Tag: The Beach Boys

New Video: Rising London-based Act Tempesst Releases a Brit Pop Take on Psych Rock

Growing up in a musical family, Noosa, Australia-born, London-based twin siblings Toma and Andy Benjamin joined the church band when they were 14. Coincidentally, the church band was where the Banjamins met their future Tempesst bandmates Kane Reynolds and Blake Mispeka. 

The Banjamin Brothers eventually left home and discovered a whole new world of music, ideas and ways of living that weren’t part of their previous purview: after a short stint in the UK, the Banjamins wound up in Williamsburg, where they soaked up the DIY ethos of the  late 2000s Williamsburg scene, while developing their own ideas and starting home recording projects inspired by Joni Mitchell, Al Green, Wings, Electric Light Orchestra and others. 

After a year in Brooklyn, an expiring visa forced the Banjamins to relocate to Hackney, where they hunkered down and got serious about writing and recording material. They recruited Swiss-American Eric Weber (guitar) and reconnected with their fellow Aussies Reynolds and Mispeka. And at that point, the rising London-based indie act Tempesst started. 

Unsurprisingly, the need to practice, write and record in a city like London helped facilitate the creation of their own studio. “We started out with a basic production studio that Tom kept at his house but one of the biggest challenges in London is that you can’t make noise,” the band’s Andy Banjamin recalls. “So we began looking for a rehearsal space and came across this warehouse, which was way bigger than anything we were looking for but got us wondering about what it would actually take to set up a proper studio.” 

Naming the space Pony Studios, the band started to convert the warehouse into multiple studio rooms and practice spaces. Simultaneously, the band started Pony Recordings, which helped changed the way the band had approached their work.  “These days artists are expected to do so much themselves and we have always been slight control freaks anyway,” Andy Banjamin says in press notes. “DIY is part of everything that we do, so that extends to our label, the studio, the videos, all of it and really it’s just how the indie music scene has evolved.” Toma Banjamin adds ““With the studio, we have time to work on all the key things that have become quintessential to our sound but also experiment and add an element of surprise, whether that is a weird synth solo or a key change. It’s those little departures that keep the listener on their toes.”

After releasing a handful of critically applauded, buzz worthy singles and EPs, the Aussie-born, British-based members of Tempesst will be releasing their highly anticipated full-length debut, the Eliot Heinrich co-produced Must Be a Dream. Slated for a September 30, 2020 release through the band’s own Pony Recordings, Tempesst’s full-length debut reportedly finds the band boldly taking a step forward with their songwriting and their sound. Generally leaning towards folk-tinged psychedelia, the album’s material nods at Spiritualized, The Flaming Lips, and The Beach Boys — but with a modern melodic sensibility. 

Sonically, the material is deceptive: complex musical ideas are centered around seemingly simple melodies.  Seemingly sun-kissed, the album thematically explores themes of longing, love, loss, substance abuse, the death of loved ones — and yet remembering the beauty just underneath all of it. “This record is the first time that I feel like I’ve had the uninterrupted ability to create and have full control at our own pace,” Toma Banjamin says in press notes. “With this LP, we’ve created something we’re really proud of that truly cements our identity as a group. The joy of taking these songs live is something that we’re really excited about.”

Must Be A Dream’s first single “On The Run” is a decidedly Brit Pop-take on 60s and 70s psych rock centered around shimmering and reverb drenched guitars, layered vocal harmonies, an enormous hook and Toma Benjamin’s serpentine-like vocals. And while superficially being a sun-kissed, summery anthem, the song is actually much darker, as the song thematically focuses on substance abuse, death and the loss of innocence — that feels haunted by the weight of heartache. “it’s about a close friend who disappeared for a decade and returned as someone completely different, and it’s an ongoing trauma,” Toma Banjamin explains. “When I connected the music to the lyrics to try and finish the song, it felt like it had a rolling rhythm, so the chorus fell into place from there. For me, this song carries a lot more emotional weight.”

