Live Music is the newest release from Rough Trade Records and The Strange Boys. Now, the title is “Live” as in “give” or “with” not “strive” or “drive.” This IS NOT a live record at all. True, the title may cause some confusion, but The Strange Boys music shows that they are not confused at all.
The Austin, TX band fronted by Ryan Sambol have been playing since the early 2000’s when they formed from junior high jam sessions. This is the bands third full-length record and the first that will be released exclusively on the prestigious UK label Rough Trade.
Live Music sits comfortably in one sound, one style, one genre for the approximate 45 minutes that it plays out. What is that genre? Good question. The record definitely exists in a retro vibe but still has a very modern attitude. Dancey, rock ‘n’ roll, soulful, folky: these are the first words that come to mind. As far as a genre, well, we haven’t figured out a word for it yet. Whatever you want to call it, The Strange Boys are completely comfortable making that kind of music.
If you like Dr. Dog’s tendency to go retro, then this is the album you have been waiting for. The Strange Boys have found a way to take their style and recordings completely back to the 60’s, while somehow still keeping the music relevant to modern ears.
Sambol’s charming, whimpering voice creates a happy, lazy atmosphere. Especially on a track like “Mama Shelter” his vocal stretches and reaches for high notes like a lazy cat waking up from a nap stretching out it’s legs.
The Strange Boys also use the album to show off the large array of instruments that they can play. The typical acoustic, electric, bass, and drums are offered up in most songs. Then they add in little touches of upright piano, harmonica, and banjo. In the song “Right Before” an organ is also featured. All of these instruments, and especially the way they are expertly played and recorded, add to the classic 60’s and 70’s sound that is achieved on the record.
Not a soul who claims to like any kind of rock music could seem to find anything unpleasant about “Live Music.” The only problem is, just being pleasant sometimes isn’t enough to be remembered. By listening to one or two songs of this album you basically get the idea. Nothing new can be learned about the band or what they do by listening to all 14 songs.
I find it troubling as a listener that I still can’t figure out how something with such an interesting and developed style could end up coming across as boring when put in the context of an entire album. Each song is very likable on it’s own, but as an album they all just blur together.
In the end, Live Music is still missing that one single. That standout song that defines the record and the band. Unfortunately, this could be the thing that holds the album back from being heard by the vast majority of music fans.
With that being said, The Strange Boys’ “Live Music” is still worth a good listen or two. If a person can get past the second half of a record that drags then there is no doubt they would love the album. And for the rest of us, there are at least a few great songs to keep in the ol’ iTunes.
Songs to listen to:
Track 1- Me and You This song starts the record out strong with a cool 70’s Kinks kind of vibe. The closest track that could be considered as a single.
Track 4- Punk’s Pajamas A very catchy rock ‘n’ roll number that will pick up the spirits on a rainy day.
Track 5- You and Me A breath of fresh air. It’s always nice to take a break for a love song in an album like this.
Track 12- Hidden Meanings, Soul Graffiti One of the few tracks that breaks the mold just a bit near the end of the album. Unique driving chorus that builds and builds.
So, there’s this band whose CD has been playing in my car constantly since seeing them at Crosstown Station a while back. They’re called The Bright Light Social Hour and they’re from Austin, Texas.
It was one of those impulsive “I’m going to see this show, it could be really awesome or really terrifying” kind of nights. Well, it was definitely the former.
TBLSH has been on tour since September throughout the entire U.S. and Canada. They even made a PSA video about their tour.
If they played the whole tour like they did in KC, I’m sure they are making an impact in every single venue. They are just one of those bands. The kind you dance to the entire night, get their songs stuck in your head for weeks, and that you can’t seem to get enough of.
Sitting down with them before the show I could tell it would be an eventful night. Between the laid back personalities and the kindness of every member, they treated me like I had known them for months.
TBLSH is fronted by bassist and lead vocals, Jack O’Brien who’s stage presence pulls the audience in. Although, it could be his long hair and epic moustache that makes him so memorable.
These guys know how to rock, plain and simple. Their sound is a fusion of blues, funk and southern rock all mashed together making a beautiful blend that appeals to any loving rock n’ roll fan.
There’s this moment in their live show that sticks out the most. During a dynamic guitar solo from Curtis Roush, all four band members dancing around the stage stop to snap their fingers in the microphone.
After giving their self-titled a listen, the snapping has easily become my favorite part of their album. About halfway through the 10 minute track “Garden of the Gods,” I find myself snapping along with ease and usually rocking out the solo in my car.
Oh, and they have a keytar. Any band with a keytar is a win in my book.
These guys took home six awards at SXSW 2011, including Band of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Bassist, Best Keyboardist, and Best Producer. They have played Austin City Limits, appeared on the cover of The Austin Chronicle twice, were featured in Paste Magazine’s Best of What’s Next and have sold out multiple venues in Austin and across the U.S.
The Bright Light Social Hour is a band we all need to keep our eyes on. They’re going places.
