Thursday, June 30, 2011

In The Studio: Grand Lake

Grand Lake at The Fillmore in 2010, from the HAD Archive

This spring, Grand Lake released Leaves Ellipse, the follow up to 2010's much lauded Blood Sea Dream, both on Hippies Are Dead Records. The record featured something of a sonic departure for the band, with more of an emphasis on acoustic instrumentation and vocal harmonies. After a few successful west coast dates, the band are back in the studio, recording a second EP tentatively titled Spent Woods, that's due later this year.

Being their label of choice (quite happily, we might add), we had the pleasure of stopping in at the studio and talking with lead singer Caleb Nichols about what the band has been up to!

Leaves Ellipse took the band in a new direction, with loads of harmonies, acoustic playing, and sonic experiments. Has that sound continued with the new material, or have you found a new direction to head in?

The new EP should be listened to as the second part of a larger whole - Leaves Ellipse I think of as 'Side A' and Spent Woods I think of as 'Side B'. This batch of songs is similar in structure, but we've brought Jameson back in, this time playing finger picked resonator guitar and I think the songs as a whole are a bit darker. We also approached the recording process differently - we still recorded at home, but we tracked a ton of the songs on a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. I wouldn't call this 'lo-fi' but I might call it 'lo-tech'... or something.

Do you feel like using the Tascam has forced you into some creative corners? Are you doing multiple instruments per track, or bouncing?

Definitely - we have to make decisions about mixing early, and having only 4 tracks limits us considerably. We bounce stuff, yeah.

The Grand Lake lineup seems to be always-changing: what's it looking like for the new record?

On the new record I play guitar, Jameson Swanagon plays finger-picked resonator guitar, Josh Barnhart plays drums and John Pomeroy plays bass. We all take turns playing various percussion instruments throughout.

You played with Josh in Port O'Brien - was the reunion smooth sailing? Is it odd having someone else be the bass to his drums?

Smooth sailing - we've played together in bands since 2004 - actually, Jameson Josh and I were in another band together before we joined Port O'Brien. It was called the Bloody Heads. It was rad folk-punk violent femmes-ish fun.

You've fluctuated between bass and guitar - any new instruments for you on this record?

Hmmm. I'm playing guitar mostly now. I track some of the bass and sing of course - which now involves some looping. I also play a box full of trash on one track.

What exactly does a box of trash sound like?

Just like you'd think.

How has being outside of the city affected your writing style?

I'm digging a little deeper, maybe because there are less distractions here. The town John and I live in is population 15,000 - there's a dive bar (wiki search 'dive bar' and I'm not kidding, a photo of this bar will pop up), grocery stores, a couple of books shops - but really, you know, not much going on. And that's the point - staying in with the cat, and playing guitar.

How has the crowd reaction been to the material from Leaves Ellipse? Are the songs different sonically in a live environment?

Pretty positive - when we opened for Rogue Wave at the Great American in SF there were people in the front row singing along to 'City Leaves' - first time that's happened!

I think what we're doing live is pretty close to what we've been recording.

Have the influences on this record changed at all? What are you listening to these days?

With 'Blood Sea Dream' we had more of a collaboration happening - everyone's influences were kind of thrown into the soup. John digs Frog Eyes and Sunset Rubdown, Jameson and I were deep into Pixies worship, Spoon and later-period Modest Mouse were major influences. We were trying to make big-sounding rock music.

With the last EP and this new one, we've dug into a different set of influences - earlier ones for me - M. Ward, early Modest Mouse, Little Wings, the Microphones. During recording my two jams were Paul McCartney 'McCartney' and Deerhunter's 'Halcyon Digest'. I can't get enough of those two. Also, M. Ward's 'the End of Amnesia' record is a guiding light - so much amazing stuff happens in that record.

You've espoused a DIY recording vibe as of late. What sort of gear are you using? Any surprises or disappointments from certain attempts?

