BAND OF THE MONTH: Sound of Ceres

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photo by Ben Tra

There aren’t many Brooklyn bands that can convince high-profile performance artists like Marina Abramović to brave Bushwick’s divey DIY scene, but Sound of Ceres did just that last August, during their month-long residency at Alphaville. Then again, Sound of Ceres stretches the boundaries of what it means to be a band, interacting with morphing, mesmerizing laser-light visuals throughout their live show. Currently on tour in support of their recently-released sophomore album The Twin (via Joyful Noise Recordings), the band’s constant evolution plays out not just in the show’s visuals, but on the newest album as well; so maybe it’s not so surprising that an artist like Abramović, whose work deals with human interaction and liminal selves, would find an act like Sound of Ceres compelling.

Sound of Ceres was formed in 2014 by partners Karen and Ryan Hover, from the remains of their shoegazey recording project Candy Claws. Alongside Kay Bertholf and a rotating cast of musicians, the Hovers released three albums under the moniker, each more conceptually dense than the last. Their final LP, Ceres & Calypso in the Deep Time, was built around the narrative of a girl (Calypso, Kay’s alter-ego) and her pet white seal Ceres (who represented Karen), traveling through a pre-historic sound collage known as the Deep Time (Ryan, naturally). With a completed narrative arc in the bag, the Hovers felt it was time to move on artistically (and physically – they relocated from Colorado to Brooklyn around the same time).

“We decided it was time to start something new, that a new story could be told,” Karen explains when we speak over the phone. “There were a lot of other members in Candy Claws over the years, and people had moved away, and it just seemed more natural to start something new with different people.” Whereas Candy Claws existed mainly within the confines of a recording studio, the Hovers wanted to tour behind their new project, although Karen would remain the voice behind it – hence the carryover of the name “Ceres.”

“We really wanted Sound of Ceres to expand a little bit,” she says. They tapped guitarist Derrick Bozich, Ben Phelan of Apples in Stereo, and Jacob Graham, formerly of The Drums, though his role in Sound of Ceres was more like that of an artistic director than musical contributor; he’s the one responsible for developing the mechanics behind the band’s innovative live light show. “Pooling all these different influences has created a unique sound that I don’t think we could’ve come up with on our own,” admits Karen. “Sound of Ceres is a lot more synth-heavy; all of the members that we work with now are very interested in analogue and modular synthesizers, so we’re getting a lot of sounds that we haven’t used before just ’cause we never totally went there with Candy Claws.”

The band released their first album, Nostalgia for Infinity, in 2016; around that time, Ryan picked up a copy of The Magic Mountain, the celebrated German novel written by German author Thomas Mann in 1924. It provided the conceptual seeds for The Twin. Karen says that Ryan is “a big reader, and really draws reference from books to make albums.” She adds, “I think it’s hard for him to sit down and make music if he doesn’t have this idea behind it that is kind of inspired from literature that he’s been reading.”

But The Twin also draws on references from modern writers. The band had longtime friend and sci-fi author Alastair Reynolds pen an accompanying narrative based on demos they’d send back and forth as they worked on the record. Reynolds’ story appears on the back cover of the album art, as well as in a specially-printed booklet included with the Limited Edition version of the oxblood-and-bone colored vinyl.

Many of the songs sent to Reynolds, it turns out, changed drastically once Sound of Ceres traveled to Iceland to put finishing touches on the record. Their reasons for doing so went beyond the inspiring setting – they planned to work with producer Alex Somers, whose notable collaborations include working with Jónsi of Sigur Ros, Julianna Barwick, Leif Vollebekk, and Briana Marela. “We’ve known Alex for a few years and have enjoyed each others’ musics,” says Karen. “We were very interested to see how he would apply his own kind of ethereal mystical presence to our record. And just the joy of going to another country and finishing our record in this place that seems so  isolated and very different from the rest of the world was very intriguing in itself.” Somers pushed Sound of Ceres well outside of their comfort zone, Karen says. “We’ve always been afraid in the past to have the vocals be very apparent and on top, [/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”][or use] many layers of vocals. He also had the take on percussion being more in the foreground, which we had not done before either. He added some sampling of his own and really brought the drums and vocals to the foreground.”