Austin, Texas based singer-songwriter Brandon Kinder has made quite a name for himself. Not only is he the front man for the indie folk rock band The Rocketboys, but he’s ventured out into the solo world as well, under the moniker The Wealthy West. He used SXSW to his advantage to debut some new tunes of his own and though I wasn’t even in attendance, I can tell you they were well-received.
I was lucky enough to experience The Rocketboys firsthand in a live setting, and let me tell you, it was fantastic. I have always held the belief that when a band is better live than they are on the album, that’s when you’ve found a true gem. When a recording can’t express everything that a band is, that’s how you know. That’s the real music; those are the passionate ones. And though I only briefly met them on a college town stop in the middle of Missouri over a year ago, I bought two albums on the spot and don’t regret a dime of it.
Brandon Kinder’s solo material released under the name The Wealthy West definitely sounds like the material I’m so familiar with, but it has a more intimate and acoustic feel to it. Kinder’s songs are accessible and he has a knack for heartfelt storytelling. His music has a touch of an Americana feel that I’m sure is thanks to his Austin roots. It’s simple and that’s why I think I’m so drawn to it. The first song “Love Is Not Enough” is simply an acoustic guitar, a keyboard and Kinder’s soulful voice singing earnestly and honestly. “Another Bad Idea” features touches of banjo and tinkling percussion; the steady tempo and bright percussion balances nicely with the melancholy lyrics. “Give Me Resurrection” is quiet and intimate with whispered vocals. “You cannot take my love away” is repeated over and over throughout the song with subtle backing vocals to create a truly beautiful piece. “Home” picks up in tempo slightly and features a more hopeful sound with plucked guitars, harmonica, accordion, and banjo as well as female vocals which really add character and warmth. The short and sweet EP wraps up nicely with the now-familiar melancholy musical and lyrical sounds in “Not A Pretty Pair”. It’s a small sample of what’s to come in future volumes, clocking in at a mere fifteen minutes. But I assure you it’s a fifteen minutes well spent.
Be sure and give Brandon Kinder’s music a listen. It’s passionate and simple, and you can’t go wrong with a sweet voice and an acoustic guitar.
Last year at this time, OK Sweetheart was working in the recording studio and preparing for their first ever performance at SXSW. A lot has changed for the Billie Holiday-inspired band since then. OK Sweetheart is now preparing to return to the SXSW festival as seasoned veterans. They’ll be playing at Friends Bar on the 16th at 11 p.m., but you can also catch them at a few day parties.
OK Sweetheart’s frontwoman, Erin Austin recently spoke to PopWreckoning about the band’s new album, the festival and more. You can read the full interview below.
PopWreckoning: The last time I spoke to you, it seemed like everyone in OK Sweetheart was trying to move out to San Francisco, but it seems as though that changed… Erin Austin, OK Sweetheart: Yeah, we weren’t moving out to San Francisco we were moving out of San Francisco. We had been there several years and we started splitting out time between that and recording in Denton, TX with Midlake. We were splitting our time for about a year and a half between San Francisco and Denton. When we finished our record, we kind of put everything in storage and we went on the road for the Fall. Then we decided that, really, we had started building a team: manager, business manager and publicist – stuff like that. We decided that really where needed to be was LA or New York. We decided to try to keep everything going based out of Oklahoma, but for basic music concentration, to be in LA or New York was a really good thing for a band like us. So we decided that New York was the best thing for us to go to for now. I’m from, originally, a really small town in upstate New York. I had been away from my family there for ten years. It is really nice to be on this coast and close to them. Rob and I are the collective core of the band. We’ve got a bunch of guys, some of the Midlake guys and guys from a few bands out here and bands out in San Francisco and band guys in Tulsa…Just random members of bands that we’re friends with and depending on where we’re touring, we’ll have a different configuration of players playing with us. The two of us are the core, but a bunch of us are the collective when we need it. It’s convenient to be in New York. Cities up here are really close together. It’s a nice configuration for regional touring, but it’s also good to have people all around the country that can play the songs and be a part of it.
PW: Now did this moving back home, did that inspire the album title for your debut release?
EA: No. The album title – there’s a song on the record called “Home,” so it’s the title track. But what inspired us to pick that song as the title track is the fact that we really have been completely mobile for basically the last three years. We moved around a lot. Part of it is because we’re doing music and you have to be flexible with touring and stuff like that. The idea with the song “Home” is that it’s wherever the band goes-wherever we go together-that’s going to feel like home. Because we love each other so much and it feels like home being around the people, not necessarily the place. That’s what the title track is about. I’d love to say that it has to do with being closer to my family, but that’s not what the song is about.
PW: Talk to me about your debut album. When we spoke a year ago, you were in the studio and recording it. But now it’s done.
EA: All done.
PW: I’m a little confused by the release date. Did it come out in October or is it just now coming out? Your website said April.