Directed by Andrea Banjanin, the recently released video is centered around cinematically shot footage of the band performing the song in a studio space with symbolic imagery placed in quick cuts — and that imagery focuses on the songs overall themes of mortality, loss of innocence and the complications of adult life. 

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New Audio: Das Kope’s Apocalyptic and Lo-Fi Take on Psychedelia

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.”

Interview: A Q&A with The Sighs

Holyoke, MA-based rock band The Sighs can trace their origins back to 1982 when its founding members Robert LaRoche (vocals, guitar) and Tommy Pluta (bass, vocals) met and bonded over their mutual of love of acts like The Beach BoysCrosby, Stills and Nash and other that employed the use of multi-part harmonies. Interestingly enough, it helped that while the Holyoke-based band’s founding members were jamming together, they discovered that their own voices blended together beautifully.

Tom Borawaski (drums) and Matt Cullen (vocals, guitar) were recruited to flesh out the band’s sound and to complete the band’s initial lineup. Shortly after the band’s lineup was finalized, they quickly began makin a name for themselves as a must-see live act across the region. As Tommy Pluta explained in press notes, “One luxury of living in Western Mass is that we played all the colleges and clubs for years and years. By the time things started happening for us, we were primed for it — we sounded really tight and everything was just spot on.”

As luck would have it, the members of The Sighs crossed paths with John DeNicola, an Oscar Award-winning songwriter and producer, who co-wrote “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” and his production partner Tommy Allen at the China Club in 1990. And after meeting DeNicola and Allen, the Holyoke-based band signed with  Charisma/Virgin Records, who released their full-length debut, What Goes On to critical acclaim. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the band toured with nationally touring acts like Gin BlossomsDada and others.

The band eventually split up with members of the band pursuing individual creative projects and/or focusing on family life. Interestingly, the material on the band’s third full-length album, 2017’s Wait On Another Day can trace its origins to an unearthed batch of demos that the band’s Matt Cullen stumbled upon. Originally recorded in the early 1990s, and later placed on hard drives, the demos had been forgotten about for the better part of 20 years – until Cullen played them. He was so impressed by what he heard, that he shared the demos with his bandmates and their longtime producer John DeNicola.

Feeling that the band had unfinished business – and that they should continue the collective story they started 20+ years previously, the band decided to reconvene at DiNicola’s Upstate New York-based studio to revise a handful of songs. But as the band’s Tom Borawski explained at the time “. . . it all came together so well, and we were having such a great time, we ended up making a whole album. It really just took on a life of its own.”

“All the years of playing together left a permanent mark on us. It wasn’t too difficult to tap into our musical and personal bond again,” LaRoche said of the five-day recording session that produced Wait On Another Day. Borowski added “Everything had more of a spark to it than when we made What Goes On, where we put all the songs under a microscope and tried to get it all completely perfect.” As a result, the material possesses a urgency and vitality to it that many contemporary bands wish they could capture on record. Interestingly, while much of the album’s material focuses on many of the things that they wrote about in their youth – girls, getting kicked around, hopes and dreams and falling in love but tinged with the wistful and aching nostalgia of middle-aged men, who have been forced to accept the passage of time, their impending mortality – and the old adage that the more things change, the more they remain the same: no matter how old you are, heartache is heartache and life is ultimately about figuring out how to learn from it and move forward.

Building upon the attention they received from Wait On Another Day, the members reconvened to write and record its highly-anticipated follow-up, the five song Tearing My Heart Again, which OMAD Records released today. The EP’s material finds the band continuing where its predecessor left off but while revealing a band that has grown in the past three years. While they pull in some new ideas to the mix, they do so without straying too far afield from what has been successful – carefully crafted, hook-driven rock paired with earnest songwriting.

