Category Archives: Interviews

( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Pre-EMM chat with Blueshift on house music, brunch

Ahead of his set on the #2014EMM, I caught up with Philly DJ and producer Blueshift to chat about house music, changing tastes (music and otherwise), and the Philly scene. He’s got a release out on the legendary New York label Nurvous Recordings, and was the co-founder of the highly acclaimed French Express blog, amongst manyyy other things.

Blueshift in the mix!

Blueshift is one of the many artists we are honored to have as part of our 2014 Electronic Music Marathon. He’s a sick DJ and reps the deeper, house-y sounds – don’t miss his set!

Chris B: Wassup man, thanks for linking up, and looking forward to having you on the EMM!

Blueshift: Noo problem, man – happy to chat, and stoked to participate!

CB: So, how did you get into house music?

Blueshift: I’ve always been a fan of 80’s music. Even as a kid, synthesizer-heavy stuff caught my ear. I loved Eurodance! When I discovered dance music and really got into it, it was mainly the harder stuff like hard trance and such. Over the years, I just branched out and moved to different genres.

CB: What was one of the first tracks like that that you loved?

Blueshift: Snap! – “Rhythm Is a Dancer” is one I always really liked.

CB: As you got older, what was some of the dance-y stuff you got into?

Blueshift: In the later years of high school, I was really getting into music, but listened relatively passively. I remember this one track by Ghost in the Machine called “A Time Long Forgotten” – I listened to that a lot. I think I had a few Hybrid tracks around then, too. College is where I discovered internet radio dance music stations and got into hard house and trance. Stuff like Tidy Boys and Tunnel Trance Force.

CB: So how did you end up moving towards the funky side of things?

Blueshift: Just through changing tastes. I moved from trance, to progressive stuff, and somewhere around 2006/2007 my ear really caught onto the french house and nu-disco sound.

CB: Around that time for me, that was Justice / MSTRKRFT – what was it for you?

Blueshift: I liked their sound, but for me it was the Lifelike/Fred Falke/Alan Braxe crew that really did it for me. Thinking back, the turning point might have been when my friend played one of James Grant’s early Anjunabeats Worldwide shows for me, and I heard Michael Cassette’s tracks for the first time. Something about it just seemed to combine trance, but with a pure 80’s sound and it totally shoved my taste in that direction for the next few years.

CB: They are both awesome crews – as a side note, have you heard Erol’s fabric live mix? Pure FILTHH.

Blueshift: I haven’t! I’ll load it up on queue for today :D

CB: Have you always been based out of Philly?

Blueshift: For the most part. I was in NJ for a couple years for the last year of high school and for college, but moved back around 2006.

CB: I feel like the ‘scene’ here has kind of blossomed recently – tell me about your experiences in Philly – as a resident, as a DJ, etc

Blueshift: The scene in Philly DEFINITELY has exploded in the past two years or so. The caliber of artists coming through now is so great. We have tons of awesome and current acts in on a regular basis, and lots of smaller groups popping up as well. There’s a pretty steady rotating lineup of good gigs. Philly can also be a pretty tough city to get a handle on though; I’ve played a wide range of shows here, from empty to packed, but I’m definitely grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to play here.

CB: Who are some of your artist homeys in Philly that we should know about?

Blueshift: The Worldtown peeps have been putting out some great tracks recently (and crushing it with their events) **editor’s note: they’re spinning for us on the EMM, too!**, Apt One always brings the heat **also spinning for the EMM**, Les Professionnels are super pro **ALSO spinning for the EMM**, and PS 118 has some really tight stuff upcoming. Maggs Bruchez are also some of my favorite Philly producers.

CB: Where’s your fave brunch spot?

Blueshift: Cafe Renata in West Philly. I’m always there. I’ve also found myself at Broad Street Diner a bunch recently.

CB: I love pork roll – how do you feel about pork roll?

Blueshift: Pork roll is great, man. Blew my mind when I first heard it called Taylor Ham.

*****************************************************

The 11th annual Electronic Music Marathon will take place October 10-13 on WKDU. 91.7 FM Philadelphia / wkdu.org worldwide!!!!

Tune in for our amazing lineup of DJs, on-air giveaways, and support college radio and arts education while you’re at it!!!!!

