Cocktail Slippers Celebrate First LP in Seven Years with Rowdy “Say My Name” Video

On a recent Zoom call, Silje Hope and Sugar Cane are in agreement that “Say My Name” is Cocktail Slippers’ favorite song to perform live. “It’s a lot of fun to play,” says lead singer Hope on a Zoom call from her home in Oslo. It’s a dark song, she adds, the lyrics focusing on the proverbial devil-on-your-shoulder tempting you. 

“This song is quite tough,” says bassist Cane, whose joins us from Bergen, where she’s visiting family. The band wanted portray that toughness in their raucous new video, premiering today on Audiofemme. Cocktail Slippers filmed the clip themselves inside their rehearsal room, the band members dressed in purple sequins and leopard print. Their shadows dance along the wall behind them, where you can occasionally catch a glimpse of the horror classic Nosferatu. Cane adds, “We’re quite proud that we’re a productive band that makes everything ourselves.”

Last month, the Norwegian five-piece released Shout It Out Loud!, their fifth album (and their first in seven years), on NYC-based label Wicked Cool Records. “We wanted to make this album for a really long time,” says Cane. Recording stalled due to changes in the band, though they continued playing shows. Then, the release was delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It’s not that easy to make an album,” says Cane. The band wasn’t keen on the idea of releasing it when music scenes across the world had come to a halt. “We wanted to promote it, do gigs, not just release it,” she explains.

Instead, they chose to release singles until venues where they could fully unleash the full-length began to reopen. That turned out to be a good move. Cocktail Slippers have been able to play live a few times since this past summer, including a record release gig. It was a little different from their usual shows, though – the audience had to be seated and the tables were socially distanced from each other. “We’ve been living under very hard restrictions here in Oslo,” says Hope, noting that the rules have loosened up in Norway since then. 

“It takes time to get used to going to concerts again and everything, but we did have a fantastic release for the album,” she adds. “Even though people had to sit down for most of it, we were able to walk around.”

“It’s going to be great when people can stand and not have to worry about touching other people. It’s going to be very different. I’m looking forward to that,” says Cane. She adds that she was glad that the energetic rock band didn’t have to perform sitting down. “That would be awful,” she says. 

“I  can’t even imagine that – us sitting on stairs,” says Hope. “We’re not that kind of band.”

It’s true – sitting demurely is not Cocktail Slippers’ style at all. For 20 years they’ve been honing a garage rock sound that’s a little retro and a little modern. One of the standout tracks on Shout It Out Loud! is their cover of “Hush,” styled after Deep Purple’s 1968 rendition. They originally performed the cover as part of a television special in Norway. 

“We had so much fun doing it. This song is great,” says Hope. The band went on to incorporate it into their live sets and it did really well with fans. “Everyone knows the na-na part. Everyone knows the song,” says Hope. “People were asking us about it, so that was why we played it a lot.”

Still, they hadn’t recorded it, not until they intended to release it as a B-side for a 7” release of “She Devil (Shout It Out Loud).” They recorded it as if they were playing it live inside the same studio where they made the rest of the album. When they sent the finished product to Steven Van Zandt, who founded Wicked Cool Records and co-produced Shout It Out Loud! with the band, he told them that it needed to be an album track. 

Cocktail Slippers have collaborated with Van Zandt a lot over the years; Springsteen fans know him well as regular guitarist and mandolin player in Bruce’s E Street Band. “We’re not sure how he found our record,” says Sugar Cane, but it was sometime in the early ‘00s. “He picked it up on his radio station and we didn’t know that he was playing it for a year when he contacted us and wanted us to play on a festival in New York City. That was the first contact we had with him.”

In their two decades as a band, there have been challenges for Cocktail Slippers. It’s difficult when members move from Oslo; the logistics of touring gets complicated when band members have kids. “The success is that we’re having so much fun together,” says Hope. “I think that a special energy is created when we play.”

The pandemic made things especially tricky though, depriving the band of their income from performing. “How can we rehearse, release the album, get PR and do photo shoots and video shoots with no income? That’s a challenging thing,” says Hope. “But the success is that we are really, really proud of this record.” Now back and better than ever, Cocktail Slippers channeled plenty of pent-up energy into the video for “Say My Name” – and allow fans across the world to appreciate the explosive energy that’s gotten the band through it all.

Follow Cocktail Slippers on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

PLAYING ATLANTA: The Pinx Reinvent Rock ‘n’ Roll with Music Video for “Mercy!”

