Johnny Franco is a Sao Paulo-born, Portland-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has developed a cult following in his adopted hometown for high-energy street performances and stylish music. Building upon a growing reputation, Franco caught the attention of Sterling Fox, a producer who signed the emerging singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist to his label, Blanket Fort Records.
Franco’s debut EP, the four track Experience Report #1, which featured debut single “Treated Like Glass” was released earlier this year. And since the release of Experience Report #1, the Brazilian-born, Portland-based artist has been busy: he recently released the “Stay Real”/”Shelter The Light” double single — and “Stay Real” is a decidedly classic rock-inspired track centered around shimmering and shuffling guitars, a sinuous bass line and an infectious hook. And while bringing Springsteen, Bowie and Prince to mind, the song not only reveals a deliberate attention to craft, it possesses a simple yet profound message to stay positive during this uncertain, historical moment.
Laure Briard is a Toulouse, France-based singer/songwriter, who bounced around quite a bit before fully delving into music: before starting her music career in earnest in 2013, Briard studied literature and criminology and even did a little acting.
Signing to Tricatel Records, Briard released her debut EP. A short time later, she met Juilen Gasc and Eddy Cramps and began working on her full-length debut, Révélation, a pop-rock leaning album released through 2000 Records. And with Révélation, the Toulouse-based singer/songwriter began to receive attention for a sound inspired by Françoise Hardy, Margo Guryan and Vashti Bunyan paired with modern and poetic lyricism.
2016 saw the release of her sophomore album Sur la Piste de Danse through Midnight Special Records. But during the subsequent years, Briard’s work took on an increasing bossa nova influence — and with 2018’s Coração Louco, which featured acclaimed Brazilian JOVM mainstays Boogarins, Briard began writing lyrics in Portuguese. Building upon a growing reputation, the Toulouse-based singer/songwriter’s third album, 2019’s Un peu plus d’amour s’il vous plâit was released through Michel Records in Canada, Midnight Special Records in Europe and Burger Records here in the States.
Continuing her ongoing love affair with Brazil and Brazilian music, Briard’s latest single find her tackling the São Paulo, Brazil-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Sessa’s “Grandeza.” While the original was centered around a sparse arrangement of looping acoustic guitar, gentle percussion and call and response vocals, it’s a dreamy song full of a wistful and bittersweet ache.
Collaborating with Vincent Pieuvre and Emmanuel Mario, Briard’s take on “Grandeza” retails the wistful and bittersweet ache of the original while pairing it with a breezy, 70s AM rock-like arrangement featuring twinkling Rhodes, a sinuous bass line and shimmering guitar and Briard’s plaintive vocals. In some way the song is a wistfully nostalgic ode to the lives and the things we can’t have right now; and probably will not have for quite some time as a result of COVID-19. “I was deeply moved by the beautiful dreamy lyrics of the song, the fearless statement made with vivid imagery yet remaining mysterious and abstract in a way which people can relate to on different levels.”
Deriving his name from the letters within the word kaleidoscope, the mysterious São Paulo-born, Los Angeles-based psych pop multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer Das Kope has a lengthy history of adhering to a DIY ethos. Frequently creating in solitude, the Brazilian-born, Southern California-based does everything himself: he writes and plays every note of his material, produces everything and even creates animated visuals that accompany his work.
Thematically, his work focuses on his journey from São Paulo to Los Angeles, where a seemingly infinite run of ideas, kept him hostage — figuratively speaking — in his Hollywood apartment. Sonically, developing a sound that some have compared to Tame Impala and Ariel Pink with a “Beach Boys trapped in a Black Mirror episode vibe, the Brazilian-born, Los Angeles-based artist has built up a profile touring with STRFKR — and has had tracks fated on Spotify’s Fresh Friends and Modern Psychedelia playlists, who also called his self-made visuals as “groundbreaking.”
Das Kope’s full-length debut Where I Live officially drops today and the album is an eerily fitting apocalyptic and lysergic portrait of a rebellious and boundary pushing artist in isolation. Interestingly, the album’s latest single, the decidedly lo-fi “Fascination,” which is centered around wobbling and shimmering synths, reverb drenched boom bap beats, buzzing guitars, an infectious hook and the Brazilian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s dreamy vocals manages to recall Black Moth Super Rainbow — as it possesses a weird mix of menace and whimsy.