Get @ us all weekend long during the marathon for info / giveaways | @wkdu #2014EMM

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“Music is Universal:” An interview with Shabazz Palaces (August 22, 2014)

My friend Thomsen Cummings and I (Dr. Plotkin, if we haven’t met before) had the extreme pleasure of seeing Shabazz Palaces at the Union Transfer last Friday and were lucky enough to spend twenty minutes talking to them after their sound check. We headed out to the parking lot and listened to the Seattle-based duo, led by Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire, speak to us about their influences, their approach to creating music, and the future of Shabazz. They are currently touring their new album Lese Majesty, which you can check out on Sub Pop.

Left to right: Ishmael Butler (The Palaceer Lazaro Shabazz) and Tendai Maraire (image: Reality Check Berlin)

KDU: Just looking around, I’m seeing some interesting stuff here. What is that instrument on the back of your car?

TM: That is called an mbira and it originates from Zimbabwe.

KDU: Cool, can you tell me a little about it?

TM: I can tell you that where it derives from is a very spiritual place in Zimbabwe. It’s used to channel to the ancestors and to communicate with them and to communicate with other human beings. And also to party.

 KDU: Of course to party! I read that for your previous material, you guys would rehearse, perform and record, and then change of the recording as it went. On the new album, was there any approach to recording it?  Some of the lyrics and rapping kind of seem to go into the background.

IB: We don’t really subscribe to most notions of recording or approaches to music. So foreground, background, I understand what they mean in terms of the mix but not in terms of what one might focus on in any given song. It’s all one entity that’s moving forward sonically into your ears, and then hopefully into some categories and compartments of emotion.

We usually try and mix everything clear, so that there’s a certain undertow of subtle things, or sub-mixes if you will, that add to the groove. But to say the lyrics take the background, never. We’re rappers and we say everything we mean, but I understand what you’re saying. Sonically, you might hear it less loudly than you would in a normal thing but again, if you make music you should develop your own sound. It shouldn’t be a standard sound you try and fit into and that’s how we see it.

How Tendai parties (image: Twitter)

KDU: I was reading through the lyrics for They Come In Gold and I noticed a lot of contrasting ideas. The line “sepulchre, a stage alive by ghosts” seems to be hinting at a self-destructive nature, maybe about a lot of hip-hop music that’s out there.

IB: Some of it is self-destruction, some of it is destruction from outside forces that want to come in. Some want to moonlight inside our culture. They feel like because they dress up and wave their hands in a hip-hop style that they’re legitimate. And we just reject that notion. Self-destruction can be one destroying one’s self through some legitimate mechanism, but it can also be allowing destructive things to infiltrate something that should be held sacred. So that’s kind of what that song’s about.

KDU: I noticed you focus a lot on the idea of the self. Not in an attack on individualism, but you seem to be rapping against self-obsession.

IB: Well, it’s like this. Music has always been a universal thing. The individual thing is a directed plan by marketers in order to sell products. It’s not really individualism, it’s really everybody doing the same set of things disguised at individualism or told that. We’re not really trying to pick A or B in terms of what our platform is, we see it for what it is.

To have the calling of being a musician is a gift. We don’t really know where that’s from but we understand it as that. We don’t say it’s us making this music. We physically do it, the ideas come to us from somewhere, and we feel good to have the blessing of those ideas to come to us.

A lot of motherfuckers came before us that were just as good, if not better than us. So we understand where our place in the pantheon is, if you will. And we also know some motherfuckers that are hella filthy, but will never get the light of day – people we’re close to that haven’t experienced the notoriety, but have a lot of weight in our spheres of influence. We’re just seeing it for what it is, and that’s what you’re hearing in the music.

KDU: I’ve always been struck by the sound of the scream that runs through the entirety of An Echo From The Hosts That Profess Infinitum. How do you go about creating some of your trippier samples?

IB: You can come to a conclusion or a result of a sound in any way that you can. It’s not really by chance, but what happens is you record something or you sample something and you got all these processes at your fingertips. You can stack them, you can run them concurrently, you can turn them around, you can slow stuff down, speed it up… There’s an endless combination of things you can do to a sound. Also, whatever studio you’re in, whatever speakers you’re listening to, what headphones you’re using, it all affects how it might sound. When you’re doing it you’re not thinking “Okay I ran it through this, let me write that down. Then I ran it through that, let me write that down. And I had these headphones on…” The environment comes second to the instinct.