I recently exchanged emails with the members of The Sighs for this edition of the JOVM Q&A. World events have found a way to impact all of us – and as a result, they’ve managed to bleed into every aspect of our professional and person lives in ways that will reverberate for quite some time to come. With COVID-19 forcing cities and localities across the world to indefinitely shut down bars, restaurants, clubs, music venues and countless other non-essential businesses, the impact on musicians and the music industry will be far-reaching and devastating. Over the next few months, I’ll be discussing how COVID-19 has impacted the careers and lives of artists of all stripes – and the members of the Holyoke-based band openly and honestly discuss where they stand right now and what may be next. Of course, we chat about the recently released EP at length, the band’s tour with The Gin Blossoms and more. Check it out below.

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Support these artists by buying their work. You can order The Sighs EP here:

https://www.omadrecords.com/store/the-sighs-tearing-my-heart-again-ep

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WRH:  Most of the country has been enacting social distancing guidelines and stay at home orders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. How are y’all holding up in such a difficult and uncertain time? What are you doing to preoccupy yourself? Anything you’re binge watching? 

Robert LaRoche: Been pretty much staying home. Except to go for a daily run and food shopping.

Working on new songs. Binge watching Peaky Blinders on Netflix.

Tommy Borowski: Been binge watching bad 70’s movies…

WRH: Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, festivals have been postponed or canceled outright, artists of all stripes have postponed or rescheduled tour dates, album releases have been rescheduled. I’ve asked this question to a handful of artists already – and I suspect that for some period of time I’ll be asking a lot of bands this: How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career? 

Matt Cullen: Well, we’re all at a standstill. We had a Sighs gig booked in mid-March in our home base of western Massachusetts. Robert flew in from Austin and I flew from Des Moines. After couple of spirited rehearsals, the gig was cancelled. I’m now home and have seen all of my gigs here cancelled for the foreseeable future. I don’t make my living entirely from music but playing roughly 100 gigs a year certainly helps the family kitty. Those lost wages will hurt and the loss of that enjoyment, performing, making music, that hurts equally.

WRH: Who’s the funniest guy in the band? 

RLR: It depends on the given day I suppose! We all have our moments. [But] I’m going to go with Tommy Pluta on this one 💙

MC: If you asked Tommy Pluta……..😎

WRH: Who are your influences?

Tommy Pluta: Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Shoes, Foo Fighters.

RLR: I was heavily influenced by The Everly Brothers. And tried to incorporate their two-part harmony style into The Sighs music. Also love early American Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneers like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. And, of course The Beatles and Beach Boys were a big influence.

MC: Too many to name. The typical ones. The British Invasion bands, particularly The Beatles. A lot of 70’s rock and pop rock: Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy, Cheap Trick, Raspberries, Queen, The Cars. I could go on…….

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

TP: Fountains of Wayne.

RLR: Jenifer Jackson, a local singer/songwriter here in Austin

MC: My current go-to is a live record by Bo Ramsey and the Backsliders. Bo is a spooky, great player, known for his work with Lucinda Williams and Greg Brown. He’s an Iowa guy and I’ve opened for him here and have gotten to know him a little. I’m crossing my fingers to do some playing with him. Also, and sadly, I’ve been revisiting Fountains of Wayne since the news of Adam’s death.

WRH: How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with The Sighs? 

TP: Classic Power Pop / Rock sound. Two guitars, bass, drums, melodic with three part harmony.  The Smithereens, Gin Blossoms

WRH: The band can trace its origins back to when its founding members – Robert LaRoche and Tommy Pluta – met back in 1982. Tom Borawski and Matt Cullen were the recruited and the band then spent next eight years gigging around Western Massachusetts. In 1990, the members of the band crossed paths with John DeNicola, who became your producer and you signed with Charisma/Virgin Records. So, the band went from playing the college circuit to touring with the Gin Blossoms, who were selling millions of records and being played on the radio every single day. How was that experience like? 

TP: We always tried to make the most of every opportunity.