EA: Yeah, we had…we started working with this manager last June. We finished the records-mixed and mastered it-in September. When I won that John Lennon thing: there was a separate thing I won called the Lennon Award. We basically got CD duplication, a certain amount of CDs, as part of the winnings for the award. So we decided that we would do a small release in Tulsa for our friends and family and people that had been listening to us a long time and had been really supportive. So we did a pre-release CD release in Oklahoma so those people could have it. We didn’t release it on iTunes or do any distribution because we were still building our team. There’s a good way to release a debut album and get people a little more aware of it, so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of preparation time to talk to people about it and get people to listen to it before we released it to everybody. We have been..our friends have a couple of retail CD stores in Tulsa, so we did place a couple of CDs there and we’ll tell people, “Ok, we put five CDs in this store.” Other times we were like, “It’s Christmastime. First 20 people to email us get a CD.” It won’t be until April 5 before we have it widely available. At that time we’ll have it on iTunes and stuff like that.
PW: Will you have it available at SXSW?
EA: Yeah, I have like 20 copies to bring to SXSW. So a few, but it’s hard because we had a certain amount printed, but once April rolls around, we’ll have more. We’ve also been talking about doing vinyl or vinyl with an mp3 code. We’ll have a few down there though, for sure.
PW: Now I had read that you had written about 60 songs before recording this album. How did you decide which 12 you wanted to go on the record from there?
EA: As a songwriter, I write everyday. Sometimes I write things that really work, but most of the time I write things that are just terrible. It’s one of those things that we had 60 synthesis songs or ideas or full songs that we could pick from. So you weed out and are like, 35 of these are full songs, but only 20 of them are good songs. So you pick from that 20. You weed out. From that 20, you say these are the ones we should demo out. Out of that we can figure out which 12 songs really work together. It’s interesting because I didn’t really study songwriting, so I had to sit down at a piano for a certain amount of time everyday and just start writing to make myself put something out there. The record that’s released in April, I wrote almost all those songs three years ago. So I have a whole bunch of songs since then and we’re almost ready to start working on songs for the next record. So it’s harder to pick the songs that you think will work together, but I think the next record will be even more cohesive. This one kind of jumps around a bit, but that’s the trade.
PW: It did look like there was quite a bit of connection on the record from what I was looking at because it seemed to progress from songs about betrayal and getting over love to finding some sort of peace and realizing that things aren’t that bad, especially with the single. Was that intentional or just sort of happen?
EA: I think that life in general for most everybody is that you have ups and downs and things you have to deal with. You have anger and aggression to deal with and in a relationship with someone you deal with whatever transpires from that like if you argue you have to deal with it. You also have feelings of love, deep commitment and feelings of loyalty. On the album you want it to start really upbeat and driven and it gets to the last song where’s it’s just a very heart-wrenching song. As people, you have a span of emotion and you have to recognize that it all exists and you have to deal with it and it has to be solved.
PW: Are your lyrics more from direct events in your life or are they more just inspired by?
EA: That’s a great question. I think a lot of people…when I started writing music…I’ve written songs since I was a little kid. I would walk around my house as a little kid and make stuff up and sing. I wrote my first song down on paper when I was nine. It was about a boy I had a crush on, so I wrote this song. As a kid, as a teenager, I wrote songs just purely based on my emotional experiences. If I was having a bad day, I’d write a song. If I was having a good day, I’d write a song about whatever good thing was happening. It was one of those things that one time I went off to college and when I finished school, I was like, ok, what do I want to do with my music? I had to marry classical training with this writing thing that I did and I had to actually make them connect somehow. There’s so much discipline in classical music and studying music in college. There was absolutely no discipline in my songwriting. It was just an emotional expression. So when I really sat down and started making myself write – I’d say, I’m going to sit down and write four hours a day. I did it for six months and I’d go to a little tiny studio everyday and I’d write. It started to become something where if someone said, “Write a song about this,” then I could write a song about that. It’s starting to become more of a skill than it was an emotional response. A lot of the songs that I write, aren’t necessarily about me. Some of them are, or they have a little of my life experience in it. Most of them start if I have an idea of if I experienced this of certain emotions. Like if I experienced loss, then what would that feel like and what would I think. There is this song on the record called “You Let Me Down.” “You Let Me Down” is a song I wrote when I was watching this random TV show. There was this husband and wife on this TV show that had been divorced for a number of years; they had a child together and the child was grown. He was kind of a philanderer, but he was in love with his wife, his ex-wife. He kept trying to win her back, but she knew that even if she did let him back in that he was probably going to go and be promiscuous with other women even though they had a relationship. But she’d let him back in, and of course, he’d do the inevitable. She’d then be like, “You let me down again. This is who you are.” So that song had nothing to do with my life. It was just a scenario I saw and I tried to write from that. There are other songs on the record like the song “Safe” that was based off of my life. My mom got sick and I went back to New York for about a month to take care of her and just be around. Do laundry. I wrote that driving home from the hospital. She had been in the hospital for about a week. So I was driving home and I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh. What would I feel if my mom died? What would that feeling be?” So I started singing that song. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I was driving and trying to find something to write on to write these words that I’m singing while I’m driving. It was definitely inspired by emotion. It wasn’t one of the songs that I sat down and was disciplined about it. That was based off that. My mom did not die, thankfully, but it was one of those things were I wrote that thinking would I feel if my mom passed away. Does that help with the question.