“It’s easy for me to find ideas of isolation and anxiety in the album’s lyrics that relate to the feeling that people around the world seem to be sharing because of this crisis,” Das Kope says in press notes. “Even though I originally projected those feelings because of my artistic and personal struggles as a musician, I think they’re still very relatable to right now.”
Marcelo Deiss is a Sao Paulo, Brazil-born, London-based artist whose music blurs the lines between indie rock, blues, folk and hard rock. Heavily influenced by visual artists like Steve Cutts and John Holcroft, Deiss’ work thematically touches upon social alienation, absurdity, despair and human greed — with an ironic, darkly humorous and satirical eye for the absurd in our every day lives. “Cutts and Holcroft’s work embodies a powerful and scary message about humankind which we can all really relate to as human beings. Their work really helped create a clear vision of what I was trying to achieve sonically,” the Sao Paulo-born, London-based artist says in press notes. Typically his work attempts to force audiences to see the obvious absurdities that frequently go unnoticed in our daily lives, by highlighting the news and situations that we all see but conveniently ignore, and the news we hear bu not really listen to, from our overuse and dependency on technology, to our shitty economic policies and our strange daily customs.
Deiss’ latest single, the 120 Minutes-era MTV-like “Horses Running” is centered around his Bob Dylan-like delivery — half spoken, partially crooned and boozy vocals, fuzzy and distorted power chords, blasts of simmering synths, twinkling keys and rousingly anthemic hooks. And while sonically recalling Odelay-era Beck, JOVM mainstays Sego and classic blues, the track is fueled by righteous indignation: thematically it focuses on the greed and social disaffection that could wind up killing all of us and destroying what’s left of the Earth. The song was directly inspired by Brexit, Donald Trump, the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, and others that deal with the impact of oppression — and his own observation that the worlds of Brave New World, 1984 and The Year Of The Flood aren’t very far from our own.
“I think it’s important to discuss topics about our society and the current problems we face together in the modern world. This to me seems more relevant due to the current situation our society is facing right now.”
With the release of their critically applauded mini-album, 2014’s Traitement Deuxluxe, the Montreal-based psych rock duo Les Deuxluxes, vocalist and guitarist Anna Frances Meyer and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Etienne Barry, quickly exploded across Quebec’s music scene. Building upon a growing platform across the province, the Montreal-based duo released, their critically applauded full-length debut, 2016’s Springtime Devil.
Since the release of Springtime Devil, the duo of Meyer and Barry have released a handful of attention grabbing singles, including the French translation of album title track “Springtime Devil,” “Diable du pringtemps.” Along with that, they’ve made appearances across the province’s major festival circuit, playing sets at Montreal Jazz Fest, Festival d’ete de Quebec, POP Montreal and M for Montreal — and they’ve opened for the likes of Lisa LeBlanc, Marjo, and Jon Spencer. They ended 2016 with a mini-tour of South America that included stops in Santiago, Chile; Valdivia, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Sao Paulo, Argentina.
Written in the remote Quebec countryside, where the duo isolated themselves and recorded live to tape in a 19th century church, Meyer’s and Barry’s latest album, Lighter Fluid, the duo’s first album in over three years was released last Friday through Bonsound Records. Centered in old school rock ‘n’ roll riffage, the album’s 11 tracks draw from psych rock — while arguably be some of the most eccentric material they’ve written and released to date. Interestingly, the swaggering album title track “Lighter Fluid” is a perfect example of the album’s overall sound and aesthetic: power chord driven riffs, thunderous kick drum and enormous arena rock friendly hooks with boy-girl harmonizing paired with Meyer’s powerhouse vocals. The end result is a song that seems — to my ears, at least — indebted to classic AC/DC, JOVM mainstays White Mystery and The Black Angels. Simply put, this one fucking rips.
Directed by Ariel Poupart, the recently released video for “Lighter Fluid” is a mix of the fittingly flamboyant and psychedelic with the occult, as the band performs the song in front of a boiling cauldron and in front of some trippy and mind-bending backdrops.
The up-and-coming Los Angeles, CA-based psych pop project Das Kope is the brainchild of its Sao Paulo, Brazil-born, Los Angeles-based creative mastermind, George. Interestingly, George lived a few blocks away from where renowned Brazilian psych rock act Os Mutantes had originated — and much like the members of the renowned group, George had long felt that he was an outsider with a unique vision. As a self-taught guitarist, influenced the city’s grey cityscape, he found his musical voice in punk rock. As a teen propelled by the DIY spirit and ethos, George saved up enough money to buy a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, leaving everything he had known behind to pursue his dream of becoming a musician. Quickly realizing that the money he had saved in his homeland didn’t translate to much in the way of American money, he did something rather unexpected considering the situation: he decided to join one of Los Angeles’ fastest and constantly growing lifestyles — broke musician.