Everything we've done in 2011 has been home recorded - we use Josh's macbook, 1 condenser mic and 1 sm58. Lately we've been using my friend Zak's Tascam 4 track cassette recorded. There's a couple of things I like about recording at home vs. a studio - I like to not be rushed at all. I work really fast - generally I know what I'm going to do before we start - but I like to be able to take a spontaneous idea and really just go for it, without the pressure of time/money concerns. The other thing I like are the limitations - its great to be forced to be creative, and to make decisions. With the 4 track, there's not much room to do an infinite number of tracks - you have to decided what stays and what doesn't early in the process - and you also have to kind of mix as you go. This can make rad things happen - but yeah, also, you can think you're done, listen back and go 'fuck - this is awful' and have to start completely from scratch. Its more of an adventure!

You spend a lot of time contributing to other musicians work as well as your own. Do the two affect each other?

When I play with other people I usually play bass - I guess I bring my own style of playing to other people's projects - and you know, of course every player changes the landscape. Everyone in the band has other projects going on - and I think it just makes us all better musicians generally.

When mixing your own material do you ever pull in outside ears?

Yeah. If I mixed on my own I'd never be done, and it would sound bad. Seriously. On 'Blood Sea Dream' we all had a hand in it, and Jason Kick of Maus Haus mixed and co-produced. On 'Leaves Ellipse' Josh Barnhart and I did the mixing, and on 'Spent Woods' Josh and myself did some, and Zak McLongstreet, a friend who lives up the street recorded and mixed a ton on the 4 track.

Do you favor studio monitors for mixing, or a more pedestrian sound setup?

We use the speakers we listen yo records on, a pair of semi decent Sony boxes. And we monitor with cheap headphones.

This will be your second EP this year. Does the shorter format affect your writing style?

It helps me focus. With a 5 song EP I can keep my focus - I have trouble focusing on 12 or 20 songs at a time. I don't know why. Actually, I usually write songs in batches of 7.

There are a ton of covers in the Grand Lake catalogue. How does that come about? Is it a fun rehearsal activity, or more calculated than that?

Hmmm - it's mostly fun - I used to be afraid of covering songs - until 2009 we didnt do it at all. Then I kind of popped my cover cherry (that's disgusting-sounding ... Sorry) and haven't looked back. We're def trying to cover our big influences. It's a blast.

What do you have to say to current grand lake fans about the new record? What excites you most about the new material?

Here is what I have to say: Somewhere on the record we sampled a very famous artist. If you can figure out who the artist is, and what record we sampled, you get lifetime free Grand Lake merch.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Robert Pollard Drops "Boston Spaceships" Double Album

For someone as prolific as Robert Pollard, it's not exactly a shock to see a double album coming down the pike. However, that doesn't mean we're anything less than excited. Apparently epic to the utmost proportions, Boston Spaceships' double-album Let It Beard sees Pollard teaming with Chris Slusarenko of The Decemberists and John Moen of Guided By Voices Chris Slusarenko of Guided By Voices and John Moen of The Decemberists. In addition, the record features a whole crew of guests (including J Mascis!) to round things out. While we're not exactly sure what to expect, the preview video (below) seems to at least reveal some solid rock and roll, and for that, we're always on board!

Let It Beard drops August 2nd.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Beady Eye Played Live At Letterman: Video, Review

Last night we had the pleasure of stopping and catching Beady Eye in a one hour performance at the David Letterman show. As you may recall, the band is the manifestation of Oasis-sans-Noel, and has delivered a debut record that definitely pulls its weight. Different Gear, Still Speeding dropped in February, and the band is currently touring in its support.

After an entrance that was reminiscent of the opening of a title bout, the band immediately dove head on into a rocking set that drew heavily on 60's garage rock, both in sound, and in the band's on-stage aesthetic. Nonetheless, there was the undeniable vibe of a band who have toured the world together a number of times, and from the second you hear Liam Gallagher's voice, it's nearly impossible to not recall his greatness as Oasis' frontman.