We had been on the road for months prior to touring with the Gin Blossoms so we were ready to take the next step.  Getting the chance to perform our music to their fans night after night was a terrific experience.  They were especially nice to us, and we found a lot of commonality with our music and influences. It would be great to do some dates with them again. . .

WRH: The band eventually split up after the release of their sophomore album with each of the individual band members focusing on other creative projects, on raising families and working day jobs. 20 years pass and as the story goes, Matt Cullen stumbles upon some demos that the band recorded in the early 90s. What was the experience of hearing the demos for the first time in so long like? 

MC: It was really cool to find the old recordings. I had transferred a boxful of 1/4 tapes to a hard drive, without listening to them. That was in 2010. It was 6 years later that I opened the folder labeled Sighs. We had been cranking out demos from 90-93 (?), both for the Charisma album and also for what we hoped would be a follow up with them. None of us recalled recording a few of them. You’d finish a song and move on. I got goosebumps when I realized what I had stumbled upon. I did rough mixes and sent unnamed mp3s to the guys. They were really surprised, and we were all excited by how well the home recordings had held up.

WRH: How was it like to revisit material that you wrote some 20 years prior? How were the first writing sessions for Wait on Another Day? Did your songwriting process change between your sophomore album and 2017’s Wait on Another Day?

RLR: The WOAD songs were written before, during, and after the recording of our debut CD What Goes On, during the period between 1987 and 1993. We had a lot of songs to choose from at that time. And only a dozen were chosen for What Goes On. The tracks on WOAD were songs already included in our live performances. We were a pretty well-oiled machine by then. Revisiting and re-recording this material over 20 years after their inception was great fun! And genuinely satisfying.

WRH: The five song EP, Tearing My Heart Again was recently released. In some way the EP finds the band continuing where they left off, as though the lengthy hiatus had never happened. While the material is centered through some passionate performances as collective whole, the EP – to my ears – reveals quite a bit of growth. It seems to capture old, wizened pros, who have gotten back on the proverbial horse but with some new ideas. How does Tearing My Heart Again differ from your previously released work? Was that intentional? What inspired it? 

TP: We drew inspiration from the fun we had recording WOAD in the Fall 2016. Recording new Sighs music (20+ years later) was something we discussed a couple times, and the possibility came around again in August of 2019.  We had a couple songs and several ideas, we just had to find the time to all be in one place to record which ended up being 3 days starting New Years’ Day 2020. The process of writing was the same in some ways and very different in other ways. We always shared ideas to see which ones we though would fit, and then developed them, but sharing ideas is so much easier with technology. A lot of text and email.

 WRH:  What does the EP touch upon thematically?

RLR: The five songs on “Tearing My Heart Again” deal with personal relationships.
In the title track, the protagonist is involved in an unhealthy love affair. Where heartbreak is an ongoing concern, and dark attraction becomes a fatal flaw.

WRH: “Over the Line” is one of my favorite songs on the EP. It’s probably the most Smithereens-like on the five songs. Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s about?

RLR: “Over the Line” is about the near hopelessness and futility of caring for someone in active addiction. With the resignation that although you cannot judge the person you care for, and will continue to be there for them, the possibility of the active addict to cross over the line and become another fatality statistic, is forever present.

WRH: Oddly enough, there are sections of EP closing track “Rise” that somehow reminds me a bit of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage.” Maybe I’m hearing thing but, did that influence the track at all about 

RLR You’re spot on with the Pink Floyd reference on the EP’s closing track “Rise.” Tommy Pluta initially sent me the guitar riff and chord changes. Which were already quite psychedelic sounding. We put a two-part harmony over the music in the vein of Waters and Gilmour. Our producer John DeNicola used an old school tape echo on the vocals. This gave the track the retro feel we were striving for.

