Friday, September 18, 2009

Artwork will Return Soon

Whether it be I am finding much success with my pursuits with this site or the year is getting away from me and there may be a little too much on my plate. I am not sure which is the more viable reason. Regardless of the fact, at this point I must focus a lot of my creative energies on some new works that will be featured in an upcoming solo exhibition this December. Once these pieces have been completed expect an open flood gate of supporting artwork to reveal themselves with a large number of the existing posts. Sorry for the misrepresentation and thanks for the patience.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

[Live Review] Ra Ra Riot, Chicago, Schuba's Tavern, 9.16.09

Arriving in time to cover both bands sets and making my inaugural trek to Schubas Tavern, passing through the bar with the venue’s open doors in front of me. “You’re not on the list’, dead in my tracks I was halted to hear a nicely balanced set from the openers, Princeton from the wrong side of the doors. By some lucky grace, the Gods of Schubas were kind enough to allow me entrance for the evening’s headliners Ra Ra Riot. It’s a sold out crowd and is obvious as the small room continues to get packed like canned sardines. The lights go out and the band emerges on stage. Wes very grateful thanks everyone for coming out and introduces the band, Ra Ra Riot. Mathieu’s bass begins to thump hard, as he dances around stage leading us in. The string section, Ali and Becca chime in with a bow; it seems as though everyone is getting in sync as they play through this melodic bass-thumping tune. The strings continue, drums lead into “Each Year” there is so much energy coming off the stage, as Wes dances about with his mic stand. Everyone seemingly jovial, tapping a foot or bouncing back and forth. RRR is rhythmically demonstrating why their live performances are so buzzed about. It’s a like musical ADD, as the drums continue to crash down, strings passionately play on, and a continuous motion occurs on stage. In between verses, Wes moves over to the keyboard to contribute to the instrumental fun, singing with high energy and emotion in every line.

Wes makes small commentary about the crowds respectability, thanking everyone; Becca and Ali patiently wait for the drum count with such focused and concentrated expressions. Strings lead us into “Oh La” Wes is up and down all over the place, as the tempo rises with the percussion. The stage is exploding with enthusiasm. The lovely ladies of the string section lead us out with a symphonic melody. A very gracious guest, Wes thanks the crowd once more, innocently admitting he has forgotten what song is next as he stalls before beginning, “Suspended in Gaffa”. Much like the lyrics dictate, the bands performance feels similar to a light-hearted jaunt as you can almost imagine them to begin levitating above the stage. There is a persisting sense of amazement as band members alternate spots breathlessly without skipping a beat in a flawless performance. In a narration of older times, describing his nostalgic ties to Schubas, Wes shares a tale of the onset of the band’s career and videos that can be found on Youtube. “If you want to see me more awkward than I am right now, you should look them up”. (Drum roll, cymbal crash)
Heavy banging drums begin, and Wes has returned to his keyboard to serenade the crowd with, “Can You Tell”. Guitars are kissing; drums continue to crash and strings play in sync. Everyone on stage evenly creates his or her own presence; the other upstages no one. Responding to requests for Discovery songs, (the lead singer’s side-project with the keyboardist from Vampire Weekend) playing the obscure favorite “ A Manner to Act” from their self-titled EP. Mathieu stomps around with demonstrative bass play as the strings recommence with “Ohs” all around lead into “Ghost Under Rocks”. The band comes to a muted silence as Ali’s sweet and sultry voice delivers the final verse, until the high rising tempo returns and crashes down onto the drums. We are promptly lead into “Too Too Too Fast” Ali has moved over to the keyboard, her play in contrast to that of Wes’s sounds to have derived from a classical training. Arriving at the final two songs of the evening’s set, the band’s energy and intensity are raised above the peak levels of tempo expectation. Wes plays around the orchestrated claps of the crowd as the band extends their conclusion instrumentally. After a brief moment of applause, the band returns for an encore, beginning what sounded like new material. It was a full-bodied slower tempo track laced with sweet lyrics. Ali slow dances, as the song is gently unraveled to a guitar lead out. The intensity and high tempo return in full-force for the band’s big finale leaving the crowd excited and inspired.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Passion Pit-Manners

Passion Pit emerged onto the scene late in 2008, with their immediately popular EP, Chunk of Change. A project started as a Valentines present by Michael Angelakos for his girlfriend while in school in Buffalo, NY. After graduating and returning home to Boston, Passion Pit took on life, fleshing out Angelakos’ previous work and quickly gaining acclaim. Their musical styles fuse high-energy pop with psychedelic tinge electronic sounds with a scratchy high-pitched voice, which inspires listeners to dance and celebrate life. The band quickly followed this success with their debut album, Manners on Frenchkiss Records. Manners is a wondrous collection of songs playing soundtrack to the joyous and devilish festivities of imps, elves and whatever fantastical forest creature the imagination can create.