KDU: What are some musical acts that you’re listening to that are currently blowing your mind?

TM: I’ve been listening to this guy out of Zimbabwe called Jah Prayzah. And this kid out of Seattle called Porter Ray. Jah Prayzah plays contemporary Shona music [music from the Shona people of Zimbabwe] and Porter Ray does hip-hop.

IB: I like Ariel Pink, I think that’s the coolest shit I’ve heard in a while. I like the weirdness of it, the daringness of it, the creativity of it, and how all those things collude to make these songs that are poppy, but at the same time anti-pop.

KDU: What do you think the future holds for you guys?

IB: We’re always in a state of composing and recording. Right now, Tendai is working on videos for Chimurenga and we got videos for Shabazz coming out. It’s always about the proliferation of the instinct and the ideas that come from our instinct and just trying to share them. We been growing and there’s people that say they like what we do. There’s a conversation between them and us, where we put out some music and then we go on tour. We had a ceremonies of shows, we meet people, do shit like this, so we try and do our part by making some music and artwork. We got partners that are just dope. Cats that make clothes, cats that direct videos and films, so we look forward to working with them as well.

KDU: On the new album, you have a track with Catherine Harris-White from THEESATISFACTION, are you touring with them as well?

IB: No, that’s pretty rare. Obviously it’s fun as fuck when they’re around and we get to perform together. Hopefully we’ll get back through Philly, this is a good town to perform with them. We did that once at the Kung Fu Necktie, it was phenomenal.

KDU: This question has nothing to do with your music, or how you create it. If you were trapped in a room filled with food and you had to eat your way out—

IB: No, that’s a question I always ask people!

KDU: Oh, well then I definitely want to hear your answer then, you must have a good one!

IB: Watermelon man! Nice ripe watermelon. I ask girls that, seriously. But I say buried, buried alive under food. What would you want to eat your way out of? Is that your line too?

KDU: I think that opens the mental conversation a bit.

IB: It gives you a chance to see where someone’s coming from.

What are you going to do, eat your way out of a room of stew? (image: Baltimore Sun)

KDU: Thank  you so much for taking the time to have this interview with us. Do you have anything left you want to say?

IB: I just appreciate anybody listening and checking us out. If you get the chance, come see the show one of these days.

 

Check out Shabazz Palaces’ dope new album and catch them on tour at a venue near you.

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West Philly and Worldwide – Breaking it down with Matthew Law

Matthew Law FKA DJ PHSH is a man that really shouldn’t need an introduction.

He’s rocked pretty much every spot in Philly, and has been moving asses in clubs before he was even allowed to drink. He was the tour DJ for Dave Chappelle’s Oddball Comedy Tour, the Northeast champion of the 2013 Red Bull 3Style Contest, and has spun numerous highly acclaimed gigs including LA’s the Do-Over and Low End Theory.

DJ Lil Dave and Matthew Law

Matthew Law on the 1’s and 2’s at his July Friends and Fam party, as WKDU’s own DJ Lil’ Dave vibes out.
Photo cred: Tim Blackwell, Shots Fired

It seems like forever ago that I sat down with Matt, and since then, he’s recorded the official Roots Picnic Mixtape and opened up the annual PSK event for J. Rocc, Rich Medina, Cosmo Baker, Cash Money, and Questlove – amongst his normal crazy schedule.

Peep his dope set from PSK, and read our chat to get hype for his 3rd annual PHSH TANK Block Party this weekend.

Matthew Law LIVE at PSK 7.3.2014

CB: Who are you, and what do you do?

ML: I’m Matthew Law – you might know me from before as DJ PHSH. I’m a DJ, producer, vision guy – I have a lot of ideas.

CB: What were your first musical memories?

ML: My parents had a theatre company together, up until I was 14. I grew up with that, and also played violin for six years.

Growing up in West Philly in the 90s, the hip hop and alternative rock stuff was really poppin, so I remember that. My Dad liked the modern rock too, so we’d go on drives and listen to Y100 or WMMR and joke around. I still remember being like 7, and listening to Pearl Jam and making fun of Eddie Vedder with all the aaayyyyy-eee-yayy-yuhhh’s.

