TRACK PREMIERE: Sad Baxter “Doubt”

When I was first introduced to the music of Sad Baxter, via 2016’s Weirdy, I realized they filled a void I didn’t even know existed: here was a band that was not afraid to go full grunge, and the payoff was great. Dirty guitars, heavy backbeats, and a Cobain-like growl mixed with a delightfully bizarre view of the world made the duo (Deezy on guitar and vocals, Alex on drums) instantly endearing.

Their newest song is “Doubt,” a split-single release on Cold Lunch Recordings with fellow Nashville band The By Gods. According to Deezy, the drums and guitar were tracked live in the same room to get a realistic sound. She also gave us the inside scoop on the track’s meaning:

“The song is about someone who catches your eye, but soon you realize they are nobody you would ever really consider spending more time with. But, for whatever reason, you find yourself still curious about them. You can’t quite figure them out, which is probably what keeps you around. It doesn’t feel healthy. You don’t even like them as a person. It’s not good, but you can’t help it.”

“Doubt” opens with the unsteady bend of a whammy bar, the wavering of the guitar reflecting Deezy’s misgivings as she gradually recognizes her mistake: “Your mouth on mine is something I should do without/And I don’t know who you are.” Just as the realization hits, the chorus brings an eruption of energy and emotion. It’s the song of the summer for those who pick the worst person to crush on, and you can hear it below.

The duo is also currently on tour- check out the full list of summer dates:

6/16 Bowling Green, KY – Tidball’s
6/17 Nashville, TN – Fond Object (4th Ave)
6/18 Chattanooga, TN – JJ’s 
6/19 Asheville, NC – Sly Grog
6/20 Atlanta, GA – Mammal Gallery
6/21 Chapel Hill, NC – The Cave
6/22 Richmond, VA – Canal Club
6/24 Philadelphia, PA – PHARMACY
6/25 Portland, ME – Oxbow Brewing
6/26 Boston, MA – Charlie’s Kitchen
6/27 NYC – Gold Sounds
6/28 Cleveland, OH – Maple Lanes
6/29 Columbus, OH – Rumba Cafe
6/30 Cincinnati, OH – The Comet
7/01 Louisville, KY – Third Street Dive
7/17 Bloomington, IN – Blockhouse
7/18 Chicago, IL – Mutiny
7/19 St Louis, MO – The Sinkhole
7/20 Kansas City, KS – Bubba Spins Flop House
7/21 Denver, CO – Lion’s Lair
7/24 Seattle, WA – The Funhouse
7/25 Portland, OR – Ash Street
7/26 Oakland, CA – Stork Club
7/27 San Francisco, CA – Hemlock Tavern
7/29 Los Angeles, CA – Silverlake Lounge
8/01 Memphis, TN – Hi-Tone
8/04 Nashville, TN – The East Room



An entrancing voice and charismatic presence are the perfect ways to define singer/songwriter Shira and her recent show at Rockwood Music Hall on January 26. Shira captivated the audience by playing tracks from her upcoming album, Subtle Creature, as well as chatting with the crowd in between each song.

Sitting on the stage basked in dark red and purple lights, she crooned and jammed out on guitar, breaking from her normal routine of sampling and electronic influences. She played singles like “Heartbeat is a Prisoner,” “Dark Snow,” and “Tiptoe,” making sure to provide a background on the process behind the songs and what they meant to her. It was a more intimate setting for what felt like a personalized show—watching her perform and engage with fans, you recognize immediately she isn’t holding back; she has an honest connection with music, and delivers it as such.

After seeing Shira perform, I pretty much knew I had to talk to her, even if just for a little bit. Luckily I got the chance to have a brief email interview with her, which can be seen below.


Nicole Ortiz for AudioFemme: I remember at your show you mentioned that you have an album coming up. Can you tell me about the album and the work that went into it? What’s your favorite song on the album?

Shira: I’m releasing “Subtle Creature” this August 2016! I’m so excited about it. It’s been two years in the making. I wrote primarily on the Roland-404 Sampler, then added a ton of textures: drums, electric guitars, synth, cello, horns. It’s turned out to be a really undefinable, genre-switching album. I got to work with some of my favorite artists: the sister-trio Joseph, Shannon F. of Light Asylum, Neon Music of Youthquake, Jamila Woods, Mal Devisa, and cellist Emily Dix Thomas. My favorite song is the title track. It’s eight minutes long—the longest song I’ve ever written and produced. It really got away from me and started doing it’s own thing. It’s got like four verses and two choruses and tons of swimmy instrumental sections! I tried to reign it in and hold it down, but it refused. I like work that guides the way and demands you to stretch. Now when I listen to it, I hear an epic. I trusted where it was going (eventually!), and it lead me somewhere far vaster, cooler, stranger.

NO: I know you’ve been considering making another music video as well with a director whose work really spoke to you. What do you hope to show through this collaboration?

S: I recently saw the video for the song “Relief” by Wilder Maker directed by Evan Cohen. It’s an incredibly patient, inventive video. We live and work in such a fast-paced culture that, to see a video that sort of asks the viewer to lean in, that doesn’t beg or hit over the head, really stayed with me. I immediately got in touch with Evan. We’re both excited to get lost in the creative process together, to make something tender and unexpected.


NO: During your show, you mentioned a song about your grandmother and also spoke openly about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which resonated with me as I’ve suffered from anxiety for most of my life. Do you think this awareness and openness come into play in your creating process? How do you think it affects your music?

S: If we’re lucky, our art makes us more honest. It demands us to look closer at ourselves and the world. There’s a realness, a rawness it desires. It acts like a friend who would never let us fool ourselves. I know that it’s a choice I make to reveal parts of my personal life, including my health, but in some ways I don’t feel I have a choice. To be quiet, or stealthy, about vital parts of my being feels like choking myself, my truth. It’s just a part of my nature—I feel compelled to be honest. I know that when we risk honesty, we reap intimacy. I have no shame about my mental illness, and I want to welcome others into the conversation. That’s why I speak about it. As for my music, it’s a literal record of my life—how amazing is that? To have a lifelong sonic diary. When I look back on my life, I’m excited to have literal “records” of 2002, 2006, 2010, and so on and so on. When I look back, I want to see/hear where I was at truthfully, not a costume of where I was at. This requires a certain willingness to be transparent and take risks.

NO: I see on your site that you also create poetry, art, offer classes, and have a zine—you’re kind of an artistic jack-of-all trades! Do you ever showcase these pieces as well? Which outlet do you feel the strongest connection with?

S: Each outlet fulfills a need. Sometimes I don’t want to talk or think or make a sound, so I draw. There’s a quiet, a privacy, that my whole being desires. That’s why I endeavored on my SQUARES project, a year-long visual diary built of 1 x 1 inch squares. To daily enter that quiet [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] just be with myself. Sometimes I need to untangle a moment that got stuck—often that’s where poetry comes in. I’m working on a poetry manuscript, “Odes to Lithium,” which is entirely composed of praise-poems to the medication I take. Nearly every poem in that collection is me running my hands along a moment of stigma, mistreatment, or misunderstanding and breathing new understanding into it, or at least acknowledgement. Then there’s music—that’s like getting set loose in a candy store. I just lose myself. I never had a sister, so maybe it’s a bit like that, having a sister—I make a sound, [and] it becomes separate from me, almost like another’s voice. There she is—I listen to her, I hear what she has to say, I feel less alone. Ultimately it’s all about connection. Connection to myself. Connection to others. The Zine, the classes I teach, the work—it all fosters that, just from different angles.

NO: Do you have any other upcoming shows planned, or are you going to tour anywhere?

S: Yes! I constantly play in New York. You can always check my site for updates. I just got back from a month-long Writing Residency at Vermont Studio Center after touring the Midwest with Andrea Gibson. I’m cooking up plans for spring and summer shows as I get closer to the album release.

IMG_2689 IMG_2686  IMG_2685



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Photo by Will Oliver,

The dimly-lit green room at Music Hall of Williamsburg smells of cigarettes, but in an unassuming way, perhaps because Chris Chu of POP ETC kindly apologizes to my plus one, Caroline, and I in advance.  I hardly noticed what he meant once we got up there, and no one else seemed to mind either.

Before we sit down, Chu offers us a drink.

“Water?  Beer?  How old are you guys?”

I feel nervous that if I say yes, I’m imposing, though I notice the array of drinks in the mini fridge:  Tecate beer cans, water bottles, and a Snapple that Chu brings out to sip occasionally, post-interview.

Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme:  Between The Morning Benders and becoming POP ETC, and even between the POP ETC album and Souvenir, I’ve noticed changes in the sound and your evolution as a group.  You guys have had this awesome, loyal fan base, and you’ve done a great job of doing something new while maintaining that. What do you want your old fans to take from Souvenir? 

Chris Chu:  Well, love our fans and we do a lot to show them that.  We respond to everything, we get people into shows all the time and give away all our guest list spots.  We’re thinking about our fans a lot, but when we’re making music, the idea of trying to cater to any kind of specific listener or demographic is just dangerous.  So, for Souvenir, we took our time, wrote tons of songs, and waited until a family of songs or a sound just emerged from that.  And we’re happy with it.  I just think, if you’re catering to your fans or trying to do something with your previous sound or anything like that, at least for us, it feels really stale.  It’s hard for me to honestly sing songs like that or go on tour to play songs if we’re not excited about them.  I think people notice that, so it would be a disservice to our fans to do the same thing over and over.

YM: Right.

CC:  I’m not sure if that answered you’re question. [/fusion_builder_column][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”][laughs]

YM: No, I know what you mean. [laughs] Well, if you’re constantly having these new ideas, especially over the past three years — it doesn’t seem like it hasn’t been that long since the last record, but I think the change shows. What are you guys drawing inspiration from these days?

CC: It’s all over the place.  For this last album, because we made the decision to take our time and approach it really patiently, we traveled a lot.  For the last couple of years, I spent probably half my time in Tokyo, where I was working on other projects.  So that was a huge difference, just working with people in Japan and being introduced to all this Japanese music.  That was amazing, because there’s bands that are equivalent to The Beatles here that no one knows outside of Japan.  Like, the number one albums in Rolling Stone Japan.  I felt like a kid in a candy shop discovering that.

Something about inspiration leads us onto a tangent, reminiscing about 80’s music.  I use “reminiscing” lightly, since neither of us were actually spinning those records through the decade.  As Chu explains, “It’s similar to some of the ways we became interested in Japanese culture with rediscovering that music from the 80’s.  We’re too young to have grown up with it, but our parents listened to it and we knew about it.”

I tell Chu a story about being in the car a week ago with my mom, listening to the likes of Tears for Fears, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club.  Just for fun, I threw in “Running in Circles” from Souvenir.

“A seamless transition,” Chu laughs.

My mom thought so too.  I tell Chu her review of the song: “I’ve never heard it, but I bet it probably played in the disco.”

Mid-interview, photo by Caroline Sugg for AudioFemme.

