By Esmail Hamidi
Last Tuesday, I was fortunate to see Future Islands headline the First Unitarian Church. Accompanying me were WKDU DJs Dr. Plotkin and Peter Liu, of The Love X-Perience and Hear Hear Mix respectively. Supporting were Ed Schrader’s Music Beat and Chiffon. Soundwise, the bill was pretty darn diverse, but all bands had their hometown in common: Baltimore.
One cool thing about the Baltimore scene is its interconnection – the music might be wildly different, but the musicians are all uniformly skilled and versatile. Dan Frome and Denny Bowen, both of weird noise rock quartet Roomrunner, were spotted filling in on bass and drums for Ed Schrader and Future Islands respectively. I’m normally used to these guys playing totally different types of music, but they still killed it in this setting.
All groups on this bill played perfectly. Chiffon caught my attention with a weird hipstery take on 90s radio R&B and BMORE CLUB that got me movin’. Their beats were very, very reminiscent of the programming on WERQ Baltimore 92.3 FM a.k.a. 92Q JAMS, a station that is best listened to cruising the streets of West Baltimore around 10PM in a late-model Cadillac.
To me, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat always sounds like The Monkees on PCP, and this was no exception. Every time I’ve seen them on the home front, this two-piece always succeeds in turning the floor into a swirling mosh pit. Unfortunately, this did not happen in Philadelphia. For further weirdo cultural experiences courtesy of Ed Schrader, check out the Ed Schrader Show on YouTube.
Lead singer Sam Herring mentioned that he was feeling a little under the weather that night. He was definitely holding back, but still delivered a great performance. He is a conduit for the music – gyrating and radiating sexual energy like a balding, bodybuilding Elvis gone new wave. Bassist William Cashion lashed out with expressiveness that a lot of bass players could take a lesson from. As the main live instrument in the mix, Cashion simultaneously anchored the band and played singing leads.
Synth player Gerrit Welmers’ compositional skills play a huge role in the Future Islands sound, and Denny Bowen’s always a clock on drums. Their live personas were somewhat less expressive than those of Herring and Cashion, but steadfast nonetheless.
That night kind of embodied why everyone needs a good show every so often. I know I did. It was…refreshing. Also, sidenote, I ran into Liz of Liz and the Lost Boys afterwards. You can peep the session they did with WKDU (and that I engineered, woo soundz!) here.
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?