Tag: Coachella

Interview: A Q&A with Rising Swedish Pop Duo Vargas & Lagola

Choosing the band name Vargas & Lagola because they thought the names sounded like characters in a Quentin Tarantino movie, the Swedish songwriting, production and pop artist act comprised of Swedish Grammy-winning duo Salem Al Fakir and Vincent Pontare features two of their homeland’s most accomplished contemporary songwriters and producers: the pair have had successful solo careers before teaming up to write hits for a who’s who list of electro pop and pop that includes MadonnaAviciiSwedish House MafiaDavid GuettaAxwell /\ IngrossoKaty PerryGhost, and Sia.

Founded back in 2017, the duo’s collaboration is a decided change in sonic direction from their previous output as the project finds the Swedish songwriters and producers experimenting with their own unique take on melodic alt-pop, which meshes elements of 70s Americana and Nordic melancholia. Coincidentally, as they started their own attention-grabbing project, the duo received accolades for co-writing Avicii’s “Without You” and “Waiting for Love,” which led to a Swedish Grammy Award win for Composer of the Year. Adding to a growing profile across the international electro pop scene, Al Fakir and Pontare performed their co-written hit “More Than You Know” with Axwell /\ Ingrosso at Coachella — and they played a key role in finishing Avicci’s posthumously released album TIM, contributing on three of the album’s songs.

Last year, I wrote about “Forgot To Be Your Lover,” a carefully crafted pop song that balanced easygoing AM rock, yacht rock breeziness and achingly melancholic nostalgia while sonically the track was centered around atmospheric synths, lush layers of shimmering and twangy, country-styled guitar lines. In some way, the song – to my ears at least – reminded me of Danish JOVM mainstays Palace Winter, but with an ambitious, arena rock feel.

The acclaimed and commercially successful Swedish pop duo’s highly anticipated full-length debut is slated for release at the end of the month. Building upon the growing buzz surrounding them, the duo’s latest single “Someone That Understands Me” continues a run of ambitious, arena rock-like pop. Centered around shimmering acoustic guitar, achingly plaintive vocals, enormous hooks, thunderous drumming and a scorching, Purple Rain-era Prince-like guitar solo from Ludwig Goransson, the song is the contented sigh of a world-weary person, who has stumbled upon one of life’s rare gifts – finding someone like-minded, who truly understands and accepts you for you.

I recently spoke to the duo via email about the new single, which officially drops today, their soon-to-be released album and more. Check out new single and the Q&A below.

V&L_somebodythatunderstandsme_artwork

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WRH: How did you get into music?

Vincent Pontare: My father is a singer, so I got my first guitar from him when I was seven years- old.

Salem Al Fakir: I started to play violin and piano when I was three.

WRH: Who are your influences?

VP and SAF: We love all types of music! We have our roots in hip-hop/reggae/70s/60s but get most of the inspiration for VARGAS & LAGOLA from 70s Americana.

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

VP and SAF: Imagine if Fleetwood Mac and Jimi Hendrix had a kid that listened to Wu-Tang and loves to go to Burning Man, that’s us.

WRH: Who are you currently listening to?

VP and SAF: Khruangbin, Chet Baker, and Watain.

WRH: Can you name a couple of Swedish acts that should be getting love outside of Sweden but haven’t yet? And why should we know about them?

VP and SAF: VARGAS & LAGOLA. We feel that our type music is unrepresented out in the world at the moment.

WRH: The band is comprised of two, highly accomplished and incredibly successful solo songwriters and producers. What brought the two of you together to collaborate? And how has working together changed your creative process?

VP and SAF: We had met before through mutual friends and had the same booking agency and later on we shared the same studio for a month and then one day we said: we should try to write a song together!?

And the rest is history. . .

It’s a blessing to be two and in the same boat! When the other one is out of ideas or need a break the other one jumps in

WRH: Both of you have managed to write material for an impressive list of globally known pop artists. Has that work influenced or changed your creative process?

VP and SAF: I think success affects [sic] your compass for what works or not in a good way, you trust your gut feel[ing] and that’s the most important tool we have.