CC: That’s amazing.  Similar to how I was describing the stuff in Japan, the cool thing about the 80’s is that it didn’t happen long enough ago that it’s been canonized in the same way.  I grew up listening to The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Neil Young and all that stuff, Dylan.  It’s so long ago that there are so many lists, so much critical discourse about music from the 60’s and you can still go and explore it yourself, but in general, it’s like history’s been written whereas with the 80s, there’s hit songs here and there but there’s a lot of records that people just haven’t given fair due because not enough time’s passed.  Tears for Fears, for instance, I feel like people only know the four or five singles…

YM:  Tracks like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

CC:  Yeah, and that’s one of my favorite songs, ever.  Not knocking those songs, but I think that got us excited, like we could go back into the 80’s and write our own history and find things that spoke to us.   It makes sense because we’re always listening to pop music.  It’s like going into Cyndi Lauper records and Madonna records — again, people know the singles, but there are so many good album tracks.

YM:  Definitely.  Along with the 80’s influence I noticed some R&B as well in a few songs.  I listened to “I Wanted To Change The World But The World Changed Me” and immediately the guitar at the beginning reminded me of “No Scrubs” by TLC.

CC:  Yeah. [laughs]  Actually, somebody else told me that, and we didn’t think about it, but it totally makes sense.  It probably subconsciously made its way in.

YM:  Was R&B something you were also listening to growing up?

CC:  Yeah, I mean, growing up in the 90’s, you kind of couldn’t escape it.  But with every song, especially from a production or sonic standpoint, we never wanna make anything that feels too dated.  We’re happy to wear our influences on our sleeves, and it’s only better if people use our music as a gateway to all these 80’s bands that we love.  We’re covering Tears for Fears in these shows and I’m sure especially younger kids don’t know that band, and we’d love for them to check it out.  With “Running in Circles,” for instance, in the beginning it feels really 80’s, but then in the chorus, the way the guitars kind of sit in the mix, the sound of that feels almost more 90’s rock to me.  Then in “I Wanted To Change The World But The World Changed Me,” we were using kind of deeper, subby, 808 kinds of sounds that have that hip hop and R&B influence for sure.

As he describes that process of putting together different sounds from different eras, there’s a bit of a twinkle in his eye.  It becomes clear very quickly that he’s rightfully proud of what POP ETC has accomplished in this regard.

“We love music,” Chu says, “so we’re just listening to stuff all the time and putting it all together.

I ask if that’s where the “et cetera” comes from, since the music they make transcends the meaning of the word “pop” on its own.

“Yeah, we were very intentional about choosing that name,” says Chu.  “When we chose ‘The Morning Benders,’ we didn’t even think it would be a real band.  But with ‘POP ETC,’ we like the idea of it.  Not only does it kind of feel like a genre, so we can say we play “pop et cetera,” but we like it as something bigger than a band, like a kind of concept.”

Especially seeing as “pop” tends to have a negative connotation nowadays, the way that POP ETC have branded themselves is an effective, cohesive labor of love.

“We’re making shirts and stuff, we love it from a design perspective,” explains Chu. “Now, we’re putting things out through our own imprint called ‘POP ETC Records.’  I like how it fits into all these different arms.  It all serves the music.  And we do play ‘pop et cetera,’ that’s our genre.”


Photo by Bee Vivian.

YM:  Since you mix genres so effectively and all these different aspects go into it, when you have an idea for a song, how does that become a collaborative effort?

CC:  Well, it actually changed substantially for this record. Especially with The Morning Benders, probably because I was younger and scared of letting go of total control, I wanted to wear all the hats and try to engineer it, mix it, produce it, and direct everyone exactly how to play things.  With this record, and with my brother in the band, and Julian, who I’ve known for half my life, I really trust them.  I’ll still write the core of a song by myself, and they give me very honest and merciless feedback.  They’ll often be like, “We don’t like this,” and I’ll trash it, or, “The chorus is working, but the rhythm in the verse isn’t,” something like that.  They help curate the songwriting even though they’re not writing lyrics or melodies that much.  Then from a production standpoint, everyone plays.  Julian is just a natural drummer, and as he’s playing drums, he starts guiding a song in a certain way from his style and his idea of what he likes.  So yeah, I think this is the most collaborative record we’ve ever made.

YM:  Does that have to do with it being recorded in the apartment?

CC:  Yeah, that’s a huge factor.  I get kinda stressed out being in a studio.  I mean, you can find a great studio and make it warm and cool and if you can kind of bunker down for a month or something and you can feel comfortable there, but it’s just harder and harder to do that these days…I just always felt, especially with vocals and things that I wanna do in a really heartfelt, personal way, it’s kind of odd to do it in a studio where you don’t know the space or you don’t know anyone.  There’s assistants standing around, staring at you or whatever. We just liked kind of being at home and having the freedom to really be patient.  If I wanted to geek out over a certain way I sung a line or something for a couple hours, I could do that, whereas in a studio, you feel bad because you’re having an engineer do this thing over and over, and you just wanna get on with it.

YM:  So did you not bring too many other outside people into it?

CC:  No, no. We ended up having a couple of people mix it, so we sent it off for that phase just because we thought it would be nice to get some clarity.  We ended up spending so much time on this record that we all felt like we were too close to have clarity on organizing sound.  But we produced everything and played everything ourselves.

YM: So in the last three years, it wasn’t like a, “We spent most of this time writing, most of this time recording…”

CC:  That’s the thing with being able to record at home now, it’s all much more ambiguous and those lines don’t really exist.  When we did our first record, it was all the tape and we knew that we’d be going into the studio with not much time so we’d learn all the songs really well, went in and banged it out, and made a record.  But with this it’s just everything is a moving part. You’re not committing something to tape where you can’t change it…The songwriting, and the recording and production are all intermingled.  And some songs, we’d be fully recorded and go back and rewrite the chorus or a lyric or something.  There’s substantial changes to every facet of a song.

YM:  So how does that process reflect in the title of the album being Souvenir?

CC:  We named it Souvenir for a lot of reasons, but in regards to that, because we took so much time and spent these years making this record, and it really felt stretched out across those years, it wasn’t like we did a couple of months and then vacationed for six, we were really tinkering with it. So I think it feels like a snapshot of what we were going through during those times.  We liked the idea of having a souvenir that we could hold onto and keep with us going forward.

At this point, Jon, Chu’s brother and bandmate, pops in, waiting for a lull in the conversation.  I turn to ask if he wants to add anything.

“Oh no, sorry to interrupt,” he says, “We just didn’t submit a guest list.”

Soon, drummer Julian Harmon comes in too, reaching for the beers and taking a seat on the couch with a few other people.  There’s an air of ease in the room, no tension despite there being an interview going on and show time in around fifteen minutes.

“I thought Christine would’ve done that, but I will send it to you,” says Chris

“I’ll send that to you now,” says Chris, and Jon thanks him and apologizes again.  “Okay, I sent it to both of you guys.”

“Are you guys doing an interview?” Harmon asks.

“Yeah, and we’re recording,” says Chris, jokingly adding, “So get the beers, and go.”

They leave the room and I get nervous, as it seems like I’m intruding on their time to hang out before the show.

“I mean, the only other thing I was wondering was…” I begin.

“It’s fine!  Take your time,” he reassures me.  “Don’t worry about them, there’s always something going wrong.”

YM:  What kinds of things do you want new people who are discovering your music to draw from?

CC:  That’s a good question.  I don’t know.

YM:  Not that you have to peg it for anything specific.

CC:  I mean, obviously we put so much time into this record, I hope that people connect with it.  In the same way that it’s a souvenir for us and we have it for these times, I like the idea of people having it — and for me, this is how music works in my life — as I’m living and listening to a record, my life experiences get kind of wrapped up in that, so ideally, that was what would happen.  It could be a souvenir for other people.

YM:  Yeah, definitely.

CC: To bring it full circle with what we were talking about early on, I really want fans to know how much we appreciate them caring about what we’re doing.  I would like them to connect with us, especially with all the social media ways you connect with fans directly.  I really think that it’s a blessing that we get to make music all the time for a living.  We really do believe in that exchange and we’re feeding off the energy of our fans.  Their support really does affect us and our music.

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ALBUM PREMIERE: The By Gods “Get On Feelings”

The By Gods - Get On Feelings artwork high-res

“Playing the best songs, a crowded room when we were young:” The By Gods are releasing their latest album, Get On Feelings, this Friday, and it’s going to take you back a couple of years (or decades).

The Nashville band specializes in straightforward, sincere rock music. Similar to Beach Slang, George Pauley’s lyrics revel in nostalgia, but the band’s heavy, garage-rock sound is always moving forward. Along with Tye Hammonds on drums and Natalie Pauley on bass, he’s created an album that is a catchy throwback to 90’s rock (and a bit of grunge) that sounds familiar, but not like an exact copy of their influences. 

Key tracks are “Miss It,” a song with heavy echoes of remorse George’s voice as he sings about younger, rebellious years: “We’ll start a band, we’ll grow our hair/ God I miss it.” “On The Radio” is incredibly fun with a chorus that will make you want to jump around. You’ll have the opportunity to do that in person on February 26, when The By God’s will be playing at Arlene’s Grocery in Manhattan. For now, you can check out our exclusive stream of Get On Feelings below, and pre-order the album here.





Celestial Shore is a Brooklyn trio that cites bands like the Zombies and the Pixies as influences, but whose sound has never been anything but their own- spacey, floaty, always-shifting rock. When we talked to the band’s guitarist/vocalist, Sam Owens, they were preparing to book it to Austin for SXSW. We chatted about the early and last days of Glasslands, the drawbacks of email, and the time Deerhoof insisted on opening for Celestial Shore in a Syracuse basement.

AF: I really liked Enter Ghost as an album name. What inspired that?

SO: It happened one night when I was in Brooklyn, and I was driving in a cab through all these parts of town, going back to my apartment in Ridgewood. I was thinking about how all the corners I was passing- I was with my girlfriend, Cassandra, and it was very late one night- and we were thinking about how we were driving through all these areas that we had inhabited, or had moments in, and how they were kinda like ghosts. And also, it’s from when Hamlet’s father, when he enters- he’s dead- anytime he enters the stage, it says “Enter Ghost.” He always like, proclaims this evil, revenge plot that Hamlet gets obsessed with, so I kinda thought that was interesting too.

AF: Is Celestial Shore planning any new albums?

SO: Definitely. We’re going to SXSW in March, and then immediately after that I think we’ll record a third album. We’ve been writing and getting songs together, and we’ll test them out on our tour, then just hopefully jump right into the studio in April or May.

AF: Who are you touring with?

SO: For the first four shows we’re playing with Rubblebucket. They’re funny, and I’ve known them for a  long time. It’s a new crowd for us, so that’ll be fun.

AF: You played one of Glasslands’s final shows. How do you think the closing of that venue, and others like Death By Audio and Goodbye Blue Monday, have affected our local music scene?

