I bumped into a plaid shirted, red-haired, rat-tailed hipster gyrating while The Fresh and Oldies let loose on their sweaty dancing fans. Their song “500 snakes” (“we all hatched out of one egg!”) contained a thumping beat and a strong drum backing that resembled a White Stripes and Ramones sound with catchy lyrics. I just wanted to move. So did said rat-tailed gyrator.
As the headliner, Los Angeles’ Foreign Born took the stage amid a crowd in transition. Their hour-long set included a few twists and turns that I appreciated -- moving from the delightfully poppy garage band rock of “Winter Games” and the hypnotically harmonious “Don’t Take Back Your Time" to moments of an almost South African mbaqanga guitar rhythm in their new track “Early Warnings.” (And then there was bassist Ariel Rechtshaid’s mind-boggling decision to pull up his down jacket’s hood just as the lead singer was taking off his jacket. Hot indeed!)
Working in tandem with lead Matt W. Popieluchriffs, Lewis Pesacov diligently supplied Foreign Born with a diverse and enticing mixture of guitar riffs blending bluegrass and rock into a catchy, melodic sound. Popieluchriffs’s voice demonstrated impressive range, hitting the alt rock whine in both the high and low registers. Their sound is living room taken to the concert hall with a facility for changing tempo throughout the set that underscored their five years together as a band. “Vacationing People” combined sounds of Arcade Fire and Talking Heads with a more relaxed and harmonious ethic displayed through a slow guitar interlude which eventually -- when they were good and ready -- returned us to the rapid snare rolls of the introduction. And what was that song that began with that thumping base line? I’ll take two of those, thank you.
The girl I took said “the lead guitarist is hot.” Shocking, I know.
Listen :: Foreign Born - "Early Warnings"
Listen :: Free Energy - "Free Energy"
-- Dave Bryson, filling in for West Coast correspondent Noah Davis who was wildly derelict in his duties.
Listen :: The Radio Department - "Heaven's On Fire" [sendspace]
Listen :: Thrushes - "Crystals"
Listen :: The New Pornographers - "Your Hands (Together)"
Together is out May 4th in the US.
Why Write? is the brain-child of Jacob Faurholt and returns us to those days where music sounded exactly like it was made. On "Burning Holes," Faurholt is channeling 1983 and the lo-fi, college radio sound of R.E.M. In fact, you could almost slip "Burning Holes" onto Murmur, like a secret castaway, and maybe no one would notice. The signature lyric is destructive and oblique, "my hearts been broken into pieces of you," followed with the title lyrics, "burning holes in the heart you made with your hands." It evokes something magic and something real, something like 1983.
Listen :: Why Write? - "Burning Holes"
Listen :: The Shimmer - "No Surprise At All" [zshare]
Rebecca Bortman, lead singer and cheerleader of My First Earthquake, looks exactly like she does in her band's videos. This, probably, shouldn't be surprising, but it is. She's chatting with a fan at the merch table before the San Francisco group's pre-Noise Off show, all dyed hair, bubbly, and happy. Minutes later in what passes for Du Nord's Café's green room, she answers our questions in exactly the same manner. We are not being filmed, but nothing would change if we were.
In one band photo you're wearing soccer cleats. Is that a fashion statement or a practical choice?
I have passion for bargains and I'm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where people don't know about fashion the way I like to know about fashion. All these big companies send their excess products to the suburbs of Pittsburgh. They can liquidate their stock without diluting the brand because no one knows about their brand there. So companies like Nike send their really cool gold soccer shoes to places like Gabriel's outside of Pittsburgh. I go visit my parents and spend hours digging for $5 Nike shoes and I'm like, "Fuck yeah, gold shoes." But cleats. I'm like Jackie Joyner-Kersee."
Does that get dangerous?
It gets a little clicky-clacky. They aren't metal. It spices up my step.
Does San Francisco have a sound?
San Francisco has a sound, and it sounds like people living the good life. I think that's why you see more bands come out of little small podunk towns because there's nothing else to do. I think San Franciscans have this general laid-back nature that things will just come to them. I'm guilty of it too, but you have to fight against the laidbackness.
Are you succeeding?
I hope so. Our second album is a fight. It wants to be mellow and low key. It wants to just hang out in Dolores Park on the weekends, but we have to be like, "Fuck no, you have to start the party, album." That's been our fight. I think we were successful in our first in bringing the energy, but we've gotta keep the volume high.
Describe the band in a haiku.Ruckus jamming, yeah.
We make you sweat puddles.
And you like it, lots.
I was a poetry minor in school.
That's pretty good for on the spot.
You know, all of our lyrics are on the spot. That's how they are written. I will improvise some of the lyrics tonight.
For any specific songs?
Well, once they make it to an album they are kind of set in stone, but until they do they're all kind of flexible. Everything we haven't recorded yet is still up in the air. Some of them I have a rough idea. I know I'm going to sing about in this verse, but a lot of it is off the top, which was the name of my improv group in college.
