Founded by some of the originators of CMJ and its long-running CMJ Marathon, Mondo.NYC is a music, technology and innovation-based festival that within its first couple years has quietly taken the place of both the CMJ Marathon and New Music Seminar’s New Music Nights Festival. Now, as you may recall, the third edition of Mondo.NYC took place last week and it found the global, emerging music, technology and innovation conference moving a few miles east across the East River to Williamsburg, Brooklyn with The Williamsburg Hotel,Rough Trade and Brooklyn Bowl hosting daytime conference-related events hosted by The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Guild of Music Supervisors,Record Store Day, and others meant to connect fans, artists, music industry professionals, business pioneers and leading names in tech and music to network, trade ideas and learn in a rapidly changing industry landscape. Additionally, the panels, talks and other events were meant to inspire young people to take control of their careers — whether they were heading towards a technological-based career, behind the scenes in A&R, marketing, promotion, management and publicity or up in front as an artist.
One of the artists who played during the music festival portion was the Swedish adult contemporary pop artist ELINDA, the collaborative music project of the Ekerö, Sweden-born, Stockholm, Sweden-based singer/songwriter and dancer Linda Östergren Frithiof and her husband, multi-instrumentalist and producer Mikael Frihiof. Linda Östergren Frithiof can trace the origins of her performing career as a trained dancer, studying at the Lasse Kühler Dansskola School and the Ballet Academy, one of Scandinavia’s leading dance schools. While training as a dancer, it was discovered that Östergren Frithiof had a commanding voice and once she graduated dance school, she began performing at nightclubs, cabarets, vacation resorts, cruise ships and corporate events before landing gigs as a backup singer for a number of major Scandinavian artists including Magnus Uggla, Markoolio and E-Type, Shirley Clamp, Martin Stenmarck and Charlotte Perrelli, as well as Lutricia McNeal. She’s also sang vocal demos for Celine Dion, and collaborated with the likes of Leif Larsson and Anders Borgius for Swedish artists like Björn Skifs and David Hasselhoff. (Yes, David Hasselhoff.)
Adding to a rather diverse and eclectic career path, Östergren Frithiof has played Sally Bowles in the Stockholm-based production of Cabaret and Joanne in the Stockholm-based production of RENT before joining The Original Band — The Abba Tribute, which features a number of musicians who have played with ABBA either on their records or tours. Additionally, Östergren Frithiof, was involved in the casting, choreography and scripting for the show, which has toured across Sweden and has performed in China several times, including a televised audience of more than 100 million viewers for the Chinese New Year broadcast.
Östergren Frithof, has been building up a profile as a solo artist largely inspired by the sounds, vocal styles and stage shows of Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Prince, Justin Timberlake,Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Ariana Grande and Bruno Mars. With her husband and collaborator Mikael, they formed a label Breaking Records and began writing and recording original material that draws from her own life, centered around her struggles and victories as an artist and mother of five. Interestingly, her MONDO.NYC set at Piano’s was her Stateside debut and I spoke to the up-and-coming Swedish adult contemporary pop artist and her husband at P.J. Clarke’s Lincoln Center location about her career to date, the MONDO.NYC Festival, her dance floor friendly, feminist anthem “Superwoman” and a lot more. Check it out.
RIAA hosts “Everything You Need to Know About Streaming Revenue and Policy in One Hour”
Guild of Music Supervisors NYC Education Event & Film Fest, an immersive full-day symposium to meet, network and learn from some of the top music supervisors and industry executives in the business, that will take place at The Williamsburg Hotel, October 5.
Record Store Day presents “A Conversation With…” Series at Rough Trade Records
The Second Annual Marauder Radio Room @ Pianos — College stations record interviews and live sessions with Mondo showcasing artists.