WRH: What advice would you give to bands/artists trying to make a name for themselves thematically

 MC: I don’t know that my track record qualifies me to give advice but I will say that you must absolutely love what you do. There are many obstacles and it’s a long road. In today’s music world, I’d say you need to have a strong presence online. Sales are a different animal than what I grew up with. Touring is always helpful in spreading the word but can be financially daunting. CD mailers to college or community radio in your area are helpful. Try to grow it steadily. Again, you better love it!  :/)

WRH: What’s next for the band

MC:  It’s hard to say what is next for us. I’m not sure anyone of us would have guessed that we would have released a full-length record and an EP in the last three years. We never say never and leave ourselves open to all possibilities.  We have a strong personal relationship which leaves the musical door open at all times.

  

New Audio: Two Posthumously Released Covers featuring The Psychic Ills’ Tres Warren

Centered around core duo Tres Warren (vocals, guitar) and Elizabeth Hart (bass), the acclaimed New York-based psych rock act Psychic Ills over the past decade or so have developed a reputation for following wherever their muses and instincts have taken them, frequently experimenting and changing up their sound and songwriting approach — seemingly at will.

The band’s fifth album, 2016’s Inner Journey Out was the culmination of three years of touring, writing and recording that found the band expanding upon the sound and aesthetic that won the attention of the blogosphere with the material incorporating subtle bits of honky tonk country, blues, gospel and jazz to their 60s psych rock-inspired sound. Whereas much of their previous material found Warren overdubbing his guitar to create a massive sound, the album’s material focused on Warren’s and Hart’s collaborations with a who’s who list of acclaimed artists including Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions and Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, their touring keyboardist Brent Cordero, Chris Millstein, Endless Boogie’s Harry Druzd, The Entrance Band’s Derek James, Charles Burst and a host of friends and associates, who also provide pedal steel guitar, horns, strings and backing vocals.

Thematically, Inner Journey Out may arguably be the most introspective of their catalog, as the material explored the interior and exterior lives of its narrators, and the difficult and uneasy pathways that unite them. Much of the material is centered around a lonely and plaintive ache for connection to something or something — but with the underlying recognition that moments of true connection are not just extremely rare, but fleeting and impermanent.

Earlier this month, Psychic Ills’ Tres Warren tragically died at the age of 41. Before his death, Warren had been busy writing new material and along with Hart and a cast of collaborators was gearing up to head to the studio to record what was supposed to be their sixth album, slated for release later this year. Sadly, that material was never recorded; however, the band did record two covers — a cover of The Beach Boys’ “Never Learn to Not Love” and  a cover of Charles Manson’s “Cease to Exist,” which Sacred Bones Records will release both digitally and on vinyl.

Originally appearing on The Beach Boys’ 1969 album 20/20, credited to Dennis Wilson and with changes to the arrangement and lyrics, “Never Learn Not To Love,” was originally written as “Cease to Exist” by a then-unknown singer/songwriter named Charles Manson. The following year, Manson’s version would appear his album Live: The Love and Terror Cult — and by that time, he was already incarcerated for the Tate-LaBlanca murders.

How the members of The Beach Boys came across the song and then have a version of it appear on an album is equal parts apocryphal and legendary — and Manson’s disappointment with the lyrical and structural changes to the song have been well documented. Considering The Beach Boys’ place in American culture, their simultaneous adherence to and departure from the original has long been a point of fascination for many music buffs, but for Warren, it was something less tangible that kept him coming back to both songs through the years. “The soulfulness is what has always spoken to me in those songs,” Warren explained, “I gravitate towards that(soul) in music, and both of these songs have it in spades. I almost shed a tear every time I hear Dennis Wilson sing.”

The Psychic Ills’ version of “Never Learn Not To Love” finds the band echoing the arrangement and feel of the The Beach Boys recording but the female gospel-like backing vocalists nod at Phil Spector and Motown. “We wanted to honor the originals, but we didn’t want to cover them note for note,” Warren said in press notes. “We wanted to bring them to where we are.” Interestingly, the end result is a cover that sounds as though it could have appeared on Inner Journey Out. 