(A day later, Bortman emails us: Like any good poetry minor, I've done a revision to my haiku:
Enter our electro
Chasm of spasm. We spice
Songs: racy, tasty.)
Band name. True story? I was thinking it would be a great metaphor of sex.
Yeah, I think my mom thinks it's about sex. Or she actually thinks it about childbirth. She likes to refer to me as her first earthquake. Her first and only earthquake. Let that be an indication of my birth order. But I will tell you -- and you may not believe me -- the first time Chad and I got together to make some music was my first earthquake. I didn't come up with the name until several months later, and then I had to convince him that it wasn't a preschool toy.
Did you feel the earthquake?
Yeah, it was substantial. Probably the biggest one I've felt since I've been here.
Listen :: Efterklang - "Modern Drift"
As a side-project of Bloc Party guitarist Russell Lissack and former leadsinger of Black Moustache, Milena Mepris, Pin Me Down represents the dead center of these two impulses. The chorus of "Time Crisis," minus Mepris' soaring vocals, reminds you of your first listen of Bloc Party's A Weekend In The City, replete with the go-for-broke guitars and the arena impulse. Elsewhere, synths buzz, packaged drums hit with sharp digital fills and a dance-beat explodes like something loosed from a mid-1990s hit-factory. Perhaps, "Time Crisis" is so charming because it refuses to take itself too seriously, proof that rock can be fun and electro doesn't have to be so temporary. So maybe, Pin Me Down resists exactly what their name suggests, instead inviting us to a barge in the middle of the Atlantic where you don't have to choose which way to go.
Listen :: Pin Me Down - "Time Crisis"
Brooklyn’s Yeasayer exists somewhere between an indeterminate futurism and the completely recognizable past. Like a laser-charged Krautrock band playing in British Mandate-era Palestine or like Depeche Mode performing in postcolonial Delhi, the band is undeniably synthesized, tribal and born back into the future. At a sold-out Bowery Ballroom, the reference game would prove useful as they took the stage amidst sea-sick colors and flashing lights.
Yeasayer opened with the unsettling and familiar first track from their latest record, Odd Blood, “The Children.” With vocals set in an artificially low register and pulsing, almost breathing industrial soundscapes, “The Children” was the edgy, creepy start to a set that would only equal one of the previous two descriptors. Relying heavily on material from the new album, out today, the group powered through “Love Me Girl,” “Madder Red” and “Remember,” although not necessarily in that order. There was an air of science to the exoticism, like Yeasayer had shown up to mediate sound, rather than actually produce it. Far more the medium for the cacophony than its creator, it was almost like they were the dimmer for the lights pulsing around them.
Yeasayer, the guys who used to practice in their apartment on Prospect Avenue in South Park Slope, closed their main set with “Ambling Alp” and “O.N.E,” the two singles off Odd Blood. The words of the middle of their set—from “Remember”—were still echoing around in the top recesses of The Bowery Ballroom: “You’re stuck in my mind/ All the time.” People wouldn’t forget this. And then loops peeled off into nowhere, and the band shuffled around between here and some indefinite never forever.
Listen :: Yeasayer - "Ambling Alp"
Listen :: Yeasayer - "O.N.E."
32feet: Top 5 Desert Island records?
Twin Sister: We each did one:
Andrea: T-Rex - The Slider
Bryan: Can - Future Days - "Never gets old"
Eric: Björk - Vespertine
Gabel: Van Dyke Parks - Discover America - "It'd make things pleasant on an average afternoon on the island."
Udbhav: Tom Zé - Todos os Olhos - "I feel like it'd be pretty good beach music"
You guys recently got written up favorably by Pitchfork. Talk about the "Pfork Effect." Did things change? Were you irritated they discovered Vampires With Dreaming Kids so late? Are you allowed to say anything negative about them or will they blacklist you like indie-rock's Joe McCarthy? This question is 75% serious.
We really loved that they used the picture of Luna, Andrea's cat strutting around in the backyard. It brought a lot of people to our website and music for the first time, so there's definitely nothing negative to say about it. We don't mind that Pitchfork was late to the party, they have to cover a lot of bands, all of whom have something we've never had, publicists. We're still broke, trying to figure out how to quit our day jobs and do this music thing for real. We've been contacted by a handful of labels we've always thought were pretty cool but it's a little early in the game for things like that right now. They probably know that too. We're just trying to get this new EP out, pronto.
Your band is being ship-wrecked and help will not arrive in time. There is one life jacket. Who gets it and why?
Eric says: "Dev's computer, we could still somewhat perform if that computer survives."
Udbhav says: "First off, Andrea hates boats, so I don't think she'd even be on the ship, which leaves 4 of us. Second, we'd probably give the lifejacket to Eric's Silvertone guitar and Gabe's bass, they're irreplaceable!"
Bryan says: "I say we'd all let Dev live because we owe him some money. It would only be fair. Although Andrea is deathly afraid of water, so who knows. Wouldn't be me, that's for sure."