MusicTech Day @ Mondo.NYC hosted by Brian Zisk
Northern Beat: Indigenous Canadian New Music Showcase at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with iskwé, DJ Shub with James Jones and Elisapie
HOTS, The Hungarian Music Export Bureau, presents Breakthrough Artists from Hungary Ivan & the Parazol and Mörk
SWISS LIVE TALENTS present KT Gorique, The Last Moan, Sophie De Quay & The Waveguards, Eliane Amherd
Mondo’s speakers include key leaders from the emerging music and frontier tech industries:
● Preeti Adhikary, VP of Marketing, FuseMachines
● Danielle Aguirre, General Counsel, National Music Publishers’ Association
● Lauren Apolito, SVP Strategy & Business Development, Rumblefish/HFA
● Shelita Burke, Pop Star/Data Scientist
● Bryan Calhoun
● Susanna Choe, Co-Founder, Peace Accelerators
● Thomas Emmanuel, US Business Development Advisor, Sonm
● David Garrity, Partner, BTBlock
● Mitch Glazier, President, RIAA
● Adam Huttler, General Partner, Exponential Creativity Ventures
● Lenny Kaye, Artist, Guitarist for The Patti Smith Group
● Scott Kessler, Director of Business Development, L03 Energy
● Tammy Khan, Partner, BTBlock
● Clara Kim, General Counsel, ASCAP
● Michael Kurtz, Co-Founder, Record Store Day
● Andrew Levine, Content Director, Steemit
● Jonathan McHugh, Director/Producer/Music Supervisor
● Arjun Mendhi, CEO, MTonomy
● Tatiana Moroz, Founder, TATIANACOIN
● Ed Morris, Co-Founder and Director, Gate Reality
● Rohan Reddy, Co-Founder, Y2X
● Emma Reeves, Executive Director, Free the Bird
● Jordan Rudess, Keyboardist/Composer, Dream Theater
● Xander Schultz, VC, Galaxy Investment Partners
● Cary Sherman, CEO, RIAA
● Stephen White, CEO, Dubset
● Bill Wilson, Co-Founder, Indie Ninja
● Brian Zisk, Co-Founder/Executive Producer, SF MusicTech Summit
● Shoshana Zisk, General Counsel, George Clinton Enterprises
Of course, I’m looking extremely forward to catching some of the incredibly diverse music offerings, including:
Omar Souleyman (Syria)
Laxmi Bomb (India)
Lord Esperanza (France)
Crosa Rosa (UK)
Sevi Ettinger (China)
Mörk and Ivan & The Parazol (Hungary)
Eliane Amherd and Sophie de Quay & The Wave Guards (Switzerland)
DJ Shub, Elisapie, Goodbye Honolulu, iskwé, Karimah, and Kielley Koyote (Canada)
BriGuel, Girl Skin and HoneyChrome, RYAL (NYC)
The Darbies (Los Angeles)
and a long list of others
For more information, including tickets, showcases, talks and more, go the following: https://mondo.nyc
Hopefully, I’ll be covering the events of the conference, and if so, be on the lookout for a variety of live conference through my various social accounts:
Last month, I wrote about Taleen Kali, an up-and-coming Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and musician, who’s best known for being a member of TÜLIPS, and as you may recall, after the band broke up, Kali decided go to solo — and within a relatively short period of time, she developed a reputation for being one of her hometown’s next big artists, as she’s opened for the likes of Madame Gandhi and Kimya Dawson, and has played sets at Echo Park Rising Festival, Mothership Festival and Women Fuck Shit Up Fest.
“Half Lie,” the first single off her soon-to-be released Kristin Kontrol-produced EP Soul Songs, has received to attention from the likes of Stereogum and others, and it shouldn’t be surprising as it’s a decidedly New Wave-like take on noise rock that will remind some listeners of Gothic Tropic,Dum Dum Girls, Dirty Ghosts — but while interestingly enough nodding at Go-Gos and others, complete with an infectious, arena rock hook. And much like “Lost & Bound,” “Half Lie” reveals an artist, who can effortlessly walk a tightrope between a slick studio sheen and a scuzzy punk rock air — without feeling contrived or ridiculous.
Centered around a concept devised by its director Leila Jarman, the recently released video is all about bright, springtime colors and as Kali told The Grey Estates, “The video for ‘Half Lie’ is all about floral femme with a punk rock edge…it expands on the theme of the song, which is about half truths we hear from others, and the lies we tell ourselves. In the video, we celebrate the journey into new truths, turning them into ceremonies. The visuals depict lush rituals performed by some of my favorite L.A. artists, Madison René Knapp and Kayla Tange, who lead us up into the grand spiritual unveiling at the end.”
Comprised of founding members Emma Hoeflinger (vocals, guitar) and Karolyn Winegarner (vocals, drums), and Kurt Kraft (bass), the Nashville, TN-based psych rock/sludge rock trio Oginalii derive their name from the Cherokee word for “my friend,” and the up-and-coming band can trace their origins to when its founding members met in the dorm hall they both shared while studying at Belmont University back in 2014 — with Kraft joining the band in 2016.
Locally, the trio have developed a reputation for a sound that’s difficult to pin down, as their material finds the band at one moment playing slow-burning, dreamy shoegaze and then the next moment playing ripping, sludgy power chords paired with Hoeflinger and Winegarner harmonizing and trading vocals throughout; in fact, from what I understand the Nashville-based trio, who released their critically applauded debut EP earlier this year, won quite bit of attention from crowds at SXSW last week.