The Sao Paulo-born, Los Angeles-based musician spent the next couple of years working at a slew of odd jobs and moving from place to place before eventually settling in as a partial recluse in a dark Hollywood apartment he nicknamed “the cave.” Isolated, he spent the next few years focusing on any and all creative pursuits that brought color to his mostly nocturnal existence. He became obsessed with guitar pedals, synthesizers, VCRs, after effects, tape recorders, green screen and the like. And as the story goes, those obsessions influenced Das Kope. Interestingly, his latest single, the breezy “L.A.X.” is centered around layers of shuffling guitar chords, a sinuous bass line, thumping beats, ethereal vocals and shimmering synths that recalls JOVM mainstays POND and Tame Impala but with a gritty urgency at it score.
While now currently based in Brooklyn, the individual members of the up-and-coming indie pop act Barrie, comprised of founding trio featuring lead songwriter Barrie Lindsay, who worked as a studio assistant for a sculptor; Spurge and Noah, who both work at The Lot Radio, a community-run online, radio station, where the band’s founding trio met through a mutual friend and eventually connected with their drummer Dom; and their bassist Sabine, who was recruited through a Tinder profile set up by the band to meet a bassist, each individual member can claim the following as their hometowns — Baltimore, Boston, Sao Paulo, Brazil, London, and Upstate New York.
“Canyons,” the Brooklyn synth pop act’s debut single is a slow-burning track that finds them pairing gossamer vocals with wobbling arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, propulsive drumming and a feathery and ethereal hook in a minimalist song that draws from 80s synth pop but possesses an underlying bittersweet barb similar to Yumi Zouma, as well as JOVM mainstays ACES and Beacon.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the bulk of its almost 7 year history, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts featuring the Brooklyn-based trombone-led dub quintet Super Hi-Fi. Led by its founding member, composer and bassist Ezra Gale and featuring Rick Parker (trombone), Alex Asher (trombone), Jon Lipscomb (guitar) and Madhu Siddappa, the Brooklyn-based trombone-led dub quintet can trace their origins back when the then-San Francisco-based Gale relocated to Brooklyn. Upon his arrival to the East Coast, Gale had been collaborating with Quoc Pham in Sound Liberation Front when he Gale was asked to get a band together for their then-month Afro-Dub Sessions Party in Williamsburg. And much like the Dig Deeper Soul Party and DJ Turmix’s Boogaloo Party, the Afro-Dub Sessions Party would feature some of dub’s top-tier producers and DJs including Victor Rice, Prince Polo, Subatomic Sound System, the Beverley Road All-Stars and others spinning tunes — and then collaborating with a live band, fronted by Gale.
Initially, when Super Hi-Fi was founded, the intent was to translate some of the improvisatory mixing process of dub music to the live show; however with a short period of time, Gale and company had begun writing their own original material, most of which wound up comprising their critically applauded 2012 full-length debut Dub to the Bone. Building upon a growing profile, the band toured with national touring acts including JOVM mainstays Rubblebucket, Beats Antique and John Brown’s Body, and then followed that with the release of Yule Analog, Vol 1. and Yule Analog, Vol. 2.
With the release of Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana last year, the Brooklyn-based dub quintet continued to push the boundaries of reggae and dub by paying tribute to Nirvana. And the band did so while creating their own take on the iconic Seattle-based trio’s material with renowned dub producers, Sao Paulo, Brazil‘s Victor Rice; Venice, Italy‘s Doctor Sub; and Brooklyn’s Prince Polo — all of whom are frequent collaborators with the band — assisting to further bend and morph the band’s sound in trippy and psychedelic ways, which help take familiar and oft-played material into a bold, new territory while retaining fundamental elements of the original material.