CB: Y100, RIP! I remember them making fun of Creed also.

ML: Oh Y100 would rag on Creed so hard.

It’s a weird segway – but I remember there being such a weird feeling of race separation once I started hearing Beastie Boys and Eminem on Y100, but not any other rap. I was like, “Oh so I guess if they’re white guys it’s OK for them to be on Y100?” I thought that was really strange, and even at 12, I boycotted them for like two months. My first concert was at Veterans Stadium with Dave Matthews Band, The Roots, and Santana. I was 10, and I came for Dave Matthews Band. I had no idea who The Roots were.

I don’t have any older siblings, so when it came to hip hop, the reason I probably attached to it so much, besides a few key people, was that I really had to discover it on my own, and make it my own.

CB: So how’d you get into DJing, and what was your first set up like?

ML: I saw Scratch, the documentary, and I was like, that’s what I wanna do, I wanna try it out. I didn’t really have anybody to show me anything up until I met Illvibe Collective. It was just watching Scratch over and over again.

It’s funny because on the special edition of it, Z-Trip gave a 20 minute tutorial on how to be a DJ for the most part. Last year, I was DJing at Output with Rich Medina, Questlove, and Z-Trip, and I was like, “Yo, you were my first DJ teacher!”

My first set up was the Stanton STR 880 DJ in a box. The first pair of turntables I saw in person was from this kid I went to Hebrew school with, he got those for his Bar Mitzvah. His Bar Mitzvah was after mine, and when I saw his, I was like, “Man, I shouldn’t have gotten a guitar!”

Matthew Law, King Britt, and Questlove

Two generations of amazing West Philly artists unite – Matthew Law, King Britt, and Questlove.
Photo from @djphsh Instagram

CB: How did you start to build up a name for yourself in Philly and beyond?

ML: I started DJing the Gathering, the longest running hip hop event in Philadelphia. When I was 18, I had my first consistent gig in a club at Medusa Lounge on Tuesdays. I didn’t try to drink, and I think I got a way with a lot of stuff because I knew I was there to work. I wasn’t there to party – I was there to make the party happen.

Then in 2009, everything blew up with my first party, Superdope. Nose Go, Yis Goodwin, had a magazine called McJawn with Gwen Vo, and Leah Kauffman had just started the blog Phrequency. Sammy Slice had his party Mo Money Mo Problems, and while we were somewhat in competition, as far as the kids that were our age, we all were working together in some way.

I started Superdope when I was 20, still not drinking, and on my 21st birthday, there was a thunderstorm. I thought nobody was gonna come out, and we had over 350 people that night.

CB: How was Low End Theory when you spun out there?

ML: Low End Theory was great. It was the first time in a while that I understood that a large crowd of people might not be there to dance, cuz it’s beat heads. So they’re just looking at you like, yeah, you might hear a ‘wooh’.

CB: Let’s talk about the Matthew Law name change.

ML: My full name is Matthew Lawrence Fishman-Dickerson. I came up with DJ PHSH in 10th grade chemistry – I just needed a name. I’m producing now, and I don’t want people to get the wrong idea about what I’m capable of, so that’s why I’m going with Matthew Law.

Plus, a lot of my mentors go by their names, Statik is now Mr. Sonny James, King Britt’s real name is King Britt, Rich Medina’s real name is Rich Medina, and I thought I’d get on the bus.

CB: Tell us what to expect from your new EP.

ML: I’m currently working on it. It’s a storytelling record. Originally it was like oh I’m breaking up from DJ PHSH, but it ended up being like oh I’m breaking up with a girl and then going into a new relationship, new girl. Each track is it’s own thing – it’s a score to my own short film in my mind. I just got a bass player on it, there’s some funky samples and modern funk electronics, and a slow jam with a really ill guitar solo from Joe Jordan.

CB: Favorite closing track:

ML: Between two records.

I’m always the first one there and last one to leave, somebody better be going home with something.

Mos Def – The Pannies

Or, Jaco Pastorius – A Portrait of Tracy

It was sampled for SWV’s – The Rain.
*editor’s note – I linked to the live version of this song because it’s the shit*

CB: What’s something interesting about you outside of music?