Building on the growing buzz that the Nashville, TN-based trio has already received for their debut EP, their follow-up EP, The Grey is slated for an October 20, 2018 and while reportedly continuing in a similar sonic vein as its predecessor, the Curtis Roush-produced and engineered effort thematically focuses on “the grey.” As the trio’s Hoeflinger explains in press notes, “The grey [as a concept] has been a thing for me my whole life. The in-between. Black and white shuts the demons up, but the grey is always constantly calling my name. It’s in between the grey of things that not a lot of people talk about.” And as a result, the material discusses the sensation of feeling lost, the space between the inner self, which you rarely reveal and the out self, which you present to the world — but interestingly enough the material balancing pensiveness, with a tongue-in-check irony at other points while being self-aware of both. “Substance Abuse,” the EP’s firs single and opening track begins with a slow-burning and mournful jangling reminiscent of Mazzy Star but boozier and bluesier with a chugging, sludgy chorus and an anthemic, beer raising, fist pumping chorus; however, throughout the song, it’s narrator is desperately and transparently putting on a brave face, smiling and claiming that everything is fine, when it’s obvious that everything is on the verge of complete
The recently released 360º virtual reality video features the band performing the song in a basement that quickly turns into an eerie and ominous graveyard with bare, swaying trees just above them with haunting cult-like figures surrounding them. It’s incredibly creepy and further evokes the sense that something isn’t quite right.
With the release of their critically applauded sophomore album Wahzu Wahzu, the Altamont, NY-based art pop duo The Parlor, comprised of multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, production and husband and wife team of Jen O’Connor and Eric Krans further cemented a growing reputation for a fearless willingness to explore a variety of sound palettes and styles while crafting intimate and thoughtful pop music; in fact, the Altamont, NY-based duo have progressed from indie folk to stomp and clap trance folk to “campfire disco” as Pitchfork described Wahzu Wahzu.
Slated for an April 13, 2018 the Altamont, NY-based art pop duo’s forthcoming, third full-length effort Kiku derives its name for the Japanese word for chrysanthemum. According to O’Connor and Krans, chrysanthemum began blooming in their farmhouse garden immediately following their second miscarriage, and for the couple, the flower became a symbol of their grief, despair, resilience and faith. Sonically speaking, the album represents a continued evolution of their overall sound, as Kiku is the duo’s first foray into trigged samples and orchestral synth soundscaping. “Kiku grew into something we never anticipated,” the couple admits in press notes. As they were grieving, they turned to their art and began writing and recording material inspired by what they were feeling and thinking, as the couple says they felt themselves “reaching out across the plane of the living and the dead, where we stumbled upon the tiny hand of the soul we lost. We brought a pice of her, of Kiku, back with us.”
Understandably, the material on Kiku sounds gloomier and more anxious than their previously released work while reportedly balancing a playful and relaxed air at points that suggests that while profoundly serious, the album can be coquettish, sexy and earnest; in some way, the album is meant to be the inner world of a couple, who keep trying over and over again — perhaps, because as cheesy as it may sound to some, they have each other.
Kiku’s first single, album opener “Soon” draws from dream pop, contemporary electro pop, movie soundtracks, jazz and experimental pop in a heady and swooning mix — and while to my ears, bringing to mind the work of Moonbabies, Beacon, Softspot, Mazzy Star and Flourish//Perish-era BRAIDS, the members of The Parlor manage to specialize in incredibly slick and lush production featuring soaring hooks paired with fearlessly heartfelt lyrics and sentiment. Yes, it’s meant to break your heart time and time again, but with a deeper purpose — to remind the listener of their empathy. Grief is grief is grief. We all know this and we all experience it at various points in our lives, and we try to move froward; that is what people do after all.
As O’Connor and Krans explain in press notes, “‘Soon’ was intended as a metaphor for the stages of grief. The chrysanthemums represent grief itself. We carry grief around with us, often to unlikely places. We try at times to let it go, to fling our grief from great heights or hope it’s carried off by time — an offering to the flowing waters of the hills. But ultimately we find ourselves steeping in it, drowning in it, and ideally cleansed by it in a baptism of intentional release. Allowing ourselves to stop fighting forces us to experience things that, as humans, we often try desperately to avoid. Allowing ourselves to dance in glowing sunlight empowers us to reclaim our spirit. And we are transported to a deeper place of understanding of one’s self and of the human experience as we know it. ‘Soon’ is an expression of painful hope and illuminated heart.”
The duo directed, shot and edited the video for “Soon” and naturally, the video prominently features chrysanthemums throughout — sometimes the husband and wife duo proudly and defiantly carrying them about, at other points, the flowers are being offered to the proverbial flowing waters of time or treated as a sort of sacrifice; but no matter what the flowers and their grief is inescapable — until they accept it.
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”).
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.
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:
Large Hall, Slow Decay
No Room For Jesus
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
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.