The Psychic Ills version of “Cease to Exist” is centered around an intimate and seemingly improvised performance with very few takes. It begins with Warren asking engineer Iván Díaz Mathè, “Ivi is it rolling?” And Warren starts playing, the band falls behind him, adhering to their own intuitive cues and those of the collective whole. Reportedly, this version which brings the performance directly to the listener, is similar in fashion to the Manson original. Yes, these covers are the last bit of material Warren recorded — and as a result, they’ve taken on an eerie and spectral quality while remaining hauntingly beautiful.

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstays Corridor on KEXP

Over the past year or so, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the acclaimed and rising Montreal-based indie rock act Corridor. The French-Canadian JOVM mainstay act, which currently features longtime friends and collaborators Dominic Berthiaume (vocals/bass) and Jonathan Robert (vocals/guitar/synths) along with Julian Perreault (guitar), Julien Bakvis (drums) and the band’s newest member Samuel Gougoux exploded across the Francophone world and elsewhere with 2017’s sophomore album Supermercado, which received glowing praise from from NPR and Vice, who referred to the album as “the best French record of 2017, 2018, 2018, 2019, 2020 2021 and even 2022 .  . . ”

Building upon a growing profile, the band signed to Sub Pop Records, who released their third album, last year’s excellent Junior, making the band the first Francophone act ever on the world renowned label. Continuing their ongoing and highly successful collaboration with their friend, producer (and occasional roommate) Emmanuel Ethier, the album found the band jettisoning the languorous creative process of its predecessors — out of inspired necessity.  Although the members of the band had only just signed to their new label home at the time, they had firmly committed themselves to releasing a new album worth of material every two years. And the band fully intended on fulfilling their long-held commitment. Naturally, when the folks at Sub Pop were informed of this, they gently warned the band that if they wanted to release new material that fall, they needed to send the label a completed album by early May.

With the ink barely dried on the finalized record contract, the band rushed into the studio and recorded Junior in an inspired and breakneck blitz, finishing the album in mid-April: Six of the album’s 10 songs were conceived in a single weekend — with the album closer “Bang” being written the night before they were to start recording sessions. Reportedly, Corridor’s Jonathan Robert wrote that song’s lyrics while panicking over the possibility of not being able to properly finished what they started.

Because of the quickened nature of the Junior sessions, the material features fewer expansive jams and less reliance on overdubs. Even the album’s artwork managed to come about in the nick of time. In spite of other more meticulous and gorgeous artwork they received as potential album art, Robert’s “shitty last minute” collage of an egg saying hello was the one his bandmates wound up approving.  “Part of the beauty of the thing is that we didn’t have time to think about it,” the band’s Berthiaume says of the Junior recording sessions.

Album tracks like Topographe,” “Pow,” album title track “Junior” “Goldie” and Domino” manage to reveal a wide range of influences: a bit of post-punk here, a little bit of XTC over there, a little bit of The Beatles, a dash of The Beach Boys here and so on. And with some deft craftsmanship and musicianship, they manage to whimsically and mischievously create something novel out of the familiar.

Late last year, the Montreal-based JOVM mainstays went on a West Coast tour, and during their tour they made a stop at Seattle’s KEXP where they performed songs off Junior in one of the better live sessions I’ve seen in some time — and it the session included “Agent Double,” the gorgeous krautrock-like album title track “Junior’ (one of my favorite tracks on the album), the brooding “Grand Cheval” and the explosive and jam-based “Domino.” Of course, like most of the KEXP sessions, there’s a playful  interview with the band, in which they reveal that the album and its title is a loving homage to their guitarist and friend Julien Perreault. They also talk a bit about the band’s formation and their creative process — while touching upon how they came about their unique sound. It’s a fascinating look into a band that personally has stolen my heart quite a bit. 