ML: I grew up watching a lot of anime. Not like oh Pokemon’s on, Dragonball Z’s on – no, I watched Akira in a dark room by myself when I was 11. I saw Ninja Scroll when I was 9. I think it’s really funny when people try to rag on anime and act like that shit’s for nerds – it was the foundation for your entire childhood! All those cartoons you used to watch were outsourced to Asia, stop bullshitting. Do not front. I take the strongest approach possible when it comes to defending watching good anime.

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An Interview with Nashville funk nonet Dynamo

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Wil Schade: I’m here in the studio with a very special band Dynamo, who just killed an in-studio performance at WKDU. I am joined by Kevin [Gift Jr.] and Ryan [Connors], the bassist and pianist of Dynamo.

Ryan Connors: Thanks for having us.

Wil Schade: You guys are from Nashville, Tennessee. You’ve been on tour for two weeks now. How has it been?

Ryan: It’s been great man, a lot of different types of venues. One of the cool things we’ve been doing on the road is giving clinics and master classes at high schools and middle schools. Those have been really fun too. We usually do those in the mornings on weekdays. Those have been a blast, and once again different scenarios at every one of them. You never know what to expect.

Wil: So what has been the craziest moment of tour so far? I have to ask that question.

Ryan: Craziest moment of tour? Man, that’s a tough one…

Kevin: That we can say on radio, or..? [Laughs]

Ryan: Well, one story that comes to mind actually happened right before the tour. The night before we left, our drummer’s van, like a utility van, basically broke down and couldn’t start. And this was the night before we had to leave for the tour. So we basically towed it away that night, took it to the shop, and then got it two hours after we’d planned to leave that day. So we were running late to a gig in Columbus, ran into three hours of traffic, so we got there literally right before we had to play. Everyone was really stressed out but everyone played really well because they had a lot of aggression that they had to get out. [Laughs]

Wil: You’re a large group. So, what are all of your different musical backgrounds and how did you guys meet, at first?

Ryan: Seven of the nine members went to Belmont University down in Nashville Tennessee. Four of us that went there actually got our Masters in Music. We graduated just last week or two weeks ago. So that’s sort of the story there. We come from all over the map, like Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Illinois, and upstate New York. Our keyboard player/trombone player is the only one actually from Nashville Tennessee. So we all just kinda came together from really different backgrounds like you were just saying. Kevin, our bass player, plays in churches. Some of the guys are just straight ahead jazz players. The guitarist can play, like, a country gig if he needs to. We’re all kind of well rounded, but we all enjoy this style of music I think the most. Everyone’s on board with making really great music.

Wil: You guys just released Live at Ocean Way, a live in-studio album for an audience of forty members?

Ryan: Yeah. We did three shows that day, December 8th 2013. We had three shows so that we could each have three different live takes to choose from. Each show had forty different people in each audience, so a total of 120 people attended that concert that day, and we did eight tunes at each show. Actually the album is a compilation of the last show, the 8 o clock show. So that’s what you hear on the album, that’s what you’re getting.

Wil: So how was the recording process? Was it difficult with the live aspect and getting the perfect take?

Ryan: It was extremely difficult. We didn’t make it any easier on ourselves because we actually brought in a lot of outside musicians. If you listen to the album, that’s actually 24 musicians taking part. There’s a string quartet, we beefed up our horn section so there’s a baritone, tenor, alto [saxophones], trombone, trumpet.

Wil: There’s an EVI [Electronic valve instrument] on one of the tunes I heard.

Ryan: Yeah the trumpet player also plays EVI so he took a solo on one of the tunes, which was awesome. Actually that’s Joe Anderson from Philly. He just graduated from U Arts. So two of those horn players, including Joe and Ben Ford our trombone player, showed up basically that morning and sight read the charts all day. We’re already trying to get a lot of people together to play somewhat difficult music and that didn’t make it any easier [laughs].

Wil: Speaking of difficult music, you write most of the tunes. What are some of your influences? I know when I watched the YouTube videos it looks a lot like Snarky Puppy to me.

Ryan: For sure. I think everyone in the group is a very big Snarky [Puppy] fans, myself included. I actually had a chance to go to Snarky Puppy’s live recording session for GroundUP.

Wil: ….I recognize your face now.