PW: I’m glad you’re mom got better.
EA: I am, too.
PW: Well, let’s talk about SXSW some more. I know you have the rotating members and you and Rob are the staples. Who else will be joining you in Texas this year.
EA: We’ve got McKenzie Smith. He’ll be playing the 35 concert with us. It used to be called North by 35. It’s in Denton. I just found out we’ll be playing the main stage, which I’ve never played the main stage before. So that’s kind of exciting. McKenzie will be playing with us there. He’s in Midlake. He also played on Regina Spektor‘s record and some of the tracks on St. Vincent‘s record. He’s a very, very, talented drummer. He co-produced this record with Rob and was kind of the reason we moved to Denton: to work on stuff with him. Then Jeremy Buller, who plays for Sarah Jaffe sometimes and plays for Bosque Brown, another girl. He’ll be joining us. Then we’re still trying to figure out if we want to do a random string quartet or something.
PW: That’d be cool. I do love some of the string arrangements I’ve heard on your songs.
EA: Yeah, that was our dear friend John Arch. He is an incredible musician. W ekind of commissioned him and said, “OK. Let’s do some string stuff.” He’s in school. He actually goes to UT-Austin. He’s in the News program there. He concepted some of the string arrangements and brought them to Rob. Rob, part of his degree in college was composition, so he was used to writing string arrangements. John had the initial influence and then Rob went through and did his thing. He’s a huge part of the band and he’s the reason all the songs sound how they do. I may write the songs, but he’s the coolness behind it all. The string arrangements that John and Rob came up with are brilliant. But String quartets are so expensive, so there’s ome songs we don’t really get to play. “Weaving,” it’s all strings. It’s one song that we rarely play live. I think I did it once, we did it with a cellist, my friend, in Tulsa. Oh, we did it in Austin too, but we rarely play it because it’s just not the same when you play it with just a piano and guiatar.
PW: My last question for you is from your Facebook. For your genre, it says you are “dance metal.” I was just curious if you knew that was there, who put there and why? Haha.
EA: What? Haha. I have to ask Rob. If he did, it was a joke. He’s bit of a jokester. I had no idea. I’m kind of oblivious to a lot of that stuff that happens, so I’m never surprised when things like that come up.
PW: I thought it was fun, but you guys might get some interesting people showing up at your shows looking for dance metal.
EA: Exactly. People wanting to dance and bang their heads. It really doesn’t fit at all with what we do, so we’ll see. Haha.
PW: Well, that’s all I have unless you have anything else you’d like to add.
EA: We’re on tour for the next few months and we just put up a new website a few days ago at oksweetheart.com. We’re still booking and have about 15 shows up right now, but it will probably be 40 by the time we’re done, so if people want to just keep checking, we’ll probably be in your city soon. We’re going to be all over the country. If you’d want to catch us live, the next few months would be the time.
SXSW 2011 has announced a second batch of band’s playing this year’s festival March 16-20. This new batch of bands includes PopWreckoning favorites such as Missouri’s Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Nashville’s Turbo Fruits and many others.
To see the full list of announced bands go here. More announcements will soon be made.
Newly announced SXSW bands:
Alberta Cross (Brooklyn NY)
AM (New Orleans LA)
Asking Alexandria (York ENGLAND)
Bajzel (Poznan POLAND)
Bare Wires (San Francisco CA)
The Bellrays (Los Angeles CA)
Benjamin Francis Leftwich (York ENGLAND)
Beta Wolf (Los Angeles CA)
Bituaya (Caracas VENEZUELA)
Black Gandhi (Barcelona SPAIN)
Bleu Edmondson (New Braunfels TX)
Blue King Brown (Melbourne AUSTRALIA)
Bowling For Soup (Denton TX)
Carter Twins (Nashville TN)
Casiokids (Bergen NORWAY)
Chetes (Monterrey MEXICO)
City and Colour (Toronto ON)
Colleen Green (Los Angeles CA)
Curry & Coco (Lille FRANCE)
Dame 55 (Los Angeles CA)
Dawn of Ashes (Los Angeles CA)
Dax Riggs (Austin TX)
The Dears (Montreal QC)
Demon’s Claws (Montreal CANADA)
DeVotchKa (Denver CO)
Eliza Doolittle (London ENGLAND)
Elizabeth & the Catapult (Brooklyn NY)
Endless Hallway (Los Angeles CA)
Fergus & Geronimo (Brooklyn NY)
Francis and the Lights (New York NY)
Frazey Ford (Vancouver BC)
Gary Wilson (San Diego CA)
Gepe (Santiago CHILE)
Grass Widow (San Francisco CA)
Grieves (Seattle WA)
The Happy Hollows (Los Angeles CA)
Harrys Gym (Oslo NORWAY)
Heavy Cream (Nashville TN)
Hell & Lula (Los Angeles CA)