Photo by Chris McKay

The Pinx rock. That is all.

Okay, that’s not all, but the Atlanta-based rock quartet truly does rock…and roll, and boogie-woogie, and power-pop all night long. Drawing on influences as varied as Duane Allman, MC5’s Fred “Sonic” Smith, and the lush Stax catalog, as well as rock standards (if you can call them “standard”) like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, The Pinx’s dedication to drawing listeners out of the mundanity of every day life and into a groovy state is equally evident on the stage and in their latest music video, the power-packed, haunted-hotel-based rocker “Mercy!”

I caught up with founder and lead vocalist/guitarist Adam McIntyre and lead guitarist/vocalist Chance McColl to talk all things The Pinx, shooting a music video in a 100-year-old ballroom, and rock ‘n’ roll’s ability to desegregate and unify.

AF: You guys are the definition of pure rock; how do you draw from such a rich history and create something that feels fresh and unique to you? 

AM: I don’t think the band could ever move very far away from the overall trifecta of The Kinks (all we did was change a letter, and then a few years later our original drummer Jim changed the “ks” to an “x”), The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Chance and I have a lot of influences from blues guitarists.

At any time, I’ve usually got four main influences that we’re more conscious of, with lots of little decorations… sort of like four legs on a table, which can support all the other things we like. Once everything in the world has been recycled 1000 times, the simplest way to start finding your own voice is to take a look at a handful of things you point to and say “that feels like how I feel” and you start warping that. For the first record, I feel like the “legs” on the table were Led Zeppelin, DEVO, Eagles of Death Metal and Muse. Second record was specifically drawing on Cheap Trick, Motörhead, The MC5 and Tom Petty. I did every solo on that record holding a guitar pick Rick Neilsen handed me, but I was thinking about the MC5’s Wayne Kramer and Fred “Sonic” Smith.

For the new album, Sisters & Brothers, I feel that the influences got wider apart, the table got bigger, weirder and may have made specific influences harder to pinpoint. I felt the Atlantan ghost of the Black Crowes acutely on this one, and I feel like Chance may have evoked some ZZ Top. I know our power-pop forefathers Big Star bubbled to the surface for not the first time, and I worked hard to do Otis Redding proud while the band evoked a Stax sound. I guess we had Memphis on our minds with the whole Stax/Big Star thing, plus I feel like a little more ’70s metal showed through. It’s half brown leather and half black leather. My point is that I feel like originality is in a unique combination of influences based on mood, not simply taking a band’s songs and changing a thing or two. Though that can be fun, with the original songwriter’s blessing.

AF: What is your personal musical history? Did you grow up in musical households, or did you find music later? 

CM: My mother’s father was a great bluegrass guitarist. Big influence on me. Otherwise my big influence was my older sister’s record collection.

AM: I did not really grow up in a musical household except for the records, of course. Dad owned an acoustic and an electric but I can count on a couple hands the times he played them in front of me. He really resisted the idea of me catching the music bug, but I did. I found a ’60s R&B group called Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces when I was about 8 and talked my way on stage with them in spite of knowing nothing about guitar. They let me sit in for two songs while coaching me, and when I came home that night, all I could think about was getting back on stage to play music somehow. I’d get in trouble for touching Dad’s guitars, so for a few years all of my guitar time was spent hiding in the closet with a blanket over me.

AF: What led to the formation of The Pinx? 

AM: Indie rock and power pop had been my genres as a solo guy. I really wanted to be the next Todd Rundgren or Matthew Sweet, and something about that always felt forced. In Nashville, any time I rocked, people hated it. Any time I jumped or got loud, people hated it. Any time I did anything that felt like me, people hated it. So when I moved to Atlanta in 2006, I immediately began putting together a rock band. I wanted to see how it felt. It felt great. And the wilder I got, the more people here liked it. The harder I rocked, the more people liked it. I realized that Nashville just was not a good fit and never had been. I decided that the band would be a celebration of everything I and my bandmates love about rock and roll. Things might get bluesy or heavy but I think right in the middle of our influences, Little Richard is banging on a piano and yelling “wooo!” 

I’ve been lucky to find kindred spirits along the way, and Chance definitely is that. He’s a lead guitarist’s lead guitarist, versatile among many styles. Chuck is a recruit from a Desert Fuzz Rock band called Buzzards of Fuzz, and Cayce was in a brilliant sort of indie rock band called the Lord High Admirals before we got him.