New Video: Corridor’s Surreal and Psychedelic, Chad VanGaalen-Animated Visuals for “Grand cheval”

Over the better part of the past year or so, I’ve written quite a bit about the rapidly rising Montreal-based indie rock act Corridor. And as you may recall, the French Canadian act, which currently features longtime friends and collaborators Dominic Berthiaume (vocals/bass) and Jonathan Robert (vocals/guitar/synths) along with Julian Perreault (guitar), Julien Bakvis (drums) and the band’s newest member Samuel Gougoux first received attention across the Francophone world and elsewhere with 2017’s sophomore album Supermercado, which glowing received praise from NPR and Vice, who referred to the album as “the best French record of 2017, 2018, 2018, 2019, 2020 2021 and even 2022 .  . . ”

Corridor spent the following year touring across Europe with stops at London Calling Festival and La Villete Sonique Festival, and the States with appearances at SXSW and Northside Festival. They followed that up by touring with Crumb on a sold-out Stateside tour.

Building upon a growing profile, the band signed to Sub Pop Records, who released their third album, last year’s Junior, making the band the first Francophone act ever on the world renowned label. While continuing their ongoing and highly successful collaboration with their friend, producer (and occasional roommate) Emmanuel Ethier, the album found the band jettisoning the languorous creative process of its predecessors — out of inspired necessity.  Although the members of the band had only just signed to their new label home at the time, they had firmly committed themselves to releasing a new album worth of material every two years. And the band fully intended on fulfilling their long-held commitment. Naturally, when the folks at Sub Pop were informed of this, they gently warned the band that if they wanted to release new material that fall, they needed to send the label a completed album by early May.

With the ink barely dried on the finalized record contract, the band rushed into the studio and recorded Junior in an inspired and breakneck blitz, finishing the album in mid-April: Six of the album’s 10 songs were conceived in a single weekend — with the album closer “Bang” being written the night before they were to start recording sessions. Reportedly, Corridor’s Jonathan Robert wrote that song’s lyrics while panicking over the possibility of not being able to properly finished what they started.

Because of the quickened nature of the Junior sessions, the material features fewer expansive jams and less reliance on overdubs. Even the album’s artwork managed to come about in the nick of time. In spite of other more meticulous and gorgeous artwork they received as potential album art, Robert’s “shitty last minute” collage of an egg saying hello was the one his bandmates wound up approving.  “Part of the beauty of the thing is that we didn’t have time to think about it,” the band’s Berthiaume says of the Junior recording sessions.

Album tracks like Topographe,” “Pow,” album title track “Junior” “Goldie” and Domino” manage to reveal a wide range of influences: a bit of post-punk here, a little bit of XTC over there, a little bit of The Beatles, a dash of The Beach Boys here and so on. And with some deft craftsmanship and musicianship, they manage to whimsically and mischievously create something novel out of the familiar.

Last year, I caught was luckily to catch the band live twice — a Union Pool set shortly after the release of Junior and a headlining M for Montreal set at Montreal’s Le National that was in my opinion one of the best live sets I caught that year. The band is creating up for a headlining, Stateside tour that begins with a show at Rough Trade tomorrow night, as well as appearances at this year’s SXSW and their first ever shows in Florida.  The band recently extended its international tour to support their critically applauded third album, with an extensive series of UK and French dates. (You can check out the tour dates below.)  

In the meantime, Junior’s latest single is the slow-burning “Grand cheval.” Centered around shimmering guitars, a propulsive and steady bass line and drumbeat, the band’s gorgeous harmonizing and atmospheric synths, “Grand cheval.” may arguably be the prettiest song on the album — and the most bittersweet. “The song is inspired by a grumpy old man, who came to bother us in a park once,” Corridor’s Jonathan Robert says in press notes. “He talked about mediocre poetry and philosophies of life, while asking us for cigarettes and beers.  When we asked him to leave us alone, he became angry, climbed on his high horse (grand cheval) and became this  old demagogue belittling the youth.” 