Hey Rosetta! (St John’s NL)
HORSE the band (Los Angeles CA)
Ice Black Birds (Brighton ENGLAND)
J Mascis (Amherst MA)
Janka Nabay (SIERRA LEONE)
JEFF The Brotherhood (Nashville TN)
Joan of Arc (Chicago IL)
Jukebox the Ghost (Washington DC)
Kina Grannis (Mission Viejo CA)
Kopecky Family Band (Nashville TN)
La Sera (Los Angeles CA)
Locos Por Juana (Bogota COLOMBIA)
Maps & Atlases (Chicago IL)
Mexican Institute of Sound (Mexico City MEXICO)
Middle Class Rut (Sacramento CA)
Morning Teleportation (Portland OR)
Murfila (Barcelona SPAIN)
MURS (Los Angeles CA)
Noah And The Whale (London ENGLAND)
North Mississippi Allstars (Hernando CO)
O’Death (New York NY)
Onra (Paris FRANCE)
Parlor Mob (Red Bank NJ)
Paul Cary (Chicago IL)
Pedropiedra (Santiago CHILE)
Pernett (Cali COLOMBIA)
Prince Rama (Brooklyn NY)
Professor Green (London ENGLAND)
Protistas (Santiago CHILE)
Pterodactyl (Brooklyn NY)
Pujol (Nashville TN)
Quintron and Miss Pussycat (New Orleans LA)
Rey Pila (Mexico City MEXICO)
Rosie and Me (Curitiba BRAZIL)
The Secret Handshake (Dallas TX)
Shuttle (Boston MA)
Skrillex (Los Angeles CA)
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club (Denver CO)
Some Community (Sao Paulo BRAZIL)
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (Springfield MO)
Sounds Under Radio (Austin TX)
The Strange Boys (Austin TX)
Stephen Kellogg (Northampton MA)
Summer Camp (London ENGLAND)
Suzanna Choffel (Austin TX)
Teen Daze (Vancouver CANADA)
Thee Oh Sees (San Francisco CA)
Tôg (Stavanger NORWAY)
Turbo Fruits (Nashville TN)
Ty Segall (San Francisco CA)
The Vaccines (London ENGLAND)
Voxhaul Broadcast (Los Angeles CA)
Wagons (Melbourne AUSTRALIA)
War From A Harlots Mouth (Berlin GERMANY)
Whitechapel (Knoxville TN)
The Woggles (Atlanta GA)
Let me preface with a few facts:
I live in Kansas City which happens to be a 13-hour drive from Austin.
I drive a teal ’99 Chevy Cavalier.
She is 3,000 miles overdue for an oil change.
Her name is Teal-a Tequila.
I drove her to Austin.
Before we left KC, we had no idea where we were staying.
This was my first time in Austin.
Alright, time to get started. 3:00PM (Thursday) – The trek begins! My friend Tricia and I load up Teal-a and get situated for the long ass night ahead of us. Luckily, my parents live 3-hours from Kansas City en route to Austin. So of course, we stop there for a free meal then hit the road again around 11.
6:00AM (Friday) – After switching on and off for most of the drive, neither one of us could stay awake for much longer. Time to sleep in a parking lot of a gas station? Yes, please.
8:00AM – Get back on the road!
10:00AM – Woooooo finally! Arrive in Austin! We head straight to downtown to the shuttle pickup. Brushed our teeth, changed and got ready in a parking garage then boarded the shuttle.
Noon – Was supposed to meet Josh to pickup our press credentials. Of course, he didn’t get there until 1. So we waited outside in the shade.
This is where things just sort of run together for me. The first hour or so, we mainly just walked around and figured out where things were. We did manage to catch the middle of the Mountain Goats set.
2:30PM – Interview with Amos Lee, who is now my newest musical crush. He was seriously great. Check out the PodWreck!
3:00PM – MIIKE SNOW! I love this guy. Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for 3 songs before heading back to the press tent. That’s okay though, because he rocked it. Although, as you’ll see later – most of the dancier sets were during the day. This caused them to lose a sort of charisma that coincides with dance.
3:30PM – PodWreck with Bear in Heaven. They in fact, have seen a bear before.
4:30PM – Done with interviews for the day! Time to listen to some tunes. Saw the last of the Black Keys’ set from afar then watched most of Beach House which had great energy and the crowd loved it.
6:00PM – AMOS! I was lucky enough to see his set. He blew me away. I had heard his stuff before but hadn’t seen him live. Now I know why he’s one of those people that you have to see. Great stage presence and his voice is…. Magical.
8:00PM – We decided to stay for a few songs of the Strokes. Now I can say I’ve seen them live. Even though their live stuff is just as monotonous as their albums, they still put on a good show.
This is the point where we should have been heading to the car to sleep in a parking lot or some random place along those lines. BUT thankfully, our good friend Brandon has a brother that lives in Austin and offered us a place to stay. We couldn’t be happier to find out that he wasn’t crazy.
That night Jason (who we were staying with) took us to an Austin staple: Kerbey Lane. Late night eats that are actually good! We highly suggest the Kerbey Queso.