SO: Oh man, that’s a big question. I had a “so be it” attitude about Vice buying up that corner, and Glasslands going away, and 285 Kent going away, and everything going away. I was driving down Kent avenue two weeks ago and basically, every area of this place, in NYC, in Brooklyn, is going to be void of any young, spirited, artistic culture. Forever. Which is terrible. Despite its irregularity, Glasslands- and Death By Audio- all these places were huge for so many people. I slept in a couch in the back of Glasslands the first couple of weeks I moved to New York, and my band had a practice space there, and [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”][the owners] Jake and Rami are really sweet. It’s sad to see them go, but it’s also the way things go. The sad thing is that what’s there now is going to be void of anything valuable except for financial, corporate interests. Which is a very small example of what’s happening in the whole country. This subject totally barrels out of control and anyone who talks about it for more than five minutes sounds like a huge asshole. (Laughs) Ultimately, I feel really sad about it.

I guess the reason I moved to New York is that I put out the first Bandcamp EP in 2011, and I got an email six hours later from these guys in London that said, “Hey, we want to put out your record” and my mind was totally blown. Then Jake and Rami emailed me, “Hey, we want to book a show in New York,” and I was like, but I don’t even live in New York yet- I guess I should move. So… I moved to New York, because we had a show on August 3rd, 2011 at Glasslands. Now I feel old.

AF: Can I ask how old you are?

SO: I’m 25.

AF: Yeah, that’s not old.

SO: No wait- did I tell you I’m 25? I’m totally 26. Holy shit. Yeah, I am old.

AF: You must be, since you’re starting to forget things!

SO: That’s from smoking too much pot in college.

AF: Yeah, that’ll do it…

SO: I can’t tell you how much I appreciate a phone call versus another-

AF: Email?

SO: Email thing. Cuz you know, your PR person sets up these interviews, so you get an email from someone you’ve never met with these really basic questions: “How did Celestial Shore meet? Why do you guys play music? Tell us about your sound.” Why I appreciate of course, the idea of being interviewed in the first place, which is a crazy, strange idea, I think a phone call is way cooler.

AF: You probably sound way different now than you would in an email.

SO: I could be the worst person in the world on an email. Because maybe, I was writing it on my cellphone in the subway with my thumbs. I’m so tired of emailing. Ready for my rant? My life goal, as a human being on earth- and this is going to make me sound like a huge asshole, but I don’t care- is to get a landline, and never have a cellphone, and to not be accountable on my email account. It’s incredible how accountable we’re expected to be throughout the day. If you don’t respond, then you’re the worst person ever.

You read all these great accounts… Lou Reed wrote a song about it- I mean I guess he was waiting for his drug dealer- his frustration about waiting for someone. I think it’s way more mystical, and magical, and sweet and romantic if you can just make a plan and try to do it. That’s my rant. Everyone’s email tone has become so camouflaged… Everybody is like a chameleon. Including myself.

AF: I’m glad I got you on the phone then, so I’m interviewing the real Sam.

SO: Yeah, maybe. Totally. I don’t know, I’m feeling pretty nostalgic tonight.

AF: What’s your source for finding new music?

SO: My source would be my friends, and the people I admire. I’ve been doing this thing with a couple of close friends where you just write down 30 artists, or songs, or videos, any kind of content you want to share. Not a link, just the name or whatever, on a sticky note. Then you have 30 of these sticky notes, and you give them to your friends. It’s really neat, because you have this physical thing that you can put next to your bed, and wake up in the morning and be like “Oh, yeah, I haven’t checked him out.”

I’ve been listening a lot to country music from the 1950’s, particularly Ernest Tubb. I keep coming back to it. I’m in one of those full circle periods, where I’m going back to 50’s country. The Carter Family, Johnny Cash, all these people. Ernest Tubb, yeah. Listen to his song “Thanks A Lot.”

Also, I’ve been mixing a lot of records, so I end up listening to the records I’m mixing a lot, out of necessity. I’m mixing an old time band right now. The week before that I was mixing this band called Friend Roulette. They’re from Brooklyn and they’re like, chamber pop. My ears are kind of all over the place.

AF: This is a typical interview question you’ve probably heard before, but—

SO: “How did your band meet?”

AF: Do you have a favorite venue to play at?

SO: You’ll have to let me think about this one for a minute… Can I tell you my favorite show I’ve ever played?

AF: Yeah, that’s a way better question.

SO: OK. So in April, we were fortunate enough to go on tour with Deerhoof, and they’re really dear to me. (Laughs) Oops. I’m not into puns, that much… I can’t say enough about Deerhoof, they totally changed the way I think about music. We had a day off, and this kid- his name is Phil Steiger, and he was going to school at Syracuse University at the time- had contacted us about playing a show in his basement. And we were like “Yeah, of course.” We were having Thai food with Deerhoof in Pittsburgh, and they were like, “Hey, what are you doing with your day off?” And I was just like, “We’re playing a show tomorrow.” And they were like, “Oh, Where’s the show?” And I said, “It’s in a basement in Syracuse. Do you guys want to play?” and they were like, “Yeah. We’ll talk about it and let you know tomorrow.”  So we were driving and I get a call from John, and he was like, “Yeah, so we’re down to play the show with you. We’ll play as long as we can open for you.” Because we’d been opening for them every night. Which was, surreal and hilarious. That’s Deerhoof. So I called this kid Phil and I was like, “Phil. Deerhoof’s coming with us. They’re going to play. They’re going to open for Celestial Shore.”

Phil’s a film student, by the way, and has since moved to L.A. and will shortly be premiering the video he made for us.

And then I fell asleep on the floor of the basement, Satomi ran off to find a tire swing, John was playing soccer in the street, it was such as wholesome experience. And since then, Deerhoof has told me that they mixed their last album with that concert experience in mind…I think it drummed up some old feelings of DIY shows they used to do. So anyway, that’s my favorite experience. So far.

AF: So far.

SO: Yeah.


INTERVIEW: Lily & Madeleine



Over the course of the past two years, Lily & Madeleine Jurkiewicz, teenage sisters from Indianapolis, have had a performance go viral on Reddit, written their first original songs, gotten signed to Asthmatic Kitty, released two full-length albums and an EP, and played several tours. The duo’s most recent album, the spooky and elegant Fumes, starts with the basics that have always characterized Lily & Madeleine’s sound–unadorned folk melodies and close harmony between the pair’s twin voices–and twists the basic foundation into something more nuanced and experimental. In what’s perhaps a byproduct of their overnight success coupled with being so young, Lily and Madeleine are still evolving as artists: Fumes pushes at the outer boundaries of folk and indie pop–turf that has by now become familiar to this group–and hints at more experimental, darker territory to be explored in the future. Even “Peppermint Candy,” one of the poppiest tracks on the album, complexifies its catchy melody with a sinister lyrical slant: “Peppermint candy, and a hand upon my gun,” the first verse begins, “I keep it handy, I’ve never been the kind to run.”

The overarching feeling in these tracks, however, is a kind of hopeful independence: the women in the songs are alone but self-sufficient, and just discovering their powers. “We felt inspired to create songs that reflected our current empowerment,” Madeleine explained to me when I called the sisters to chat yesterday afternoon. It was their second tour stop, and they were in Boston, waiting to start soundcheck. Read on to learn about Lily & Madeleine’s writing process, what they’ve been listening to these days, and what’s next for the duo.

AudioFemme: Hi, guys! You just kicked off a tour–how’s it going so far?

Lily: It’s been really fun. We’ve only had one show–we’ve done some radio things–but tonight is our second show in Boston.

Madeleine: We had a show in Indianapolis, right before Halloween. That was our album release show. The first show that we traveled to was in Charleston, WV, and we played on the Mountain Stage, which was really cool because they’ve had, like over 800 shows on that stage and broadcast them on the radio. Now we’re in Boston, and we really love Boston. It’s gonna be fun!

AF: You guys just released Fumes, your second album in 2 years. You’ve been so prolific so far–what’s your writing process like? Do you set a regular schedule or routine for yourself in terms of writing or playing?

Lily: I like to play every day just because it’s relaxing and fun. I like to write too, but you can’t always write a song by pressuring yourself to do it–sometimes it’s better when you’re inspired. So I don’t write every day.

AF: Has your writing process changed since your first recordings?

Madeleine: Honestly, no. The writing [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”][on Fumes] was pretty similar to what it was for our first album. We wrote the same way, with me, Lily, and Kenny Childers, who’s our co-writer. The way that Fumes is different from the first album is that once we got into the studio and started arranging the songs, we began to experiment more. We brought in some new musicians and tried out different sounds, different distortions, things like that. The writing itself wasn’t different but the production was a little more involved.

AF: What inspired you thematically on this album?

Madeleine: Once we finished the first album and had some success with that, we knew we wanted to make a second album that was going to be just a little different, a little more evolved. Because we’d grown up, I guess. We were inspired by the tours we had been on, the people we had met, the experiences we had had, the way that our careers were shaping us as artists and as women. We felt inspired to create songs that reflect our current empowerment, I suppose. That’s really the main theme of the record. Empowerment.

AF: And these are all new songs that you’ve written since putting out a successful record. On your first EP, did you include any old songs? Anything that you’d written before knowing there was even going to be an EP to put them on? 

Lily: No, everything that went on the EP was written specifically for the EP. Before then we’d never written songs. So pretty much every song we’d ever written at that point went on the EP.

AF: Wow. So did you start songwriting specifically for the recording process?

Madeleine: Yeah, pretty much. We met our manager and producer and he challenged us to start writing our own music. We just fell in love with the process of creating  together, and we both just love music so much that it totally made sense to write our own material. Before that point we hadn’t really done much with writing.

AF: Did you worry at any point that you wouldn’t be able to write songs?

Lily: Oh, yeah. It was really hard at first. We tried and we didn’t know how to do it. Now it’s great.

AF: Clearly! So what got the ball rolling? Did you enter into the process totally collaboratively?

Madeleine: We did, yeah. That’s kind of how we always do it. Usually one of us will start with an idea and bring it to the other. Once we have a verse or a melody, just something to start on, that makes it easier to develop the song more quickly and turn it into something we both like.

AF: What are the best things about songwriting with a sibling?

Lily: Because we’ve always lived together, we have a lot of the same experiences. At the same time, we have different emotional reactions to things. Under pressure, Madeleine tends to get more anxious, and I tend to get more pushy. It’s a difference in our personalities.

AF: It must be beneficial to you as business partners to have different strengths. How has your personal relationship evolved since you began this project?

Madeleine: Definitely [it is beneficial to have different strengths]. I think we balance each other well. We’ve always been close. We’re not very far apart in age, and so we had the same teachers growing up, and very similar friend groups. This experience has made our relationship stronger, but nothing’s really changed that much, because we’ve always been friends.

AF: Have you always played music together? What were your first musical experiences?

Lily: We would always sing together around the house and things like that. But we never performed together.

Madeleine: Like Lily said earlier, we’ve loved music forever. It was something I would do as a hobby because I liked it and I was good at it. I didn’t think of it as being a career until we started writing and released our songs and signed to a label. Even then, I was really unsure of what we were getting ourselves into. Not until recently have I felt super comfortable with what we’ve been doing, but now I’m ready to be an artist and a musician. I’m letting myself do this and control this. I’m feeling good about it now.