(Ryan’s face is the thumbnail photo for Snarky Puppy’s “Thing of Gold” video)

Ryan: [Laughs] Yeah, so I had a chance to talk with Michael League [Bassist and frontman of Snarky Puppy] and some of the guys in the band. Ever since then at live shows they’ll see me and recognize me. Their music was a big influence, but also the way that they carry themselves as a group. They’re really positive, really into music education. So that to me was a wake up call on doing things independently. Like understanding that you don’t need a tour manager and you don’t need to be signed to a record label to make good music. So that’s more of what I got out of seeing those guys, and that was their influence on us.

Wil: What has been the hardest part of being such a large band? Do you have side projects, or stuff you do other than Dynamo?

Ryan: Yeah. We’re all freelance musicians, but I think overall we pretty much make time for this group. When we’re down in Nashville we play a couple times a week at some of the venues down there, and so far we haven’t had any conflicts. I mean, if someone can’t make a gig it’s more like all or nothing. But if there are guest musicians that want to sit in that’s always something that’s cool for us to do.

Wil: I guess you guys have a large network of musicians. I mean, all the musicians you brought in on Live at Ocean Way plus if you’re in a crunch on the road and you need an extra musician.

Ryan: Yeah totally. And actually these are areas that we’re revisiting. I did my undergrad at West Chester University and so did Kevin. So while we’re in this area we’re probably going to meet some musicians that we went to school with and we’ll have them sit in, like Joe Anderson and Ben Fords. He’s out in Harrisburg so he’s going to play with us on Saturday night. So just letting people know that we’re coming through. Then if they want to come and play then by all means please do.

Wil: You guys are a fairly new band, coming together in late 2012. What was your strategy for getting yourself out there? It seems like you’re well on your way, but did you go in with any preconceived notions of how you were going to go about things?

Ryan: No. Basically my mentality was just write as much music as possible, play as many gigs as possible, and put ourselves in situations where we’re uncomfortable as much as possible. So that way we just keep growing constantly and we’re always writing new material, always trying to book a tour, and just basically challenge ourselves over and over again.

Wil: This is your first tour?

Ryan: Yeah. We did a short run-out last May, where we did one clinic up in Oswego, as well as two shows. But in terms of a fully booked tour, this is the first one.

Wil: So what’s next for you guys?

Ryan: June and July we’re actually taking a break, so you won’t hear anything from us then. But when we get back in August we have some gigs in Nashville. We’re hoping to do some run-outs in September through the fall. So run-outs to any area that’s close to Nashville like Chicago, New Orleans, North Carolina, Atlanta, any cities that we can get to and that it makes sense to go to. And then we’re probably looking at recording another album at the end of the year.

Wil: So you guys have been making new material. Have you been recording consistently? Are you guys in the works of a new album?

Ryan: Yeah, I would say we’re about halfway through getting some new material for a new album. But along the way we’ve been recording on the side with singers that we love to feature in our live shows. So the aspect there is doing covers and their arrangements of different covers. We just went in the studio right before we hit the road with Abby York and Ariel McFall. They did a version of “Rolling in the Deep” and “Sunny”, the jazz standard.

Wil: Awesome. Do you guys accept social media followers?

Ryan: Yes sir, we do.

Follow Dynamo on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. 

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Concert Review/Interview: tUnE-yArDs with Sylvan Esso @ Union Transfer (June 15, 2014)

2014-06-15 22.00.06

By Esmail Hamidi

On Sunday, June 15th, I was given the incredible opportunity to see tUnE-yArDs and Sylvan Esso at Union Transfer. While it was not the only musical endeavor I had involved myself in that weekend -the previous night had been defined by an excursion to the Great Indoors in West Philly to see PILE and others, and the afternoon I helped out Nick Myers with putting Tweens on our airwaves – it was tUnE-yArDs! Nobody can beat the bizarre reputation of Merrill Garbus and her merry band. Since 2009, Garbus has been making music and touring relentlessly. The consensus among my friends was that it kind of had to be seen to be believed.

Before the show, I was also invited to interview Sylvan Esso, who were opening on this tour. The first listen won me over. Despite being almost entirely electronic, Sylvan Esso’s music sounds human to me. From a more technical standpoint, the production value is high. Amelia’s soprano is layered and complemented by the high level of deep bass in all of their songs. I struggle to pick out a structure in their songs, but that’s not a bad thing. They ebb and flow organically. The lyrics are conversational, and definitely have a stream-of-consciousness feel to them.

