Tag: NXNE

A Q&A with Holy Boy’s Helene Alexandra Jæger

Helene Alexandra Jæger is a Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and creative mastermind behind the rising recording project Holy Boy. Recorded at Ben Hillier’s London-based Pool Studios, Jæger’s 2017 Holy Boy self-titled debut was released to widespread critical acclaim with EP single “The Blood Moon” receiving airplay on BBC Radio 1 while establishing her sound – a sound that takes cues from The Velvet Underground and Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, Suicide, the dark side of the 60s, vintage girl bands and West Coast hip-hop and she has dubbed “neon gothic.” Thematically, the Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s work focuses on “explorations in consciousness,” she explains in press notes.

Building upon a growing profile, Jæger performed sets at that year’s CMJ, NXNE and SXSW. She followed that up with the critically applauded single “Elegy,” which The Line of Best Fit described as being “at once eclectic and utterly immersive; smoky and classic, yet simultaneously futuristic.”

Much like the countless emerging artists I’ve covered on this site over the past decade, Jæger began the year with big plans to boost her profile and her career that included booked sets at this year’s SXSW, which would have corresponded with the release of the first single off her forthcoming 11 song, full-length debut, which is slated for release this summer. Of course, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, SXSW was cancelled while countless other festivals, tours and shows were postponed until later this year. Interestingly, the album’s first single was released last month – and it turns out to be an eerily fitting and timely cover of The Doors’ classic “Riders On The Storm.” Centered around layers of shimmering organs, including Hammond, Rhodes, Optigan and Vox Continental, vintage 70s drum machines and 80s Casio synths, along with Jæger’s dusky vocals drenched in gentle reverb, delay and other ethereal effects, the Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s haunting and cinematic rendition retains the somber and brooding tone of the original while adding  that seemingly unending sense of dread and uncertainty that we’ve all felt in our lives over the past month or so.

The accompanying video is fittingly creepy and yet highly symbolic: it features a lo-fi, computer generated skeleton in space, walking up a never-ending staircase.

I recently exchanged emails with Jæger for this Q&A. Current events have impacted all of us – and they’ve found a way to bleed into our personal and professional lives in ways that will likely reverberate for some time to come. Because she had plans to play at SXSW until it was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we chat briefly about how the pandemic has impacted her and her career. But the bulk of our conversation, we chat about her attention- grabbing cover of The Doors’ classic tune, and what we should expect from her forthcoming debut. Check it out below.

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WRH: Most parts of the country are enacting social distancing guidelines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in New York, we’ve been social distancing and in-quarantine for the better part of three weeks. It’s been tough – but it’s for the greater good. How are you holding up?

Helene Alexandra Jæger: I love New York, and it’s crazy what’s happening right now. I hope it turns around and that we all learn something from this that can save lives in the future and now. Here in L.A., we’ve been at home for three or four weeks — I can’t even remember — and most things have been shut since then. It’s been strict, but I’m grateful for that – better safe than sorry in this type of a situation.

I’m lucky as an introvert, I’m quite comfortable spending time on my own reading, exploring info online, creating and listening to music.

WRH: You were about to release new material at around the time that SXSW had to cancel because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career at the moment? 

HAJ: The cancellation came so suddenly; the whole festival was shut down less than a week before I was headed there to showcase my album live for the first time. I feel the cancellation of SXSW was a turnaround, for the first time people started to realize how serious this outbreak might get…

Until that, most people I heard from thought the danger was exaggerated, and so I’m really glad the city of Austin made a firm decision, because I don’t know what the situation would have been like if 60,000 people had gathered for SXSW as planned, just a few weeks back.

Since this outbreak, I’ve been trying to manage the “Riders On The Storm” release that was too late to cancel — and somehow turned out to be more poignant right now than I’d ever expected.

I was planning to release my debut album this spring, was working on music video plans, and had live shows in the pipeline around the release, but that’s all on ice now. The good thing is, I get to create more and spend time making more music. I also have a poetry collection I’ve been working on for a while, and it’s given me time to focus on that and prepare for that release.


WRH: How would you describe your sound, for those unfamiliar to you and Holy Boy’s sound?

HAJ: This is always tricky. I feel like it’s a world where it’s dark, but there are neon lights on, and you can see the stars and the moon. There’s a dreamy quality to it, but it can also get gritty and sensual. I sometimes think of it as Moon in Scorpio, 5th house, that’s my placement. It’s a dark and deep place where there’s sometimes a feeling of being closer to space than earth. Musically, I call it Neon Gothic or LA noir, organ rock.


WRH: Who are your influences?

HAJ: I love all kinds of music, but for this coming album, I’ve been immersing myself in what felt like it resonated with the emotions in those songs. Songs like “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin, David Bowie’s Blackstar album, “Nikes” by Frank Ocean, Suicide and songs by The Shangri-La’s, Johnny Jewel’s work . . .