Of course, the biggest change was a move away from guitar sounds and into synth-laden territory, something that had already begun to happen with the band organically, but that Somers also encouraged. “Our guitar player Derrick has a Mellotron pedal for his guitar so live, he’s essentially playing the guitar but it sounds like a Mellotron,” says Karen with a laugh. “[We’re] trying to do different things with the instruments that we have to get new sounds.”

The payoff looms large in the otherworldly, expansive feeling of The Twin; Karen’s delicate singing floats in an effervescent wonderland of languorous synth modulations, punched up with textural percussion. Tracks like “Gemini Scenic” and “Humaniora” have positively glacial sparkle, while the title track’s glissandos, pensive riffs, and orchestral flourishes are the stuff of sci-fi cinema. Fans of Broadcast might have to catch their breath at the uncanny similarity; against a kindred background of heady dream-pop inflected electronica, Karen is a dead ringer for the late Trish Keenan. The Twin crackles with the icy isolation of space, but Karen’s plaintive intonations of Ryan’s humanistic lyrics have the spark of warm-blooded terrestrial life meditating on deeper meaning and reaching out for connection across the vastness of the universe.

It’s hard to imagine what that might’ve sounded like before the band’s trip to Iceland; these sweeping changes transformed the album into another work entirely. Karen says shadows of its former execution remained, like a mirror version of the same being, or a twin of itself – hence the record’s title. “The songs were already there, the melodies and lines were developed and such, but when we took it to Alex it really changed a lot,” Karen admits. “We’re very curious to maybe someday release what we had in the first place to see what people would think.”

For now, Karen, Ryan, and the rest of Sound of Ceres are content to let the material continue to mutate into whatever it may be. While on the road, Karen says that even their carefully choreographed laser show evolves from city to city. “Our August residency was the first time we really felt like this was the show we’ve always wanted to have,” she recalls. “As we’re on tour we think of new ideas in the car, like new ways to use the equipment we already have. We’re able to implement the changes pretty quickly, so every night it’s different.” Too many bands get lost in their own egos, but Sound of Ceres’ willingness to shapeshift – bending like a quick flash of laser light, blipping in and out like the faint transmission of a far off galaxy – is what makes them a force to be reckoned with.

The Twin is out now via Joyful Noise Recordings. Catch Sound of Ceres at one of their remaining tour dates below.

10/24 – St Louis, MO @ Foam
10/25 – Lexington, KY @ The Burl
11/11 – South Holland, MI @ Fireside Brew
11/12 – Chicago, IL @ Burlington Bar
11/13 – Indianapolis, IN @ Square Cat Vinyl
11/16 – Greenville, SC @ Cabin Floor Records
11/18 – Lynchburg, VA @ Riverviews Gallery
11/19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Silent Barn[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

OPENING LINES: Snap Q&A w/ The Yetis

the yetis

For this column, we preview the opening acts of live shows we’ll be covering, to give exposure to the up-and-comers we’re most excited for. Our preferred form is to do off-the-cuff “snap Q&As” with them, to get their thoughts on anything from the mundane to the absurd. For this installment, we spoke with Nick Gillespie, from PA-based indie rock band, The Yetis, who will be performing before a sold out crowd tonight at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, opening for The Drums. Catch what they had to say about Bigfoot’s gender and playing live with a shirtless elderly man from Florida.

Audiofemme: Are there any Yetis from history for whom you have a particular affinity/really identify with? And I know this might be a contentious question, but do you believe that Bigfoot is male or female?

 The Yetis: I guess we like the Himalayan explorers in history like Sir Edmund Hillary or the guy who lost all his toes and fingers only to conclude that the yeti is just a bear. Bigfoot is probably a guy but he definitely has a Bigfoot girlfriend.
AF: I saw that you’re from Allentown Pennsylvania, which is actually the 3rd largest city in PA. What is the music scene there like? Do people ask you a lot if you’re from Amish country because they don’t know any better?
TY: There’s not really a music scene. In high school there was nothing to do but drive around and play garage rock so that helped us focus on being creative. Allentown isn’t that close to Amish country, we don’t get asked that a lot, but the Amish are interesting to say the least.
AF: What sets you guys apart from the abundance of surf pop bands that are cropping up these days (we could answer this one for you but we wanna hear your thoughts!!)
TY: We don’t really consider ourselves surf pop that much, just rock and roll. We like surf music a lot so we use elements from that in our music. Our surf songs started out more as jokes or something that was exotic to us.
AF: What’s your most memorable live performance?
TY: The two times we’ve played at Baby’s All Right opening for cool bands (Hinds and Hidden Charms) were amazing so we think tonight with The Drums will top that. But we play a lot of bars and one time a guy gave us $90 to play one blues song with some old fat guy from Florida who took off his shirt and sang. We went crazy.
AF: If you could bring back one person from history to attend your show tonight at Baby’s, who would it be?
TY: We would bring back King Tut.
******Check out their irresistible rock jams TONIGHT at Baby’s All Right, opening for The Drums.