When I first met them, it was clear that Nick and Amelia make an extraordinary creative team. They welcomed me into their dressing room with smiles. There were moments during the interview where I definitely thought they were messing with me, the strapping young music journalist, but I was so okay with that. It was a pleasure to get to know their creative sides.

I’ll shut up now. Here’s the best chunks of the interview:

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Interview with Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak (April 25, 2014)

Courtesy of Merge Records

Courtesy of Merge Records

By Nick Stropko

Last week I interviewed Jenn Wasner, one half of the Baltimore-based group Wye Oak. We spoke about side-projects, the state of pop music in 2014, traveling, and the Baltimore music scene. Be sure to check out their excellent new album, Shriek, and look out for them May 5th at Union Transfer.

So, what’s the situation with having a home between various bouts of touring? It seems like it’d be pretty inconsistent…

Well for awhile I didn’t think it was necessary. During the fall for the touring we did for Civilian when we were really, really pushing it, I didn’t actually have a home. That made sense to me on paper, but it actually took a bit of a toll, as you can imagine. Since then, I have moved into a really nice house with a friend of mine–she’s really busy too, she’s a grad student–but we have a really nice house, and we do the best we can to take care of it, but between her schedule and mine…the best we can hope for is that it’s well-preserved. It’s lived in…but on and off, between the two of us. I’d say it’s really important to have a place to live in, even if it’s just for a couple days.

Understandable. A place that’s not a storage unit, anyway.

Exactly, which is what it was, for a little while.

Well, I looked at your tour schedule, and it seems like you’re hitting it pretty hard again.

Yes, but believe it or not, not as hard as we were. This is an improvement. I know, it seems insane but it is not as crazy as it was [during Civilian]. But it’s still a formidable amount. We’ve been on tour since the better part of March and April, and then we have a little bit of time off, and then we’ll be back in March for the better part of May, June and July.

In March, we toured down to SXSW with our good buddies, Future Islands, and then we went to Europe, and we played a bunch of shows over there. We went to Turkey, and a bunch of other places. Then we came back and went to Coachella, and we came back from that, and now we’re about to go on a proper US headlining tour.

I actually lived in Istanbul for a few months, so just for my curiosity, how did you like it there?

It’s the best! Gosh, I had such a great time. We gave ourselves a couple days after the show just to hang out, and I’m really really glad we did–it was absolutely one of the coolest, if not the coolest place, I have ever been.

I actually picked up, like, three phrases, and they all came in great handy for the show. I can’t remember it anymore, but–I learned it about five minutes before the show and then promptly lost it–I learned good evening, because I have a superstition that I have to start every show that I play, assuming that it’s in the evening, by saying “good evening.”

Is it difficult working out the logistics to go somewhere as far as Turkey to play one show? It seems like it would be tough to pay for airfare and things like that with one gig.

It’s tricky for us to fly in general, just because we are two people but we have way more than two people’s worth of stuff. That actually makes it really tough because of baggage restrictions and stuff like that. If we had more physical bodies to distribute the gear amongst it would be easier, but we really don’t. That is the trickiest part. It can be really expensive and really exhausting, because it basically involves me strapping like 100 pounds of shit to my body and grabbing a couple more bags on top of that and working my way through airports and train stations. So it’s no joke, but it’s way worth it. Getting to visit a place like Istanbul–in my wildest dreams as a child I would have never thought I’d find a way to do that. It’s absolutely worth it, it’s just hard work.

You have a new album coming out. It’s excellent, by the way.

Thank you for saying that!

This new album seems to be influenced by some of the stuff you’ve done as Dungeonesse, and maybe to a lesser extent as Flock of Dimes. Do you think there was an overt influence from that, or do you think it just seeped into your subconscious or or writing process?

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Interview with Temples

Photo courtesy of music.topman.com.

Photo courtesy of music.topman.com.

By Victoria Powell

We had the chance to speak with Thomas Warmsley, the bass player and co-founding member of what has been called the best new band in England. Temples have left their home in Kettering, England to come tour the U.S. and they recently played here at Kung Fu Necktie on November 3rd.

VP: Are you having fun in America? Have you been here before?