With the ringing bells of the opening track “Make Light” Passion Pit sets the tone of the level of expectation of the records overall tonality. There is a contrasting quality of logical subject matter masked by these lighthearted melodies that hypnotically deter the listener’s attention from the matters of fact in his/her life. “Little Secrets” the second track on the album incorporates a children’s choir handling the song’s chorus. This is one of many facets of this album exhibiting the creative ingenuity of how Passion Pit approach their craft with a fresh voice while retaining nostalgic qualities successful for their POP music predecessors.
Another obvious strength in Manners is the fact each track has the capability to stand alone without the reliance of an album gimmick or the over exposure of countless radio play. The subtle sentiments of Angelakos’ lyrics predominantly in Chunk of Change, are often masked by the fast tempo, high energy synthesizer and danceable beats in Manners; creating an evolved context by the collaborative efforts of the more fleshed out band. The band has made a number of appearances at this summer’s more notable music festivals and has been on an endless tour promoting Manners. The continuous live performances have strengthened a once very disappointing live realization of their synthesized album tracks. Manners has begun a reinvention of the band’s sound and is showing early indications of how this quick success is becoming evidence of the band’s longevity. I am curious to see if these accomplishments will affect the band’s creative approaches on the evolution of their music.

We Were Promised Jetpacks-These Four Walls

We Were Promised Jetpacks are the third most recent band out of Glasgow Scotland, who are gaining quick acclaim and are touring the states with their hometown pals The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit (incidentally the other two Glasgow bands). In contrast of the three bands Jetpacks are a happy medium in style and sound. There is a loudness and adoration for guitar driven rock present in their sound that sometimes can exceed the reputation of the Twilight Sad. At the same time, Adam Thompson is able to beseech our sympathy and find a sort of relatability to the words and themes in his songs, much like Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit. These Four Walls is the debut album from the Scottish quartet, the band described the title in an interview as something addressing the concept of one’s upbringing and the values instilled by his/her family and the transformation of that home life’s groundwork into its functions as an adult.

“Its Thunder Its Lightning” slowly introduces the listener to the band’s sometimes gloomy but idealistically youthful perspective on life. Thompson’s delivery of lines is a melodious belch of words finding a pleasant harmony with the high-energy up-tempo instrumentation that power drives us through the album. An abundance of catchy hooks and anthem like choruses retain a sing a long quality, creating a difficulty at times to dismiss its continuous presence in your head. “Conductor” the album’s fourth track, slows down the overall pace to exhibit Adam’s stripped down Scottish dialect gently serenading us through the tribulations of his young adult life.
“A Half Built House” much like its title investigates new realms in the band’s direction. It showcases an allusion for post rock qualities creating an instrumental piece hinting at an epic path in the band’s musical intent. Each member’s presence resonates throughout the album, from Darren Lackie’s tribal sounding beat in “Short Bursts” and Sean Smith’s tings on the xylophone, accenting the melodious guitar work by Adam and Michael Palmer. By the concluding tracks of the album, “Keeping Warm”, the band resumes instrumental leg-stretch with a majestically grand build up raising the listener’s spirits while summing up the album’s focus on an introspective reflection on becoming an adult. We are left feeling pity and dealing with our own miseries as scathed heart of lead, Adam is exposed and expressed through is angst ridden, thick Scottish accented, cracking voice declares a final exhalation of affection.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monolith Festival: Day 2

I arrived at Red Rocks early in the day’s lineup, the skies were clear and there was a light breeze that blew over the venue. I was excited to see the young lads from Glasgow, We Were Promised Jetpacks, who commence their nation wide tour with Scottish pals, Frightened Rabbit and Twilight Sad. Arriving promptly just prior to their set I was not expecting for the WOXY stage to be once again to capacity so early in the day. I had some time on my hands since the majority of the bands on my list to see played later in the afternoon along with my interviews who weren’t anytime near. I had the pleasure of floating around the venue to reflect upon the evening prior’s experience and enjoying the various acts in the background. There was a sort of peacefulness and sense of serenity that falls over you with these natural backdrops and the dissonance of clashing drums and shredding guitars. My curiosity was peaked for certain bands, but again knowing I had the remainder of the Scots and Bad Veins to interview, I wasn’t sure how many acts I was going to get to thoroughly review today. After my conversation with James Graham from The Twilight Sad and Jetpacks overwhelming excited thumbs up, I could not resist getting an early spot at the WOXY stage for The Twilight Sad’s set.