CM: I had recorded a solo record and Adam was suggested to me by a fellow musician to do the mixing. We met, I then started following Adam’s musical career and loved what I heard, and his mix was exceptional. When it came time for an album release, I asked Adam to join the band for that night. I immediately knew there was something there based on how well we gelled as guitarists. It seemed like he played the parts he needed to while I played the parts I needed to and the parts perfectly meshed. That’s been a rare event in my life – to blend so well with another guitarist. Shortly thereafter he asked me to join The Pinx.

AF: Let’s dive in to “Mercy!” It’s your latest music video from an album where you handed over some of the “hats” to producers Brian Carter and Joey Jones. How did it differ from your previous releases? 

AM: It’s a bit more hi-fi. Normally I feel like I’m playing Twister when I’m making a record with a band; I’m supposed to be paying attention to my job as a frontman while also getting good takes out of a band with sometimes complicated interpersonal dynamics, I’m supposed to be getting good sounds recorded while also keeping the energy level high, and I’m supposed to be playing perfectly while also knowing what’s close enough without going overboard? I got tired of compromising one thing for another and just wanted to do MY job while everyone else did theirs. I think Sisters & Brothers came out sounding like a million bucks because I didn’t hang on to the “but I’m a producer!” hat. Plus, nobody trusts you to maintain objectivity on their performance while you’re concerned with your own.

AF: Do you feel like you were able to be more experimental without having to worry about manning the controls? 

AM: I think we got to have the usual fun in a great studio. Our biggest experiments are yet to come.

AF: What was the collaboration like, and why did you decide to go that route as opposed to your previously self-produced releases? 

AM: Things started out still pretty me-centric years ago and therefore happened all at my studio. As things progressed, the BAND became the focus. I always want the next album to be bigger and better and sound like a band, so recording it live with few overdubs actually served multiple purposes. The sound quality definitely went up that way.

AF: What inspired “Mercy!” – lyrically and musically? 

AM: I was thinking about the band Redd Kross, and I reached back to a memory of being about to play and getting slapped on the ass by a lady who thought I was her husband. I flipped the roles. I wrote a rough draft a few years ago and presented it to The Forty-Fives, who passed on it. I finished it up and the guys were playing it just like it is on the record within a few minutes of my showing it to them.

AF: What are your songwriting and recording processes like? 

AM: Songwriting happens however it can. I write a lot of lyrics, I record a lot of riffs into my phone and I also beatbox and scat a lot of garbage into my voice notes. At some point I do some editing and get the raw materials together and either call a song done or I bring it to Chance to see what he thinks it’s missing. Chance presents me with fully realized instrumentals to write lyrics to, or he brings in a full song like he did on “Time & Trouble” which is one of my favorites on the new album. From there, the band makes lots of choices on their own. I try not to choke the band’s ideas about the songs because so much of the time, things turn out better than I expected thanks to their ideas.

AF: You guys filmed the music video at a 100-year-old haunted hotel. What drew you to the location, and what was it like to film a rock video in a historic ballroom? 

AM: Our drummer Cayce and his wife run that hotel and were kind enough to let us shoot there. It’s a haunted old place and a charming location. We did disturb some guests at the hotel with our loud video shoot, so I don’t think it would be okay to do that again. We ran through the song a few times and had a lot of fun. Stupid good fun.

AF: You’re such huge players in the Atlanta scene! What has it been like to translate your music to the stage? What do you hope your audience takes away from every show? 

CM: For [Sisters & Brothers], so much of the record was recorded live based on how we’d already been auditioning the songs live so it was easy.

AM: We take the translations one step at a time, but as I said before, the new album was pretty much live in the studio, so it required very, very little adaptation.  We just rehearse and pour ourselves into it until suddenly the song becomes another character in the room with us. What I love hearing is the person who comes up to me saying “This is what rock and roll feels like – I’d forgotten!” or some variation. I also want people to walk out feeling lighter than they came in. Shake off that bad energy. Walk out with a grin.

AF: Georgia’s got a massive rock history, but a lot of it is rooted in Macon. What’s it been like to not only play a part in revitalizing the genre but bring it a little farther north to Atlanta? 

AM: This band is by definition a celebration of all that’s rock and roll. I throw all sorts of things into that; my mentors, the MC5’s heavy Detroit rock, the Led Zeppelin-meets-Devo sound that used to get us called “stoner rock” for years around Atlanta, the slide-based “Thunderboogie” sound that mixes Bo Diddley with big riffs, that Rolling Stones “Chuck Berry in a western suit” type thing they had on Exile On Main Street, and just huge blacklight doses of Sabbath, Zeppelin and Deep Purple’s trippy heavy jams. Does Duane Allman fit into that? Sure does. So does all that other stuff, with a big old grab bag of every American blues artist that every white British guy ever claimed changed his life. Southern Rock is a necessary part of that equation, but one or two songs a record is almost more than enough.

