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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)

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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 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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Interview with Kevin Devine


Last week we spoke with Kevin Devine about his two latest albums (Bubblegum and Bulldozer), his biggest influences, and  even got to hear an impromptu cover of Elliott Smith’s “The Biggest Lie”. If you missed the on-air interview, you can listen here!

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Surfer Blood talk Halloween costumes, flax crackers, and haunted practice spaces.

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We spoke with Surfer Blood members John Paul Pitts, Thomas Fekte, Tyler Schwarz, and Kevin Williams before their midnight show at the TLA on October 4th. Read below to find out about new obstacles they encountered moving onto a major label, their favorite horror movie, and what they’re thinking of dressing up as for Halloween.

Shannen: How did you guys all meet?

JP: Well, we’re all from the same town; we all grew up there at least. We went to high school there, and we were all playing in bands that were a little bit left of center. We all were sort of aware of each other and what we were doing, and yeah, I mean one day we started recording demos of some of the Surfer Blood songs. It wasn’t really serious and I guess Tom heard it and brought it up to me that he’d like to play guitar.

Shannen: Do you remember what some of those first songs were?

JP: A lot of the songs ended up on Astro Coast, our first record. I don’t think it was ever really supposed to be a proper record or anything, it was just something that we started and I felt really, really compelled to finish. So yeah, some of those songs ended up on the record later.

TF: I think the first song that I had heard was “Fast Jabroni”. That was a really early one that you guys had written.

TS: There are some demos that we’ve never even put out that I have on my computer. Well my laptop was stolen, so I must have lost some of them, but we had some kind of pirate-sounding songs.

Shannen: I think you guys tweeted the other day that you recorded on a Dell. Was that the laptop that got stolen?

TF: Yeah, I tweeted a really ridiculous run-on sentence that was ranting about Macintosh, even though I have nothing against Mac. I was just basically saying you don’t have to have a Mac, and we made a record on a Dell.

JP: There is so much digital noise on that record, though. If you listen closely there are so many parts where it’s just like (makes noise).

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by | October 24, 2013 · 3:00 pm

Interview with Young Pilgrims (September 10, 2013)

Courtesy of The Key

Courtesy of The Key

By Jonathan Plotkin

Young Pilgrims are an indie punk revival band from Philadelphia. Earlier this summer, they released their debut album Kyoko and a Rocket to the Moon on their Bandcamp, have been playing places such as Don’t Tread On Me, Jolly’s, and North Star Bar, and were recently featured as artist of the month by The Deli Magazine. On September 10th, after their last show, I got the chance to sit down with the band and talk it out for a few minutes.

Jonathan: So you guys are Young Pilgrims, what are your names?

Sean: I’m Sean Brown.

Zack: I’m Zack.

Jonathan: And what instruments do you play?

Sean: I play the guitar and I sing.

Zack: I play the bass guitar and I sing sweet harmonies.

Jonathan: And is there a drummer in the band?

Sean: Nick Boonie. We have two drummers, actually.

Jonathan: Who did you record the album with?

Sean: Jesse Appel.

Jonathan: And they’re both not available right now.

Sean: That’s right, they both died in the accident.

Jonathan: Right, the accident. We’ll get back to that totally true and not made up story later. So how did you guys meet in order to form your band?

Zack: High school. A lot of people went away to college and their band broke up and we made a new band.

Sean: Can I… can I tell that better than you did?

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Interview with Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo (July 10, 2013)

Here it is! Matt Scottoline’s (of The New Matt Show) excellent interview with Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo. Hear Ira talk about sports talk, the Sun Ra Arkestra, the late Maxwell’s, and their relationship with the unknown.

Stream the interview above.

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