The Twilight Sad- WOXY

Lights dim, the drums pound hard, James Graham begins to dance with the mic as we are slowly led into the music. Looking upward, James begins to sing, slowly unraveling us into their gloomy dim world. As their chorus dictates for people dancing, James continues his Scottish jig while cymbals crash and distortion in the guitar continuously rings. The drum counts down and the tempo rises as the strobe begins to flash throughout the room, James has fallen to his knees belting out lines. Andy Macfarlane slows down his guitar play and the drums ring back in. At this point, rumors have proved true of the band’s deafening quality as they ring in harmony, following James who is heaving himself about the stage wailing his supernatural anxieties into the air. The bassist, Craig Orzel stands stonewall facing the crowd effortlessly thumbing through his strings. James garbles out in his barely understandable dialect an introduction into the next song and thanks everyone for showing up. The drums lead us into his lyrics are softly delivered in a crooning manner, the drums become louder and James is now screaming at the top of his lungs, his eyes rolled back in a possessed manner. They are an orchestrated symphony of sadness. At this point, an issue arises with the bass amp. James attempts to subdue the crowd, “The bass amp is fucked, I wish I was funny right now, I would tell you something, but I’m not”. The crowd chatters as the band awkwardly stand about stage waiting for the issue to be resolved, Sean from Jetpacks notes to me the amp is shared between the three bands and some shopping will have to be done prior to their next show in Salt Lake.
Crisis is diverted and James garbles out the title, “” joking he never really became one. The music returns and James continues to move up and down and all over the stage in a hauntingly crazed manner chanting the chorus in the air with the crashing drums around him. With an expression of agony, James is leaning against his mic stand, dancing and belting lyrics inaudibly upward. The distortion and dissonance rings throughout as James sips from his pint. James’ melodious crooning sound returns his eyes leave the impression his mindset may be elsewhere allowing his words to transport himself through his subconscious. He indistinguishably introduces the next song for the Arse holes from Jetpacks (note: I had to have a Jetpacker translate for me) James resumes his stage dance as the tempo and volume rise beyond the standard decibel of loud. Staring outwards, as the lights flash about in a flailing manner, it feels as though we are amidst a melodic nightmare. Inaudible yells and a slow lead in, softly laid out with a passionate exhale. James resembles the horror flick character, Carrie as though just doused in cow’s blood, staring out into the darkness as the chords ring out the ending of the set.
After a scheduling switch up when MSTRKFT dropped out of the festival, Phoenix moved down to the Esurance stage leaving Passion Pit to take over their slot. Unfortunately with this alteration, I wasn’t able to catch the PP set in its entirety. I had been curious all summer as the buzz surrounding their live performance was that it didn’t match the quality of the sound created on the album. When I finally did make it to the SOCO stage, the crowd was already elbow-to-elbow of drunken festival goers raucously dancing and singing along with the band. I have to say from everything I saw and heard there was no disappointment from my part. Whether others have had unrealistic expectations for a live show or the constant touring has matured the group creatively, I can’t say there was any real low point in their set list. The performance was high energy and excited the crowd, finding authentic ways to recreate what was originally synthesized on the album. I held out as long as I could before retiring to the interview my final band of the evening.

The final band I was truly excited over this weekend’s festival, was Phoenix the indie pop band from France. This summer they have been touring the States supporting their most recent release, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. After a longer period to tune and set up on the Esurance stage, I’m assuming because of the lineup switch and the hassle of moving everything . Phoenix appeared on stage in the midst of a dark cloud of smoke. They begin the set with the new album lead in, “Lisztomania” crouching through minimal light Thomas Mars delivered the lyrics with high tempo and energy. They steadily grooved through their set exciting the large crowd who showed up to dance along to their French Pop sound. Although Laurent Brancowitz, guitarist was having issue with his amp outputting a nasty feedback the band continued on flawlessly. Mars expressed gratitude before proceeding on. With the lights flashing in and out a happy balance is created in sound and atmosphere. I begin my final walk up the stairs having to make my way back to the hotel, prep time for a 5a wake up. In the distance, as I depart I hear Mars playing into the crowd as the drums are pounded and the loud guitars are ringing through the Colorado misty air. Until next year, I depart with a number of great memories and amazing images to reminisce.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Monolith Festival: Day 1

The Antlers-WOXY

After what seemed like the longest ten minutes, The Antlers step onto stage comically requesting everyone to watch their language. Melodically commencing with “Bear” Peter softly delivers the opening lines. Swaying back and forth, leading up to Michael’s drums kicking in. Peter’s octave rises along with the band’s intensity. The crowd continues to grow in the tight and compact space where the WOXY stage is situated. Darby’s hair hangs over his eyes, while Peter is on his knees as they transition into the first song’s big ending. Silence is upon us, while Peter switches out his guitar and makes some “Thank Yous”. Drum count, hard smash, Peter hunched, everyone is bouncing to Michael’s tribal beat, distortion rings. Peter leads us into the chorus of “Sylvia”. Touring has already matured their sound since Pitchfork, bringing a darker edge to the music’s tonality. Tempo is high, drums bring a more distinctive quality to the sound. Peter screeching, Sylvia!!! in his last gasp of breath, obvious how emotionally important the subject matter is to him. He softly thanks us before the cymbals crash right into “Kettering”, his guitar play seems looser and more comfortable. The mics break up and the music stops on the crunchy sounding dispense of lyrics.