AF: What’s next for The Pinx? 

AM: More songs, more recordings, more shows. Weirder, harder, faster.

Keep up with The Pinx on Facebook and stream their latest album, Sisters & Brothers, on Spotify now.

PLAYING ATLANTA: Greco Make Magic On Stage and In the Studio

Even for a newbie in the Atlanta music scene, the name Greco is as familiar as the infamous straight-up-the-stairs load-in at Smith’s Olde Bar, one of the city’s most iconic haunts (don’t worry, out-of-towners; there’s an elevator now).

The rock quartet, made up of brothers Sebastian (lead vocalist), Josh (guitar), Zach (bass), and Gabriel (drums), is known for their grooving, high-energy rock tracks and riotous live shows. They’re larger than life, putting on stadium-sized shows for a few hundred loyal fans at a time.

As they count down the days to the physical release of their latest digital single, “Magic,” the guys sat down with Audiofemme to talk all things music, brotherhood, and the city we all know and love.

AF: How did you get your start in music? Was Greco your first band, or did you guys play with other groups before starting your own band? 

Sebastian and Zach have always played together. We started in a party rock band in Athens, GA with a couple other guys. Four years ago, we decided to do our own music with just our brothers, so we’ve been together a little over three years now.

AF: I’m sure you’re asked this all the time, but what’s it like to play in a band with your brothers?

It has been a fun and wild time. We know each other, so we know the quirks of the band and what really drives us. We have pretty much always lived together and still do. So we know what we like, we have some shared interests, and also know how to piss each other off!

A great extra tidbit; when we tour, we always go out and explore. Museums, parks, bars, monuments, tourist traps, local restaurants, pools, fan houses, parties, you know, the usual stuff. So when we are on the road working, we are also enjoying our time.

AF: Do you all have similar influences, or are there different bands or sounds that inspire each of you guys? 

We definitely love some of the same bands – The Stones, Zeppelin, Bowie, Duran Duran – but we’ve all got our own tastes too. Zach loves underground hip hop, Sab loves Americana and K-pop, Gab is an emo kid at heart, and Josh loves Jimmy Page and Keith Richards.

AF: What’s your creative process like? What inspires the music? 

We all write music and lyrics. Some of our songs come from a riff idea, others start with some lyrics Sab has, or a cool piece of art someone sees. Then we get together and bang out the song and get a demo down. Once we get the idea down, we start tearing it back apart and arranging and adjusting it. The nice thing about being brothers is we have beat each others’ ego out of existence. So we focus on what sounds best, and what makes the sound.

AF: What do you think sets Greco apart from other modern rock bands? What do you hope your fans take away from listening to your music or catching a show? 

We bring the soul of the music out in the studio or live. We don’t play music to put on an act. We love what we write, what we record and what we play, and we bring that same wild stage energy into our recordings. Our mantra is Sing.Dance.Sweat.Sex., and we truly want our music to touch our fans and make them feel alive when they are listening to us on their own or catching us at a live show.

AF: You’re prepping to release your first single of 2019, “Magic.” Can you tell us a little bit about the song?

We write and sing about common experiences that the four of us have experienced. “Magic” is a track that relates to people on a deeper level because they’ve shared a similar experience in their life. Magic is for everyone, life is a journey, and if you get lucky, you find someone or something that makes it magic!

AF: You guys are all over the Atlanta music scene, and gig all the time. Do you prefer making music in the studio or on the stage? Why?

Ooh, tough one. I’d say we all love the stage, but we appreciate and understand that you make the music in the studio and add onto it for the stage show. For instance, we love when the crowd sings along. At our last show, we stopped all the instruments and sang the chorus of “Magic” with our fans for a good thirty seconds before bringing the music back in and finishing the song.

AF: How has the Atlanta music scene impacted you as a band?

Atlanta has helped us grow as a band. The city is a great hub with people coming and going all the time, but there’s a strong rock scene here that has a lot of people behind it, pushing for everyone involved to succeed. We love the support we’ve received and the support we’ve been able to give other bands as we continue to strive forward in the music industry.

AF: What’s next for Greco?