TW: Yea, it’s the first time any of us have played music in America. In England it’s quite a landmark thing to come over to the states and play. Yea, it’s been quite a special trip, I guess, to come out here and do that. I think every venue has its own atmosphere and every country has its own kind of way of doing things, and different audiences. It’s really exciting and we’re having a great time; taking it all in.

VP: What do you miss about your home?

TW: I don’t know, I mean when you go on tour you kind of expect to leave all of your home comforts behind. I think we all enjoy the fact that we’re not home in Kettering, where we all live. It’s kind of like a world away from where we’re from. I think we kind of embrace the fact that it’s a little bit alien and different. It’s all part of the trip really.

VP: Who is your all time favorite producer and why?

TW: (laughs) Tricky question, because we have so many… I don’t know, I mean Phil Spector for us is such a big name and his whole style and way of doing things in the studio is kind of a real institution. He has such a signature sound – signature meaning the reverb and other elements. It kind of takes it away from being familiar, in terms of sound.

Jack Nitzsche as well, I guess he falls under the Phil Spector umbrella. I think between the two of them, they had something really special.

He worked with The Rolling Stones, the orchestrations on there and their records. He always worked very closely with the artists he was recording with. He played on the record as well and having that kind of involvement blurs the line between artist and producer. Most of us in Temples think it’s very important to embrace both because we are fans of producers as well as bands and artists.

VP: What artists have you been listening to lately?

TW: Umm, yea well we listen to quite a lot.

VP: Well what about in the past few days?

TW: We’ve been listening to Atom Heart Mother, the Pink Floyd album, if you know that one. And there’s a band that just released a single, they’re called Telegram. We’ve been touring with them in England and they have a song called “Follow,” which is their debut single. Since we’ve toured with them we’ve had the pleasure of getting to listen to them every night. We’re really big fans of what they’re doing. So I guess that’s one old and one new?

VP: What is your musical guilty pleasure?

TW: I guess, film soundtracks are always a strange one that people either love or hate. We really enjoy listening to some kind of more cinematic sounding music. We try to play our music so that it kind of transposes visually. And like, Ennio Morricone, he does soundtracks. Oh and like Goblin, as well, they’re like an Italian prog band that did some soundtracks in the seventies as well. It’s kind of slightly weird and you know that’s a little bit different from your normal rock band.

VP: Who would be your dream collaboration?

TW: Well we’re from the Midlands and not too far away in a place called Rugby is where Sonic Boom from Spacemen 3 is based. And yea, we’re all really big fans of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum. He has his own studio as well. He creates some really interesting sounds in the studio and we’d like to, one day, perhaps, collaborate with him. Peter Kember is his name, but his nickname is Sonic Boom. But yea, really spacey and almost like soundscape and noise. There’s something quite simple and charming about his recordings.

VP: In your song “Shelter Song,” the lyrics mention reading poetry aloud; who are your favorite poets?

TW: James wrote the lyrics… but yea William Blake is great, if you like reading and stuff. I think it is part of your admission into music that deals with consciousness, that you read, “The Doors of Perception” and “Heaven and Hell”.

VP: How do you prepare yourself for a live show? Any weird rituals?

TW: (laughs) Not especially. I’m kind of torn between just saying anything; making something up, and just being honest. We always sing as much possible and do three part harmonies. We like to sing some songs by The Byrds and we usually fight over who sings David Crosby’s harmony. That’s always the best.

VP: I was wondering just now, have you ever tried meditation?

TW: Um, not yet. I think we all kind of meditate in our own way. That’s not meditating explicitly but yea. I think you have to be in the right mindset when you go on stage and stuff, so I think everyone has their own way, perhaps, of meditating.

VP: What’s coming up in the future for Temples?

TW: We just announced that we will be releasing our album, Sun Structures, in February. I think it’s February the 10th. We announced it online yesterday actually, so it’s really excited for us. All this year we’ve been recording in between touring, and it’s great to finally have a record. So that’s in February. And I think we’re coming back over to the states again in like March or April as well, so we’re really looking forward to coming back over here once the album’s been released. We can’t wait for everyone to hear it, since everyone’s only heard the singles and what’s online. It will be great for everyone to hear the full spectrum of music that we play.

Check out Temples on Facebook here.

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