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

HAJ: I’m really enjoying the Spotify Discover Weekly playlist where the algorithm presents you with music it thinks you’ll like, and I’ve been going on a deep dive based on doing research for a TV idea I’ve been working on… A beautiful and uplifting raw song I think everyone could benefit from right now is an old gospel type recording “Like A Ship” by Pastor T.L. Barrett and The Youth for Christ Choir… I think it’s a really inspiring song for this time.

I’ve also been listening to demos and outtakes from Bob Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” sessions and it’s been such a revelation to hear how incredibly different the other takes were… To see how fluid his process was, that a song like “Like A Rolling Stone” ended up the way we know it, when the other takes were so different… There’s a real magic to it. Like listening into an alternate reality.

WRH: You recently released an eerie and ominous cover of The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.” I think if Jim Morrison was alive today, he would have really dug what you did with the song. What drew you to the song? Have the living members of The Doors heard the song? If they did, what did they think of it?

HAJ: That means a lot to me, thank you so much. I know he had an interest in the worlds beyond and the nature of life and death, which I personally resonate with, so it was a great experience to channel one of his/their songs . . .

One of the reasons I was drawn to making a cover of “Riders On The Storm”, besides being a huge fan of The Doors, is it feels like a seeker’s song, and it felt like a kindred spirit to the way I look at the world. A sense of not quite being at home and not quite belonging on earth.

From what I know, they haven’t heard it, but I really hope they would enjoy my version. I hope they are all safe and well, all four of them in this world and the other.

WRH: The recent video for “Riders on the Storm” features a computer-animated skeleton in space, walking up an infinite staircase. It’s fittingly ominous and as eerie. How did you come about this treatment – and what is it supposed to represent?

HAJ: When I saw Andrei/@dualvoidanimafff’s lofi retro futuristic animations online, I knew I wanted to work on something with him. For “Riders On The Storm”, I just saw this idea of a skeleton walking up a never-ending staircase in space… Like man’s ascension, our eternal human quest to become more or to rise out of the limitations of physical life, to reach this idea of heaven or perfection… It felt to me like a logical depiction of the song’s theme, “Riders On The Storm”… The impossibility of our pursuit, but also the beauty – that throughout history we’ve never stopped trying.

WRH: You have an album slated for a late August release. What should we expect from the album?

HAJ: My version of “Riders On The Storm” is definitely in the same world that the record takes place in. An otherworldly atmosphere built around Hammond/Rhodes/Optigan organs, Vox Continentals, vintage 70s drum machines and obscure 80s Casio synths. It’s definitely a nighttime record, it’s happening in the dark, songs that I hope can be cathartic in a time like this and what most likely lies ahead.

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Comprised of Reid MacMaster (vocals, guitar), Sean Hackl (guitar, vocals), Duncan Briggs (bass, vocals) and Owen Wolff (drums, vocals), the Toronto, Ontario, Canada-based indie rock/garage rock act Fade Awaays have emerged as one of their hometown’s up-and-coming acts, thanks in part to a reputation for rowdy live sets centered around material with enormous, arena rock friendly choruses and hooks and fuzzy, 90s grunge rock-like power chords. In fact, the band has played some of Toronto’s most famed and beloved venues including Horseshoe Tavern, Mod Club Theatre and The Danforth Music Hall, have opened for the likes of Wolf Alice, Public Access TV, Hot Flash Heat Wave and The Sherlocks. And building upon a growing profile, the band has played sets at some of Canada’s largest music festivals including CMW, NXNE, Trapdoor Fest and Indie Week.

The Canadian band’s debut single “Get Along” is a gritty and anthemic garage rock barn-burner, complete with distortion heavy power chords, thundering drumming, howled vocals and a mosh-pit friendly, shout worthy hook. And while the song sounds as though it were indebted to The Hives and others, the song as the band says “is about trying to make the best of a situation and trying to get along with the ones you love in hard times.” Certainly, in light of our current sociopolitical moment, the urgent song is centered around a much-needed message for anyone trying to survive our mad, mad, mad, mad world.

As the band adds, the song was a last minute addition to their growing repertoire. “We wrote the arrangement for the song and sat on the lyrics for the rest of our days in the studio. I can’t even remember what we were trying to write the lyrics about because it took us way too long. Nothing felt right – it felt too rushed to be interesting but eventually we ended up writing lyrics about our situation, trying to get work done and how to work together in the studio. ‘I hope we get along / staying lazy ain’t no job couch driven trying to get along.’ It felt more accurate, natural, and engaging.”