More! The official release of “Magic” is April 13 on all available platforms, and we’ve got some surprises before and after its release pertaining to the track. There’s currently some exclusive content that is scheduled for a future release date to the public, but our Patreon supporters are promised first dibs.

AF: Last one — best place in ATL to catch a live show?

Local bands – Smith’s

Regional bands – Center Stage

National bands – Variety

Keep up with Greco on Facebook, and stay tuned for the official release of “Magic” on April 13th, plus top secret, exclusive content coming soon.

REVIEW: How to Be a Rock Critic

All Lester Bangs wants to do is listen to his favorite record: Van Morrison’s 1968 masterpiece, Astral Weeks. If only he could find his copy. It’s got to be around here somewhere, beneath the splayed magazines, take-out containers, and just a few thousand other LPs. Such is the inciting dilemma of Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s one-man play How to Be a Rock Critic.

I couldn’t resist the irony of a dead white guy telling me how to do my job, so I got a ticket immediately. How to Be a Rock Critic is not a pedantic or instructional title, however, but one referring to an early Bangs article first published in a small-circulation college zine. The one-act play – starring Jensen as the ill fated and infamous music journalist – is largely concerned with its subject’s gospel. Its full title reads: How to Be a Rock Critic: Based on the Writings of Lester Bangs.

Part of what drew me to the play was sick intrigue; I was positive it would be a shit show, or reductive and formulaic at the very least. And I have my reasons. Historically the portrayal of rock ‘n’ roll via visual narrative has not gone so well. Flicks like The Runaways and What We Do Is Secret (about LA punks the Germs) fell prey to laughable clichés and fabricated idealism, imbuing their main characters with far more nobility than the real people deserved. These biopics are the inverse of books like We Got the Neutron Bomb, which was unmerciful in its portrayal of rock ‘n’ rollers. There was no glamour or honor when Bob Biggs of Slash Records said of the Germs frontman, “I once saw Darby shoot up with gutter water!”

If there is one thing worse than the fictionalized depiction of rock stars, it is the fictionalized depiction of writers. Whether it’s Javier Bardem’s anguished “poet” in Mother! or Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway in Baz Luhrmann’s extended disco-remix of The Great Gatsby, the characterization of writers is often bloated with grandeur. Given that Lester Bangs was a stalwart of both rock and writing (not to mention bloated grandeur), I wasn’t sure if How to Be a Rock Critic could escape a trite fate.

A living room awaits at the Public Theater’s Martinson Hall on Saturday. It is littered with pages and beer cans and yes, stacks of records like angular layer cakes. If I didn’t know any better I would write this off as a stereotype, only it looks exactly like my friend’s apartment, and that friend is in fact a writer. It also looks exactly how my apartment would look if I had the freedom to live alone and be the slob I truly am. So they got me there.

The play begins with a grunt. Offstage bathroom noises collect our attention and soon enough Lester Bangs is before us. “Oh, fuck,” he says, before asking us to wait in his hallway for just, like, 20 more minutes while he finishes “this review.” “Ok… ” He stalls, “What about 15 more minutes?” To appease us he doles out magazines from a milk crate, and chucks cans of beer to a lucky few. In this little preamble, one thing is quickly established: Jensen-as-Bangs is one charming motherfucker.

Bangs entertains us briefly, rattling off motor-mouthed nonsense and informing us that he’s been up for 32 hours straight. He’d love to stay and chat, but he’s gotta “finish this review.” Stumbling over landmines of albums, he urges us to talk amongst ourselves. He reaches his desk, yanks an old page from his Smith Corona typewriter, and does exactly what you think he’s going to do with it.

I would like to see one portrayal of a writer, just one, that does not involve a sheet of paper being crumpled up into a ball and hurled across the room. Piss on it, eat it – set it aflame on your stove for god sakes – just please don’t crunch it into an angry little ball and toss it behind your back. When a new sheet is rolled into the machine Bangs stalls. He huffs, and puffs, and bangs on the keys. When the words still won’t materialize, he concedes. “Fuck it… let’s listen to some records!”

Within its first ten minutes, How to Be a Rock Critic erects two totems of Lester Bangs that will duel for the rest of the play. The first being Bangs as critic, fan, and fanatic. The second: Lester Bangs, tortured writer. I’m a fan of the former guy. Jensen’s ability to distill Bangs’ impassioned and vast catalogue of music criticism is admirable. His monologues are delivered with the same dizzying wit and lightning-speed stream of consciousness that Bangs was known for, and the amount of writing Jensen has synthesized is downright impressive.