WRH: Your latest single “Somebody That Understands Me” features a guest spot from Ludwig Goransson. How did that come about?

VP and SAF:  You might think we already knew him cause we all are Swedes, but we didn’t’! We just fanboyed him up on Instagram and said, “Would you be up for trying a guitar solo on our upcoming single?” And he said “Yes.”

WRH: Speaking of “Somebody That Understands Me,” the track is one of those big, arena rock-friendly sentimental pop tunes with the sort of hook that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. In some way, the song kind of reminds me of Purple Rain and 1999-era Prince. So who and what influenced the song? Is it influenced by personal experience?

VP and SAF: We both have a soft spot for 90s arena rock, so we wanted to please ourselves for a second. Who doesn’t love a 12-string guitar riff!???

The song is about the beauty in finding like-minded people and a homage to thinking outside of the box in life in general. All types of music or genres we’ve been obsessed of comes from an underdog or rebellious perspective. So we wanted to get a little bit of that feeling into the lyrics and the production

WRH: Your highly anticipated full-length debut is slated for release at the end of the month. What should we expect from the album? 

VP and SAF: We want to give our fans a more nuanced palette of our musical landscape, so The Butterfly Effect is a piece in that puzzle.

WRH: What’s next for you?

VP and SAF: Promotion, touring and writing more music.

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Choosing the band name Vargas & Lagola because they thought the names sounded like characters in a Quentin Tarantino movie, the Swedish songwriting, production and pop artist act comprised of Swedish Grammy-winning duo Salem Al Fakir and Vincent Pontare features two of their homeland’s most accomplished contemporary songwriters and producers: the pair have had successful solo careers before teaming up to write hits for a who’s who list of electro pop and pop that includes Madonna, Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta, Axwell /\ Ingrosso, Katy Perry, Ghost, and Sia.

Founded back in 2017, the duo’s collaboration is a decided change in sonic direction from their previous output as the project finds the Swedish songwriters and producers experimenting with their own unique take on melodic alt-pop, which meshes elements of 70s Americana and Nordic melancholia. Coincidentally, as they started their own attention-grabbing project, the duo received accolades for co-writing Avicii’s “Without You” and “Waiting for Love,” which led to a Swedish Grammy Award win for Composer of the Year. Adding to a growing profile across the international electro pop scene, Al Fakir and Pontare performed their co-written hit “More Than You Know” with Axwell /\ Ingrosso at Coachella — and they played a key role in finishing Avicci’s posthumously released album  TIM, which they contributed on three of the album’s songs.

The duo’s latest single “Forgot To Be Your Lover” is a carefully crafted pop song that finds the duo balancing an easy-going AM rock meets yacht rock breeziness with an achingly melancholic nostalgia. Sonically, the track is centered around atmospheric synths and lush layers of shimmering and twangy, country-styled guitar lines — and in some way, the track reminds me of Danish JOVM mainstays Palace Winter, complete with an soaring and infectious hook.

“It’s a story of neglected love, as well as reflection of what love really means if one person drags the other one down in the gutter,” the duo explain in press notes. “We wrote it while searching for a melancholic piece in Vargas & Lagola’s musical puzzle. With it, we created our own space to experiment with and express what’s on our minds.” 

 

 

 

 

Lyric Video: Joseph’s Soaring and Anthemic “Green Eyes”

Deriving their name from their grandfather Jo and the tiny Oregon town of  Joseph, OR, in which he was born and raised, the  Portland, OR-based sibling indie pop trio Joseph, comprised of Natalie Closner Schepman and her two, younger twin sisters Meegan and Alison grew up in a musical household — their dad was a jazz singer and drummer, their mom a theater teacher. However, their collaboration together can trace their origins back to around 2014: Schepman who had been pursuing a career as a solo career as a singer/songwriter recruited her sisters to join her.  And when the Closners began collaborating together, they quickly recognized an irresistible and undeniable simpatico. 