They restart from the beginning, Peter dances and bounces facing the drum set before he elevates his voice to the next octave. In between songs, Michael graciously mentions how the crowd was definitely worth the 30-hour cross-country drive from New York, Peter follows up with another affable thanks. “Two” begins off with the band leading in with hoots into those familiar first lines “In the middle of the night I was sleeping sitting up..” There really has been a re energization of the context in these songs, creating an overall happier sensation. Tempo rises and the crowd sways and dances. Tempo rises and the crowd sways and dances, before heads are banging and strong playing resumes. The hoots and moans return before Peter strums to a muted end. Silence falls upon us and Peter’s “Epilogue” begins. A more stylistic direction of the set brings this on the whole, celebratory context. The muted instrumentation spotlight Peter’s vocal symphony. Warming feeling rising with the volume. Darby commences the processional hymn, Peter stands in reflection. Michael punches his drums hard, Peter’s shreds return and it becomes a punchy dance to lead us out.

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down- Esurance Stage

The band nonchalantly walks onto stage, welcomed by fans and a steady breeze running through the mountains. Thao Nguyen shakes off her shivers and they begin to play. I was curious to see their stage presence not knowing too much about the band or their sound prior to this weekend. The was comprised primarily of tracks off their most recent album, We Brave Bee Stings and All and few teasers from the upcoming album, Know Better Learn Faster. Only taking up a small portion of the stage but created excitement in the crowd with enjoyable tunes and toe tapping beats. Thao thanks us before commencing a human beat box intro, while plucking at her strings into “Bag of Hammers”. Attracting seemingly a fairly young crowd dancing and shaking around with the band’s joyful folk tinged melodies. In between songs, she tells us of a fond memory of hers at Red Rocks. She had come to see Neil Young at an early age but unfortunately couldn’t remember much of the experience because of the abundance of “whatever” she had smoked. From the new songs they played during their set there was a nice hard beat and an up and down tempo exhibiting a variety of musical influences in its sound. It lead her right into the crowd favorite “Beat” Nguyen sings with a jazzercise standstill dance strumming away. The drummer, Willis Thompson begins to lead the crowd to clap into a clapping chorus. Her sweet raspy delivers each line as a nice harmony of instrumentation with a heavy steady pound on the drums accompanies her. She hoots along as she plays, leading the claps again; apparently a staple in their music. At some point all band members including Nguyen, pull out their drumsticks and start a drum jam, beating at the skins. A faint yelp from Thao is heard and she returns to her guitar. There is a hint of an oriental infusion in the melody that pleasantly compliments the style and aesthetic of their music. Overall, it was a nicely laid out set, playing well to the crowd and exhibiting a brilliant range of sound and emotion.