Record Store Day (April 22, 2017) will see the release of the “I’m Only Sleeping”/”Hole In My Life” 7 inch and accompanying digital EP. The A side of the 7 inch finds Super Hi-Fi tackling The Beatles “I’m Only Sleeping,” and much like their take on Nirvana, Super Hi-Fi’s cooly strutting rendition of the beloved Beatles tune, finds the band retaining the original’s melody while effortlessly meshing elements of psychedelia, reverb full, groove and bass-heavy dub and the wild-improvisation of free jazz, all within the passage of a few bars. A number of reggae bands have taken on the Beatles — in fact, there was a lengthy 3 or 4 disc compilation featuring South American and Latin American reggae bands covering the Beatles; but no one sounds quite like them and no one completely reworks material into something so alien yet familiar either. The B side is a a wild and slow-burning take on The Police‘s “Hole In My Life” that begins with a furious, feedback and noisy, Jimi Hendrix-like opening that distorts the original’s opening. And while retaining the original’s melody, the band finds a groove and expands upon it in a spacious arrangement that allow the musicians to freely riff upon the melody in what may arguably be the most jazz-leaning bit of dub they’ve released to date, before ending with a coda that mischievously nods at The Beatles’ “Fixing A Hole,” which interestingly enough manages to be in a similar key.
The “I’m Only Sleeping”/”Hole In My Life” 7 inch will further cement the Brooklyn-based quintet’s reputation for a unique sound — and for tackling familiar and beloved material and boldly coming up with a wildly creative, imaginative reworks and reimaginings.
Led by its founding member, composer and bassist Ezra Gale and featuring Rick Parker (trombone), Alex Asher (trombone), Jon Lipscomb (guitar) and Madhu Siddappa, the Brooklyn-based trombone-led dub quintet Super Hi-Fi can trace their origins to a rather unlikely beginning. Gale, who was a founding member of acclaimed San Francisco-based Afrobeat act Aphrodisia, an act that once played at Fela Kuti‘s famed Lagos, Nigeria-based night club The Shrine, had relocated to Brooklyn and was collaborating with Quoc Pham in Sound Liberation Front when Gale was asked to get a band together for Pham and Gale’s then-monthly Afro-Dub Sessions parties in Williamsburg. Much like DJ Turmix’s Boogaloo Party, the Afro-Dub Sessions Party would pair the live band fronted by Gale with the dub’s top-flight producers and DJs including Victor Rice, Prince Polo, Subatomic Sound System, the Beverley Road All-Stars and others.
When Gale founded Super Hi-Fi, the project was initially intended to translate the improvisatory mixing process of dub to the live show; however, with the 2012 release of their critically applauded debut effort Dub to the Bone, a busy touring schedule in which they opened for nationally known acts like Rubblebucket, Beats Antique and John Brown’s Body, followed by the release of their Yule Analog Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, the project began to cement its growing reputation for crafting a unique and expansive take on dub and reggae.
With the recent release of Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana, the Brooklyn-based dub quintet push the boundaries of reggae and dub by paying tribute to Nirvana. And in typical Super Hi-Fi fashion, the members of the band manage to create their own take on the iconic Seattle-based trio’s material with renowned dub producers, Sao Paulo, Brazil‘s Victor Rice; Venice, Italy‘s Doctor Sub; and Brooklyn’s Prince Polo — all of whom are frequent collaborators with the band — assisting to further bend and morph the band’s sound in trippy and psychedelic ways, which help take fairly familiar songs into bold, new territory.
Adding to the uniqueness of the release, Very Special Recordings, a small, boutique Brooklyn-based label founded by Super Hi-Fi’s Ezra Gale, that specializes in releases cassettes that showcase the diverse of their borough’s and city’s music scene. Interestingly, while we all live in a world of Spotify playlists and streamable music that one never really owns, cassettes have seen something of a renaissance of late with several artists and labels releasing cassette only releases — and in some way, it’s a response against not just streaming services but against the trend towards technophilia for the sake of technophilia. While being relatively cheap to make and sell, a cassette tape does require a bit of effort — you’d have to go to a physical record store to purchase your favorite band’s new record and then bring it home to play; have a label or friend mail or give you a tape; and at the very least, you’ll probably listen to the whole tape, if not an entire side once. Plus, let’s not forget, that unless your favorite song is the first song or last song of a side, finding it can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience. And yet, if you remember buying cassettes at your local record store, as I do, it’s an experience that frankly I sometimes miss very dearly.
I recently spoke to Super Hi-Fi’s Ezra Gale about Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana, how the arranging and re-arranging process differs from Gale’s normal songwriting process, the band’s upcoming releases and more. Check it out below.
WRH: In the Q&As for The Joy of Violent Movement, we almost always begin with some fairly introductory stuff for readers. So let’s begin, shall we?
WRH: How did the members of the band meet?