Blank and Jensen spent years getting in touch with the Bangs archive, reading, researching, and turning thousands of pages of print into a play. Their success in shaping Bangs’ voice for the stage might have something to do with the duo’s background in acclaimed documentary plays like The Exonerated, which grew from firsthand interviews with over 40 released death row inmates. What shines in How to Be a Rock Critic are the long-winded, multi-syllabic manifestos on music, rock stars, critics, James Taylor (who Bangs so famously wrote should be “Marked for Death,”) childhood, girls, fandom, and of course, Van Morrison.

Bangs’ hunt for Astral Weeks punctuates the entire play, acting as the hub connecting countless spokes of praise and diatribe. It is the talisman he needs to justify his claims about art, and if he could only “just find this record, [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”][he] could show you!” When Bangs is talking about music, you believe his every word. There’s a contagious excitement Jensen conveys while putting on records and churning out rants, the same excitement Bangs was known to infect people with. The little details in Jensen’s performance, like cueing up a Carpenters album and slightly gesturing toward his favorite part of the song with raised fingers, are nuanced and spot-on.

Like Bangs himself, the play is charismatic, funny, and absurd, but at times deeply flawed. It is well known that Bangs died of an accidental pill and NyQuill overdose at age 33. His party animal habits and taste for drugs were as famous as his hatred for Led Zeppelin. This dark side of Lester – that “tortured writer” side – surfaces in my least favorite parts of the play. It’s not that I mind darkness, but Jensen’s rendering of Bangs-as-cough syrup philosopher can feel degrading at times. His sermons on writing feel like they were written by a writer, and not necessarily in a good way. I was reminded of Jeffrey Sweet’s introduction to his book, What Playwrights Talk About When They Talk About Writing, at one point. Namely that, “Playwrights don’t talk about writing with each other much.” Elvis Costello is often credited as saying, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” I say writers writing monologues about writers talking about writing is like a man self-addressing his dick pics.

There is also the issue of pandering. Several times throughout How to Be a Rock Critic, Jensen begins a sentence, only to trail off expectantly so the crowd can fill in the blank for him and pat themselves on the back. It’s a gross little episode of rock ‘n’ roll trivial pursuit that probably pissed off me and me alone, because I’m a critic (and nobody likes a critic). I cringed when Jensen began a story about “a club called???” And the audience dutifully answered in unison, “CBGB!!!” “That’s right! CBGB!” he said with the intonation of a children’s show host. Little things like this, of course, do not amount to a bad play. Nor do Jensen’s depiction of Lester’s tantrums, or scraps of monologue that grated my skin with their commoditized dissent. These are matters of taste.

In a final, half-hearted attempt at finding Astral Weeks, Lester Bangs fishes the LP out of another record’s sleeve. He’s on the floor. After gabbing for 80 minutes straight – pausing only to guzzle beer and two bottles of cough syrup – he toppled over and landed in a pile of 12”s. We’ve heard about his overbearing mother, he’s lamented the death of his father, and he’s reduced Elvis Presley to two identities: “Force of nature… and turd.”

Bangs strolls over to his turntable with the rescued wax and cues up “Cyprus Avenue.” At long last, we can understand what all the fuss is about. For me, it’s easy to understand. By a sheer stab of coincidence, Astral Weeks is one of my favorite records, too. There was a period of time during which I listened to it at least once a day, and it would certainly be in my luggage en route to a desert island.

In these final moments, Jensen and Blank (and I suppose Van Morrison) have nailed the spirit of Lester Bangs, and all the things he sought in music. But what was that? In 1980, Lester Bangs sat for an interview with his pal Sue Mathews, who asked him, “Are you aware of changes in the sorts of things that you look for as a critic? Or in the way that you listen to music?” “Hmm,” he said, “that’s a good question. Basically all I look for is passion, and I don’t care what form it comes in.”


LIVE REVIEW: Peter Bjorn and John @ Webster Hall

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Photos by Aaron Tian for AudioFemme.

Three revered names in indie pop made their presences known before a simple light display akin to a cross between an electrocardiogram and a music staff. You have the sharply dressed bassist Björn Yttling donning a blazer, while drummer John Eriksson took his seat behind the kit, standing out in a simple white baseball cap. Finally, lead singer and guitarist Peter Morén positions himself at the other end of the stage in what resembles a utility suit. All three are unified in their look with an array of the band’s patches on their navy blue outfits, as well as name tags  – you know, in case you forgot who you were there to see.