Frightened Rabbit- Esurance Stage

The crowd begins to file in, as there is a drizzle of rain in the sky. We stand waiting for Scott Hutchinson and crew to finally arrive on stage thanking everyone for their presence. Excited to see another performance since their stint in Chicago for the Pitchfork Festival. “Modern Leper” begins the set with high tempo and comfort ability as Scott easily unravels his emotional aftertaste from a past heartbreak. As the play gets louder, the crowd continues to get larger. “The altitude already has me woozy and I’ve only had one beer”, jokes Hutchinson in that same humorous stage commentary I recall from their previous performance I witnessed. The lyrics he fervently belched reverberates up along the rocks as his heart is laid out on display once again. “Is the rain finished…Fuck It!!! exclaims Scott lightly strums us into “Good Arm vs. Bad Arm”. He screeches along while dancing back and forth with the mic stand, and the rest of the band finds a melody harmonizing with backup Ohs! At one point, he leans back towards the sky while strumming and bring the tempo back up screaming the chorus,” at arms length”. A decent turnout braves the chilly rain as the clouds darken the sky. Tempo raises and the drizzle becomes a steady rainfall. With a plan to split up the hour between Frightened Rabbit and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, the final song in the set for me began with a misqueue, Scott quick apologizes as his set list just blew away and correcting the error, “Old, Old Fashion”. As I start my hike up the mountain of stairs to the SOCO stage, I see Scott in the distance raising his hands requesting the crowd to participate in the chorus. As I made my way towards the Pains stage, the crowd was sizeable and the energy from stage was as suspected super high tempo, playfully jamming to the rain. Unfortunately, the rain wasn’t in my cards at the moment and listened to their joyful wonderfulness from the distance of the media tent. I was definitely grateful I had the pleasure of enjoying their full set in Chicago earlier in the week.
Rain blew over the venue around the same time as my meeting with various bands to interview and photograph. It was fortuitous in a sense but at the same time, being hyped to finally see Cymbals Eat Guitars I had to unfortunately miss out as capacity was reached at the WOXY stage and the fire marshal did not allow any more entries. Shooting up to the SOCO stage hopefully to ignore the rain and check out The Walkmen who were in midst of the set. Although outside, the crowd was overwhelmingly large and I once again resorted to returning to the media tent, I enjoyed their set from a distance while having the opportunity to meet some really great bands in the process. During that time night fell upon us along with a steady rain.
At some point, I ventured back out into the evening’s sets as the sky continued to fall and a brisk wind blew through the Colorado mountains. Even from a distance the performance on the Esurance stage appeared different and as though a raving party had taken over it. In fact, the mish mash dj, Girl Talk had commenced his set and had invited a stage full of dancers who were getting down to his nasty mixes. The rain did nothing but fuel the energy emitting from and around the stage and in the crowd. Girl Talk’s Greg Gillis stood hunched over two laptops bouncing back and forth with a commanding presence. Admittedly at times I enjoy revisiting his albums on my ipod but in all honesty who wouldn’t mind tiny nostalgic clips of music from their youth. With that said, I’m not sure how seriously I can write about a non-performance act. In appearance I could not tell how much mixing was actually going on, more as steering a booze cruise on stage. I am not sure how long a musical phase like this can last, I guess I could always Wiki Moby and see how long his career lasted before the music scene moved on. If anything Gillis had a great authority on stage at times jumping atop the table dancing and directing the audience as confetti and toilet paper flew into the wet air. He played a nonstop set with countless snippets from his three-album catalog and the endless list of music hits. Rumor has it, he is moving the direction of his music into a more linear fashion that could drastically alter many of the popular facets of his music. If that’s the case I would be intrigued especially if the army of frats lost interest and returned to whatever trend band is looking for a sell out fan base.
This evening’s headliners were the ever so popular trio from Brooklyn,NY, the YeahYeahYeahs, who have definitely made their festival rounds this year. It seems as though the band have not stopped since the release of It’s Blitz, the band’s third album; which found them experimenting with their sound while retaining much of that edge that made them popular in the onset of their career. I was torn at this point, the rain had let up a little, as the stage was being prepared for the evening’s closer. Tiredness had set in and the knowledge of the amount of work still needed to accomplish when returning to the hotel was a looming factor when I made the final decision not to stay for the entire YYYs set. I did however make my way to the pit to enjoy the onset of the evening’s performance from as close as possible and hopefully some shots that would work out.
In the dark mist the band arrives on stage, the familiar opening keys of “Runaway” begin the set as Karen O takes her position readied for what seems like a Hiawatha modern Geisha dance with a Michael Jackson like pink glove donned. There was a fourth member along for the ride, who after further investigation turned out to be the beautiful, Jessica Dobson from the LA band, Deep Sea Diver, who played bass and keyboards and is touring with the band during their popularized summer tour. The few songs played are a blur as I was more focused to capture the perfect image of Karen in all of her glory as her true performance side was naturally emitted as she serenaded us through a nice mix from their album catalog thus far. Just as I remember from their earlier performance in May in the onset of their tour there was still a commanding force in the cohesiveness of their musical skill as fans were beyond excited to just catch a glimpse and sing along with the former art school rockers. I turned one last time to take in the excitement and originality coming off stage before my final hike up those steep stairs to exit and prepare for the following day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Interview: The Antlers

The Antlers, originally a solo act moniker for creator, Peter Siberling is now a trio of multi-talented most down to earth guys, breathing a celebratory life into subject matter that on paper seemed very dreary and sorrowful. I had the pleasure to meet the guys when they came through Chicago for the Pitchfork Music Festival. Hot on the official release of their album, Hospice, I will reunite with them at Red Rocks for the Monolith Festival. Lucky for me, then once more on The Antlers' first official tour next week when they return to Chicago. In all this time, I have been able to coordinate with the three via email an interview in hopes to get to know the guys better and unveil some of the thoughts behind Hospice, easily one of my top 5 albums of the year.

Drawing From Music: In the past when you toured did you have instrumentalists accompanying you? Now with the addition of Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci, will the creative processes change with future albums, or will this be a ship that you will continue to primarily steer?

Peter Siberling: We actually never toured until we were a three piece. When I was starting out, I played shows by myself for about a year and a half, but that was a long time ago, playing very, very different songs. The creative process seems to be changing every day, and I think it’s safe to say that all of us playing and touring together is moving things in a much more collaborative direction.

DFM: What I have been drawn to with your music is how it has always felt like it was a journey to an alter reality. How is it you hope for your listeners to interpret your music? Is there a certain emotion or personal idea that you hope will resonate with them?

PS: That’s a pretty ideal reaction. My favorite music is the kind that takes me out of reality, where I don’t hear people in a studio, but music that brings you into some sonic universe that’s not your own. But that’s not just a sound and atmosphere thing. I think lyrics can work with that to create some new world within the span of 4 minutes or 50 minutes or 5 hours. I think the point of Hospice is some sort of interconnectivity, being brought into someone’s very specific set of experiences, into their head and their world and somehow feel as though it’s your own.

DFM: I think as an artist myself; my aim has always been to keep a narrative quality in my paintings. I read this was a characteristic you enjoy to retain in your music. Can you tell me a little about your writing process? How do you decide what your albums’ focus is going to be on?

PS: So far, every album’s been the result of obsession over some idea or story or set of stories. Once that obsession starts, the idea for the album as a whole arrives, then the songs and sound are sort of built around that overriding plan. That idea comes from different places- sometimes it’s out of nowhere, other times it’s pulled out of personal experience. Hospice was the latter.

DFM: Were there real life situations that brought you to this introspective investigation of the institution of a hospice? How autobiographical are some the situations experienced in the album?

PS: It’s creative memoir. I won’t go into what’s autobiographical and what’s pulled from other ideas, but Hospice has been the equivalent of telling thousands of people too much about yourself and repeatedly stopping mid-sentence. It’s been a weird thing to wrap my head around.

DFM: What is the importance of Sylvia Plath to Hospice? Was she part of the initial obsessions for this album? How is it you relate with her as an artist?

PS: Sylvia in Hospice is sort of a composite of several Sylvias- a few fictional and a few non-fictional. Her story and personality definitely played a major role in the writing of this album, but only insofar as I found a whole mess of parallels between her and someone I knew personally. I wouldn't say I relate to her myself, but in a way I sometimes feel as though I knew her.

DFM: Michael and Darby If one were to run a background check on you what would they learn?

Michael Lerner: As a young man, my hair was longer than Darby's

Darby Cicci: They would probably find a lot of old theater photos. I used to be an actor for a long time and I’ve been in a ton of plays. You also might find a record I made called “Minus Green”. If you’re lucky maybe even “Darby’s Iguana Page”, from the early days of the internet.

DFM: Do you let current news related issues affect your creative/writing processes with your music?

PS: I tend to keep up with what’s going on pretty well, with the exception of when we’re touring and we’re in dreamland. But I tend to avoid putting politics and current events into songs...I don’t yet know how to write a political song without being uninformed and obnoxious.

ML: I think that outside forces in the world inevitably shape one's mindset –usually subconsciously. But no, the news doesn't really come into play for me. In fact, I actually try and keep clear of the news for the most part these days and focus on more positive things.

DC: News and issues and everything definitely affects our lives. Writing is really just a response to how we deal with our lives in a weird way so pretty much everything influences us creatively.

DFM:What are your roots as musicians? How did it come to be that The Antlers exists? Who were some oft the musical influences that aided in the molding of the musicians you are today?

PS: I grew up playing guitar, borrowing my dad’s amps and pedals, learning to play from him and eventually another teacher. I’d played in a band for much of my growing up- we set up a practice and recording space in a barn and spent all summer every summer there, writing songs and swinging pillows at bats that threatened to interrupt. That band dissolved toward the end of high school (we’d been playing together since the age of eleven) and I don’t think any of us knew what to do with ourselves when it was finished. Not long after, I started recording by myself for the first time. From then on, I recorded albums and EPs constantly until the end of recording Hospice, when I took a break. This recording project became The Antlers when I moved to NYC in 2006, and became a band some time between 2007 and the end of 2008.

ML: I've been playing drums since I was six years old and have played in a lotof bands. I met Peter when he decided to branch out from a solo act to a full band. I was looking for a new band at the time. When I first heard him sing,
I knew that I wanted to work with him. One of my biggest influences was ateacher of mine named Yusef Lateef. He helped me understand the importance of musical dialogue and interplay with other musicians. Buddy Rich, Tony Williams and Elvin Jones were also huge drumming influences for me.

DC: I grew up playing trumpet and playing a lot of jazz. Then a lot of blues, then I quit playing music for awhile and then got into writing songs, and then got really obsessed with music and started playing everything. Then I got into electronic music and became obsessed with synthesizers, electronics, and building and repairing equipment. I met Peter right before the electronics obsession and played trumpet and bowed banjo for a long time when we made Hospice. We all listen to a bunch of things...a lot of indie rock, but almost more than that, a lot of sort of epic post-rock, electronic music, dub, soul, jazz, folk, etc etc etc.

DFM: The layers and styles that are emitted in your music seem endless. Who were some of your biggest influences at an early age and how have they changed through the years?

PS: I was raised on The Beatles & Hendrix, and when I was very young found a lot of terrible music to listen to on my own. But I was really into Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins as well. Getting into Radiohead and indie rock when I was in my early teens changed things for sure, then getting into trip hop and more emotionally raw indie rock in my late teens and early 20s put things on a slightly different path.

ML: When I was younger, rock bands like Led Zeppelin were a big part of my formative years musically. When I was in college I got into jazz which changed my approach to drumming. I began to explore more subtle nuances in my playing and I began to try and approach my instrument with an ear towards its musicality and not just as a rhythmic component. When I was younger, rock bands like Led Zeppelin were a big part of myformative years musically. When I was in college I got into jazz which changed my approach to drumming. I began to explore more subtle nuances in my playing and I began to try and approach my instrument with an ear towards its musicality and not just as a rhythmic component.

DC: Elliott Smith, Howlin Wolf, John Vanderslice, and Jonny Greenwood. Now’s is Moderat and a bunch of electronic music, dub, noise, and about ten thousand other records.

DFM: I’m not sure if this seems repetitive but what would you say is the constant idea or themes you try to address in your music?

PS: Depends on the song or the album, really. Hospice is about something different than the EPs that precede it (New York Hospitals is along the same lines, but nothing beforehand is). If there’s any common thread in all things Antlers, it’s probably some sort of understanding about being alive.

ML: I am interested in playing with intensity regardless of the dynamics. I am also trying to balance precision with a certain quality of looseness. Overall, providing a song with the right feel is very important to me.

DC: No not really. I think if you start with an idea, the piece of music or song or whatever will always be better as just an idea. It’s better to just write instinctively and then streamline or sound design it later.

DFM: How much do you think being signed to a label will change the future albums from the Antlers? Do you think part of the fun is the DIY aspect of the process or will the added facility allow more room for creative experimentation?

PS: It’s really nice to finally be handing over responsibility to other people. We were doing absolutely everything ourselves for a long time, and it was completely worthwhile, but now we’re touring a lot and are happy to have people helping in such a major way. Now we get a chance to really focus on making music, which is ultimately the most important thing in all of this. I think being with Frenchkiss is going to give us the breathing room we need to make our next record.

DFM: It may be a question you have answered a lot but I’m not sure I’ve ever read it anywhere, but how did you come up with the name The Antlers?

PS:It’s a mystery! To myself, even.

DFM: Are there any new bands or music that you’re listening to? Any bands you are looking forward to see in your upcoming shows?

PS: I think everyone ought to hear Son Lux’s record. It came out last year, I believe, but it’s new to me and incredible. I’m really looking forward to seeing Flaming Lips at Pitchfork. I haven’t seen them since 2003, and that was possibly the best show I’ve ever seen.

ML: The records I've been listening to the most lately far and away are Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest & Dirty Projectors's Bitte Orca. Both albums have gotten a ridiculous amount of plays on my ipod. Off the top of my head, for upcoming shows , I am looking forward to seeing The Books, Phoenix, Ida Maria and Cymbals Eat Guitars.

DC: The new Broadcast, Flaming Lips and Fuck Buttons records are all pretty sick. Interested in seeing Sleepy Sun and also Wild Beasts. And we’re touring with Minus the Bear and Twin Tigers so pretty excited to see them.

DFM: If there were any character in history from any media (TV, literature, comics, etal.) that you would best liken yourself to who would it be? Why?

PS: Maybe Kevin Arnold from The Wonder Years. I don’t necessarily know how similar we are, but I just think he’s a really interesting character. I noticed recently that he barely says anything unless his older self is narrating, but his facial expressions speak louder than anything else.

ML: Jay Gatsby. A long time ago, my friends Johanna and Nora gave me that nick-name. I think it had something to do with the way I act at social gatherings.

DC: My personal idol is Thomas Edison. I’m nothing like him though.

DFM: And finally, aside from music what would you say are some personal outlets for you?

PS: Lately I’ve been writing stories. I guess it’s not all that different from writing songs - still semi-autobiographical, but it doesn’t feel self-referential. I go in and out of phases with photography...right now I’m working on getting back into it.

ML: Surfing & Kayaking

DC: Art, graphic design, fixing broken equipment, good beer, cooking southern food. And I really like fishing when I’m home in Alabama.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

[Live Review] The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Chicago, Logan Square Auditorium, 9.08.09