I recently had a chat with guitarist Sam Halliday of up-and-coming Irish indie rock/pop band Two Door Cinema Club. The band was in New York City to do requisite press before getting ready for two shows in the city. Sam tells me about how much they enjoyed Austin (and their tasty food in large quantities) and the music festival experience, and we talk about their debut album Tourist History and their promo videos. Read on.
Mary Chang, PopWreckoning: Hello Sam. So how are you guys, where are you guys at the moment? And what are you doing? Sam Halliday, Two Door Cinema Club: Yeah, we’re good. We’re presently in New York City at our hotel in Manhattan. We have a bit of promo today, then we have a show in Brooklyn tomorrow and at the Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday. MC: So how are you enjoying New York? Is it your first time there? SH: No, it’s my third time. But the other guys [guitarist/lead singer Alex Trimble and bassist Kev Baird], it’s their first time. We arrived at about 2 a.m… MC: Oh wow…! SH: Yeah, and we went straight out to, sort of, go see Times Square. They’d never been here before so… MC: Excellent. So I guess you’re the globetrotter of the group then? SH: Yes, I guess, yeah! (laughs)
MC: So let’s talk about your debut album, Tourist History. I’ve been playing it a lot since it came out. It’s really fantastic. If you had to explain what you sounded like to an American who’d never hear any of your songs, how would you describe it? SH: Um, I think it’s not quite rock music; it’s not quite indie music; it’s not quite electro music. I think if you’re open to any type of music I think you might like it. It’s very accessible. You know, it’s a lot of upbeat [sound]. And you know, I mean, we love it, we think it’s a great album. We think it’s for everybody. We loved bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse and Bloc Party; they’re kind of the bands that we agreed on early. We love all types of music but those were the bands we bond over most.
MC: So your name…back in February I sat in on an interactive chat with the Gigwise folks the three of you did in London… SH: Yes! MC: …during which you replied to an English fan that it came from the Tudor Cinema near where you lived in Ireland. SH: Yes… MC: I’m sure everyone’s asking you about the band name on this tour and where it comes from. (Sam laughs) Have you been back since to tell the proprietor of the Tudor Cinema that his theatre is now famous? SH: We went back [to Ireland] before we kinda became a bit big, we went back and recorded like a music video, for “Something Good Can Work.” This was a couple years ago. Just a friend did it with us recorded it over there. We moved off to doing different things and we can’t see him anymore, sadly. And then we kind of did the official one. Yeah, we haven’t been back as a band. Yeah, it would be good to go back, I think.
MC: The three of you are from Bangor, in Northern Ireland, right? SH: Yes. MC: But I’ve heard that you now call London home. SH: Ohhh…I wouldn’t personally call London home. MC: Okay, so it’s a temporary home then? SH: It’s more of a base. I call it a base. We have a band flat there. You know, it’s great because it’s easy to get flights from Heathrow [Airport] and things, it’s just very handy that way. And honestly, we have our management there, and there’s lots of press people in London. So it’s a good place to have a base. But you go home and have friends and family in Bangor. MC: What has been your family and friends’ reaction to all that’s happened to you guys so far? SH: They’re very supportive and very happy, yeah. In my experience, my mum would always be on our Facebook page and our Twitter page, paying attention and telling me before I read it what people are saying on things, read reviews. It’s very exciting [for her] I think.
MC: So it sounds like you’ve barely been able to take a breath with all the relentless touring. You’ve been around Europe and then America with Phoenix, and now are in the middle of your first headlining tour of North America. From what I hear, your shows have been going down great with the locals and you’re selling out most everywhere, so congratulations on that. SH: Thanks. MC: What’s been your most memorable show so far this year? SH: (whistles) Well, it was only last week, but I think one of the real highlights was when we played in L.A. last week. You know, the Troubadour show? It’s just crazy, because it’s kind of our first headline show of America. Having been from somewhere small and having never played here, and we’ve never come here before. It’s crazy that how well we were received! It’s just amazing, feeling like we’ve “gone” somewhere! It was cool. Other than that, since the album has been released, all the shows, you know, have kind of stepped up in attendance and it’s really been amazing, because people know more of the songs and they sing a bit more, because they enjoy the album. The [album] launches were great in Belfast, in London, and in Paris.