Morén quipped that back in 2000, they signed a contract stating that if anyone left the band, they had to replace him with somebody of the same name. Fast forward sixteen years and seven records later, and Peter Bjorn and John are back with an even more danceable new sound that challenges the classic definition of pop music and conveys no less energy in the live show.


Peter jumped over the barrier of the pit early on to walk around the crowd during “It Don’t Move Me,” for a rock ‘n’ roll display – “I’m not a big fan of rock,” he says.  “Rock ‘n’ roll, on the other hand, it’s kinda sexy.” – which set the tone for the etiquette of the evening: dance with complete disregard for the space around you, and don’t stop moving.

While this tour spotlights the most infectious pop tracks off the new record, Breakin’ Point, a taste of each of their previous records worked seamlessly into the mix:  a performance of “Eyes” that highlighted Bjorn’s talent on bass, Peter guiding the crowd through a singalong of “Dig A Little Deeper,” and John’s command over the slowed down breakbeat of “Amsterdam,” which brought back memories for both me and the girl behind me, who said that “every song from 2007 just flashed in [/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”][her] mind.”


Along with bringing outside producers into the mix for Breakin’ Point, two new touring members have accompanied the band this time around, allowing them to achieve a live sound closer to what you hear on their records.  Peter took the time out to introduce the two “dear friends and talented musicians,” Freja on backing vocals and percussion, and Klaus on the computer and keyboard.  In addition, Julian Harmon of POP ETC took over on the bongos while Freja took center stage as the female counterpart in “Young Folks,” the hipster whistle song that just turned ten this year.

But Peter Bjorn and John continue to prove over and over again that they are beyond capable of getting more than just that song and “Second Chances” stuck in your head for days on end. Closing out the show with “I Know You Don’t Love Me,” which is no slower but a bit more mellow, the trio still makes use of the whole stage and every ounce of vitality left in them during the song’s extended instrumental bridge.


The upbeat intensity of the live performance showcases the harmony that makes Peter Bjorn and John work so well together.  As Peter said, “You meet someone, you do some things, 10 years later you have a family.”[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

PLAYING DETROIT: Best of + Most Anticipated

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wolf eyes
wolf eyes

It’s New Years Eve-Eve, and I’m flooded with the sounds of the past year. 2015 saw the rise of Detroit music in an unforgettable way. Our musicians took to the stage and to the studio with an unmistakable fire under their asses, in turn producing one of the most emotive soundtracks for the year as a whole. Detroit had something to say and people listened. I could go on and on about how I feel about the textural landscape of what this city produced this year, and how for the first time in years I felt moved and compelled to share my findings with the same enthusiasm one might reserve for opening Christmas gifts. I could talk about how Wolf EyesI am a Problem: Mind in Pieces broke my heart in ways I thought impossible, or how MoonwalksLunar Phases pushed me back to being in smokey concert venues, chasing after psychedelic rock bands when I was 16, making me feel younger than I did when I was actually young. So instead, I asked a few Detroit artists, most of whom released music this year, what local release stood out to them in 2015, and what they are most anticipating in the coming year. If what we heard is any indication of what’s to come, my suggestion is to brace yourselves: Detroit just got started.

Mike Higgins of JRJR

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Photo by Todd Morgan
Photo by Todd Morgan

FAVORITE OF 2015: My favorite release is a single track. Absofacto’s “Dissolve” hit me hard out of wintery nowhere in early February of 2015 (and I’d been working in studio with Jon Visger on and off for a while at that point) – but that’s how he works. Lurks, rather, within shadows. Jon Visger wrote, produced, and released this song himself. Nostalgic alarms reminiscent of mid-90s Boards of Canada fire the song into motion and are quickly joined by the fast-approaching outer edge of the track’s structural spine: the drums. They weigh about a thousand pounds each and somehow I feel weightless upon their anticipated arrival. (Sweaty like Black Moth Super Rainbow, yet crisp like Com Truise.) You’re soon swallowed up by the groove in its entirety, where bass is vicious and Visger’s vocals emerge. Lyrics speak out from a character’s entangled, love-sore point of view: a last-ditch effort farewell letter/self-evaluation. Love’s magnetism paired equally with its potential volatility.

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MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: Recently, I listened to a bunch of new demos at Assemble Sound studio in Detroit with bassist Jeff Cuny of the band Valley Hush. I was pretty taken aback by how much things have blossomed sonically and vocally for them since hearing them in 2014. They’re a newer band, and for me it’s exciting to watch a group’s sound evolve and sometimes quite rapidly. It sounded like they have been experimenting, which is great, so I’m excited for what’s to come.