A History of Siren Fest & 4Knots

The fourth annual 4Knots Music Festival is slated to wash ashore at South Street Seaport this Saturday, July 12th, and we couldn’t be more excited. The festival, curated by The Village Voice, gets better each year, with Dinosaur Jr., Mac DeMarco, Re-TROS, Dead Stars, Those Darlins, Speedy Ortiz, Radkey, Viet Cong, Nude Beach, and Juan Wauters slated to grace the 2014 celebration – and it’s all FREE. There’s also an after party at Webster Hall following the day-long extravaganza, and you can get $5 off tickets with the code VOICE by clicking here.


Though 4Knots might seem relatively new, VV cut its festival booking chops on the now-legendary Siren Music Festival, held every summer at Coney Island from 2001-2010. As our anticipation grows for 4Knots 2014, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the best performers to grace 4Knots and Siren stages.

2001 – Peaches

We’re sure Rainer Maria, Guided By Voices and Superchunk were all lovely, but come on… at the time, the gender-bending, sex-positive performance artist was riding on high on the release of The Teaches of Peaches, her debut album that featured hits like “Fuck the Pain Away” and “Set it Off.” The quirk and kitsch of Coney Island was a perfect backdrop for Peaches, who looked every bit the part of sideshow provocateur in her bright red lingerie.

2002 – Sleater-Kinney

2002 was kind of THE banner year for Siren Fest, helped in part by the fact that there was a dance-punk renaissance happening in NYC. We can just picture Karen O smooching Angus Andrew at the top of the Wonder Wheel (they were deep in lurrrrv when their bands – Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars, respectively – played the fest), and I’m sure like-minded rockers Les Savy Fav, Mooney Suzuki, The Donnas, and Rye Coalition tore shit up, while The Shins mellowed crowds out with “New Slang” years before it rocked Zach Braff’s world. But Sleater-Kinney is the best band EVER, and their live performances were unparalleled. Even some dude who writes about music a lot agrees.

2003 – !!!

No, I’m not so excited about the history of 4Knots/Siren Fest that I’ve resorted to superfluous punctuation – !!! (usually pronounced Chk Chk Chk but otherwise represented by any three repetitive monosyllables other than Yeah Yeah Yeah since that was taken) gave every ounce of energy they had into converting a boring old rock show into a full tilt dance party. The band had a rotating, often huge lineup of talented musicians, fronted by lead singer Nic Offer, whose spastic showmanship mimed the outsized gestures of arena rock performers like Mick Jagger, but in a weirder, disco-punk context. !!! were known to encourage audience participation, adoration, and most of all satisfaction – you could rest assured they’d at least give you your money’s worth. But Siren Fest, just like 4Knots, has always been free.

2004 – …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead

TV on the Radio were still a baby band, Mission of Burma were already and aging punk dad band, Har Mar Superstar probably grossed everyone out (that was his thing), and Death Cab for Cutie probably made everyone too sad. Blonde Redhead is an amazing band that almost no one appreciated or remembers. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead smashed their gear and dove into the audience.

2005 – Dungen

While Q And Not U kept dance-punk alive, and Spoon continued the mellow indie dude vibes set forth by Death Cab the year before, Swedish psych rockers Dungen, who had apparently just visited Other Music, like, that day, must have thrown the audience for a real loop. Ta Det Lungt had just begun to help them establish an international reputation, and even though none of their songs were sung in English, there’s no doubt the weed cloud hanging over the Cyclone after their set helped with the language barrier.