 

 

 

 

Mark Berg is an Edmonton, Alberta, Canada-based singer/songwriter, electronic music artist and producer, whose solo recording project Tropic Harbour specializes in hazy, dream pop inspired by nostalgic images and dreams of the coast, during the summer — and in many ways, Berg reportedly created the project as a way to mentally escape the harsh Edmonton winters. Along with a backing and that features Kurtis Cockerill
Andrew Brostrom, and Marcus Rayment, Berg began receiving national attention, playing at a number of Canada’s renowned festivals including Pop Montreal, NXNE and Sled Island, as well as opening for the likes of DIIV, Jessy Lanza, Homeshake and Will Butler.

Berg’s latest Tropic Harbour single “Can’t Pretend” will further cement his reputation for crafting, 80s-inspired, nostalgia-inducing and summery synth pop; however, it’s a much more downtempo and atmospheric production featuring a sinuous bass line, gently swirling electronics, shimmering synths and stuttering drum programming, and in some way, the song sonically speaking will remind some listeners of I Love You It’s Cool-era Bear in Heaven, Neon Indian and others — while thematically focusing on its narrator letting go of a past relationship and trying to find himself again in the process.

 

 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the course of its seven year history, you may have come across a post or two featuring the up-and-coming New York-born and now Los Angeles-based pop artist and multi-instrumentalist  Beca. Receiving classical training at Juilliard, the New York-born, Los Angeles, CA-based pop artist forged her own path away from her formal training as she sought out opportunities to explore avant garde electronic music, compose for amplified string instruments and NYC’s underground club culture — all of which had been influences on her and her later work.

Since 2012, Beca has released two EPs through British label This Is Music Music, Ltd., self-released her full-length debut Ecliptic in 2015 and worked with Midnight Magic‘s Morgan Wiley. Beca has received praise from the likes of Flaunt, Galore Magazine, Lucky Magazine, received airplay from over 50 stations nationally including NPR’s “The Essentials” and KCRW, and she’s had her work remixed by the likes of Ashley Beedle, Klic, Night Drive and others.  Along with that, Beca was once a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition and the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. And adding to a growing profile, the up-and-coming artist has played at CMJ, SXSW, Miami Fashion Week, Sundance Film Festival, POP Montreal and NXNE and she’s toured across the US, Europe and Mexico.

Beca’s latest effort, the Blake Robin and Fabian Ordorica-produced, six song EP, In Deep Love is slated for release on September 15, 2017 and the album finds the up-and-coming New York-born, Los Angeles-based artist further cementing her reputation for crafting material that draws from 80s and 90s synth pop paired with lyrics influenced by mythology, classical music, film, art, romantic stories and her own personal life. EP title track and lead single “In Deep Love” is a shimmering and propulsive, club-banger that sonically seems indebted to Giorgio Moroder-era disco and 80s freestyle but while dance floor friendly, the song is under-pinned by a bitter heartbreak — the realization that you may have to let go of someone you love and accept the idea that there won’t be a future with that person. And while it may be painful, it’s the best thing for both people involved.

 

New Video: The Grainy 80s Influenced Sounds and Visuals of Queen of Swords’ “Rise Instead”

Aerin Fogel is a Toronto, ON-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who may be best known for her stint as one-half of fuzz pop duo The Bitters, with Fucked Up’s, Young Guv’s and Bad Actors Records’ Ben Cook. The duo released critically applauded material through several renowned indie labels including Captured Tracks Records, Mexican Summer Records, Sacred Bones Records and Release The Bats Records, as well as festival appearances at SXSW, NXNE, and Woodsist/Captured Tracks Fest; however, Fogel’s newest recording project Queens of Swords finds Fogel specializing in sweeping and dramatic pop that aesthetically speaking nods at Siouxsie and the Banshees, PJ Harvey and others, but with huntingly ethereal melodies, as you’ll hear on her latest single off the project’s self-titled full-length debut, “Rise Instead.” 

The recently released music video for the song, was recorded and directed by Danielle Aphrodite on grainy VHS and was devised as n ode to the stages of female empowerment; but it also manages to nod at the billowing and dreamy vibe of the song. 

New Video: The Mischievous Yet Dark Goth-Inspired Visuals for Ghost Twin’s “Plastic Heart”

Since the release of their debut EP, Here We Are In The Night, the Winnipeg, MB-based electro pop duo Ghost Twin, comprised of husband and wife duo Karen and Jaimz Asmundson, have received attention for meshing dark, industrial-inspired dance grooves in an immersive audio/visual show that includes edited video being used as percussion; in fact, the duo have played shows across their native Canada, including sets at NXNE, Pop Montreal, BreakOut West and Terminus. Eventually, the EP caught the attention of Austra’s Maya Postepski, a drummer and an electronic music producer known as Princess Century, who approached the band and was recruited to produce and collaborate on the material that would eventually comprise Plastic Heart, the Canadian duo’s full-length debut.