AF: It sounds like you’ve both had to grow up really quickly.

Lily: Kind of. Yeah, probably. What with the places we’ve been, and the challenges we’ve had to overcome. But I do feel that we’d be the same people if this wasn’t happening.

Madeleine: I think about what I’d be doing if I was in college, or whatever, if I wasn’t doing this with Lily. I probably wouldn’t be as strong, and as sure of myself, because we’ve had really cool experiences that my peers haven’t had yet or may never have. So we’re lucky.

AF: Is it hard keeping in touch with friends who are on that other path?

Madeleine: I’ve stressed about that a lot. Like, as recently as last month. More and more, I feel like the people who want to stay in contact with me and support me, they will. Those who don’t, I don’t have any place for them in my life.

AF: Talk to me about blood harmony. I love that phrase. What does it mean, and why is it so special to you? 

Madeleine: I love that phrase too. It’s so creepy and cool. Well, I think it’s really natural for us to harmonize because we have the same voice, and the same genes. It’s really just the way we naturally do things.

AF: You have this amazing story of having a song go viral on Reddit and breaking into recording in this very fast, Internet-based sort of way. What do you think about Internet stardom and “going viral” as a way of breaking into the music industry?

Madeleine: It seems like that’s the way it happens now. We live in this age of technology, and posting stuff to YouTube is super common. Things going viral, it happens all the time, and I think it’s actually an awesome platform for artists to get going and put their art out there. Sometimes you have to search through a lot of crap to get to the good stuff, but I think it’s an awesome way for musicians to get started. I think we’re lucky that it happened for us that way.

AF: Really fast, too! If that hadn’t happened, would you be trying to break into the music business in other ways?

Lily: I think so. I think I’d probably go to college and study something music-related. But this is what I truly want to be doing so I’m glad everything went the way it went.

Madeleine: I don’t even want to talk about what I’d be doing if I wasn’t doing do this. Because obviously this is what the universe has given to us right now, this opportunity, this chance, so I think it just makes sense for us to  keep going with it. If I wasn’t, I guess I would be in college, and have friends and a boyfriend and hang out and go to parties. But I’m doing this, and I want to be doing this.

AF: What are some of your individual influences, and what do you both like to listen to?

Lily: My influences, they shift a lot. I tend to get really obsessed with an artist for a couple of weeks and then it dwindles a bit. I still listen to them, but I calm down and move on to something else. Right now I really like hip hop.

AF: Wow, I would not have guessed that from listening to your album!

Madeleine: Lily’s been sending me some of her hip hop stuff. I like it, but it’s not my favorite. I’m into electronic stuff–not hardcore electronic, but I’m starting to get into the genre a little bit more and take some influences. Maybe on our next album you’ll see some hip hop and electronic influence in our songs!


Catch Lily & Madeleine live tonight in New York City at Le fabulous Poisson Rouge! It’s not too late to pick up your tickets hereand stay tuned for my coverage of the show. To get a taste, watch the official music video for “The Wolf Is Free,” below:


INTERVIEW: Buke and Gase

Buke_Jon Wang

When Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez met in 2000, Sanchez had already been building instruments for years. For him, constructing the instrument came part and parcel with creating sound. When he speaks about creating his gase–a guitar-bass hybrid, and the namesake of one-half the duo Buke and Gase–there’s no sense of novelty to his tone; he makes instruments to suit the sound he wants. Arone Dyer, perhaps even more straightforwardly, made her first baritone ukelele (the buke) as a way around her carpel tunnel syndrome. Their philosophy is no-nonsense, the resulting sound otherworldly. The Brooklyn-born two-piece, more recently of Hudson, NY, uses every limb at its disposal: Dyer and Sanchez dreamt up their own breed of kick drums and something called a toebourine to accompany their primary instruments, in the name of making a heavy, cataclysmic sound filled with contradictions of darkness and delicacy, percussive rhythm and cacophony.

When I called Buke and Gase last week, they were on the road, in the latter leg of a short tour. Dyer answered the phone, her voice pleasant and frank, breaking periodically into little bursts of laughter. In Buke and Gase’s swampier songs, this voice works like a foil to the distorted instrumental lines. It rises above the chaos, clear and soaring, a homegrown instrument in itself.


AudioFemme: So, you guys are on tour. Where are you right now? How’s it been so far?

Arone Dyer: We’re on our way to Chicago from Detroit. It’s been great! We started in Boston and went to Montreal and Toronto and Detroit last night. It was a pretty short tour.

AF: Both of you live in Hudson right now. Do you find there’s a difference between being a musician in Brooklyn and being a musician in upstate New York?

AD: Um, no? Yes? There’s a lot less anonymity in Hudson. You move into town and you meet everyone. It’s a very small town. Everybody knows what we do, and we know what everybody does. In Brooklyn, you tend to like, have your scene, which is the group of people you spend the most of your time with. That kind of limits your friendship base to the size of a small town. Which is pretty much what we’ve got in Hudson. In Brooklyn, or New York, or any larger city, there’s also the influx of other people who are curious or who you wouldn’t otherwise see on a regular basis.

AF: I actually used to live in that area. I know that Kris Perry (a local artist who builds sculptures that operate as musical instruments) lives around there, too. Have you ever played with him? Do you think there are some elements in his work that resemble what you do?

AD: Oh yeah, totally [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”][we’ve interacted.] His musical instruments are mainly sculpture that makes sound. That’s what’s really interesting about his work. Our work is not necessarily sculptural, it’s more that we make the instruments to perform the sound that we specifically want to get. Form follows function with us, whereas for him it’s the form that comes first, I think. Although he integrates it, too.

AF: Can you tell me a little bit about your songwriting process?

AD: Sure. Basically, all of our songwriting comes out of the two of us in a room together. We don’t bring anything to the table necessarily from our own personal stash, our own ideas. It’s very rare that that happens. Usually Aron and I get into a room and we sit and improvise for hours on end. We record it all and then we go back through and listen to it, just kind of sift through the whole improv, and pick out stuff that catches our ear, or that we hear some kind of potential in, and we work with that. We’ve tried taking parts and contriving them into full songs, or taking several parts from different improvisations and putting them together, or just taking an entire improv as it is and learning that. So there’s lots of different ways and it all comes out pretty organically and differently each time.

AF: And it’s a totally collaborative process at this point?

AD: Oh yeah, totally. A completely fused collaboration.

AF: How did the two of you meet? Were you involved with other projects at the time?

AD: A long time ago, in 2000. I was roommates with one of his friends. We were both musicians, but I don’t know if we were doing anything specifically at that time. We started playing music together pretty much right away.

AF: Aron, you were already building instruments at that time, right? What got you started making your own instruments?

Aaron Sanchez: When I was really, really young, it was part of the process of me learning to be a musician. I just got really into taking things apart and putting them back together. It was just natural for me to get into it like that.

AF: Did anyone teach you how to build instruments? Did you take formal music training?

AS: No, I was self-taught. It was mostly like, “Oh, I want this instrument–I’ll make it!” That kind of attitude. I studied classical piano for about nine years, and I taught myself guitar, and maybe some drums. I started playing bass. I became more of a bass player for a long time. I took some lessons here and there, but primarily I’m self-taught.

AF: Who writes your lyrics?

Arone Dyer: I do. Or it’s mostly me, probably about 90%. But we talk about them.

AF: Do they usually come after you’ve written the music?

AD: It totally depends. It’s different every time. Sometimes it’s straight from improvisation, where I’m mumbling or saying something weird and I’ll try to phonetically translate that and it becomes the base of whatever story it is. Sometimes lyrics come from a dream diary. I keep track of my dreams.

AF: That totally makes sense. Your lyrics always seem to me to be kind of surreal and dark. Do you prefer to write lyrics that don’t have an immediate, explicit meaning?

AD: (laughs) I mean, I’m human. I like to have things make sense. I look for patterns, that’s what humans do. So generally that’s what I go towards, but there are many times when it just doesn’t happen.

AF: Do you intentionally write dark lyrics?

AD: Dark, no, it’s not always intentional. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s born out of the feeling of the music, too, because our music kind of heavy. Or sometimes it’s not–the contradiction of having lyrics that are dark and a sound that’s very light, I think both of us find that contradiction really interesting. So lots of times the [music and lyrics] end up being contradictory or…dissonant. Or maybe I’m just a dark person. I can’t tell.

AF: On your albums–for example, on General Dome–do you have a vision for the songs before you begin to write or record them?

AD: No. Not at all. We never have a plan. Like I said–we get into a room and we improvise. What comes out of that is where we are.

AF: Interesting. Do you make new instruments specifically for certain songs, certain recording sessions?

AD: No. I mean, Aron tends to make a new instrument every three months or so. Or twice a year? Well, he’s made something like thirteen different gases, and sometimes they have the same neck but a different body, or a different neck but the same body, of they’re entirely new. He’s constantly developing a sound.

AF: Do you come across people who want to play a buke or a gase? Do they ask you for lessons?

AD: Totally. Tons of people.

AF: Do you make instruments to sell, or would you consider doing so in the future?

AD: No, we don’t sell instruments. [As for the future,] it depends. I think Aron would say the same thing.

AF: Has there ever been an instrument that ended up making a sound completely different than the sound you had thought it would make?

AD: No, I mean, we’re not just building blindly. The instruments I’ve built, or created, were for a specific thing. In the past I’ve built an instrument that I wasn’t sure how it would sound, but I basically made a tenor bass. I’ve been thinking lately about doing something different for my instrument, though. I’m kind of ready to move on to something else. Maybe in the future, I’ll come out with something where I won’t know how it’s going to end up.


Buke and Gase will keep their live act on the road in the coming months, and are slotted to appear in Ireland in December! Check out the elaborate and fragmented video for “General Dome,” off the  2013 album of the same name, below:






If you ask newlyweds Kim and Jarod Weldin what kind of music to expect from their duo Tape Waves, their response might be kind of vague. “Any adjective in front of pop,” Kim responded nonchalantly, when I asked, during our phone conversation last week, I asked her to describe the group’s sound. “Surf pop, dream pop,” Kim ticked off. “Surfy pop with some reverb vocals on top.”

The most important thing to know about the band–who are from Charleston, South Carolina– is that listening to them sounds like being at the beach. Their songs evoke the rhythms of gentle waves almost visually–and the over-saturated blue of the sky, and the glare of sunshine bouncing off the sand. Kim and Jarod love the ocean, and they have plenty of inspiration in their backyard. Kim’s a native South Carolinian who moved to Charleston for college, but Jarod grew up in profoundly un-balmy Syracuse, and left upstate New York to find someplace sunnier. But even more than a result of that scenery change, it’s clear, once you begin talking to Jarod and Kim, that their music’s relaxed dreaminess is a happy byproduct of their relationship with each other.