Gallagher was clearly on point, and interested in getting fans in Beady Eye's corner. To be sure, the singer embraced his typical swagger and "fuck all" attitude throughout the show. Looking more than a little bit like an agitated boxer, he swayed and fought with the microphone throughout. However, he also engaged with fans throughout the show, giving high-five's on his entrance, saying hello throughout the show, and posing for photos whenever he saw a camera. You could definitely feel the love.

For us, the highlights of the set were "The Roller" and "Millionaire", but we have to be frank: the whole set was amazingly solid. It's a real pleasure to see a band that has so much history take a stand and deliver exclusively new material, and see it work. The set is clearly well rehearsed, and the songs were more than able to stand on their own agains the weight of the band's history.

Thankfully, you don't have to take our word for it: CBS has the whole gig streaming, and you can catch it below. Additionally, there's the band's TV Broadcast of "The Roller", which is completely worth your time. And, if you haven't figured it out thus far, we'll just lay it out for you: you can count us among Beady Eye's fans, now more than ever.

Beady Eye plays Webster Hall tonight.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Video: Supergrass, Road To Rouen - Live

You may recall that a couple of months back we hit you with our love for Supergrass' 2005 record, Road To Rouen. Well, that love certainly hasn't ceased, and as such, has left us scouring the internet for more material from the era of that album. Lucky us, the band was in top form in a live environ, and we stumbled upon three tracks from the record on YouTube.

Two recorded at Ronnie Scott's, "Roxy" and "Low C", and one recorded at Somerset House, "Low C", and all three fantastic. Granted the video quality isn't fab, but these clips are still well worth your while, and should give you even more incentive to check out the criminally underrated Road To Rouen. Check the clips below.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Little David Bowie To Tide You Over

These days, one doesn't see very much of David Bowie. Aside from a live performance with Arcade Fire, the Thin White Duke hasn't been out and about since the Reality tour got cut short in Germany for emergency heart surgery.

That being said, the Bowie camp is hard at work making sure that fans, if they can't get the real thing, are at least getting fresh new content on a fairly regular basis. Case in point, two new items that emerged this spring.

The first is a pair of Bowie "remix" apps, created by EMI, based around the tracks "Space Oddity" and "Golden Years". Targeted at the iPhone, the two apps allow you to literally remix the multitrack tapes of each song, in real time, using faders for each track. It sounds trite, but it's actually quite fascinating. Getting to make your own mix is satisfying and revealing, and you can save it to boot!

The second is a book published by Genesis, the high end "limited" book dealer. It focuses on the photographs of Bowie by Japanese photographer Sukita, and is currently in the final phases of production. Given that Sukita's photos are some of our favorite Bowie content ('Heroes' cover, anyone?), and that Genesis makes some of the finest books around, our only barrier to entry here is going to be pricetag.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Need A Weekend Jam?

While driving through the dark Connecticut woods over Memorial Day weekend, a DJ friend threw this track on the radio, and we were captivated. Okay, we were already dealing with a serious Kanye West addiction sourced by his latest (killer) record. But this track really takes the cake. The combination of Kanye's charmingly rapped opening with the highly simplified production of Beyonce's "Ego" makes for one of the best combos we've heard in a long, long time. Add a killer video into the mix, and well, we love.

mp3: Beyoncé - Ego (Remix) ft. Kanye West

Cut Off Your Hands Set August Release Date For New Record

You may recall that two years back we were completely captivated by Cut Off Your Hands' set at Noise Pop in San Francisco. It's been a while since we've heard from the band, aside from a few studio tracks leaking on their blog, so we were psyched to get a revealing press release today about the band's latest.

Due on August 16th, Hollow is the band's second full length (cover above) and, according to the band, is a fully realized manifestation of an "expanded palette that incorporated everyone's idea's". Regardless of what you call it, if the first track is any indication, it's gonna be a doozy.

