INTERVIEW: Pell – Soulful Rapper Talks New Album

IMG957590
photo by Nolan Feldpausch

– Ryan Stone – Pell Interview 2/9/16

In the frigid hours before a flurry of snow would settle once again on the city, New Orleans rapper Pell stood in a small circle of his fellow tour folk in the dimly lit main area of The Barbary in Northern Liberties. The rapper would be on stage at 8 p.m. — later than expected due to delays at the venue. Nevertheless, Pell was cool, calm, and collected. After a brief introduction and my hints of praise (as I am a fan of the man’s work), we took a seat in the far corner of the venue by the merchandise table to discuss the rapper’s music. Specifically, I wanted to learn more about his new album, Limbo, which released in the fourth quarter of last year. Slightly pressed for time, I asked Pell some bigger questions to gain more knowledge about the man behind the music before he had to break before the show to eat and rest. Below is our conversation, and I encourage you to check out Pell’s music at pellyeah.com after reading. Pell is on tour until the end of March. Tour dates and locations can be found here. He will then hit the stage at both Hangout Music Fest and Firefly Music Festival. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

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Sitting Down with LVL UP

lvl up
Greg, Mike, Dave, and Nick of LVL UP

By Nick Manna

It’s a Tuesday afternoon in February, and Dave Benton is returning my call. “We were actually having a little heart-to-heart”, he tells me. They’re ready to talk now. It’s been about a year and a half since the release of LVL UP’s last LP, Hoodwink’d – among 2014’s best – and they’re preparing their next.  “We’re gonna start recording tomorrow, actually,” drummer Greg Rutkin explains. “We’ve been practicing [the songs]”

LVL UP’s previous efforts have been split evenly among their three songwriters, bassist Nick Corbo, and guitarists Mike Caridi and Dave Benton. “We’re recording like one extra song from Nick and one extra song from Mike,” Greg says regarding the forthcoming album. Each songwriter is unique, and despite the rotating lead vocalists, LVL UP’s releases are cohesive and complete. “We are still writing songs in the same way, in that the three of us are writing songs separately, and everyone’s style is changing a little bit,” Dave says. “We’ve got some droney, darker songs, and some poppy songs similar to what was on the last record. Not crazy different, but a little bit, I guess”.

Nearly two years between album releases can seem like a long time for an up-and-coming band, but the New York quartet has been keeping busy. They’ve been touring and also put out a 7”, simply titled “Three Songs”, last summer. The songs were surprisingly solid for an off-cycle release, but those tracks aren’t going away.  “I think Blur and Closing Door are gonna be on [the new record]. We revamped those a bit. We’re happier with the way they sound now, so we’re just redoing them,” Mike says. “Honestly, both were like demos that we got down while we writing them. Blur is just me and Nick – it wasn’t even fully developed, and now we feel like it is. Same with Closing Door.”

Dave and Mike run Double Double Whammy, a record label that has been and remains LVL UP’s home. They have also released the breakout records of bands like Mitski, Frankie Cosmos, and Eskimeaux. “We already have 2016 planned. Somewhere between 8-10 LPs we’re putting out. Some old stuff, a couple reissues, new stuff from artists we’ve put out in the past, a few new bands. Got some more punk-leaning bands, more electronic-leaning bands. Trying to expand while staying within our….” Mike trails off, looking for the right word. “General aesthetic,” Dave adds. “We’re still working with our friends and people we trust”.

They have some more planned for LVL UP this year as well – running a label has its benefits. “[We’re] gonna reissue Space Brothers with demos and B-sides on vinyl, so it’ll be like a 28-song LP or something like that. We’ll release it around the same time the new record comes out”, Mike continues. “Hoping for a fall release, but nothing is set. It depends how recording goes this month.”

LVL UP is headlining a 5-show East Coast tour at the end of the month. “We’re definitely playing some new songs, probably a bunch, because now we know how to play them. We’ve been playing 3 or 4. We’ll probably play 5 or 6 of them.” WKDU is set to present LVL UP at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia on February 28th with a handpicked lineup of Free Cake for Every Creature, Marge, and The Guests. “We’re very excited about it. We love playing the Church,” Dave says. “Free Cake’s got a new record coming out on DDW, and we always love to play with them. The Guests are friends from college, and we just like Marge.”  Greg adds that his other band Cende just played with The Guests, “and they were f-cking amazing”. Tickets are on sale now.

Extras:

Dave and Mike lead their own excellent projects, Trace Mountains and The Glow, respectively.  Nick drums in Crying and Normal Person, while Greg plays in Cende, Slight, and Normal Person.

The favorite bands that LVL UP has toured with include Saintseneca, Ought, Big Ups, Ovlov, Upset, Disco Doom, and the Sidekicks.

Interview: John Lydon

John Lydon

By: Nick Stropko

John Lydon is crass. At this point in his 40ish-year-old career, he’s developed a reputation for being unfriendly to press. And politicians. And, well, a lot of people. He tends to offend wherever he goes. He even made it a point to belch loudly during the middle of my interview (“practicing my jazz chords,” as he described it to me, the host of a jazz radio show, for christsakes).

This off-putting demeanor, however, belies an undeniable intelligence. Controversial positions he has long and ardently held, ranging from his omnivorous taste in music to many of his political and social beliefs, are now commonplace, while Sex Pistols’ sneer and Public Image Ltd.’s post-punk discord have long been held as prescient, influential, or both.