To put some whimsy in your next beach day, we’re bringing you a slice of real talk with Tape Waves. We’ve been excited to check out their brand new album Let You Go, out July 28th via Bleeding Gold Records, and especially the first track on that album: the mellow and luscious “Slow Days,” which we’re thrilled to premiere right here at AudioFemme! “Slow Days” kicks off with a weightless guitar line that, though far from flashy, sucks you in and slows you down until you’re running on Tape Waves time.  Read on to learn more about shyness, slow songs, and how the two members of this chilled-out Charleston outfit learned to wrangle their inner control freaks.


AudioFemme: What were your musical lives like before you met? How old were you when you started playing, and what were your first instruments?

Kim Weldin: I started playing the piano when I was young, but I started playing the guitar around twelve or thirteen.

Jarold Weldin: [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”][I started on] the guitar as well. I played in a bunch of bands in upstate New York before moving down here–I’m originally from right around Syracuse.

KW: I played, like, basic punk rock with my sister. Some Sonic Youth-type stuff by myself.

AF: How did you meet? Did you start dating first, or playing music together first?

KW: We met at work. It was your typical awful call center. We found out that we had both played in bands before, growing up, and we started sharing recordings with each other that we’d done, and we went from there. We had mutual admiration. I think we started dating first. He very slowly brought me out of my shell. I was really shy and hadn’t done it for a long time. We went to shows a lot together, and we talked about music all the time, and we both loved music. I guess I thought that phase of my life was over. Jarod went and saw..Surfer Blood? Or, Built To Spill, I think it was–and he was really inspired to start writing music. He did some recordings, and I was really impressed with them, so I jokingly said “Let me be in your band!” And then I think I said, “Well, no seriously, go ahead and teach them to me.” We sat down, and he was going to teach them to me on the bass. Eventually, I started recording vocal ideas on top. It was very slow and casual. We would make up band names as a joke.

AF: When did you officially start calling yourselves a band?

KW: I think after our first recording.

JW: We’d finished the music and I just assumed that, if we were going to do anything with it, we’d need to go back and record some drum tracks, but Kim was just like, “Okay, wanna put ‘em online now?” I said, “Okay, I guess we just need a name then.”

KW: The first few songs were done, and I was eager to share them. We had to pull the trigger on a name.

AF: How’d you settle on Tape Waves?

JW: I was pretty persistent about that one. We had a bunch of ideas, but just about everything’s taken these days, so it took forever to find something we both liked. We came up with a few and I really liked Tape Waves a lot, and I wore her down on it.

KW: It’s grown on me. I like it now. I think it represents the way we sound.

AF: Are you inspired by living near the beach?

JW: Definitely. That’s why I started writing the songs that Kim was talking about earlier [after seeing the Built To Spill show], because I was inspired by living by the beach and I like a lot of the newer bands that popped up that were doing a similar sound. It’s definitely conscious, but I think at this point it’s just what comes out when both of us play. Originally, the beach was definitely an influence.

KW: Growing up down here [in South Carolina], beach music has a bad connotation because it’s the Shag area. [My inspiration] comes more from just living here, and from imagery of the beach, being on the coast and things that represent that sound.

AF: You guys just got married (congrats!). What kind of music did you have at your wedding? Did you perform?

KW: We didn’t. I kept joking that I was going to serenade him. It was super low-budget, on a friend’s yard on some property out on an island here. We just put our favorite songs on an iPod and ran it through a PA system outside. Then we made mix CDs for our guests.

AF: Cute!

JW: A lot of eighties hits.

KW: With some contemporary favorites like Beach House and Real Estate.

AF: What’s it been like for you to be married and also creative partners?

JW: Awesome, but also frustrating at times.

KW: Our songwriting process has gotten so easy now. At first, it was hard, uncomfortable, to work with someone who you just don’t know. I didn’t know what to expect. And Jarod wrote a lot of the music at first, so I felt like they were his songs, I guess, and I was just adding vocals on top of something that was already written. I think now that we’ve written so many songs together it feels easy.

AF: How was recording this album different than recording your first?

JW: Um, it was pretty similar. When we recorded the first EP, we were just recording it, and we didn’t have much of a purpose with it. We didn’t know that a ton of people would hear it. We didn’t know if anybody would hear it. But we kept a pretty similar process. It’s really kind of unbelievably simple, the way we record. We use one microphone and we do it all in our living room. So we still did that with this record, but we focused on the details more, like cleaning up little noises and trying to get better at guitar tones. Things like that.

AF: Why did you make the decision not to record it in a studio?

JW: We–with our life schedule, it kind of just works best to be like, okay, we feel like recording now so let’s record now. There’s a lot of freedom that helps the record in the long run. It’s a lot more work that way, but it also–we have a little bit more control. Kim definitely likes doing her vocals at home, instead of in front of somebody else.

KW: Right now I’m only comfortable with Jarod recording my vocals, because they take a lot of work. I sing whispery because we like the way it sounds, but I run out of breath a lot, and he’s really good at manipulating them to sound flawless and flowing. I’m really shy.

JW: She’s really hard on herself.

AF: What would you like to do most after this album drops?

JW: We’re doing a release show here that should be fun, with a friend of ours that’s an artist. I think we’re going to try to work on booking some short tours and writing some new songs.

KW: I’d love to make a video. That’s a goal that I have. It’s a matter of finding someone to work with, and a budget, and things like that.

AF: Would you direct it?

KW: I think so. We’re both control freaks.

AF: We’re so excited to premiere “Slow Days,” the opener to Let You Go. I just listened to it this afternoon and it’s amazing. Can you tell me how you wrote that song specifically?

JW: Yeah, that one was–we wrote it really late. Towards the end of writing the record, we still didn’t have a song that felt like the opener to the album. That one kind of–well, I started layering guitars on a loop pedal and came up with the main skeleton for the music. Kim heard it and said that it sounded like it should be the opener. We tried to do some chord changes and things, but we felt like we should just keep it all one flowing piece with some elements brought in and out through the song. Kind of similar to that New Order song we covered. How it’s just one main chord progression, with all these elements coming in and out.

KW: Also, we had been listening to the latest Yo La Tengo album Fade a lot. Every time we tried to change a chord, we just kept thinking, what would Yo La Tengo do? Let’s just let it build, the vocal layers and the guitar layers.

AF: Why did you want that sound for the opener, specifically?

JW: It’s interesting because it’s not a typical opener, it’s got a slower vibe. I like the way it ends, and the way the second song comes in. Its an interesting contrast.

KW: I think it’s a good introduction to us, because it’s subtle, but it reminds me of the water. It sounds like waves to me, the guitar part that Jarod did.
And there you have it, folks. Let You Go will be out on 7/28/14 via Bleeding Gold Records. You can preorder it here, and get a first listen to the luscious and mellow opening track “Slow Days” right here at AudioFemme! And always remember to ask yourself–what would Yo La Tengo do?


EP PREMIERE: Emmy Wildwood “Mean Love”

Emmy Wildwood - Photo Credit Shervin Lainez

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Emmy Wildwood - Photo Credit Shervin Lainez
Emmy Wildwood – Photo Credit Shervin Lainez

Everyone’s had a broken heart. That’s why songs about love gone wrong are so ubiquitous; as listeners, we crave relatable lyrics telling tales of liars and cheats and unrequited crushes. We make playlists to deal with love’s letdowns, and as we sing along and we might have a good cry or hit the gym to take it out on a punch bag with our ex’s name on it. Either way, there’s no denying the catharsis inherent in woeful ballads and sassy bangers alike. Lovelorn listeners take heed: Emmy Wildwood has arrived with her debut EP Mean Love, a smoldering new crop of post-breakup jams. Over the course of four songs, she skewers toxic relationships, calls out distant lovers, and offers up a healthy dose of how to get over all that and move on.

Wildwood is a force to be reckoned with, and it goes way beyond her savvy, straight-for-the-throat anthems. She’s performed in a wide range of musical projects, fronting punk-rock outfit VELTA and alt-country band The Stone Lonesome and appearing regularly as “Lizzy Strandlin” in all-girl Guns N’ Roses cover band. And that’s just her sonic resume; she’s worked in fashion for years, both as a stylist and as proprietor of Tiger Blanket in Williamsburg. She also operates a record label of the same name, which will release Mean Love on June 24th. Not only did we chat with Wildwood about her EP, her songwriting process, Alfred Hitchcock, and the harsh realities of dysfuntional relationships, AudioFemme is pleased to present an exclusive streaming premiere of the record. Check it out below while you read Emmy Wildwood’s words of wisdom.

AUDIOFEMME: Congrats on the EP! We can’t wait to share it with the world; the songs have such irresistible hooks, and your voice is incredible. In your words, what describes the sound you’re going for on your solo project?

EMMY WILDWOOD: Well, I have a primarily punk background – I am from Tuscon, Arizona, and there’s not a lot of people, kids particularly, playing music. Except for boys, and boys played punk, where I was from. So I learned to play power chords and punk stuff early, so that I could be in bands because there was no one else playing in any other kind of band back then. So I’ve always played punk, and then I got into more distinguished music later, so there’s sort of an influence of pop singer-songwriters and things like that. But for me it always comes back to rock n’ roll and punk so I would say that that’s pretty prevalent in the voice. Even though there’s a pop sound it’s always pretty driven by a lot of nasty electric guitar sounds. I would say it’s electronic pop with a very punk feel.

AF: It definitely hearkens back to the era that produced great punk rock-inflected pop acts like Cyndi Lauper and Blondie. You use vintage drum machines to achieve that sound?

EW: We sure do. I had this idea that I wanted to just do electric guitar and electric drums, [/fusion_builder_column][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”][particularly] LinnDrum, which is like a seventies big honkin’ horrible hugely heavy drum machine. Prince used it on his Dirty Mind album which is the one he made in his living room and it sounds really gnarly and grungy and I wanted to make something like that. LinnDrum is a big part of where this project started.

AF: So when you’re recording these songs, is it primarily you at home, alone? I know you’ve had some producers come in and work on it as well, but as far as the recording process, how do you go about that? 

EW: I cut a bunch of demos on my own over the last couple of years, just electric guitar and voice. And I sent this new set of songs to my friends Zach Jones and Greg Mayo. Zach and I were in a three-piece garage rock trio called VELTA. He’s in this big pop band called Great Big World – they have that song “Say Something” with Christina Aguilera – and he got this huge drumming gig and has been touring a lot, and Greg plays with everybody in New York. They’re both amazing producers, they both play a bunch. They’re really good friends of mine. I’ve known them for a long time and they knew I wanted to do this and they’re huge Prince fans, huge pop fans, and I’ve played with them for so long I felt like they knew me so well so I called them up to help me make this particular sound happen cause I knew it wouldn’t take too much to make them understand what I was trying to do.

AF: So it made sense to approach them because you’d had so many prior conversations about how you wanted your solo stuff to sound?