The trio quickly developed a reputation for playing intimate house shows, in which the siblings accompanied themselves with acoustic guitar and foot drum and within their first year working together, the trio self-released their debut, 2014’s Native Dreamer Kin, which caught the attention of ATO Records, who signed the group the following year. After releasing 2015’s, ATO Sessions EP, an acoustic, two song, digital EP and accompanying video series, the sibling trio went on to release their Mike Mogis-produced, label debut 2016’s I’m Alone, No You’re Not, which featured the smash hit “White Flag.” “White Flag” landed on Spotify’s US Viral Top Ten Chart within days of its release. By October, the track landed at #1 on the Adult Alternative Charts. 

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the trio made appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Later . . . with Jools Holland, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Conan, CBS This Morning and Today. They also opened for James Bay during a sold out, 2016 arena tour — and they made festival stops at Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival, Sasquatch Festival, Glastonbury Festival, Outside Lands Festival, Pilgrimage Music Festival and several others. 

Slated for release next week, The Closer’s highly -anticipated Christian “Leggy” Langdon-produced follow up to I’m Alone, No You’re Not reportedly finds the trio pushing their sound as the material finds them embracing a grittier, much more dynamic sound — while retaining the gorgeous harmonizing that won them attention. “The through-line of the album is this idea of moving into the driver’s seat of your own life-recognizing that you’re an adult now, and everything’s up to you from this moment on,” Natalie Closner Schepman says in press notes.  “You’re not completely sure of how to get where you need to go, and you don’t have any kind of a map to help you. It’s just the universe looking down on you like, ‘Good luck, kid.'”

“Green Eyes,” Good Luck, Kid’s latest single finds the siblings meshing classic, Phil Spector Wall of Sound-era pop with elements of old school country and contemporary pop as it features twinkling piano, strummed guitar, dramatic drumming, and an enormous hook — with the primary focus being the trio’s gorgeous harmonizing. And while being a slickly produced, radio friendly pop confection, the song reveals some incredibly earnest yet ambitious songwriting. Simply put, this is an act actively attempting to take over the world with carefully crafted pop rooted around personal and lived-in experience. In this case, much like some of the sources that seem to influence it, “Green Eyes” is an aching love song in which its narrator recognizes that their relationship is at a major crossroads. 

“You’re starting to sense this person slipping away from you and you explain how it’s ok if they’re questioning,” Natalie Closner Schepman says about the track. “You assure them that you feel certain and you’ll be right over here waiting for them to see what you see.”

The recently released, animated lyric video features the band in a Speed Racer-like animation, in which the ladies cruise an alien-like world of purple skies and neon-green moonlight. 

New Audio: Sheer Mag Returns with a Politically-Charged Power, Chord-Fueled Anthem

Philadelphia-based rock act Sheer Mag, comprised of Tina Halladay, Kyle Seely, Hart Seely, Matt Palmer and Ian Dystrka, quickly emerged with three self-released 7 inches and regular touring across the Northeastern DIY circuit. Ironically, the Philadelphia-based quintet stood apart because their sound was so warmly familiar: big riff-based power pop, 60s and 70s proto-metal and 70s arena rock but without the toxic and fucked up machismo. They received praise from Rolling Stone who named the band one of their “10 New Artists You Need To Know” in January 2015, played at Coachella the following year and made their national television debut on on Late Night with Seth Myers.

Building upon a rapidly growing national profile, the band released their critically applauded full-length debut, 2017’s Need to Feel Your Love. Further cementing their enormous riff-based sound, the album thematically found the band surveying the contemporary political landscape through the lens of history with the band figuratively transporting themselves back to the 1969 Stonewall Riots, denouncing redlining and gerrymandering practices that undermine the popular vote while paying homage to German, Anti-Nazi political activist Sophie Scholl. 

Sheer Mag’s highly-anticipated sophomore album A Distant Call is slated for a September 23, 2019 release through the band’s own label, Wilsuns RC, and while the album finds the band writing about surviving our hellish sociopolitical moment, the album’s politics are deeply personal. The album documents one of the most alienating periods of Tina Halladay’s life: She was laid off from a job and found herself broke and newly single. And her father, with whom she had a fraught and difficult relationship died, which left her with more heartache and wounds than what felt possible to heal. On another level, the album’s material makes an argument for socialism on an anecdotal level.