MC: Great. Do you have a worst moment? Or any funny tour stories you care to share? SH: Ooh…um… (laughs) oh boy…you know, everything’s been great, really. It really has. Touring with Phoenix was a great experience, they’re lovely, lovely guys. It was so great to tour with a band that was much better and more experienced. You learn so much, in terms how they act, how they play their sets. I can’t think of any stories off the top of my head…I dunno! (laughs)
MC: Before coming over to North America, how did you prepare for your first-ever shows on this side of the pond? SH: Oh, I dunno, I guess we’ve been so busy! Over the past year touring all over Europe. So we were really excited to go somewhere new. It’s always really great to go somewhere new. It’s great to go to places you’ve played before, but it’s somewhere new. It’s just real exciting. I think we’ve been playing together for long enough that we’re confident in our live show – well, I am. So we weren’t too nervous about the show, we were more excited to play to new people. MC: I think it was Fearne Cotton’s Radio1 programme in February when you guys did a set and a short interview…she asked you what you were looking forward to, and this was far, far in advance of you guys coming over here. And one of you said visiting Texas. I know you guys have been to Texas now, and you were in Austin. I read on your Twitter that when you were in Austin, Kev got a tattoo and you bought a guitar…? SH: Haha, yeah, that’s right. MC: So what did you think of Texas? Did it live up to everything you thought it was going to be? SH: Yeah, it was brilliant. It’s just so different. Everywhere in America is so different between cities and states. But Texas was really cool. We got to spend a couple days in Austin in particular. Great weather, being able to sit in our dressing room, outside, in the late hours of the night. Just kind of laid-back atmosphere sort of a city. Yeah, um, obviously Kevin got a tattoo…(I laugh)…of the cat’s eyes from our album [cover]. And then we went to a pawn shop. We wanted to do a kind of typical American thing and so we would go around to pawn shops and picked around. And we went and found this amazing old guitar. I really wanted to get a guitar from this tour, to kind of have something to remember it by, so it was a great find. MC: That’s cool. SH: And we had some great Texas barbecue. MC: How does it compare to the food at home? SH: Oh, there’s a lot more of it here! MC: (laughs) That’s what most people [from outside America] tell me! SH: The portions are, very, uh, large. MC: Yeah, sometimes they last for days, usually. SH: Yeah! We actually have a competition, it’s quite sad. We have a competition, because we knew your American food was very tasty and very big. So we have a competition to see…we’ve documented each other’s weights, so we’re having a competition to see who put on the most [weight from the tour]. Whoever puts on the most has to take the person who puts on the least out to dinner. MC: Oh, okay. SH: I know, not very rock ‘n’ roll. (both laugh)
MC: So I’ve had a look at your very busy summer schedule. You’ve confirmed festival appearances at Glasto[nbury] (England), Hove (Norway), Benicassim (Spain), Summersonic (Japan), and Reading/Leeds (England) among many others. You played Glastonbury for the first time last year…what are your feelings on the summer festival circuit? SH: Ah, they’re so much fun, it’s kind of great, because you see so many bands. Like, being on tour all the time, you don’t get to see that many, unless you they ask you to tour with them. But being at festivals is amazing because…especially at Glastonbury, we’re spending the whole weekend there, so we’ll get to see loads of bands, which will be cool. We’re real excited to be doing all the European ones this year, and Australia and Japan, because you know, last year we only did one outside the UK. It was amazing, it was our favorite last year. It’s called Riga in Latvia. It’s a totally different kind of vibe than the European ones. So it’ll be great to experience all those.
MC: So you have signed to the French label Kitsune Maison for your European releases and Glassnote Records here in America. How did the Kitsune people find you? SH: They were trying to put another one of their parties in Paris, and they were trying to find an up-and-coming UK band to bring over. And so a promoter in France told them about us, and then whenever they listened to us, I think they liked us a lot more than they thought they would, and [they] wanted to put out our single. And then our relationship just grew from there. And then they released our single and finally our album. It’s great. It all felt really natural. MC: What is it like being Irish on a French label? Did it seem weird that a British label didn’t come to you first, or another European one? SH: I mean, yeah, maybe it sounds a little weird. But for us, being from Bangor, we weren’t really connected to the London music scene all that much. We’d only played in London a couple times before we signed the record deal, and it’s just…it’s don’t really have a connection with that sort of scene. For us, we feel apart from that, just as much as we feel part from the Paris music scene. And they seemed like the right label for us, we didn’t want to go with a major label, and they were really passionate about working with us. MC: Have you been able to hang out with the other UK bands they’ve signed like Delphic and La Roux? SH: Well, we got a chance to tour with Delphic back in October in the UK. Yeah, we really hit it off with them, they were really great guys, into the same, similar stuff. So we formed a little friendship with them. We’ve seen them a few times since, they’re fun. Can’t really think of any other people…Kitsune is really good with DJs and things, some great people have remixed our stuff through Kitsune. That sort of thing.
MC: Going back to your debut album, Tourist History, is definitely one of my fave releases of 2010 so far, I really love the album. Loads of fun, poppy, peppy, and brilliant. How long did it take to record everything and put together? SH: The one thing we do, once we write a song, we would demo it ourselves, and kind of get it to the point where it’s not the best recording, but we know where all the parts are, of what we’d want to be in the song. So we had this whole album demoed ourselves, and then it was about getting to a studio and doing it professionally, you know, getting a producer’s point of view and things, and trying different things like. So then we went to the end of June then we finished tracking by the end of July, and it took a month to mix the album. Once that was finished, we had some further mixing done with Philippe Zadr [the producer of Phoenix's albums United and Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and a member of French house duo Cassius] in his studio in Paris, and for the songs that might be singles. It was great getting people’s different perspectives on our music and we respect their work, so it was amazing.