EW: Yes. And just like, having been friends with them, we had common love of the same sort of stuff. It was one of those things where you don’t really have to have a conversation, somebody just knows you, and knows what you’re trying to get across, it was a lot of that cause they’re such good friends. And I respect them both musically so much. They both have amazing taste. I understand melody, and rhythm and ideas, and I’ve been doing this a long time, but they’re like really studied.  They have all the stuff in the library, they can make anything I wanted to happen, happen. They’re really amazing musicians and they were incredibly important cause I definitely couldn’t have done that on my own. Especially some of the weirder, more creative stuff that’s on there that’s bizarre-sounding.

AF: Well how about the writing process? You mentioned that you had demoed the tracks before you even went to them, and I think there’s a lot of really interesting concepts and themes within the record, so can you tell me more about where you were as you were writing this and influenced the material?

EW: I had a lot of demos from sort of a tumultuous last two years. Definitely driven by breakups, I will say that. Also a lot of changes. I moved out on my own for the first time after a big breakup and I wrote probably 35 or 40 songs that weren’t being put to use. I had this sort of collection it was really hard to choose; I picked three of those songs that I wrote and I demoed those out. “RVR LVR” was the fourth one which I brought to the space. We were gonna do another, sort of heavy tune that I had written called “Rosewater,” and they were like, “Man, do you really want this EP to be like, this heavy? Don’t you want something like, super fun on the record?” And I was like, “Well… I have half of a super fun song.” I didn’t have a lot of “super fun songs” written, you know what I mean? I was dealing with some health stuff too. So it could’ve been this really really heavy EP but they sorta helped me put this more fun spin on the whole entire thing because they co-wrote this fourth song with me. Because of them of them I have an EP which made my life a little bit more fun that what was going on.

AF: I think lyrically, these songs are definitely dark and heavy in subject matter, but I feel like they’re written so poetically. That’s maybe too flowery a term, because there’s also a lot of anger and bite there, but its not like you’re calling anyone specific out. A lot of times you’re blaming yourself in these situations as much as you‘re blaming another party. And it’s so straightforward, so uncomplicated – just a collection of these charged phrases that feel very powerful as a whole.

EW: Lyrically, I’m always really honest. Some people worry about things coming off a certain way. I don’t like to be shocking on purpose, but if my honesty is shocking that’s cool to me. I like to say things in a way no one’s ever heard before, I like to play things in a way people haven’t heard before. I mean I guess that’s what we’re all trying to do. Lyrically I was just really honest and really proud about that and lyrics are something that I’ve always put a lot of time into. It’s something that’s really important to me because I listen to lyrics very intensely. The words make me feel much deeper about the music. I didn’t even know that I was blaming myself as much as I was blaming myself until you said that but that’s totally true.

AF: Well a lot of what you’re referencing on this record, particularly on the first two tracks “Mean Love” and “Stung,” are really relatable scenarios. We’ve all been in a dysfunctional, toxic situation, either with a lover or a friend or even in business relationships. There are a lot of sycophants out there. And if you spend enough time in those kinds of situations, you risk becoming a sycophant yourself. The lyrics to “Blondes” in particular kind of talk about that. It’s layered under poppy, rock-driven production but the words are very sinister and violent. Can you talk a little bit about the metaphors you’re using? Or should I call the cops?

EW: [laughs] You probably don’t need to do that! I read this article actually, on Alfred Hitchcock, his movies and how he always cast blonde girls because they looked “better in blood” on screen, cause the red stood out better. And it stuck with me for a long time but then it sort of became this thing, this imagined scenario, this song. This one I would say is less autobiographical, although it always becomes that, somehow, for me, relating it back to a personal situation. The song tells a story of a relationship where one partner is angry at somebody besides the person they’re taking their anger out on. I just used that metaphor of the blonde girl as the other girl. It’s a violent song because I’m comparing that to a horror film, but that’s where that metaphor came from. Don’t call the cops, it’s all good.

AF: I have read a little bit about Hitchcock’s relationship with Tippi Hedren, who starred in The Birds and some of his other movies and the reality of his behavior toward her is more terrifying than most of his actual movies I think. He was really obsessed with her, and did terrible things to her…

EW: Yeah, he pushed her. That’s the whole thing. I feel like we sort of do this to each other in relationships, it’s this recurring theme. He pushed her to get an emotion out of her that he needed to draw power from, that the movies maybe drew power from. Just to make it more passionate, more emotional, he pushed her to these extreme places to get something out of her, and was also totally obsessed and in love with her. I was totally fascinated by that whole concept of pushing somebody and all of that sort of obsession and craziness that follows love.

AF: Obviously it’s a painful thing to have a romantic falling out with someone or a separation, but especially having now channeled all of that into the EP, do you feel like that’s a thing that has pushed you and been transformative?

EW: It did push this EP. I had a really significant twelve-year breakup. I was with someone since I was a teenager. But “RVR LVR” is actually a happy song, and “Stung” is heavy but it’s a happy song too in the sense that it’s [about] falling in love again and learning to trust somebody again and somebody loving you even though you’re, sort of, to put it UN-poetically, screwed up, or not as strong as you feel like you were. It’s really hard to go into a new relationship when you had an idea of what your whole life was gonna be like, constantly evaluating every new thing, [thinking] is this hard because this is not right, or is this hard because I thought it was gonna be another way and it’s a different way? And someone being patient with you through that. “Stung” is definitely about being in love again and someone loving you through something hard like that.

AF: You mentioned “RVR LVR” – that’s a definite favorite of mine. It almost gives the whole EP a fairy-tale ending, not just for the mythical imagery of someone rising out of the mist so-to-speak, but it’s also a breath of fresh air after all the weightiness.

EW: Good! It wasn’t the last one we did, but it was the last written. I was so excited to have it because it just sort of rounded off the EP in a way. I hadn’t seen a close to where it was gonna finish off. I didn’t know if we should do five songs or six songs or three songs or a mixtape. And then we wrote “RVR LVR” and I was like “Oh! It’s these four. That’s it.” And the guys felt that too. It was just understood, and we all felt the same way. So it was sort of a breath of fresh air to the EP in general just sonically. “RVR LVR” is about the fun stuff. It’s about like, going out and getting someone and winning someone over, so there is happiness to it. There’s a lot of honest things about what it is to break up and fall in love again and evaluate yourself through it and evaluate your partner through it.

AF: So what ended up happening to these other songs? Will they go onto an album or is it time to put that phase of your life behind you and move on? I’m sure you’re still writing new things.

EW: Where do all the lost songs go? You know, a lot of people in their lives have concentrated on being like, the best guitarist in the world or being the best singer in the world. I wanna be a great singer and I’m always trying to get better at guitar, but for me it’s always been about writing the song. I wanna have the perfect ‘song moment.’ I write so much – that’s really what I spend my time doing, almost to the point that it doesn’t feel like a choice. I don’t sit down and practice, I sit down and write. [I have] a lot of songs that I just have never produced. They’re just floating somewhere in my hard drive. I don’t know if they’ll be significant to any particular project in the future, but you never know. Actually, [with] “Mean Love” I had the chorus for a long time, and it just shaped up two years ago. But there are a lot of songs that maybe will never be heard by anyone besides my pug, Pilot.

Pilot the Pug, Keeper of Lost Songs

AF: Then again, maybe you have something that’s rolling around in the ether that will be a huge hit.

EW: That would be great. You know, I feel like things like that are always surprises. There are songs that are still my favorites that I wrote, you know, seven years ago, that I think are cool songs that maybe I’ll use an idea from eventually. With the EP, to bring it back to the theme behind it… for me it’s like I’m only able to reflect on things once they’re processed. I’m like a lot of emotional human beings [in that] when things are really difficult I can’t even pay attention to them. I went through this breakup a while ago, like three years ago. I had trouble even talking about it for a really really long time. It’s something I will never forget because it has shaped a lot of these last few years for me but I’ve moved forward in a really great way. I like to reflect on the dark things and my innermost secrets and my weird feelings. I’ll always be a little dark in my writing but as far as that chapter being closed, it’s closed, and it’s cool to have this EP, listen to the songs, and be like “Holy cow, did I write that?!”

AF: Would you play these songs to your ex? Do you think he’s heard them?

EW: I have no idea. That’s pretty funny. What’s funny is these songs aren’t even particularly personally about him but more about what resulted because of him, and things that have happened since him. I don’t even know what he’s thinking. I don’t really care. I have a boyfriend now who is amazing. Actually, he co-wrote “Stung” with me. He’s a singer, too and a music writer, like you. He gets it.

AF: So I’m really interested in what you’re doing over at Tiger Blanket. It’s both a record label and a clothing store?

EW: Tiger Blanket is a label that I started a really long tome ago. It was just sort of a fantasy. Any record I made on my own or with friends we would put out under the Tiger Blanket label, but it really came into fruition a few years back with a country music project that I was in, believe it or not, called The Stone Lonesome, that we put out on vinyl. And then I realized that this label needed to be a vinyl label, because I love vinyl, and no one was buying CDs. People were collecting things in limited runs which were something that I liked in particular. Then when I opened my store in Williamsburg it all just came together. I’ve always worked in fashion to make money – cause we all know how profitable music is – so I’ve always worked on styling and [finding] vintage stuff. It became a lifestyle concept – you buy the outfit and you buy the record that you wanna listen to while you get ready to go out to see the show that you’re gonna go see. Unfortunately our landlord has followed the trend of this neighborhood and bumped it all up. So we have to find a new home, location TBD, so right now we’re focusing primarily online. But we’ll have a new release in August and out first piece of clothing specific to the brand that is our own in-house design in August as well.

AF: What records, other than your own, have you released so far?

EW: Last year we released Mother Feather, do you know that band?

AF: I actually do, we booked them for our Scene X Sound event! They’re playing June 26th in LIC on the roof of the Ravel Hotel.

EW: Oh, awesome! They’re kick ass. We also put out Erin Mary and the West Island, sort of a sixties-sounding vibe. She wrote the whole record from the voice of a dead little girl ghost.

AF: Ooooh, creepy.

EW: Yeah, it’s very creepy. I love these sort of conceptual groups and bands, and it has been all girls so far which was not necessarily my intention, but I just put out what I liked and what came in front of me, and what I created a bond with, music I fell in love with and I put it out. I have a few bands in the works, but we’re just seeing how those projects shape up right now and we’ll probably do another release in the Fall.

AF: I have no idea how you find the time to do all this! You’re also in a pretty cool cover band, I hear.

EW: Oh, right! Guns N’ Hoses! Yeah, we play a lot, our next show is June 28th at Bowery Ballroom. I joined two years ago, maybe more that that now. We started by playing all of Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction album and now we’re doing Use Your Illusion as well. It’s wild, because I liked Guns N’ Roses… it was on the radio when I was a kid, I loved their performance, I loved Axl – I thought he was frickin’ bad ass. But joining this band made me get way deeper into their music and see how cool they really were and what they were doing was super innovative. I got way deeper in the catalogue and if anything it’s made me a way better guitar player. It’s harder stuff than I was used to playing – punk rock songs and Nirvana and Weezer – it’s not the same stuff. So it made me a better guitar player, that’s for sure.