Sonically, the album’s material possesses a studio sheen while retaining the big riffs, even bigger hooks, grit and intensity that first caught the attention of the blogosphere, as you’ll hear on the album’s first single, “The Killer.” And it may arguably be the most ambitious and self-assured bit of material in the band’s growing catalog.”There are many killers out there,” Sheer Mag’s Tina Halladay says in press notes. “The Killer is a liar with a strange hold on the world. The Killer is a war criminal the corrupt of society have produced and protected. The Killer spends his life covering up atrocities and defending right-wing dictatorships. The Killer stifles accountability and truth. We want to know, when does The Killer die?”

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Holy Ghost! Release an Intimate Behind the Scenes Visual on the Making of a Vinyl Record

I’ve written quite a bit about the New York-based electro funk/neo-disco production and artist and longtime JOVM mainstays Holy Ghost! over the years, and as you may recall, l, with the release of the their first three full-length albums — 2011’s self-titled debut, 2013’s Dynamics and 2014’s remix album Work For Hire — the duo, which is comprised of Alex Frankel and Nicholas Millhiser received attention nationally and internationally. Building upon a growing profile, the duo have remixed the work of Katy Perry, LCD Soundsystem, Moby and a lengthy list of others; made national TV appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Show with David Letterman; toured with the legendary New Order; and played sets at some of this country’s and the world’s biggest festivals including Coachella, Outside Lands, Primavera Sound and Bonnaroo.

Work, the duo’s first batch of new, original material in over five years reportedly finds Frankel and Millhiser attempting to revisit the freedom of expectations that was suffered through their earliest recorded output — and interestingly, the proverbial return to form partially stemmed from circumstances: the duo dismantled their basement Brooklyn studio and relocated to a small room that a few musician friends of theirs were renting about a doctor’s office (coincidentally, the same address where they mixed their full-length debut). Because of the room’s limited space, they pared their extensive gear collection down to two synths — a Yamaha CS-80 and a Mini Moog. “Not necessarily the bare necessities, but what would make for the most interesting limited palette,” says Millhiser. “David Bowiedidn’t have every fucking synthesizer on earth to make Low. He had two. And that’s one of my favorite synth records of all time.”

Slated for a Friday release through West End Records, the forthcoming album’s material will continue the duo’s long-held reputation for crafting each sound from scratch with an unapologetic, exacting precision — and it’s their analog approach to electronic music that heavily informs the songwriting, production and sound of the album. Interestingly, album single “Escape From Los Angeles” was centered by shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a motorik groove, ethereal crooning, thumping beats and a sinuous yet infectious hook — while seemingly indebted to From Here to Eternity . . . And Back-era Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk. Interestingly, Work‘s latest single “Do This” is another straightforward club banger that meshes early hip-hop, house music and disco in a way that recalls Sugarhill Gang, Nile Rodgers and Pet Shop Boys— thanks in part to arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, a two-step inducing hook and plaintive vocals.

Directed by the duo, the recently released video for “Do This” was shot on 16mm film by Jesse Cain and follows the entire process of recording and making a vinyl album, from the recording sessions at James Murphy’s Plantain Studios, to mastering at Heba Kadry’s Brooklyn-based mastering suite, to cutting the master disk with Bob Weston in Chicago, to pressing and packaging at RTI Pressing and finally to Amoeba Records in Los Angeles. It’s a behind the scenes look at the entire process revealing the professionalism and dedication of dozens of hard-working people that’s actually inspired by the famous Sesame Street “Making Crayons” segment. Originally aired in the early 80s, the clip made a deep impression on the members of Holy Ghost! “We wanted to document the ancient and very special process of making vinyl, from recording and mixing all the way to packaging and store delivery,” Frankel explains.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Holy Ghost! Releases a Funky Two-Step Inducing Single

I’ve written quite a bit about the New York-based electro funk/neo-disco production and artist and longtime JOVM mainstays Holy Ghost! over the years, and as you may recall, l, with the release of the their first three full-length albums — 2011’s self-titled debut, 2013’s Dynamics and 2014’s remix album Work For Hire — the duo, which is comprised of Alex Frankel and Nicholas Millhiser received attention nationally and internationally. Building upon a growing profile, the duo have remixed the work of Katy Perry, LCD Soundsystem, Moby and a lengthy list of others; made national TV appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Show with David Letterman; toured with the legendary New Order; and played sets at some of this country’s and the world’s biggest festivals including Coachella, Outside Lands, Primavera Sound and Bonnaroo.

