of Fire” and he was super into it. He’s since joined the band.

I sense a dystopian vibe to the whole EP, but particularly the first song, “Electric Earth.” Can you tell me the message behind the song, and what inspired the lyrics?

So glad you’re paying attention. Yes, Electric Earth is kind of my personal mantra for navigating a dystopian world. Things are so crazy right now. We’ve literally got villains in towers with henchmen. Money is controlling everything and in the hands of complete sociopaths who are deciding what we eat and how we interact with each other. It’s hard to navigate and real easy to lose touch entirely.  It’s so easy to live in a bubble where the climate is controlled by corporate media and lose touch with the reality of what we as humans are meant to be experiencing. But, eventually, the bubble is going to pop. The music is about staying in touch with what’s important and real through it all… physically, emotionally and mentally remaining sharp and connected to mother nature. 

Your release show was also a benefit for Standing Rock. Do you have any thoughts about the situation over there?

So many thoughts and feelings. This nation has been so unkind to its indigenous peoples. And after sweeping them under the rug by pushing them to the far corners of the United States, we now want to destroy the little bit of land we left them by installing a pipeline to transport a completely unsustainable energy source from one place to another? For what? So the filthy rich oil barrens can die alone in their mansions leaving their children a big house in a broken world. We need to learn from indigenous people now more than ever. We need to live in harmony with each other and with the land. I want to do what I can through music. 

Your bio states that you’ve been compared to “Steve Malkmus and the Jicks, Nick Cave, and a millennial Neil Young.” Do these artists reflect your musical influences? 

Steve Malkmus and the Jicks/Pavement are actually a relatively new trip for me, which a lot of people find hard to believe. Nick Cave as well. He scares me; I love it. Neil Young is a huge, huge influence. I learned a lot about how to use my voice through his songs and in my opinion he’s one of the most prolific, badass artists alive. As far as other influences, Fugazi sets me free [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”][and] Gang of Four, Television, Explosions in the Sky,  Nina Simone, Pink Floyd, Springsteen, Tom Waits, Antony and the Johnsons and Joanna Newsom. 

I tend to listen to mostly friends music. They’re the real influence. Sir Kn8, Hila the Killa, Lost Boy, Sam Yield, Yairms, Pecas, Parnhash and Coe, Nic Lawless. There’s so many incredible artists just out there relentlessly making quality stuff outside of the mainstream. Listen to these artists!

If you could go to space, would you do it? Which planet would you choose?

Of course! Me and my dear friend Sir Kn8 are already planning a kickstarter campaign to record a record out there. Neptune would be cool because it isn’t made mostly out of ice!

Electric Earth was released on 12/2. Check out the EP below![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

CMJ 2012: Best Of, 1-3

CMJ is one of our very favorite music festivals of the year, because it showcases the best, brightest and unknown talents out there, hidden like diamonds in the rough. Over the course of five crazy days, NYC mines those diamonds for all the world to see. Though we witnessed an abundance of music-related shenanigans that we would love to tell you about, we wanted to first pay homage to the artists out there who we think, and hope, the world will soon experience much more of. Here’s a sample of 9 acts I liked best. Some are those diamonds, brand spanking new to the scene, and others are old favorites who continue to blow my mind every time I get to see them.



1. Chad Valley @ Le Baron


Chad Valley, the moniker of UK native Hugo Manuel (of indie rock band Jonquil), is a phenomenon that creeps up on you like a flash flood. Though I had heard a few of his tracks prior to the Ghostly/Cascine showcase, when I finally saw him at Le Baron my prior impressions were torn to shreds. He is possessed of an exceptional kind of talent that can only be apprehended through his live performance (one of the myriad great things about live performance). There are three aspects of his work that standout. First, he doesn’t really seem to give a fuck about how he’s perceived. He is accessible and unassuming, and doesn’t cultivate a hyper-stylized personae in order to distance himself from the audience—a commonly employed mechanism by “DJs” and other solo performers who lack traditional means of self-definition, like musical virtuosity for instance. This absence of self-consciousness, while it could perhaps be interpreted as impudence, is a breath of fresh air in this biz. Especially at festivals, you often feel like you might just choke on all the hubris floating around in the air. Second, his music is innovative but simple, in that the way that he creates an experience for the audience. You don’t grasp this from the recordings unless you are familiar with the fact that he doesn’t perform with a band. He stands behind a table of samplers and builds his songs from there, singing simultaneously into two microphones so that he can loop and layer his vocal tracks. Third, Manuel’s lung capacity alone transforms what could be formulaic electropop into true art, unrivaled by almost any similarly minded pop musician I can think of, save Antony Hegarty.

All this made for an impressive set of performances, which subsequently topped my list for the week. His songs are lush, melodic and complex, and each one gives audience members the sense that he’s intimating something directly to them about life, love and longing.

2. Doldrums @ PS1


Doldrums‘ Pitchfork gig at MOMA PS1 was a CMJ winner. Project of Airick Woodhead , Doldrums’ set brought visual art and inventive electronic music together seamlessly; and the performance was executed with an elegance that this particular genre often precludes, since it’s meant to challenge the musical aesthetic of the viewer in a way that can leave one feeling abandoned in the…um…doldrums. Doldrums’ set was entirely captivating though, accompanied by video installation that wrapped around the inside wall of PS1’s huge, white crystalline dome, in which he and his band performed. Though previously a solo project based out of Montreal, he played his CMJ shows as a three-piece. His music samples and layers together different, often opposing sounding percussion and a-melodic strings over (in this instance) live drumming, throwing in animal sounds, child sounds, the sounds of a modem starting, etc. Woodhead’s ethereal vocals tie it all together, and the result is tracks that are haphazard, yet never absent of a central thesis, which perhaps in his case is: controlled chaos is fertile ground for good music if you have the brains to compose it all well. And that Doldrums does. All of it makes for experimental electronica at its very best. We will surely continue to see more from this young talent, if he chooses to give us more.

3. DIIV @ Villain


Aside from nearly getting moshed to death at Villain, a pop-up warehouse venue on the Williamsburg waterfront where they performed, DIIV was an exceedingly good live band to watch.

Why there was a circle pit at a shoegaze concert at all is mystifying, and made watching DIIV feel like a weird dream that’s also kind of a nightmare. I know that shoegaze trailblazers like Jesus And Mary Chain have a whole damn album of super raucous jams that make people want to flail themselves at one another. DIIV, however—at least what I thought I knew of them—do not. All of the songs off their full-length debut Oshin, do not whatsoever betray a “fuck the world” ethos. Instead, listening to them makes me want to go for a run on a sunny autumn afternoon. But I don’t go for runs. I go to concerts. And this one got rowdy, it seemed, as soon as the opening chords were strummed. After adjusting my expectations and locking my knees, I began to actually “get it” though, because the songs themselves elicit an emotional reaction in people. It’s almost as if they were written to be experienced viscerally. The melodies are full of reverb, underpinned and carried through by jangling guitar riffs, making the vocals appear incidental. After listening for a few moments you do feel swept into their sound, until you’re completely out to sea, alone but happy, which I suspect could be exactly what Oshin is trying to achieve.


Chad Valley performs “Up And Down” @ Le Baron, 10/17

Coverage by Annie White,  for AudioFemme