"You Should Do Better" (video above, mp3 below) takes the band's trademark sound, and lodges it with subtle doses of new sonic juice. The vocals are freed of reverb and are more natural and direct, while the playing is more restrained while still managing to deliver unquestionable forward momentum.

As though all this weren't cause for enough excitement, the New Zealand band has also noted that they had a TBD American tour on tap. That means not only do we get an awesome new record, but we get to hear it live to boot. Totally, totally, awesome!

Nels Cline and Marc Ribot Played Le Poisson Rouge - Pictures, Review

On Wednesday night we had the pleasure of stopping in at Le Poisson Rouge to catch the first-ever live performance by two of the greatest guitarists out there today. Nels Cline and Marc Ribot came out to a packed house at LPR to bring together their unique styles, and reward the room with an evening of uniquely riveting composition that left us hungry for more.

The first half of the set was entirely acoustic, with the two trading lead parts on externally mic'ed guitars. The sound vacillated from being almost folky, to bouts of intricate jazz interplay, to rock-like melody that borrowed a fair bit of character from classic Who tracks. While the technical mastery was unquestionably evident, the first half was almost certainly a warm up for what was to come next.

In the second half of the show, both picked up electric guitars, and things got moving quickly. Ribot got started with a Gibson ES-175, while Cline reached first for his lap steel. Both artists had a fair amount of pedal board work going on as well, and Cline had his signature batch of electronics at the ready.

As the show progressed, things got gradually more chaotic and noise-driven, in the very best sense. The interplay between both guitars was perfect, and waves of sound from Cline's Kaoss Pad combined with the guitar sonics in an ideally rewarding fashion. By the end of the set, Cline had broken out his signature Jazzmaster, and it was completely clear that both players were enjoying themselves immensely.

While Wednesday night's set was certainly a collaboration in every sense of the word, we have to say that it felt more like Cline's show that Ribot's. While it's obviously hard to say what goes on behind closed doors, to us it felt like Cline was more consistently leading the feel of the tunes, with Ribot playing a more complimentary role. Either way, the set was fantastic, and we have fingers crossed that this pair will play again soon.

Nels Cline appears tonight at The Blue Note.

More pictures at the HAD Archive

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Grooms Set To Deliver Sophomore Effort Proms

You may recall that last fall we were digging quite a bit on the debut effort from New York's own Grooms. As such, we were psyched to discover that the band has a new record on the way, entitled Proms. So far two tracks have dropped from the record.

The first, "Tiger Trees", you can download below, while the second "Prom", is currently streaming over at MTV. Both tracks are decidedly tasty, and continue the awesome blend of cacophony and melody that gave their debut such a unique vibe.

The band has a small tour lined up around the album release, including the Northside Festival this weekend, and a July 9th record release at Death By Audio. Check the rest of the dates below!

Grooms Summer 2011 Tour Dates
June 17 – Northside Festival - Kanine Records Showcase @ Knitting Factory - Brooklyn, NY
June 21 – Embassy Vinyl - Scranton, PA
June 22 - Mercury Lounge - New York, NY
June 23 – Knitting Factory - Brooklyn, NY
June 24 – M Room - Philadelphia, PA
June 25 – Golden West Cafe - Baltimore, MD
June 26 – Strange Matter - Richmond, VA
July 9 - Record Release Party @ Death By Audio - Brooklyn, NY

Proms drops July 12th

Nels Cline At LPR Tonight, Blue Note Friday

If, like us, you're stuck in the city and not lucky enough to be attending Wilco's Solid Sound Festival next weekend, fear not: you still have a chance to get a taste of some Wilco-y goodness. Nels Cline is popping into New York this week for two shows, and we can assure you that the Wilco axe-man is well worth hearing in his other pursuits.