AF: GNR, and that type of hair metal rock n’ roll in general, has been pegged from the get-go as both innately masculine but also sort of goofy. It’s macho but almost to such an extreme that it’s kind of a joke. As a group of women playing that music, how do you feel that changes it?

EW: We put on a show, we try and play our characters. We curse at the audience, we drink, we jack on stage, it’s all part of the show. It can be incredibly goofy. As far as us being girls doing it? I don’t know, maybe it sheds light on how ridiculous it really is. But really I think things always sort of  come back to the spirit of that band. They were just nuts. They were crazy, they were living up what people really think is the insane rock n’ roll lifestyle and they fully embraced that and they were super proud to be gross and wild and addicted and promiscuous… I mean that’s what half the songs are about. It is a novelty because we’re all girls and they weren’t, but we hope that people come and they’re impressed by the playing, which they usually are. We do it because the songs kick ass, and we do it cause it’s funny and because people like it. We didn’t think it was gonna be as big of a deal when we started it as it turned out to be.

AF: People love their cover bands. Particularly with the era GNR came from, playing that genre… there aren’t a lot of modern bands that have that sound, and people who listened to bands like that in their heyday are barely interested in new bands doing that anyway. They want to hear those classic albums.

EW: Oh Yeah, I mean it’s fans of Guns N’ Roses coming. They don’t care… I mean, they think it’s cool we’re girls, but it’s fans that wanna hear the songs played live, that’s for sure.

AF: That sounds totally awesome. In terms of your solo project, though, what are your hopes for the EP? Where do you want to see it go, who do you want to hear it?

EW: This! These conversations are what I would like to have happen. Someone to hear something, think it’s cool, spend the time actually reading the lyrics and seeing that maybe it’s surprising compared to how it sounds sonically. If this happens like twenty times or ten times or five times, that would be really satisfying to me. And if the songs go somewhere else, sneak into a television show or a commercial, that would be wonderful too. I won’t make any big plans for them because I believe they will find their audience. I think we’ll be playing them [live] in July. That’s the first show.

AF: What will your live performances entail? Will you play with a full band or will it be a more stripped-down solo performance?

EW: It’s definitely me, Zach and Greg. Zach plays drums and synth stuff, Greg’s a guitar player and plays some synth stuff, and I’m gonna play a little electric guitar, some songs with and some without. But I will tell you that all three of us are fairly raucous performers and the live show is always fun when we get together. I like to lose myself a little bit on stage and get a little gnarly and eat my hair and sweat, all the good punk rock stuff.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

INTERVIEW: Dan McGee of Spider Bags (+ Track Review “Japanese Vacation”!)

Dan McGee, of Chapel Hill garage rock band Spider Bags, does not have time to grow orchids or build model ships. He works triple duty these days, with a family, a job, and a brand new record, Frozen Letter, due to come out on August 5th via Merge Records. When I called McGee last week, though, he didn’t seem to mind the stress. In fact, being busy suits him: in the early stages of recording Frozen Letter, McGee realized that his wife was pregnant and that he had nine months to get the record finished, but the focus that pressure gave him–and the rest of the group, with Rock Forbes on drums and Greg Levy and Steve Oliva switching off on bass and guitar–led to the Bags’ most cohesive album to date. Here at AudioFemme, we got our paws on “Back With You Again In The World,” the first single off that album, a couple of weeks back, and we were psyched to hear that the Bags haven’t abandoned the sloppy and earnest feistiness that’s always made their music so much fun to listen to. But the musical ESP between the four Spider Bags is no accident, and it’s more apparent than ever on the new record that even when the music is at its noisiest and dirtiest, there’s a complex dialogue going on beneath the surface.


AudioFemme: Congrats on the new record coming out, we’re so excited! What has it been like recording Frozen Letter?

Dan McGee: We started recording in late June-early July last year, with the same engineer I’ve been working with for a while now, Wes Wolfe. I had a lot of ideas for this record and I went into the studio just wanting to see which songs worked together and which didn’t. I wanted to get four or five done. Then, while we were doing them, my wife came to visit with my daughter, and she was smiling a lot, and I was like ‘Oh man, you’re pregnant, aren’t you?’ And she was. So then I realized that I had to think about this record a little bit differently, because I had to get it done in nine months. Instead of doing five songs that weekend we ended up sleeping in the studio and doing eleven. There are eight songs on the record, but we tried three more just to see how they would fit. Actually, this is the closest I’ve ever come to making the record I started out thinking I wanted to make.

AF: So recording it all at once actually had a positive influence on the finished product?

DM: Yeah! It had that external focus, you know? Made me narrow my choices down. Sometimes I think I can get a little too spread out, so it helped that there was a really strict time limit. It was actually the record that I really wanted to make, that I’ve been wanting to make for a while.

AF: That’s fantastic. So what about it makes it the record that you had envisioned?

DM: I had an idea for a cycle of songs. I really wanted to make a record that sounded like a classic rock record, that was mixed like the old AC/DC records, or like Dark Side Of The Moon. I wanted to have songs on the record that would lend themselves to that. There’s only eight songs on the record, you know, and I wanted them to be in kind of a cycle that would have a theme, though that theme wouldn’t be real specific. And I wanted it to sound like a seventies rock record. That was kind of the concept I had going into it, and we got pretty close. I’m stoked.

AF: When you start writing individual songs, are you thinking about the general sound you want to aim for? Do you start with a riff or a chord, or just an aesthetic you want to produce?

DM: Recording songs and writing them is different for me, but most of the time when I’m writing songs I’ll have a pretty good idea–before I actually strum the guitar–what the chorus is, or the melody for the verse. When I start picking through the song on guitar it starts taking on its own life. I don’t ever really go into any specific song with any kind of concept. It’s not the same as a record, where you have to really try to have an idea of what the record is, as a collection. I’ve made a few records now, and some of them are better than others, but I think the better ones are the ones where I’ve had a really clear concept of how the songs relate to each other and how they sound together. I think that’s really important, because the songs that relate to each other are the ones that people identify with, and the other songs fall through the cracks. If I don’t have a concept for a record, I’m not doing all the songs justice. You can’t just put all your best songs on a record, because it just doesn’t work that way. People don’t hear it that way.

AF: Where did you get the idea for the title of the record, Frozen Letter?

DM: It’s from a song on the record called “Coffin Car.” That song starts with an image that I had of walking in the snow and picking up–out of the snow–a big…you know those oversized kids’ magnets that you keep on the fridge? Just the tip of one of those sticking out of the snow, except it’s giant. It’s a pretty ambiguous image. Whenever two words are together, it gives you a feeling, but it could mean anything. It could mean nothing.

AF: What’s the music scene like where you live, in Chapel Hill? Are you a big part of it?

DM: Yeah, I’m definitely a big part of it. When I first moved here eight years ago, it seemed like the musical heyday was kind of in the past–some of the older clubs were closing down, you know, not as many people were involved in the scene–but there’s been an upsurge, and a big part of that has been independent record stores opening again. When I first moved here, Bull City Records in Durham had just opened and that was huge, because it really gave a focal point for musicians and people who like music to hang out. Since then, there’s another record store that’s opened in Chapel Hill called All Day Records. It’s a pretty varied scene. There’s way more rock and roll [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”][in Chapel Hill] than there was when I first moved here. There’s also a really cool underground noise scene. Synth-driven scene. I feel lucky to live in a town where there’s a really solid scene like that. Even though people play different music and there’s different genres, everybody supports each other, because it’s still pretty small here. There’s not a lot of ‘Oh, I’m not going to that show because it’s a rock and roll show,’ or ‘Oh, I’m not going to that show because it’s a noise show.’ There’s three clubs. You know that if a guy is booking a show at this particular club it’s probably going to be interesting and cool, so you might as well just go.

AF: How did you come to live in Chapel Hill?

DM: I was traveling with a band, I was in in New York, and I had a couple of weeks off. I had friends that I knew from New Jersey who had moved to Chapel Hill. It was kind of nice to come here and relax for a couple of weeks, to be somewhere with a couple hundred dollars in my pocket, sleep on somebody’s couch, enjoy the open air. I met my wife one weekend while I was here and we totally fell in love. A year later I was like, holy shit, I live in Chapel Hill!

AF: How has having a wife and family changed your relationship with rock and roll?

DM: It’s crazy–when I was younger and on the road a lot, friends would talk about having kids and stuff and I would wanna leave the room because I was afraid I’d get the bug. But it’s funny, because at least for me, it’s given me a tremendous amount of focus where I haven’t had focus before. It just enriches your life. It makes things, in an amazing way, have constant perspective. It’s hard because I really miss being on the road. I used to love being on the road and I have a lot of friends all over the country who I don’t get to see as much as I used to. But things change, and I feel totally grateful for my family and lucky that I was able to see this part of life. I can’t imagine not being a father. I have two daughters.

AF: How old are they?

DM: My oldest daughter, Dell, she’ll be three in August. My youngest was born in March, she’s just three months old.

AF: Have they been to any of your shows?

DM: Dell came to a show last year and it totally blew her mind. It was in a bigger club, so she and my wife were standing in the back. She could tell it was me up there and she was totally amazed, and she thought I played the drums because the drums were the loudest. But she was jazzed for the rest of the day, jumping around and singing, totally inspired. But she doesn’t get to come to too many, because they’re usually pretty late at night. And loud.

AF: So what are your plans for after this record comes out? Do you have any hobbies or extramusical activities that you’re excited to get back to?

DM: I don’t have a lot of time, between music, family, and work. I have a lot of interests, but I don’t have time to build ships or anything. Family, music, work. That’s it right now. Maybe when I’m sixty I’ll start growing weird flowers in a greenhouse somewhere.

AF: Are you going to start touring?

DM: Yeah, totally. We’re planning to be on the road–we’re just waiting for a couple of things to fall into place. I want to be on the road as much as possible, to promote this record as much as possible. I feel like it’s the best record we’ve made as a band and I want people to hear it, I want to be out there playing the songs. Nothing’s solid yet, we’re waiting for some things to fall into place. But we’ll be out there, for sure.

AF: Do you like playing live more than recording in the studio, or is it just a totally different experience?

DM: Lately–well, I like them both. I always liked playing live more than recording. In the past, the guys I recorded with wouldn’t necessarily be the guys I took on the road, so we’d learn a song with the band on the road, and then we’d record in whatever town we were stopped in before I lost those guys, and then I’d get back, put another band together, and teach them the songs. But now, with the musicians I have, it’s a totally different process. We record the songs, and if there’s something I feel I didn’t get right when we were recording, we can work it out onstage. The songs have a life, within the three of us playing them together, which is really cool. You can feel a song still growing after we record it. Playing live is a lot of fun especially with the guys I have now. It’s just the three of us onstage, and we have really good communication together. It’s nonverbal communication, where it’s like we’re experiencing something together on this entirely different plane. Very wild.

AF: Your uptempo songs are so high energy, it must be a huge rush to play them for a crowd.