“Plastic Heart,” the album title track and latest single off Ghost Twin’s debut consists of tweeter and woofer-rattling boom bap beats, propulsive, shimmering arpeggio synths, a murky, retro-futuristic, industrial electro pop vibe and a soaring hook paired with ethereal vocals — and while clearly nodding at John Carpenter soundtracks, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Depeche Mode, Moonbabies, Niki and the Dove and others, the song manages to be a slickly produced, club banger with a dark, seductive feel. And interestingly enough, the recently released video, which was directed and produced by the band’s Jaimz Asmundson drops the viewer into a gym club for goths in which a dance instructor teaches some of the attendees a menacing new dance move, a move that mimics kidnapping, murdering and then burying the body of an enemy while conjuring dark spirits — and while menacing there’s a mischievous sense of dark humor and wish-fulfillment within the video.

Since the release of their debut EP, Here We Are In The Night, the Winnipeg, MB-based electro pop duo Ghost Twin, comprised of husband and wife duo Karen and Jaimz Asmundson, have received attention for meshing dark, industrial-inspired dance grooves in an immersive audio/visual show that includes edited video being used as percussion; in fact, the duo have played shows across their native Canada, including sets at NXNE, Pop Montreal, BreakOut West and Terminus. Eventually, the EP caught the attention of Austra’s Maya Postepski, a drummer and an electronic music producer known as Princess Century, who approached the band and was recruited to produce and collaborate on the material that would eventually comprise Plastic Heart, the Canadian duo’s full-length debut.

“Plastic Heart,” the album title track and latest single off Ghost Twin’s debut consists of tweeter and woofer-rattling boom bap beats, propulsive, shimmering arpeggio synths, a murky, retro-futuristic, industrial electro pop vibe and a soaring hook paired with ethereal vocals — and while clearly nodding at John Carpenter soundtracks, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Depeche Mode, Moonbabies, Niki and the Dove and others, the song manages to be a slickly produced, club banger with a dark, seductive feel.

Back in January, I wrote a post on Reno, NV-born and Nashville, TN-based alt rock/blues/rock artist  Jack Berry. Berry can trace the origins of his recording career to when he wrote and recorded his first album while studying in  Los Angeles. Berry then worked and performed along the West Coast as one half a of a duo before before he decided that it was time to go solo. Relocating to Nashville, Berry spent several months couch-surfing and writing and recording material with the hopes that he could catch the attention of that city’s local press. Eventually, Berry began receiving praise from outlets such as Nashville SceneThe Deli MagazineBlues Rock Review and others, which resulted in slots at Toronto‘s North by Northeast (NXNE)CMJ and SXSW‘s Red Gorilla Festival. Since then, Berry has played a number of venues between his hometown and NYC; however, 2016 may be his breakthrough year with the Spring 2016 release of his latest album, Mean Machine. 

Now, as I mentioned a little earlier, back in January I wrote about Mean Machine‘s first single “The Bull,” a sultry and bluesy single that paired arena rock-friendly power chords, propulsive and carefully syncopated drumming, an anthemic hook and Berry’s seductive crooning and howling that sonically seems to draw from Soundgarden (think of “Mailman” “Spoonman,”and “Fell on Black Days” off Superunknown) as it does from old-school blues and contemporary rock. Mean Machine‘s latest single “Bad Dog” continues where “The Bull” left off: arena-friendly power chords, propulsive drumming paired with  Berry’s sultry crooning; however, the song possesses a cocksure swagger and menace that pushes the song towards the old school blues territory — in particular think of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.

Currently comprised of founding members Clint Sargent (guitar, vocals) and Luke Strahota (drums), along with Colin Sheridan (bass) and Kaitlyn Ni Donovan (vocals, guitar), the Portland OR-based shoegaze quartet The High Violets can trace their origins to the breakup of The Bella Low, which featured Sargent, Strahota and another founding member Violet Bianca Grace (who left after a few early gigs). After a lineup change that resulted in their current lineup, the quartet released the their EP Dream Away, their full-length debut 44 Downin and their critically applauded third effort To Where You Are through Irish label Reverb Records. And as a result The High Violets saw a rapidly growing profile across North America as they played sets at NXNE in Toronto and SXSW in Austin, TX and then released a remix album, Satellite Remixes, which featured remixes from the renowned Ulrich Schnauss, Carmen Rizzo and others.  

Although the band is currently on hiatus from touring and live shows, they have remained active in the studio. The band’s fifth full-length effort, Heroes and Halos is slated for an April 1, 2016 release through Saint Marie Records and the album’s first single “Bells” has the band pairing layers of shimmering guitars and a propulsive and steady rhythm with Ni Donovan’s gorgeously ethereal and wistful vocals in a way that nods towards The SundaysHere’s Where The Story Ends” but with a cosmic glow that belies a subtly modern production.