So where does this leave Lydon in today’s music landscape? Per John, “I’m quite happy here on the outskirts, doing what I want, and not getting dragged into cliques or categories anymore…And I think these last two albums we’ve put out are probably the best music in my entire career.” Yes, it’s easy to roll your eyes at any musician pushing 60 who claims to be putting out their best work–or really anything short of an outright cash grab (notable exceptions: Gira, Michael, and Bowie, David). And sure, some of his opinions fit quite comfortably within an irrelevant, crotchety old man archetype (rejection of technology, disinterest in any contemporary music). But given his track record, I’m willing to hear him out. The rigors of age and his smoking habit have seemingly done nothing to extinguish that singular, shrill voice that set the world on fire in ‘76, and he seems as pissed off as ever. Not to mention, the new record really isn’t half bad.

Public Image Ltd. is on tour through November. Dates are here. An excerpt from my interview with John is after the break–if it somehow isn’t long enough for you, click here for the full transcript.

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PWR BTTM IS “OVER GENDER”

Photo by Andrew Piccone
Photo by Andrew Piccone

by Shannen Gaffney + Kirsten Becker

Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce, New York’s dynamic garage glam duo of PWR BTTM chatted with us about the things that matter: gender fluidity, their recent discovery of Bethany Cosentino, and their favorite carbs. If you’re lucky enough to have gotten a ticket in time, we’ll see you at their PhilaMOCA show tonight (they open for the very talented❤ MITSKI❤ )


So congrats on your first album, Ugly Cherries, we love it so much!
LIV: Thank you! We had a really good time making it.

Where did you record it?
BEN: We recorded in in New Paltz, New York, which is near Hudson, New York, which is where I was living, with a guy named Chris Daly who made a bunch of great records. He made a record with our friends in Diet Cig and we met him upstate. We didn’t really know if he was a good engineer or not but he was a cool guy that wanted to do our record and he’s like a genius, he’s amazing, he makes like all our merch and stuff, he fixes my guitar, he’s just this incredible, great friend.
LIV: He holds me when I cry. Just kidding, I’ve never cried.
BEN: Liv never cries, he can’t really spare the moisture. But yeah, his wife and I did the album art together.
LIV: PWR BTTM would be dead in the water without him.

So you both went to Bard, did you find a supportive scene there?
LIV: Absolutely, I started playing in the Bard scene in another band. The Bard scene is amazing because there’s two venues that are pretty much entirely run by students and they have the power to book bands outside of the school. So your favorite bands will be coming through the area and they’ll play Bard and you can start a band with your friends and have your first show be opening for a huge band.
BEN: Yeah our second show we opened for Upset and Potty Mouth.
LIV: There was just always people starting bands and doing incredible things. I really miss it actually. Obviously I love the scene here, but sometimes I’ll be on Facebook and see friends who are still there at Bard and seeing what bands they are starting every week and being like, “Ugh I wish I was still able to see those shows!”

What did you study at Bard?
LIV: I, for most of my time at Bard, was a double major in Computer Science and Dance. And then in my last semester after my Computer Science thesis, I had one more class to take and I just didn’t have the room in my schedule, partially because of PWR BTTM, so I ended up dropping the major after finishing my thesis and graduating with a degree just in the Dance Department. Which, it feels weird to say just the dance department because Bard’s dance department is like incredible. I learned so many things just about everything being there.
BEN: (In between bites of blueberry scone) I studied Theater, it was awesome.

We had another question relating to scones: What is your favorite carb?
BEN: Oh my God, the question we love to answer. I’m really, really feeling chocolate croissants right now. I work at a coffee shop and I have to come in to work at 6 AM and the first thing I do is kick that door open and fuck up one of the deliveries.
LIV: I’m really feeling my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs. I saw her yesterday and I was thinking about the stuff that she makes. I like everything she makes, but spaghetti and meatballs specifically.
BEN: Liv’s mom throws down.


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Josh Wink talks work/life balance, Philly nightlife history

Josh Wink gives an interview on club vs. home life ahead of hometown Halloween gig.

Ovum's Very Own, Josh Wink
Ovum’s Very Own, Josh Wink

It’s a brisk fall afternoon when I meet up with Josh Wink at Northern Liberties record store Profond Music N Art. Josh has just arrived back from finishing an acclaimed summer residency in Ibiza and is helping organize his son’s birthday party before heading out to Amsterdam the next night.

“My son is four, so I’m still new to being a parent, and there’s all these things I try to balance: being a father and a partner to my wife, being ‘just Josh’ to the people I know from the neighborhood and community gardens, and then being Josh Wink the artist. Finding time to do other things is difficult, but there’s something nice and humble about being here in Philly. I like riding my bike places, I don’t have a car.”

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Josh’s game-changing anthem “Higher State of Consciousness”, the first instrumental record to ever enter the UK’s top 15 national chart twice in one year. The track burst him onto the international scene and became heavily engrained with the first wave of pre-EDM stadium-packing electronic music that took the US and Europe by storm in the ‘90s.


Josh co-hosted a show on WKDU in the 90s called Rave FM, so you know we had to get him to do a station ID for us!

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Telekinesis plays Philly tonight, chases 80’s vibes on new album

by Shannen Gaffney

Photo from With Guitars
Photo from With Guitars

Telekinesis, the moniker used by Michael Benjamin Lerner, (also the superpower which allows superheroes to move objects with their minds) has released a new album this September on Merge Records called Ad Infinitum. On tour with Say Hi, he plays Johnny Brenda’s tonight and spoke to us about finding new influences and staying inspired on the road.

On facing writer’s block while working on the new record Lerner said, “I tried to play the guitar but just didn’t want to do it, it was very uninspiring to me at the time. So I just put the guitar away and then tried to learn a bunch of other instruments. I didn’t really understand how drum machines and synthesizers worked before… it sort of came out of boredom in a way.” Continue reading “Telekinesis plays Philly tonight, chases 80’s vibes on new album”