Directed by and featuring animation by Chad VanGaalen, the recently released video is a surrealistic and hallucinogenic fever dream set on a brightly colored alien world with rising snow, where we follow a lonely alien gatherer.  “I sewed a jacket, pants, and hat to rotoscope myself as this alien gatherer,” Chad VanGaalen explains in press notes. “Everything was drawn onto a malfunctioning 15-year old Cintiq. You can buy them for $20 on eBay, although I wouldn’t recommend it. The music made the snow fall up and not down. No matter what I did on Final Cut, it would always fall up. I filled my body and mind with many ingredients in order to go from monocular to trinocular, now my vision is blurry but my tailored clothing feels amazing. I can’t believe it is finished.”

New Video: Introducing the Forward-Thinking Electro Pop of Sweden’s they owe us

Comprised of Rane and Kris, they owe us are a rather mysterious Swedish duo of outsiders, who found refuge in music. After a fortuitous meeting, the duo spent a year playing house parties, establishing a reputation for crafting music with disregards to rules and precedents.

Building upon a growing profile, the Swedish duo’s full-length debut, Broken English & Sad Serenades is slated for a June 7, 2019 release and the album, which reportedly finds the duo reveling in unique arrangements such as homemade drums and old, analog synthesizers and draws from a wide and eclectic array of influences including The Beach Boys, Kraftwerk and others. The album’s latest single “Harvest Time” is centered around glitchy drum programming, blasts of scorching guitar, wobbling bass synth and plaintive vocals, and while adding their names to a growing list of Scandinavian acts, who specialize in left of center, forward-thinking pop including Lake Jons and others, the track is ultimately about tight hearts and high hopes about a new and better tomorrow.

Co-directed by the up-and-coming Swedish duo and Annie Hyrefeldt, the recently released video for “Harvest Time” is a gorgeously shot fever dream featuring two masked children chasing each other through the woods. When they come across an upright piano in the clearing, the kids play with it and menacingly pose around it before setting it on fire. Much like, the artists themselves, these two children show regard for rules or structure.

New Video: French Pop Act Papooz Releases Surreal Visuals for Brooding Yet Breezy New Single “You and I”

Comprised of Armand Penicaut and Ulysee Cottin, the Paris, France-based pop act Papooz can trace their origins to when the duo met during part of boozy gatherings of literary obsessions — and as the story goes, the pair ditched their early and earnest ambitions to creative a political fane zone to play the music they had long been writing. Interestingly, the duo’s early demos were warped, boss nova-informed pop that also drew influence from The Beach Boys, Ella Fitzgerald, The White Stripes and Karen Dalton, among others. 

The duo’s full-length debut, 2016’s Green Juice featured “Ann Wants To Dance,” whose SoKo-directed video has amassed more than 12 million streams online. Building upon a growing profile, the Parisian band’s Adrien Durand (of Bon Voyage Organisation) produced sophomore effort is slated for release later this year, the duo’s forthcoming sophomore album Night Sketches will further cement their reputation for crafting warped and skewed exotic-tinged pop — but with surrealist, character-driven lyricism. In fact, Night Sketches’ first single, the moody yet ethereal “You and I” is a lush amalgamation of 70s AM rock with 80s synth-based New Wave, as the song features an arrangement of shimmering synths, a sinuous bass line, glistening guitar lines, an ethereal falsetto and a soaring hook that sonically makes the song remind me of Roxy Music. 

Directed by Armand Penicaut’s girlfriend, director and illustrator Victoria Lafaurie, the video was filmed at Le Balajo, one of Paris’ oldest cabaret clubs, currently owned by a renowned French wrestling family — and it stars Ulysee Cottin’s girlfriend, Danish-born actress and model, Klara Kristin. Shot with Super 16mm film, the video draws from old, Looney Tunes cartoons and other sources. As Lafaurie says in press notes, “Like Tex Avery’s animated cartoons, Ulysee and Armand are Klara Kristin’s conscience. Will she fall for the Devil or the Angel?”