Matthew Milia of Frontier Ruckus 

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photo by Stefano Ferreri
photo by Stefano Ferreri

FAVORITE OF 2015: My local release would be All Are Saved by my good friend Fred Thomas. Deeply personal and universal at the same time, in Fred’s finely honed and idiosyncratic style.

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MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: It would have to be my bandmate and roommate Anna Burch’s new batch of solo songs that I’ve been thick in the midst of watching her create over the past year or so. Her melodies and lyrical voice are both really captivating. She hasn’t officially said it will come out this year, but I’m hoping.

Natasha Beste of Odd Hours

Photo by Kevin Eckert
Photo by Kevin Eckert

FAVORITE OF 2015: Dwelling Lightheartedly In The Futility Of Everything by Matthew Daher was an early 2015 release, but stuck with me for the whole year. It’s not a pop or dance album and the songs are challenging – they seem to be five different animals that live together in the same cave. But like magic, they opened up and travelled through me like a dance. “Cyclicity” seemed like it was written just for me, and I was lucky enough to collab with Matt and produce a video for the song. Just a beautiful exchange of energy on that collaboration.

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MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: My most anticipated local release is whatever Ritual Howls put out because holy crap, their 2014 release, Turkish Leather, makes my eyes roll back in my head with my tongue hanging out like cartoon dog drooling over a steak or bone or whatever dumb food item cartoon dogs like to eat. I’ll be spying on them online until I see something released!

Sean Lynch of 800beloved

Photo by Santa Anna
Photo by Santa Anna

FAVORITE OF 2015: I would by lying if I said a local release stuck out enough to be regarded as a favorite in 2015. Most of what I heard locally was a recollection of once unsuccessful “indie” bands until the 90’s came back, hip/trip-hop and grunge were openly repurposed, and Ableton was accepted as everyone’s backing track. If anything, Tunde Olaniran had a track I dug off of Transgressor. In my opinion, the only good thing that happened in Detroit and nationally in 2015 is that more female artists demanded and took the attention of listeners. At this point in time and in the bigger picture, this is more important than any best of the year list.

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MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: The local release I am most anticipating is our own final LP as 800beloved because I don’t know how it’s going to end. Rather, I’m dying to hear how it will end.



LIVE REVIEW: Imelda May @ Irving Plaza

Imelda May radiates light when she’s on stage–and not just because of her bright red lipstick. The Irish rockabilly singer brought an ebullient grace to her set last Monday at Irving Plaza, beginning with the immaculate-as-always platinum blonde quiff set on top of her dark ponytail, and ending with the nuggets of adorable stage banter that peppered her set. “I want to thank The Bellfuries,” she said at one point, referring to the opening act, “because I’m, like, a huge fan of theirs–a follow-them-around-and-carry-their-bags kind of fan–and I hope I get the chance to open for them one day.”

It makes sense that she would make a special point to spotlight her opening band–May knows what it’s like to take the long road to success. As a young singer gigging around her hometown of Dublin, May had eclectic tastes, but always had a penchant for bluesy vocalists like Wanda Jackson. Her only training came from listening to the performers that she loved. Today, May’s many terrific covers–like “Tainted Love” on the 2010 album Mayhem–testify to how deeply those old records have sunk into her sound. In fact, the two encores she played without her band on Monday night were both covers: intimate, dramatic renditions of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” and Blondie’s “Dreaming,” accompanied by ukelele.

Complete with cat eyes and a soul-singer piano bench perch, May slipped into the persona of the rock ‘n’ roll songstress as easily as if it were her favorite vintage sundress . But she rotated the spotlight between her bandmates, too, ushering her upright bass player, Al Gare, to the front of the stage for the bass-heavy number “Johnny Got A Boom Boom,” and flashing frequent smiles in the direction of her guitarist Darrel Higham, whom she married in 2002.

Most of the songs May performed that night came off of her new album Tribal, and, while just as energetic and old-school catchy as her previously released material, their themes tended towards joy over the gleeful darkness of older singles like the title track of Mayhem. More than ever, her performance felt celebratory. As evidenced in the bubbly and–even more than usual–aesthetically retro single “It’s Good To Be Alive,” May has plateaued in fun-loving rock ‘n’ roll stardom with ease and obvious delight.

Get down with this candy-coated jam below, and be sure to pick up your copy of Tribal, out via Decca Records, right here.