DM: It really is. It’s like this burst of energy that puts everything in life into perspective–like, ‘Oh yeah, this is what I love to do.’ It feels great. There’s a reason why I have two jobs. It makes sense.


Frozen Letter will drop August 5th via Merge Records. To tide you over, here’s the second single from the album, the jangly and raucous “Japanese Vacation.” Like many Spider Bags songs, this track can be read a couple of different ways: at its most basic level, it’s a fun-loving track and unimpeachably simple hook. Behind the catchiness, of course, is something mysterious and even kind of sinister. Lines like Every step is soft and cruel/Like how the raindrops feel/To the swimming pool stick out on “Japanese Vacation,” with imagery that’s ambiguous but vivid. Listen below!




I wasn’t sure what to expect as I drove to a random address in North Hollywood two weeks ago. I had been invited to witness the birth of a band, but I didn’t know the genre or the members. I wandered to the back of a lockout that was stacked to the ceiling with amps, instruments and boxes packed with who knows what. Ethan Goodman, Schuyler Neilson and German Perez were rehearsing for their first show together, ever. Ethan’s irreverent lyrics and languid guitar strokes, Schuyler’s varied bass strumming and German’s crazy drum beats form the basis for Cheer Up Club, and though they have been playing together for less than three months, they jam like a seasoned band. After Ethan flipped his Beatles shirt inside out (the rehearsal was being filmed) they started to play; I was hooked.

Schuyler (pronounced Sky-ler, he’s Dutch) and Ethan met when they were touring in Europe with other bands. Schuyler was on tour with Poeina Suddarth and Ethan was playing solo as support. It was December 2013 and throughout the tour Ethan slowly pulled Schuyler in, making his solo act a duo after a large bottle of Jameson and a long morning of recovery. Ethan assisted in Schuyler moving down to Los Angeles from Portland by finding him a place to live and a job. After he settled in they started their search for the perfect drummer to round out the trio. Though they nearly lost hope after a succession of bad auditions, German appeared. He was a self-taught percussionist that knew exactly what to play, when to play it and had his own flair to boot.

They were all raised surrounded by music. Ethan had so many great records played for him as a child that he was surprised when he discovered terrible music existed. He used to listen to Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, David Bowie and classical tunes to pick out the different instruments and note how they were used in the songs. German was raised around his father’s musician friends, and taught himself the drums with help from of a friend and daily practice. Some of the earliest music he remembers hearing includes Prince and The Revolution and Madonna. Schuyler was five years old when he plunked out a Blondie song on the piano from memory that, according to him, just happened to be in the right key. Schuyler jammed to Outkast, Weezer and Zappa in his youth.

After eating some delicious pizza and watching Cheer Up Club jam for a few hours I was ready and anxious for their show last Wednesday. The day finally arrived and the audience was full of fellow musicians, family, friends and curious bar-goers. As they walked on stage they did not telegraph nervousness, just pure excitement.

Ethan introduced the band casually, his snarkiness much more dialed down than in rehearsal. The boys wore ties, loosened gradually throughout the show as audience members started to dance. They all have wonderful stage energy and, even though I could only see German by looking at the mirror on the wall, they were all deeply engaged in the tunes. Once comfortable on stage, Ethan’s sass fully came out. “You guys got feet? How long ago did they get cut off?” he teased the audience, though the music itself was certainly enough to make people get up and move.

Ethan’s cheeky attitude, Schuyler’s versatility and German’s exuberance blend to create an entertaining, smart show with a punk edge. Ethan’s lyrics touch on topics ranging from motorcycle crashes to fad obsession to aliens in museums. The brilliance in Cheer Up Club is in their uniqueness. All three members are great people and the stage energy reflects it. But the real joy of the show comes from that wry intelligent stage presence backed by pounding drums and very clever bass playing. Their next show is at The Good Hurt in Venice on July 31. Watch for them, hear them, see them.

INTERVIEW: Willie Watson

Willie Watson recorded his debut solo effort, the straightforwardly-titled Folk Singer Vol. 1, over the course of two days at Woodland Sound Studios, the studio owned by Gillian Welch in Nashville, TN. In those sessions, he played whichever songs came to mind: the collection features some well-known numbers like “Midnight Special,” along with rarer inclusions such as “Kitty Puss” and “Mexican Cowboy.” The track list has sprawling origins, spanning blues, folk, and rock and roll as well as decades. Collaged together by producer David RawlingsFolk Singer ambles through its ten tracks with the lowlight unadornedness of a late-night impromptu performance.

And in a way, it is. When Watson split from Old Crow Medicine Show, which he’d co-founded and been part of for a decade and a half, he wasn’t sure where he would end up next. Though he didn’t start out with the goal of making a record of traditional songs, it does seem like kind of a neat return to basics: after a long run with a band that helped define contemporary folk music, Watson’s solo career so far has been an opportunity to revel in the old songs that made him love old-time folk music in the first place.

A couple weeks ago, I got a chance to chat with Watson about his new album, the traditional songs on it, and how he came to love old-time music. Read on for more:

AF: What made you decide to put out a solo album after you left Old Crow, as opposed to forming another band?

WW: You know, it just sort of happened that way. I’ve been singing old songs–folk songs, traditional songs, whatever you wanna call them–for years. Once I was on my own, I wasn’t sure what my next move was–if I was going to have another band, or try to write a bunch of songs. At first, I did start writing songs, but I don’t think I was satisfied with what I was writing. I was starting to do some solo shows, and I had a few songs I’d written, and I would do a mix of those with old traditional songs, at those early shows. I was a lot happier doing those old folk songs, and I think the crowd was a lot happier, too. I thought those were great songs that people should be hearing, and that I wanted to be singing.

AF: You’re in a position to introduce listeners to those old songs for the first time, in many cases. How cool is that?

WW: Totally cool, and I’m happy if I can be that guy. Alternately, if they heard where they came from, they might not want to listen to me anymore. I would much rather put on Leadbelly singing “Midnight Special” than listen to me. It’s surprising, a lot of people might not even realize that these are old songs. I think if they have the record, Folk Singer, and they read the reviews and write-ups, they’ll get it–but I’ve played shows and had people think I wrote all those songs.

AF: You grew up in upstate New York, right? What was the musical community like there?

WW: Around Ithaca and Tompkins County–which is right next to Schuyler County, where I’m from–there’s a lot of old-time fiddle music. There was a banjo player named Richie Stearns and all those guys from Donna The Buffalo, they’re old-time players. There would be a weekly old-time jam every week up there. So I was exposed to that first hand, being around the scene and the music every week. Richie Stearns had a band called The Horse Flies, and they were a mix of old-time fiddle music with eighties pop. They had a drum set and they all plugged in, and Richie Stearns was playing clawhammer banjo. Judy Hyman played the fiddle and would dance around the stage, doing this headbang-y thing with her eyes rolling back in her head. I was about thirteen, and I would see this stuff and thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. It was dance music, and it really moved me in a big way. That was my introduction to old-time music. I knew it wasn’t bluegrass, this old-timey thing The Horse Flies were doing. It was something a little bit different, and it really stood out. I was already listening to Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Of course, at the same time I was also listening to Nirvana, too. They did that Unplugged thing, where he sings the Leadbelly song [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”][“In The Pines/Where Did You Sleep Last Night”]. I knew my dad had a Leadbelly record in the basement, and I went and got it out. Really, that changed everything for me right there. It was all coming together at the same time.

AF: Were there other kids excited by old-time and interested in playing it?

WW: Yeah. I started a band pretty quick. A lot of the old-time players had kids my age, so they all had guitars. We started a band called The Funnest Game that was kind of the same thing–clawhammer banjo, electric guitar, drums. People liked that we were young and we were playing this stuff, so we started playing shows at clubs when we were about fifteen or sixteen. And they’d pay us. Which was nice! It was like, “Holy cow! This could be a job?!” So I quickly dropped out of high school when I was sixteen.

AF: Did you meet up with Old Crow Medicine Show pretty quickly after that?

WW: It was a few years. I had that first band, and then Ketch [Secor] moved to Ithaca when…I must’ve been seventeen or eighteen. Richie Stearns knew Ketch from the festival scene and he introduced us. Ketch moved up [to Ithaca] and then Critter [Fuqua] moved up a bit later. When The Funnest Game was about to break up, Ketch and Critter’s band had just broken up. They opened together for The Funnest Game and sang together, harmonized, did their duo thing. I was floored. As soon as they started singing, I immediately really badly wanted to sing with them. And so we made that happen.

AF: Looking back on it now, how do you feel about having been a part of that band?

WW: What can I say? It was everything to me, to us. That band was my whole life for almost fifteen years. I wouldn’t change anything. We just kind of grew apart. In the early days we played a lot of old music and not as many songs, although we were always writing. I don’t have any regrets, but I’m really happy that I’m where I’m at now. I’m playing the music I want to play, and it’s real simple, and I don’t have a big light show–I’m in a good place with that.

AF: Let’s talk about how Folk Singer became the collection that it is. Can you tell me the story of how one or two of the songs came to be included on the album?

WW: Anything in particular?

AF: How about ‘James Alley Blues?’

WW: Okay, yeah. That’s a Richard “Rabbit”  Brown song, and I don’t know too much of what he’s done, I just know that song, and also he does this great version of the Titanic story. He definitely plays ‘James Alley Blues’ different [than I do], it’s more bluesy, and he’s got all that finger picking guitar stuff. I heard it and I knew my voice would be right for it, but I had to find a different way to play guitar, because I don’t really play blues like that. That open-tuning blues stuff. I knew I really wanted to do that song because it really reached out to me. I related to what he was saying, and what the song was about really hit home for me. So I just had to find a different way to play guitar, you know, find a way that the song could come out of me.

AF: Were there any notable exclusions? Songs you were sure you wanted on the album, but that ultimately didn’t wind up making it?

WW: We recorded over twenty five songs for this album. There’s still a whole bunch of stuff in the can. That’s where Dave [Rawlings] comes in. The idea was just to get in there and sing whatever was rolling around in my head. I had a little list of songs. Then Dave would say, “Okay, that’s great, but do you have anything in the key of C?” Some songs were totally off the cuff, and yeah, some songs didn’t make the cut. Like “Kitty Puss,” that song wasn’t supposed to be on there. When I flew to Nashville to record the sessions, I was listening to that on the plane before I landed. I’d never played it before. I got into the studio and they were adjusting the sound, and the guy was like, “play something,” so I just played “Kitty Puss.” That was the first time I played the song, so I remembered what words I could. I kinda rearranged the words, I think, just because I didn’t know exactly how the guy did it on the record. He recorded in the early twenties, before there were electronic microphones. Back then they were literally singing into a funnel. It was just him and a banjo, and he’d sing a lot of children’s songs and novelty songs. I’d been listening to it for a while. I didn’t expect it to be on the record, it just came out really good.


A great big thank you to Willie Watson for talking to us! Folk Singer Vol. 1 will be out on May 6th, and you can pre-order your digital or physical copy here. Watch Watson perform the first track, the classic “Midnight Special,” below: