Tag: CMJ

Currently comprised of founding members  and primary songwriters Chuck Cleaver (vocals, guitar), known for being a member of Ass Ponys  and Lisa Walker (vocals, guitar), along with Mark Messerly (bass, keys), John Erhardt (pedal steel, guitar), and Joe Klug (drums), the Cincinnati, OH-based shoegaze quintet Wussy can trace their origins back to 2001 when its founding duo began playing together as a dare during a brief run of solo Cleaver shows. The first show they played together while being largely unplanned went without incident, so they agreed that they should continue as a fully fleshed band. Cleaver and Walker recruited Dawn Burman (drums) and Messerly in 2002 And as a quartet, Wussy released three full-length albums and a critically applauded EP that received praise from a number of major media outlets including Rolling StoneSPINVillage VoiceNPRThe Washington PostUncut and the legendary Robert Christgau, who placed the Cincinnati act’s first two efforts Funeral Dress and Left for Dead on his best of the decade list, and their third, self-titled release on his best of 2009 list.

After receiving critical success, the band went through a series of lineup changes, as Burman left the band and was replaced with Cincinnati music scene vet Joe Klug, who joined the band for Attica! and Forever Sounds. The band’s newest member John Erhardt has helped evolve the band’s sound, adding a twangy psychedelic vibe as they’ve expanded their profile with recorded sessions for BBC 6 Music and KEXP, appearances at SXSW and CMJ, touring with the likes of The Afghan Whigs, and have shared stages with Yo La TengoThe BreedersBest CoastMudhoneyOkkervil RiverThe MekonsCOMEWreckless Eric and Jeffrey Lewis.

The Cincinnati-based indie rock act’s seventh studio album What Heaven Is Like is slated for release later this month through Damnably Records in Europe and Shake It! Records in the States, and as you may recall, earlier this year, I wrote about “Gloria,” a song that was reportedly inspired by the protagonist of Fargo‘s Season 3, Gloria Burgle, played by Carrie Coon — but in a much larger sense, the song is meant to paint a portrait of an inscrutable everywoman, who dares to stand up to an omnipresent, almost supernatural, villain. The album’s latest single “Cake,” while continuing in a similar, cinematic yet 90s inspired vein of its predecessor is arguably one of the album’s bleaker songs, evoking the sort of existential dread and anxiety that feels inescapable and pervasive. Shit has gone bad and quickly, and it’s time to start hunkering down because it’s about to get much worse.

 

 

Advertisements

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Brampton, ON-born, Toronto, ON-based DJ, violinist, singer/songwriter, sync pop artist and JOVM mainstay Maya Killtron, and as you may recall Killtron first came to attention both nationally and Stateside with the 2012 release of her debut EP Hipster/Gangsta. As a result of the surrounding buzz around her debut EP, Killtron made the rounds across the North American festival circuit with appearances at Miami’s Winter Music ConferencePride TorontoThe Halifax Jazz Festival and CMJ. Adding to a growing profile, her collaboration with NYC-based production duo Love Taps “Back For More” received attention from the likes of Stereogum and Huffington Post for a sound that meshed moomba and R&B – and for visuals that showcased a sadly bygone NYC. Additionally, Smalltown DJs, The Slow WavesEyes Everywhere, Brothers In Arms and City Kid Soul have all have remixed “Back For More” — with the City Kid Soul remix being named in the Top 5 at Toronto’s Bestival.

Killtron’s latest single “Satin Sheets” will further cement her reputation for crafting thumping, 80s synth pop/synth funk and 90s dance music-inspired tracks — and while rooted in a sweet nostalgia for slow dances at the school dance, for creating mixtapes of your favorite jams straight from the radio or for that new sweetheart of yours. Sonically speaking her material immediately brings to mind the likes of (the oft-mentioned on this site), Cherelle, I Feel for You-era Chaka Khan, Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, early Mariah Carey and so on, with a similar swaggering self-assuredness and an underlying heartbreaking angst — but bolstered by an incredibly slick modern production that’s both radio friendly and club friendly. As Killtron says of her  latest single “Satin Sheets,” “With this track I wanted to take it back to my hometown high school summers. Picture it: Brampton 1999, Cruisin’ along Queen St. on the 1A to Bramalea City Center, summer crushes at the Professor’s lake beach, tryin to catch the eye of the L-section babes for a slow jam at Rec dances, between pizza roll breaks, & bright summer afternoons crushing banquet burgers with the whole squad at Sunny’s. This song is high school Maya, the stacked vocal harmonies, the 90’s bass, the Brampton top down beat. As with all of the Never Dance Alone (my forthcoming Album) tracks, it’s the music I always wanted to make. Not just a nod or throwback, not disposable or following any trend. Its a real gateway into my musical past in ever bar. Syrupy, rich & full of R&B high school angst.”

 

 

Born Elizabeth Lowell Boland, Lowell is Calgary, Alberta, Canada-born singer/songwriter and up-and-coming pop artist, who spent time living in Carcross, Yukon Territories, near a mountain that once offered passage to gold hunters — and was also once a preying haven for wolves; the up-and-coming pop artist has also spent time living in Massachusetts, Ottawa, Georgia and Calgary, before splitting her time between Toronto and London, UK.

Early within her career, she won the attention of Martin Terefe, who has worked with KT Tunstall, James Blunt and Jason Mraz; Sacha Skarbek, who has worked with Lana Del Rey, Adele and Miley Cyrus; James Bryan, who has worked with Nelly Furtado and The Philosopher Kings; and Paul Herman, who has worked with Dido.  The quartet of songwriters and producers invited them to London’s Kensaltown Studios to write with them; however, what they all worked on wasn’t in sync with Lowell’s vision, so they scrapped what they had and started over again with the end result being her I Killed Sara V. EP and her full-length debut, We Loved Her Dearly, which was released on renowned indie label Arts & Crafts Records. Both efforts received attention for songs, which openly focused on topics like sexual abuse, rape, abortion, women’s rights, the lack of LGBTQ rights, as well as our cultural ignorance about (and simultaneous) obsession with homosexuality.

Ultimately, Lowell’s first efforts were fueled by the need to empower her and her listeners to challenge gender conventions and inspire freedom from social limitations, rules and misogynists’ abuse of power, and to celebrate and uphold individuality — and while those are understandably heavy and urgent subjects, the up-and-coming pop artist pairs that with accessible, downright radio friendly melodies and upbeat vibes. Much like Fela Kuti and others, she’s used music as a weapon — suggesting as they did, you can challenge social norms and speak truth to power while dancing. Interestingly, Lowell remained friends with Terefe et. al. and it lead to her working with Terefe as a member of his band Apparatjik, and to her mini album If You Can Solve This Jumble. Following that, it lead to four days of writing and recording with A-ha’s Magne Furuholmen, Coldplay‘s Guy Berryman, Mew‘s Jonas Bjerre and Terefe, who she joined onstage at 2012’s Roskilde Festival.

After the release of her full-length debut, Lowell took up residency in her own studio space, where she began writing for other artists, including Icona Pop, Dragonette, Netsky, Grandtheft and Bulow, and where she also spent time working at writing, producing and practicing her craft, as well as guitar and piano (which she is classically trained), so that she could be ready for a self-financed UK tour, where she was backed by a drummer. Since then, she’s played showcases at Canadian Music Week, CMJ, Sled Island, and performed at David Lynch’s Club Silencio in Paris, headlined in Oslo and Copenhagen, opened for Chad Valley in Berlin, Padova and London; and opened for The Raveonettes in Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid.

Lowell’s sophomore effort Lone Wolf was recently released on Friday, and the album’s material focus on the power an influence of youth — particular as a teenager, but from a more mature viewpoint; from someone, looking back on their own youth as an adult, who isn’t too far removed from it. And as a result, the album thematically focuses on self-discovery while retaining the upbeat, anthemic and dance floor friendly production that has won her attention.  In fact, the album’s first single “War Face” is an infectious and soulful track centered around an arrangement featuring bluesy guitar, handclaps, a propulsive battle rhythm and an infectious shout worthy hook that brings to mind The Black Keys and Alice Merton, among others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently comprised of founding members  and primary songwriters Chuck Cleaver (vocals, guitar), known for being a member of Ass Ponys  and Lisa Walker (vocals, guitar), along with Mark Messerly (bass, keys), John Erhardt (pedal steel, guitar), and Joe Klug (drums), the Cincinnati, OH-based shoegaze quintet Wussy can trace their origins back to 2001 when its founding duo began playing together as a dare during a brief run of solo Cleaver shows. The first show they played together while being largely unplanned went without incident, so they agreed that they should continue as a fully fleshed band. Cleaver and Walker recruited Dawn Burman (drums) and Messerly in 2002 And as a quartet, Wussy released three full-length albums and a critically applauded EP that received praise from a number of major media outlets including Rolling StoneSPINVillage Voice, NPRThe Washington PostUncut and the legendary Robert Christgau, who placed the Cincinnati act’s first two efforts Funeral Dress and Left for Dead on his best of the decade list and their third, self-titled release on his best of 2009 list.

After receiving critical success, the band went through a series of lineup changes, as Burman left the band and was replaced with Cincinnati music scene Joe Klug joined the band for Attica! and Forever Sounds. The band’s newest member John Erhardt has helped evolve the band’s sound, adding a twangy psychedelic vibe as they’ve expanded their profile with recorded sessions for BBC 6 Music and KEXP, appearances at SXSW and CMJ, touring with the likes of The Afghan Whigs, and have shared stages with Yo La Tengo, The Breeders, Best Coast, Mudhoney, Okkervil River, The Mekons, COME, Wreckless Eric and Jeffrey Lewis.

Wussy’s forthcoming seventh studio What Heaven Is Like is slated for  May 18, 2018 release through Damnably Records in Europe and Shake It! Records in the States, and the album’s latest single “Gloria” is reportedly inspired by the protagonist of Fargo‘s Season 3, Gloria Burgle, played by Carrie Coon — but in a much larger sense, the song is meant to paint a portrait of an inscrutable everywoman, who dares to stand up to an omnipresent, almost supernatural, villain. As the band’s Lisa Walker explains in press notes, “This season of Fargo was so bleak and unrelenting. The V.M. Varga character seemed like an undefeatable entity, something between a robber baron and whoever’s secretly watching you from the other side of your screen in real-time. Gloria’s purity of heart made her this bright shining light.. the only person actually impervious to the enemy. But even beyond that, I was very inspired this year by several women who dared to put everything on the line, even their own lives, to stand up for what is right. I tried to show my respect for this great courage in the re-telling of Gloria’s story.” Interestingly, the band pairs this narrative story within a song that manages to be cinematic yet intimate while nodding at Americana and early 90s Pearl Jam — i.e., “Tremor Christ,” off Vitalogy and so on.

 

 

Despite going through a number of lineup changes throughout the years, the New York-based jazz outfit New York Electric Piano, currently comprised of founding members Pat Daughtery (piano) and Aaron Commes (drums), who’s best known for his work in the Spin Doctors, along with newest member Richard Hammond (bass), initially formed in 2003 as a piano jazz trio, based around the Fender Rhodes electric piano sound featuring founding members Daughtery, Comess and Tim Givens (bass). Interestingly, that collaboration can trace its origins back to when the founding trio met, playing in various bands in the NYC music scene during the 90s.

Their eponymous 2004 debut effort was critically applauded and was a commercial success, as it cracked the Top 20 of the CMJ Jazz Charts. 2005’s Citizen Zen and 2006’s Blues in Full Moon were also released to critical praise. And adding to a growing profile, the band began a long residency at the Cutting Room, which featured their tradition of inviting dancers on stage with them. However, by 2008, the band expanded into a sextet as they added Deanna Kirk (vocals), Till Behler (sax) and Leon Gruenbaum (keys), who’s best known as a member of Vernon Reid’s backing band — and as a sextet, they released the critically applauded King Mystery, which found the members of the then-sextet expanding upon their sound and approach with material that shifted between dance rock, jazz and wild freak outs.

By 2010, the band expanded once again as they added Teddy Kumpel (guitar), known as a member of Joe Jackson’s backing band and Erik Lawrence (sax), known as a member of the legendary Levon Helm‘s backing band. And as a nonet, New York Electric Piano began a long and very successful run at Zinc Bar, which they followed with arguably their most commercially successful effort to date, 2011’s double album Keys to the City, which spent a month in the Top 10 of CMJ’s Jazz Charts and received critical praise from the likes of PopMatters, Sea of TranquilityJazz Times, Drumhead and All About Jazz among others.

And although the band received quite a bit of commercial and critical success as a large ensemble, they reverted to the original format a trio — recruiting the aforementioned Hammond with whom they released Black Hole In One, an album which featured alternating instrumental compositions and vocal tracks. Unexpectedly, for the members of New York Electric Piano, the album received international attention, thanks in part to album single “Party On.” As the story goes, “Party On” was pushed by an Australian DJ, and eventually the New Zealand National Rugby Team, the All Blacks adopted the song as their theme song during their Rugby World Cup Championship run. Along with that, Lollapalooza artist Norton Wisdom did a live action painting to the song, and the video and song became the subject of a climate change conference at Penn State University. Adding to the unexpected attention on the album, album single “Who Wants to Know” features a verse about Crazy Horse. One of his descendants heard the song and sent it to family members, who were protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline — with the song becoming something of a rallying cry.

Recently, the members of the band have been playing monthly gigs at Rockwood Music Hall, and their extended, free-flowing jams were met with such tremendous audience approval that Aaron Comess immediately suggesting that they needed to try to capture the energy and vibe of their Rockwood shows on their next album — State of the Art, which is slated for a January 12, 2018 release through Fervor Records.

State of the Art‘s latest single “Road to Joy” is a loose and free-flowing jam that displays the trio’s uncanny simpatico, in which they all push and pull upon the other, teasing out ideas from one another, and much like the incredible Xylouris White, there’s a sense that the trio, musically speaking are dancing — with each member knowing exactly when to lead, follow. And although the composition begins with some stuttering discordance, the trio quickly finds a sustained, funky groove reminiscent of 70s era jazz fusion but with a contemporary touch.

 

 

 

 

A Q&A with Hayley Thompson-King

Several months ago, I was invited to be a panelist on a Baby Robot Media hosted panel titled “Your First PR Campaign” at this year’s Mondo.NYC conference in Lower Manhattan, a conference created by some of the original organizers of the beloved and sadly defunct CMJ Marathon. In fact, after speaking at the panel, I along with several colleagues went to a nearby bar, where I watched my beloved Yankees lose a confounding and infuriating heartbreaking Game 2 of the American League Division series against the then-defending League Champion Cleveland Indians. At some point, I went from networking and mingling mode to yelling and cursing at the TV – and I couldn’t tell if these people, who I had worked with in some capacity for  much of JOVM’s history were amused, knowing how much of a Yankee fan I am or if they were horrified. But the postseason when your team is in it is another thing altogether. I’ve frequently told a story about sitting in Clem’s with my dear friend and colleague Natalie Hamingson after watching the New York Rangers lose Game 7 of that year’s Conference Finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning at home, in which I went into a furious 45 minute, expletive laced tirade. About half way through, the bartender at the time said to Natalie, “I don’t think I’ve seen him that angry before.” In my mind, I thought “if I was at home, I would be throwing things at my TV,” but that’s another issue altogether.

Thanks in part to built-in travel days within the postseason schedule, and the weather actually holding up in early October, I was able to squeeze in some live music coverage at this year’s Mondo.NYC. Because I had spoken at Baby Robot Media’s PR campaign panel and worked with them for a good 6-7 years or so, the company’s co-founders had personally invited me to come out to the showcases they were hosting at Piano’s during the weekend. Admittedly, I just wasn’t able to do any research prior to the actual live music, so I went into everything with no expectations and a clear mind as to what I might be seeing – and interestingly enough, I wound up being pleasantly surprised by the variety of the acts I caught throughout that particular weekend. However, in a weekend with several impressive acts – including British folk singer/songwriter Hannah Scott, New York-based Americana singer/songwriter Mieka Pauley, Austin, TX-based Americana act Fairbanks and the Lonesome Light and Kellindo Parker, best known as Janelle Monae’s sideman, there was one decidedly clear champion of the weekend, the classically trained, Sebastian, FL-born, Somerville, MA-based singer/songwriter Hayley Thompson-King.

Thompson-King’s solo debut album Psychotic Melancholia was released earlier this year through Hard to Kill Records, and the album is a “Sodom and Gomorrah concept album” that in some way is an amalgamation of several different sources and wildly disparate sources. The overall concept of the album is largely influenced by her childhood obsession with the stories of the so-called wicked women in the Bible.  “I was the skeptical kid with her hand up in Sunday school,” Thompson-King recalls in press notes. “Also, I spent weekends performing with my church youth group called Clowns for Christ. I guess you could say I was obsessed with getting to the bottom of what exactly would send one to hell. I consider myself agnostic at this point, but I’m still inspired by the questions I had as a kid about disobedience, and about the characters I was taught to believe were evil, like Lot’s Wife and Judas and Lucifer. Upon revisiting these stories, I was inspired by their questioning. I thought they were strong and exciting, and I could put myself in their shoes.” Along with that, the album’s material draws from the Sebastian, FL-born, Somerville, MA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist’s small. Southern town upbringing, in which her father was a team-roper and trained cutting horses, and she grew up riding and showing American Quarter horses. “I spent a lot of time in the dually listening to country music,” Hayley Thompson-King recalls. “And then I went to opera school.” And lastly, the material which references Romantic period art also draws from her classical training at the New England Conservatory of Music, where she earned a Master’s in Operatic Performance.

And while having an operatic sweep with seemingly larger than life characters with oversized emotions, the album’s songs interestingly enough manage to possess a deeply personal and introspective nature. “I write about real things that have happened in my life,” Thompson-King says in press notes. “My relationships, like with my folks, the people I love, but using the landscape and stories of outside characters. They’re all about me, I guess, but it’s easier to write if I’m looking at a third party. So I look at myself as another character.” But perhaps more important, that voice, man; while there have been some comparisons to operatically trained vocalists like Pat Benatar and Heart‘s Ann Wilson, as well as Linda Ronstadt, which are all pretty damn reasonable, Thompson-King’s vocals throughout the album switch from feral howls and yelps, the sort of defiant, and self-contained resiliency and pride that only women possess, a world weary ache from a messy life, full of bad (if not completely fucked up) decisions, dysfunctional relationships with shitty, irresponsible lovers and good, decent ones – before ending with a gorgeous and sparse rendition of Schumann’s “Wehmut,” which translates in English to “Melancholy” and features Thompson-King singing in operatic German “Ich kann wohl manchmal singen / als ob ich fröhlich sei / Doch heimlich Tränen dringen / Da wird das Herz mir frei” (“Sometimes I may be singing as if I were full of joy, But secretly the tears are flowing and then my heart feels free”).

Hayley Thompson-King [Simon Sinard].jpg
Photo by Simon Sinard. Styled by Rachel Rule Walker. 
Front Cover, Final.jpg

Simply put, it’s a powerful and incredibly self-assured debut but it’s arguably among my favorites released this year. Now, as you can imagine this year has been incredibly busy as I’ve had to manage the responsibilities of an involved day job with that of this blog, but several weeks ago I spoke to the incredibly thoughtful and charming Hayley Thompson-King via email about Psychotic Melancholy, her classical training and how it’s influenced her own creative work, how much the Sun Records sound has influenced her on this album and more in a rather revealing interview. Check it out below.

 __________

WRH: You grew up in the tiny town of Sebastian, Florida near Melbourne and Vero Beach, and as the impressively detailed press notes I was provided mentioned, you spent great deal of your youth riding and showing American Quarter horses and your father was a team roper, who trained cutting horses. It’s understandable that you would have grown up listening to a helluva lot of country music; but I understand that you’re a classically trained opera singer, who went to opera school, which defies the stereotype of the country singer/songwriter. How did you get into opera? Did you have any of your friends or others make fun of you for singing classical opera?  How has your classical training influenced you and your work? When did you realize that you needed to write for yourself? 

Hayley Thompson-King: I’ve always had classical leanings…When I was about 12, I basically woke up one day and my voice had changed…like I hit puberty and all of a sudden I had a ton of vibrato and could speak Italian (just kidding about the second part 🙂  But, ya, it was very natural for me to sing classical music.  No one made fun of me!  (…to my face…At least not for that!)  I feel grateful that I had the opportunity to attend college and then graduate school.  I think besides being able to control my voice and all it’s little nuances, the training has helped me to be able to analyze music.  To dig into what the composer and lyricist are trying to convey and then honoring that…which is great for country music because it’s tradition to sing other people’s songs.  I take every note and every lyric very seriously and when I break from that, it’s intentional…  As a songwriter, it’s sort of a blessing and a curse…it takes me a long time to compose the “right” song because every note and every word have to serve the plot…It’s challenging for me to rattle off something visceral like Louie Louie (one of the greatest songs of all time, in my opinion).

Realizing I wanted to go down this path- what feels like performance art; using my brain, my feelings, experiences, and my body to express something- came about 7 years ago.  I became tired of waiting for someone else to tell me when or whether or not I could make art.  So, I wrote, produced and released my first record (an entirely analog production) called Save The Rats; it was the first release on my label, Hard To Kill Records.

WRH: Who are your influences? 

HTK: Lou Reed, Robert Schumann, Greg Cartwright, Iggy Pop, Waylon [Jennings], Willie [Nelson], Garth Brooks, Patti Smith, Smog, Francisco Goya, Lightnin’ Hopkins….

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

HTK: Please don’t judge me, but I am LOCKED on Traditional Holiday Favorites: Christmas Music of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s on Sirius XM…I have no excuse.

WRH: How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with you and your work? 

HTK: I like to say it’s Psychedelic Country or Alt-Classical.  Some folks have said Garage Country or even Riot Girl.

WRH: Earlier this year, I stopped by both of Baby Robot Media’s Mondo.NYC Showcases at Piano’s without any expectations of anything and honestly without researching any of the artists or anything, and out of all of the very talented artists, you and your backing band blew me away. I’m a jaded New York-based music journalist, so I don’t say that often! One of the things that I noticed that you and your backing band seemed incredibly road tested. How did you meet your backing band and how long have you been playing together? 

HTK: Oh, that is very kind of you to say!  I have about 5 musicians who I work with regularly (2 guitarists, 1 drummer and 2 bass players). Everyone who plays with me has one instruction from me: serve the song.  I don’t need them to be perfect or play it like the record, I just want to play together in the moment and serve the song.

That show, I had my original bass player (who played on the record) Chris Maclachlan. Chris is a classically trained singer and bassist for seminal Boston band from the 80’s called Human Sexual Response.  He’s been with me the longest…we started as a duo and that was when we began incorporating classical repertoire.  I had Rob Motes on drums and Nick Mercado on guitar.  My other Bass player Ben Voskeritchian is in a band along with Rob and Nick called These Wild Plains from Boston. Their whole band approached me with the idea to go on the road opening me and then backing me up. They are fantastic musicians, they listen to everything I do and respond…I feel really lucky to have them in the band.  And my other guitar player (who played on the record and also engineered and co-produced) is Pete Weiss.

WRH: I’ve listened the album a number of times and sonically it’s like you and your backing band manage to bridge honky tonk country with the Sun Records/early rock sound — I can’t help but think of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and so on because the album’s material has this raw, feral quality to me. Was that intentional? And how much has that particular period influenced you? 

HTK: It’s funny you bring that up…and I’m so glad you pulled that thread.  I’m also a college professor on the side 🙂  And I’m preparing for a course right now in Rock and Roll History so listening to A LOT of Elvis.  I think ‘feral’ is the perfect term.  That music was highly intelligent the way Nature is… and I think results from a feeling of being bound.  There is a release and it doesn’t feel contrived, but rather instinctive.  AND, most exciting, the audience was effected that way!  In my music, I’m working completely instinct-driven, so, yes, I’d say those artists have influenced me.

WRH: The album reportedly stems from your childhood obsessions with the Bible’s wicked women, doubters and questioners, questioning what exactly made them “evil,” and in some way viewing them in a very different, empathetic prism in which you put yourself in the shoes of Lot’s wife, Judas and Luficer among others while tying that together with your own personal experiences. When I read that in the very detailed press notes about you and the album, my immediate thought was “holy shit, that’s pretty heady — for anything these days.” When you began writing the material for the album, did you begin with that overarching theme, crafting material so that it would hew to it — or was it something that came about subconsciously and organically as you were writing?  

HTK: As far as the concept for the record, one day as Pete (Weiss) and I were working on pre-production, he said jokingly, “this sounds like a Sodom and Gommorah concept album”. So, that kind of stuck because it was a way to talk to people about what the hell is going on in this body of work.  But, truly this was not something that I was in control of… I was guided and sensed it was divine intervention.  My entire life, I’ve been haunted by these characters because, it seems to me, they were pawns in a game… Isn’t Judas the real martyr? I realize that this might come across as blaspheme, but I’m resigned to burning in whatever hell being a reasonable person gets you sent to.

WRH: You and your backing band spent the closing months of 2016 and the early months of this year writing and then obsessively revising and then recording the material that wound up comprising Psychotic Melancholia. How much revising and tweaking went into the writing sessions? And when did you know that you had finished, fully-fleshed out songs?

HTK: Pete (Weiss) and I got together in little pre-production sessions before we went into the studio and tweaked some of the songs… those sessions involved adding a chord here or there, some arrangement choices, and our plan of attack for mic-ing/live recording/vocals.  Most of the songs were fully formed at that point. Then we went to the studio and a lot of what you hear is live with some minimal editing/overdubs. BUT, a couple of the more kinetic pieces (Lot’s Wife and No Room) needed to be played live in order for us to get the feel… so we booked a couple things and then went back and recorded those… they are mainly live, but what you are hearing is probably the 3rd version of both of those.  I just get a feeling when something is right and the band trusts that… so that’s how we work.

“Dopesick,” and “Old Flames” are among my favorite songs on the album. What can I say, a sad song sometimes just works, you know? In any case, there’s a deep and visceral ache to them that comes from very real, lived-in experience, while drawing from some of the country songs I’d expect to hear while in some beer and whiskey soaked honky tonk. What is the story behind those two? 

HTK: “Old Flames” is actually a cover song.  It was written around 1978 by Hugh Moffatt and Pebe Sebert (Sebert is the mother of Ke$ha!).  I only add a cover if I feel a deep connection to it and if I feel I can bring something new to the table…for that one, I had been trying to write about being in love with my partner…I found it VERY challenging to write about joy.  I started playing that song and it said the things that I wanted to say about my love.  (I’m still trying to write originals about this topic and getting much better at expressing this these days)

“Dopesick” is an old song.  I probably wrote it about 5 years ago.  It’s also about someone very close to me who was struggling…but, in hindsight, it’s also about me.  It’s my favorite song.

WRH: I’ve mentioned this to a number of artists I’ve interviewed but I think that the one of the keys to an exceptional album is when the song order is so perfect that it creates a very specific mood, and if you were to rearrange the songs, it would be a different album with a wildly different mood — closing the album with a rendition of Schumann’s “Wehmut” is an eccentric yet gorgeous and fitting way to close out an album with a huge, operatic sensibility. Did you have any difficulties in arranging the material as it appears on the album or was it something that you always knew? 

HTK: It took me about 3 days to do the song order…which, to me, felt long.  I was taking into consideration the tempi, flow of the keys and lyrical arch…but really, this was the only way it could be.  On the vinyl (which I’m planning to release this spring, but am hoping to get some label support for), each side will end with a Schumann piece….I think the whole thing works beautifully for a record where you listen to one side and then flip:

 

Side A:

Large Hall, Slow Decay

Dopesick

No Room For Jesus

Soul Kisser

Mondnacht (music -Schumann / poem – Eichendorff)

 

Mondnacht (Moon Night):

It seemed as if the sky

Had silently kissed the earth,

That she in the shimmer of blossoms

Could only dream of him.

The breeze blew over the fields,

The grain stalks gently surged,

The forests rustled softly,

So starbright was the night.

And my soul unfolded

It’s pinions so wide,

Flew over the silent lands,

As if it were flying home

 

Side B:

Lot’s Wife

Melencolia I

Teratoma

Old Flames

Wehmut

 

Wehmut (Melancholy):

Sometimes I may be singing

As if I were full of joy,

But secretly tears are flowing,

And then my heart feels free.

The nightingales will sing,

When spring breezes play outside,

Their melody of yearning

Out of their prison’s tomb.

Then all the hearts are listening,

And everyone is glad,

But none can feel the sorrows,

The bitter grief in song.

WRH: What’s next for you?

Well, we are home working on a couple videos and doing some writing and light recording in January…and teaching my R&R History course at the college of course.  We’ll be doing about 3 weeks east of the Rockies in March.  I turn in my grades for \ on May 14 and on May 15 we leave for a month long tour in Scandinavia which ends at the Stockholm Americana Festival.  I’m pretty excited about spring.  I’m hoping to get back to NYC a few times in the next couple months…we’ve had such exciting crowds there (including yourself 🙂  It feels like the audiences really get what we’re doing and like the artistic aspect of it.  So, that’s the plan.

 

Live Footage: The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe Leads Pure Ensemble 6 at Space Fest 2016

Created by Nasiono Association, Space Fest is annual Gdansk, Poland-based festival of shoegaze, space-rock and alternative rock that features the prerequisite live music, but much like CMJ, Mondo.NYC, Northside Festival and others also features meet-and-greets with legendary and renowned artists, workshops for Polish and other internationally-based musicians, a battle of the bands-like competition for young, up-and-coming bands and more. As an annual celebration of all things psych rock and space rock-inspired, Space Fest in his almost seven year history has gradually become a scrappy yet internationally recognized festival with an increasingly diverse lineup of bands from across the European Union, Poland, the US, Canada and elsewhere. 

One of the festival’s standout highlights over the course of its history is the Pure Phase Ensemble, a collaborative collective that features one permanent member, Karol Schwarz (KSAS), who also manages Nasiono Records, and every year Schwartz is joined by a rotating cast of local musicians and at least one internationally recognized musician, who acts as a guest musical director, mentor and collaborator through a series of workshops and joint songwriting that culminates with the group performing their new material during the final night of the festival. 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting JOVM over the past couple of years, you may recall that during the course of the Festival’s history, they’ve invited the likes of  Spiritualized’s Ray Dickaty, Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, Placebo’s Steve Hewitt, Marion’s Jamie Harding, Six by Seven’s Chris Olley, The Bad Seeds and The True Spirit’s Hugo Race and RIDE’s Mark Gardener. Last year, The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s legendary frontman and founding member Anton Newcombe led Pure Phase Ensemble 6 with Serena Maneesh’s Emil Nikolaisen, and the collective managed to impress festivalgoers with a live set that included “God Drugs” a menacing, droning, and murky dirge, consisting of layers fuzzy and distorted power chords, thundering drumming and an almost mosh pit-friendly hook over which Newcombe laconically delivers his lyrics. While forceful, the song manages a lysergic haze. 

Also, every year the organizers create a documentary of the festival and the documentary features brief interviews and live footage with festival organizers, Anton Newcombe, who says that his appearance at last year’s Space Fest was a way to convince and entice establish artists that it’s a serious and growing festival; the UK’s MDME SPKR, Italy’s Be Forest, Germany’s Camera, the Icelandic-German act The Third Sound, Poland’s Wild Books, Lonker See, The Fruitcakes, Rosa Vertov and The Czech Republic’s DIV I DED. Additionally, the video features impromptu interviews with thrilled festivalgoers and more. The documentary offers a glimpse of a rarely seen Gdansk, a city with a burgeoning music, arts and nightlife scene, full of hungry, young creatives  — a marked departure from the city’s long-held reputation as a grim Soviet satellite city. 

Interestingly, the videos serve as a teaser for this year’s Space Fest, which take place the weekend of December 1 – December 2 and will feature Maciej Cieslak of renowned Polish shoegazers Scianka, leading Pure Phase Ensemble 7, Italy’s New Candys, Portugal’s 10,000 Russos, Mugstar, Switzerland’s Blind Butcher, Germany’s Odd Couple, Mexico’s Tajak, the UK’s Dead Rabbits and up-and-coming local acts 30 kilo slonca, and Wilcze Jagondy.