Ezra Gale: I had an idea for a two trombone band and placed a Craigslist ad for trombone players which got exactly two responses, from Alex Asher and Ryan Snow, who became our first two trombone players. Everybody else I just met through other musicians.
WRH: How would you describe your sound?
EG: It’s dub, but I don’t know if it’s reggae.
WRH: Who are you listening to right now?
EG: The last album I bought was Bowie‘s last album, Blackstar, which is just incredible.
WRH: Seminal albums like Nirvana’s Nevermind, U2’s Achtung Baby, A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders, R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People, Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, Superunknown and Down On The Upside, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Vs. and Vitalogy and others reaching important milestone anniversaries, it’s a bit surprising to me that to my knowledge more bands haven’t seriously begun to tackle them with more covers and more tribute albums, especially if you consider how many Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Beatles tribute albums have been released over the years. Why haven’t there been more Pearl Jam, U2, R.E.M. tributes and covers? And how did you come upon paying tribute to Nirvana?
EG: I really don’t know about those other bands, for us we started playing a version of “Something In the Way” a couple years ago, and we all sort of got the idea that maybe a whole album of Nirvana tunes could be interesting.
WRH: Much like your fantastic Christmas albums, Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana features a couple of very well-known songs such as In Utereo’s “Heart Shaped Box,” and their famous Unplugged cover of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” as well as some rather deeper cuts such as “Verse Chorus Verse,” their Incesticide cover of “Love Buzz” Nevermind’s “Something In The Way” and “Polly.” What inspired you to choose those songs to tackle instead of something more tried and true?
EG: Well, initially I wanted to do all really obscure ones. Nirvana is a band whose famous songs have been played to death and I don’t know if anyone really needs to hear another version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, for example. But I know them from when Bleach came out and they were just this really great, intense band from Seattle that not many people knew- my college band even opened for them then, randomly. So I wanted to spotlight some of those lesser-known songs of theirs. But then, I think i was riding my bike and I suddenly started hearing “Heart Shaped Box” in this really slow, weird way, so we ended up doing that one. Ultimately it’s just about giving each song a different treatment and finding something new to do with it, no matter how many times you’ve heard it before.
WRH: How do you go about re-arranging material that’s fairly familiar in a way that adds your particular spin to it — while maintaining something familiar? And how does the process of re-arranging material differ from your normal songwriting process?
EG: It is different than a normal songwriting process. This album was very similar to our two Christmas albums (“Yule Analog” Vols. I and II), in that the goal was to take familiar material and make it sound different. And like in arranging those Christmas songs, I made some rules for myself doing it, which were that the melody line had to be the same, but everything else around it could change. So the rhythms are obviously very different, but also, Nirvana was a band with only one singer and we have two trombones, so in a lot of these versions the second trombone part is made up- like in “Verse Chorus Verse”, “Heart Shaped Box” and “Where Did You Sleep” especially. And also the chords are quite different in some of these, “Polly” and “Where Did You Sleep” especially are pretty different chord changes than the Nirvana versions.
My attitude towards cover versions is just that there’s no point in doing them if all you’re doing is to play it like the original version. No matter how great the original song is, I don’t ever want to regurgitate what someone else has done- go listen to the original if you want that. At the same time, I think it should be recognizable as the original song, somehow. So the challenge of taking material and sort of shaping it into something different that still has echoes of the original song is something I really enjoy doing.
WRH: While doing a little research for this interview, I learned that you’re currently working on your sophomore full-length effort, as well as Beatles/Police 45 for Record Store Day. Could you tell us a little bit about those projects?
EG: Yes, we are about 80% done with the mixing for the new full-length album, which is going to be called “The Blue and White” and it will be our second LP of all-original music. It’s quite different I think, there are lots of vocals and different sounds for us. It was recorded and mixed all onto tape too, which has been a real pain in some ways (!) but is so, so worth it- it sounds amazing I think. It will be out in the springtime sometime I think, on vinyl, somehow or other, we haven’t figured out yet.
And then the single is done and will be released on Electric Cowbell Records for Record Store Day in April, it’s the Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping,” which was actually recorded for our “Dub to the Bone” album but left off it, and a version of The Police‘s “Hole In My Life” which we recorded for the new album, both extremely whacked-out and different versions, I can’t wait to play it for people.
WRH What’s next for the band?
EG: We haven’t been playing live that much the last few months because I’ve been so focused on finishing these albums, so once we’re done completely with the new LP I’m looking forward to playing a lot more in the new year.