MC: Your promo videos. The “I Can Talk” video was actually the first videos of yours I ever saw. It was so frenetic, Alex’s head was coming off, clothes were flying around…whose idea was that? SH: That was a French team called Megaforce, that was from a suggestion of Kitsune’s. They came out with that. MC: It’s a real cool-looking video! SH: Yeah, it was the first proper video. And we shot it in a really crammed chateau in Paris. MC: Yeah, I was wondering about that. Because it has a very old-fashioned dollhouse kind of feeling, almost. SH: Yeah, you don’t really see a lot of it in the video.
MC: A while ago you guys released a newish video for “Something Good Can Work” [watch video here]. In this new one, you guys are at a fancy resort, the forest, the desert, an amusement park. Where did you go to film all the scenes for it? SH: We got to go to Gran Canaria [the second most populous island of the Canary Islands], and everything was shot there. Yeah, they’ve got a little different kind of scenes there, they have forest, and mountains, and nice beaches and sand dunes and things. MC: Hopefully you got some vacation time in then? SH: No, unfortunately we were only there for 2 days. MC: Only 2 days? Golly. Well I hope you get to spend some time there in the future, because it looked so beautiful on screen. When I first saw it in March, I was thinking, “this is the perfect summer song.” SH: We wanted to capture that kind of sunshine, the summery feel with it.
MC: I have Steve Lamacq to thank for playing “Something Good Can Work,” a long while ago it feels like, on his 6music programme. I have my own strong opinion on the subject, but what are your thoughts on the BBC’s proposed closure of 6music? [In early March, Director General Mark Thompson of the BBC Trust announced that BBC 6music, along with the Asian Network, may be closed due to budget cuts.] SH: Oh yeah, it’s awful. I mean, especially because Radio1 is kind of being taken over by r&b and just bland pop tunes. There’s really not a lot of room for up-and-coming or not commercially appealing bands. So yeah, and especially because we got our first airplay on 6music, and without it we wouldn’t have gotten so much attention.
MC: Speaking of the UK, have you been following the general election while you have been in America? SH: Yes, we have been, just on the BBC News website. I’m not really too involved in our politics. MC: Any of you endorsing any particular political party? SH: I think this is the problem, I don’t think anyone wants to be in government. Completely. I think that’s the problem here. I dunno, I don’t really know too much about it. MC: Neither do I, but it was interesting watching everything unfold real time on the website. SH: Yeah.
SH: I’m being told I need to move on… MC: Okay, so one final question. Based on the crazy reception for your first tour of America, so when are you guys coming back here? SH: We’re going to come back in October. MC: Great. SH: Yeah, very soon. MC: Well, thank you so much Sam, I appreciate it, I know you’re very busy doing a lot of press. So enjoy New York and I will see you guys on Thursday [in Philadelphia]. SH: Brilliant, can’t wait! MC: Take care. SH: Thanks.
Two Door Cinema Club‘s debut album Tourist History is available now from Glassnote Records. The band has several more dates in North America before their first headlining tour of our continent ends May 17 in Toronto.
May 11 – Bell House / Brooklyn
May 12 – Bowery Ballroom / New York City
May 13 – Johnny Brenda’s / Philadelphia
May 15 – Great Scott / Boston
May 16 – Salla Rossa / Montreal
May 17 – Wrongbar / Toronto
Sound checks rarely entice one to listen to the full set. Granted if you came for the band anyway, it’s likely you will know the sound check is a test.
However, when Dreams are for Rookies‘ cellist Steven Garcia is placed directly in front with a stern, but warming look, you just can’t resist your curiosity what sort of sound this band will bring. By the time that lead singer Adam Chiarelli sings barely the notes, you’re hooked. All of a sudden, a sound check becomes a leaf cover to a book, explaining the adventure all are about to embark on. You can tell they care and will pave a way for you to care as well. After sound check however, all bets are off.
This band is no ordinary band. Bass player Adam Goff walks to the stage with a cane much like Hugh Laurie traverses a room: with power and a clear destination.
My server, Ashley Heer, a distinctly unique and happy soul, asks me if I need another, while smiling at the sound check. It seems to ignite her senses.
As the true set begins, music, pure tones and other reliable and familiarly-pleasing sounds fill Beale Street Tavern in Austin, Texas like a dense fog fills a cold morning. It wakes you up and forces you to move with it, but with most foggy mornings, you can’t help but wonder what comes next, so you just go. And it all comes. Technical difficulties, possible amp failure and high frustration. But it doesn’t fade away. Drummer, Raymond Dreamquist continues to fill as they work it out.
Isn’t that what music is anyway, one trying to work it out, or through it? With soothing Americana in the air, Adam sings through it as lead guitarist Tyler Vann Yager acts as scientist and repairman.
Goff looks young, but as he mouths the words to each song, probably not even noticing it, you can see a depth that more than likely comes from a place only music could make apparent. As the set proceeds, so do more and more difficulties, but it seems that some things in life happen as they should. I got to shake Adam Goff’s hand and thank him for doing what he does. They didn’t finish the set, but maybe that wasn’t the purpose of this one, maybe it was to make deeper connections with music and people.
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