2006 – Scissor Sisters

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Scissor Sisters Siren Fest 2006
Scissor Sisters’ nearly full frontal frontman Jake Shears in 2006

I bet Celebration was so, so fucking badass that year because Katrina Ford is a goddess and I’m excited for their upcoming album and I’m excited for their show at Baby’s All Right on July 25th but Jake Shears literally stripped down to a Speedo.

2007 – M.I.A.

Just look at how sweet M.I.A. was before all the Vanity Fair hoopla, before the SuperBowl middle finger, before H/Bollywood got its hands on “Paper Planes,” before the trainwreck that was /\/\/\Y/\… M.I.A’s music has evolved a lot over the years, but she’s always been one of the “Bad Girls,” with enough swagger to last for decades. Though we couldn’t have known it then, her Siren appearance was a rare treat, free of backlash and media sniping and all about the jams. The Black Lips put on a great live show, and are also no stranger to controversy, having recently talked shit on Drake and Lorde, that one time Jared Swilley and Nathan from Wavves got into some fisticuffs in a Brooklyn bar… and oh yeah maybe they’re racist? 2007 Siren, you were a real breeding ground for dissension.

2008 – Times New Viking

While Broken Social Scene is great at cramming a ton of talented musicians on stage, I have to hand it to my Columbus, Ohio hometown heroes Times New Viking for blasting such a huge crowd with their lo-fi gems. I have super fond memories of seeing them play dive bars and basements and living rooms, but their gloriously dingy pop songs harbor all the rickety charm of Astroland, where any ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl in 2007 might have been your last ride on anything, ever.

2009 – Monotonix

When Monotonix crowd surf, they don’t just flop along in a sea of sunburned arms like most bands. First of all, these dudes get pretty much naked except for underpants, socks, and copious amounts of body hair. Second of all, they spend the majority of their set in the audience, as opposed to the casual one-and-done method of even the punkest punks. Third of all, they take their instruments into the crowd with them. These nutso Israelis played over 1000 shows in five years, 400 of them happening between 2006 & 2007, so fourth of all, setting themselves on fire and shit was routine for them.

2010 – Screaming Females

The thing about festivals is that sometimes they’re less than ideal scenarios for the bands that play them. It’s hot, it’s bright, and  the sound engineering can be really questionable. After insisting on using his own drums rather than the rented kit Siren provided, Jarrett led Screaming Females on a rambling pre-set jam session to ease any jitters. They also turned their monitors off, because according to this adorable blog post he thought it “better to have no mix than a crazy one.” Anyone who’s heard Marissa Paternoster playing guitar knows she shreds; I can’t imagine headliners Matt & Kim (the only band to play Siren twice!) played a better set than Screaming Females in their 2 o’clock slot.

2011 – Titus Andronicus

Though it made everyone a bit sad when Village Voice moved their annual shindig from an awesome beachfront amusement park with tons of history to, well… a mall with an Uno’s Pizzeria, they at least had the respect for tradition to rename the fest 4knots (the speed at which the East River flows) and booked another expertly curated lineup, which included headliners Titus Andronicus. Their appearance came just after gaining tons of recognition for their intelligently rendered album The Monitor, loosely based on Civil War-inspired themes, not to mention their aggressive live shows. The lineup has since changed but our favorite incarnation of the band featured Amy Klein on violin and guitar. Ahhh, memories.

2012 – The Drums


We’ve always appreciated the swagger of Jonny Pierce, and his band’s beachy vibes practically scream outdoor dance party, so The Drums were a perfect fit with 4knots. 2011’s Portamento saw the group shift from surfy to synthy (the title is a tribute to the analogue settings Pierce and bandmate Jacob Graham bonded over as kids), so we couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming release of their latest album, slated for sometime this year.

2013 – Parquet Courts

There’s a reason these Brooklyn punks quickly gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the best live bands to see, and their ultra-sweaty performance at last year’s sweltering 4Knots is a perfect example. The two things I remember most about last year’s 4Knots were The Men covering Iggy Pop with a rousing horn section, and Andrew Savage extending “Stoned & Starving” with a ten-minute long rant about social media and commodified music that felt both prescient and tongue-in-cheek. You really never know what to expect from a Parquet Courts set except that it will be rowdy. Similarly, we never know what to expect from a Village Voice music fest – so make sure you’re at South Street Seaport on Saturday for this year’s 4Knots!