The first show is tonight at Le Poisson Rouge with noted guitar compatriot Marc Ribot. The second is on Friday at the Blue Note, where Cline will be participating in "Spontaneous Construction" with Billy Martin, Jacob Sacks, and Oren Bloedow. We'll be hitting up tonight's show, as we're fans of Ribot as well, and we certainly recommend you do the same.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Steven Malkmus On Tap For August With Beck On Production Duties, Fall Tour Scheduled

Okay, color us asleep at the wheel: that album cover you see above is from the forthcoming Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks record, which was announced by Matador about three weeks ago. Entitled Mirror Traffic, the disc apparently took 2.5 years to record, during which Malkmus & Co. worked on the record with none other than producer Beck Hansen in his Los Angeles studio. Yes, we're as excited as you are, which is to say: uncontrollably.

So far we've heard only one track from the record, "Senator", which you can snag below. Lyrically, it's pure classic Malkmus: full of twists and turns, with tongue firmly in-cheek. Sonically, it occupies the space that Malkmus has been steadily refining with the Jicks over the past 10 years, soundly delivering a driving rock and roll vibe, while at the same time milking the looseness of the jam for all it's worth. To say we're enjoying it would not really do it justice. It is tasty and lovely and good.

In addition to the record, the band has also just announced tour dates for the fall, many of which go on sale this week. All the dates are below, and we have to say, there are some pretty large venues on the list. It seems that perhaps last year's Pavement reunion may have drummed up more than a little enthusiasm for Malkmusites everywhere. Case in point: the New York date is at Terminal 5. While we'd love to see the band in a smaller room, you can bet there's no way we're missing this one.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks Fall 2011 Tour Dates
9/20 – Detroit, MI, Majestic Theater – onsale 6/17
9/21 – Toronto, ON, Phoenix Concert Theatre – onsale 6/17
9/22 – Ottowa, ON, Ritual – onsale TBA
9/23 – Montreal, QC, Corona Theatre – onsale 6/17
9/24 – Boston, MA, Royale – onsale 6/17
9/26 – New York, NY, Terminal 5 – onsale 6/17
9/28 – Philadelphia, PA , Theatre of Living Arts – onsale 6/17
9/29 – Baltimore, MD, Ram’s Head Live – onsale 6/16
9/30 – Charlottesville, VA, Jefferson Theater – onsale TBA
10/2 – Atlanta, GA, Variety Playhouse – onsale 6/17
10/4 – Nashville, TN, Mercy Lounge – onsale 6/17
10/5 – Indianapolis, IN, Earth House – onsale TBA
10/6 – Chicago, IL, Vic Theatre – onsale 6/25
10/7 – Milwaukee WI, Turner Hall – onsale 6/17
10/8 – Minneapolis, MN, Pantages Theatre – onsale 6/24
10/11- Seattle, WA, Neptune Theatre – onsale 6/24
10/12 – Vancouver, BC, The Biltmore Cabaret – onsale 6/25
10/13 – Portland, OR, Crystal Ballroom – onsale TBA
10/19 – Los Angeles, CA, The Music Box – onsale 6/18
10/20 – Solana Beach, CA, Belly Up Tavern – onsale TBA

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wilco Kick Off dBpm Records With Limited 7" and Solid Sound Fest v. 2.0

It's been a while since we've checked in with Wilco, but suffice it to say: the band's been busy. After completing their contract with Nonesuch, the band has broken out on their own, and decided to start their own record label, dBpm Records. Unlike last time, when the band departed their label amongst big-music tomfoolery, this time things seem to have gone much more smoothly.

As such, the band seems to be in good spirits, and is kicking off the summer with a limited edition 7" as the first release from their label. Containing two tracks, a new Wilco song "I Might" and a cover of Nick Drake's "I Love My Label", the record will be available in two formats on July 19th: clear blue vinyl (online preorder), and classic black (retail, above).

If that's not enough for the collector in you, then head to Wilco's Solid Sound fest in North Adams, MA on the weekend of June 24th. In addition to hosting a slew of awesome music (Wilco, Thurston Moore, and Levon Helm band, to name a few), the festival will have a third, clear vinyl, version of the single available for consumption. Win!