Work, the duo’s first batch of new, original material in over five years reportedly finds Frankel and Millhiser attempting to revisit the freedom of expectations that was suffered through their earliest recorded output — and interestingly, the proverbial return to form partially stemmed from circumstances: the duo dismantled their basement Brooklyn studio and relocated to a small room that a few musician friends of theirs were renting about a doctor’s office (coincidentally, the same address where they mixed their full-length debut). Because of the room’s limited space, they pared their extensive gear collection down to two synths — a Yamaha CS-80 and a Mini Moog. “Not necessarily the bare necessities, but what would make for the most interesting limited palette,” says Millhiser. “David Bowie didn’t have every fucking synthesizer on earth to make Low. He had two. And that’s one of my favorite synth records of all time.”

Slated for a June 21, 2019 release through West End Records, the forthcoming album’s material will continue the duo’s long-held reputation for crafting each sound from scratch with an unapologetic, exacting precision — and it’s their analog approach to electronic music that heavily informs the songwriting, production and sound of the album. Interestingly, album single “Los Angeles” was centered by shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a motorik groove, ethereal crooning, thumping beats and a sinuous yet infectious hook — while seemingly indebted to From Here to Eternity . . . And Back-era Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk. Interestingly, Work’s latest single “Do This” is another straightforward club banger that meshes early hip-hop, house music and disco in a way that recalls Sugarhill Gang, Nile Rodgers and Pet Shop Boys– thanks in part to arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, a two-step inducing hook and plaintive vocals.  

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstays Tame Impala Perform “Borderline” at Coachella

I’ve written quite a bit about the Perth, Australia-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay Kevin Parker and his acclaimed solo recording project Tame Impala over the past few years. And as you may recall, his third album, 2015’s Currents was a commercial and critical breakthrough as it was a Grammy-nominated, RIAA Gold-Certified effort that reflected a decided change in songwriting and approach that resulted in some of the most emotionally direct lyrics of his growing catalog paired with a more nuanced, textured sound that drew from psych rock, psych pop, synth pop, prog rock and R&B.

Patience,” which was released last month, was the first bit of new, solo material from Parker in several years, and while being a decidedly upbeat banger that seamlessly bridged 90s house and 70s funk, thematically the track was a thoughtful meditation on the cycles and phases of life. “Borderline,” Parker’s latest single is a blissed out, shimmering, mid-tempo track centered around arpeggiated synths, Parker’s imitable, plaintive falsetto and a soaring hook. And while showcasing the flourishes of the house music-inspired instrumentation of its predecessor, the track should serve as a reminder that Parker has a deep collection of hook-driven bangers.

Parker and his backing band will be making appearances across the international festival circuit that will include stops at Coachella FestivalShaky Knees FestivalCorona Capital Festival, Boston CallingPrimavera Sound Festival, Glastonbury FestivalLollapalooza with more dates to come. Coachella recently released live footage of Tame Impala’s headlining set last week, and it included footage of “Borderline.” Check it out, and then check out the tour dates below.

New Video: Acclaimed Japanese Punk Act Releases Cinematic Visuals for Blistering “datsu hike no onna”

Over the past few months of this year, I’ve written a bit about the  Kyoto, Japan-based garage punk act Otoboke Beaver (おとぼけビ~バ~ in Japanese), and as you may recall the act which is comprised of Accorinrin (vocals, guitar), Yoyoyoshie (guitar, vocals), Hirochan (bass, vocals) and Kahokiss (drums, vocals) can trace their origins to when they all were members of Kyoto University’s music club.