Arriving at the Logan Square Auditorium, I cant help feeling as though I’ve stepped back into time, into a high school gymnasium on prom night. Only here I'm surrounded by the city’s hipsters, as though I just walked into a nest. Unfortunately I miss the Cymbals Eat Guitars set, making them a priority this weekend at Monolith. The Depreciation Guild is up next and they begin with no introduction. The words are muted and overpowered by a dancing Christoph Hochheim on guitar, but the lyrics seem to play a secondary role to the music creating a poppy shoe gaze effect. They seem like a young band sill finding their way but emitting a lot of promising aspects in their music.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart step onto stage after what seemed like a minimal set up. Lights turn on and with their expected punch the music begins. All five including, Christoph from The Depreciation Guild seems to bouncing along to the music. Drums continue to punch, straight into “Young Adult Friction”. Kip finds a nice steady jig as he belts lines and rips into the melody on his guitar. I feel as though time sort of freezes and Kip glares off into an invisible spot while meticulously delivering the lyrics and everyone around him bop their heads. This is another band who look as though they truly enjoy performing, whether or not there was a crowd they would still play with such intensity. There is a happy balance of melody and tempo following Kip’s lyrical lead. A constant and concentrated look overwhelms the stage as all members play with a downward gaze. Kip jokes about his necessity to change shirts after a realization he was dressed the same at Pitchfork. He admitted a strong desire to prove he showers regularly. At this point, a guy in the crowd yells out,” I Love You!!!” Kip makes commentary to his beloved fan before returning to his onstage fun.
“Come Saturday” gets the crowd excited after Kip miss announces, getting to excited to play from their most recent EP, Higher Than the Stars. They find a definite level of comfort ability and playing through the sound issues. There is as much explosion from their music as I remember from Pitchfork. As the set winds down, Peggy thanks the crowd, complimenting the energy of the crowd and noting with a laugh the feeling of playing a school dance. The drums count down and the high tempo resumes with “Twins”. In a recent interview, Kip noted that every band should have a self-titled anthem. He mentioned they save theirs for the conclusion of the set, chanting “We Will Never Die!!” an exclamation I cannot see coming true as their pop quality that resonates in your brain and endearment to pull at your heart. Returning for a single encore song, Kip notes loving Chicago, reminding him of being back in high school. “Gentle Sons” was dedicated to the Smashing Pumpkins, they’re awesome although the song has nothing to do with them. An orchestra of guitars bouncing back and forth lead the ending procession of tonight’s show.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Monolith Festival-2009

In a weeks time, a portion of the music scene will make its way to the Red Rocks Amphitheater, in Morrison, CO for their annual fare Monolith Festival. A wide range of bands who have made their appearance in this summer's tour of festivals while others hope to break ground on their emerging musical careers. I am making the trek out West to catch up with bands missed at Pitchfork and to check out some of the bands that have blown out my earbuds all summer long. In the upcoming week, I will be featuring band spotlights, a live review of festival bands who will play in Chicago on their way out West and an interview with Peter Siberling from The Antlers. If you're curious of some of this year's performers check out below for more information. It is looking to be a fun and busy weekend.

*If for some reason you're actually attending, these may be of more help to you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Antlers-Hospice

Hospice marks the first wide release by the band as a newly formed trio; everything prior was the solo work of Peter Siberling under the moniker of The Antlers. The material throughout is all the brainchild of Siberling’s constant desire to deconstruct an idea and rebuild it in a multi-layered introspective narrative. This story translates the death house of a hospice into a celebration of agony and the hopeful relief from that pain in the end. The additions of Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci has intensified an already existing depth of sound in this young band’s music while introducing a higher tempo that matches Peter’s painful screams which exhibit a brutal honesty in emotion and a certain reality relatable to its listeners. The album breaks down the loosely translated album title and the various embodiments one could consider a hospice as their everyday cage. Suicides, abortions, deteriorating relationships, and of course death are some of the conversions that not only emotionally break down our personal beliefs but build up a separate uplifting perspective of what is usually considered a depressing and cynical concept. The album is structured similar to a novel with a beginning, middle and end. It imaginatively transports the listener into an alter-reality role initially dealing with the aspect of an upcoming ending, whether in life or love wallowing in self-pity and agonizing on the mysteries that lie ahead.
The album’s first single, “Bear” from the self-release is a turning point for the album as acceptance begins to set in, and hints of optimism appear along with a celebratory stance of the past uplifts the overall tonality in the album. Although the subject matter retains its dreary disposition the music exposes the consented theory that moving on is the best resolution for something so painful and cancerous. Singer, Sharon Von Etten enhances the ghostly eeriness of Hospice with her distant vocals demonstrate the actual presence of death in the situation. The on the whole ambiguity of the album only strengthens it constantly translated concept as each listener can put forth his/her personal interpretations of the bleak situations expressively recreated in a spine tingling manner. By the conclusion of the album the pain and hurt have completely set in and an overall numbness takes over the emotional pressures as one is spiritually prepared to move forward into the mysterious abyss of what lies ahead. In “Epilogue” the final track, is an out of body experience moving us away from the dying entity and memorializing ourselves and the past that brought us to this point. In its creepy, unnerving instrumentation that concludes the track, a warming sensation overtakes our senses creating a musical nirvana of the massive amounts of emotion necessary to create such an epic saga. Reflection is the key to self-growth and realizations of our mistakes in life are what make us stronger.