Shortly after their formation, the quartet quickly received attention both locally and nationally for pairing incredibly dexterous musicianship with their frontwoman’s confrontational stage presence. Interestingly, when  Damnably Records released the Okoshiyasu!! Otoboke Beaver compilation, the Kyoto-based punk act began receiving airplay internationally from BBC Radio 6′Gideon Coe and Tom RavenscroftXFM’s John Kennedy, as well as praise from the likes of PitchforkNPRi-Dand The Fader.

Building upon a rapidly growing international profile, the members of the band made critically applauded and attention-grabbing appearances at SXSW and FujiRock Festival, played a sold out show at London‘s 100 Club — and their Love Is Short 7 inch charted in the UK for 4 weeks. Last year, the band went on a tour of the UK that was bookmarked by slots at Coachella.

The band’s newest album ITEKOMA HITS is slated for an April 26, 2019 release through their longtime label home Damnably Records, and from the album’s first three singles “Anata Watashi Daita Ato Yome No Meshi,” “Don’t light my fire” and “I’m tired of repeating your story” the Japanese band revealed that their specialized in feral and defiantly feminist rippers that drew from noise punk, no wave, prog rock and riot grrrl punk, centered around blistering power chords, rapid-fire chord progressions and tempo changes and shouted lyrics. The album’s fourth and latest single “datsu, hike no onna” continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor — furious, straightforward punk that bristles with discontent and frustration.

Directed by Haruka Mitani, the video for “datsu, hike no onna” marks an important first for the band — the first time they’ve collaborated with a female director. Shot in gorgeously cinematic 8mm film, the video focuses on a woman who is seemingly suffering from bipolar disorder — at one point manic and joyous, at another point murderous. Interestingly, as the band’s Accorinrin explains, the song “is a second woman’s song similar as my previous song’s themes. hikage no onna means woman in the shadows. It can be [a] metaphor for a mistress, an ‘illegitimate’ woman or a woman without a bubbly, outgoing personality. The message of this song is lamenting the oppression of being a woman in the shadows and about getting out from this suffering.”

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Holy Ghost! Release a Club Banger off Forthcoming New Album

I’ve written a bit about the New York-based electro funk/neo-disco production and artist duo and JOVM mainstays Holy Ghost! over the years. Now, as you may recall, with the release of the their first three full-length albums — 2011’s self-titled debut, 2013’s Dynamics and 2014’s remix album Work For Hire — the duo, which is comprised of Alex Frankel and Nicholas Millhiser received attention nationally and internationally. And a result, they’ve remixed the work of Katy Perry, LCD Soundsystem, Moby and a lengthy list of others; made national TV appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Show with David Letterman; toured with the legendary New Order; and played sets at some of this country’s and the world’s biggest festivals including Coachella, Outside Lands, Primavera Sound and Bonnaroo.

Work the duo’s first batch of new, original material in over five years reportedly finds Frankel and Millhiser attempting to revisit the freedom of expectations that was suffered through their earliest recorded output — and interestingly, the proverbial return to form partially stemmed from circumstances: the duo dismantled their basement Brooklyn studio and relocated to a small room that a few musician friends of theirs were renting about a doctor’s office (coincidentally, the same address where they mixed their full-length debut). Because of the room’s limited space, they pared their extensive gear collection down to two synths — a Yamaha CS-80 and a Mini Moog. “Not necessarily the bare necessities, but what would make for the most interesting limited palette,” says Millhiser. “David Bowie didn’t have every fucking synthesizer on earth to make Low. He had two. And that’s one of my favorite synth records of all time.”

Unsurprisingly, Work’s material continues the duo’s long-held reputation for crafting each sound from scratch with an unapologetic, exacting precision — and it’s their analog approach to electronic music that heavily informs the songwriting, production and sound of the album, which is slated for a June 21, 2019 release through West End Records. Work’s latest single “Escape From Los Angeles,” is centered by shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a motorik groove, ethereal crooning, thumping beats and a sinuous yet infectious hook — and while seemingly indebted to From Here to Eternity . . . And Back-era Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk, the New York-based JOVM mainstay’s latest single may arguably be their most straightforward club bangers in some time.