Gabel says: "Bryan"
Dre didn't say anything cause she knows better than to be on that boat.
Can you let us in on your plans for 2010?
First and foremost, release Color Your Life. We've been working so hard on it for so long and we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. After that we should be touring quite a bit, trying to get out there and see the world and learning how to sing together. Maybe even a summer 7" if all goes well. Also, we want to conceive of and release a song that becomes popular among infants.
What is the one thing people should absolutely remember about Twin Sister that they have no clue about?
Two equally important things. Ginger is a song about baby ginger roots, not redheads. Andrea's dog Amelia (a puggle) has a rhinestone cowboy hat.
Listen :: Twin Sister - "Ginger"
Bonus :: Twin Sister - "Ribbon Bow"
Listen :: Oberhofer - "I Could Go" [zshare click through]
Listen :: Oberhofer - "Haus" [zshare click through]
In the classic spirit of basement bands and Art Space Shows, Beat Radio are going on late and have major keyboard problems. For a band that relies on delicate, shadowy arrangements, losing your keys isn't an ideal scenario. Sendrowitz and his band seem a little out-of sync, struggling with an over-matched sound guy and a lead-guitarist insistent on overplaying his role. However, against the odds, Beat Radio are still infectious and affecting (the guitarist from Bridges and Powerlines will later call them "his favorite New York band").
The band played "Follow You Around" early, a difficult trick in the live environment, especially without the signature keyboards of the studio original. Relying on material from their most recent LP, Safe Inside The Sound, the set was, unfortunately, cut short because of the late start. Sendrowitz would give us a reference from stage because, undeniably, we share a sense of "the moment" (or tonight, is it The Moment). This was before playing "Sunday Matinee," the band's closing song and proof positive that Beat Radio can negotiate the hymns of youth with the maturity of adulthood, even without keys in a nameless Art Space on the water.
Listen :: Beat Radio - "Sunday Matinee"
Sonically, Red Wire Black Wire is exactly as explosive as the reference to bomb-defusion in their name would indicate. Emanating from the same Wesleyan-milieu that churned out MGMT, Boy Crisis and Amazing Baby, RWBW make dark, synth-driven music that manages to critically wink at genre while still taking a considerable dose of seriousness with their spoonful of sugar. Beat Radio, a drastically different animal, provide the kind of reflective tomes that come from quivering voices, shimmering lyrics and a working knowledge of Ben Gibbard's earliest work. The soundscapes are rich and moving and lead singer Brian Sendrowitz's voice sometimes whispering, other times yelling into the void.
Listen :: Red Wire Black Wire - "Breathing Fire"
Listen :: Beat Radio - "Sleepwalking"
This was a mistake.
The lead singer of My First Earthquake dominates the stage at Café Du Nord. The type of girl who's ballsy enough to "join a band on a dare," she bounds around while screamsinging the lyrics to "Outta the Band" despite fighting off a weeklong cold. The 100 second-long ode to being ditched highlights the last set of the venue's pre-Noise Pop show.
The song comes immediately after Bortman, Chad Thornton, Dave Lean, and Andre Salcido power through "Cool in the Cool Way." During the middle of the Downstairs' single, the singer does her best Stepford Posh Spice impression. Her bandmates add enough backbeat to make a robot dance throughout.
The set progresses, and My First Earthquake integrates a couple new tunes. They are rough, but there's something undeniable about them.
Bortman found a better band, and we're all better for it.
Listen :: My First Earthquake - "Cool In The Cool Way"
32feet: What are your top 5 desert island records?
-White Album (because there's more songs)
-Moon and Antarctica by Modest Mouse
-In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel
-Feels by Animal Collective
You strike me as a band on the verge of something very big. What should be people expect from you all in 2010?
Well, we're currently working on some new songs that are hopefully going to sound quite a bit different but keep all the things you'd expect from us, and we're hoping to play more shows across Canada and the US.
Imagine the following scenario: Your band takes a cruise way out on the harbor and the boat starts sinking. Help will not arrive in time and there are only two life-jackets. Who gets them?
Easy answer. Lesley and Eric would get the life-jackets. Not because they're special or anything (they are though), but because Odie, Jamie and myself are extremely competitive and would try to see who could make it back to shore first.
Do you have a dream tour partner? Is there one band you all admire and would love to take 3-4 months on the road?
While it might not make the most sense musically, I think it would be amazing to tour with Animal Collective. They're definitely one of our favourite bands right now and it would be awesome to get to see them perform every night. For a bill that we might fit better on, I'm thinking maybe Wolf Parade? Or Spoon would be a lot of fun.
What is the most important thing about The Ghost Is Dancing that people don't know?
We love to meet people and make friends. After every show we always try to talk to the other bands or the audience members. And not just to find a place to sleep! (Although that's useful too). We like to hear about the fun things to do in a city, the best places to play a show or grab a bite to eat, and it's always nice to associate a place with friends that we look forward to seeing again.
Listen :: The Ghost Is Dancing - "Battles On"
Listen :: Skybox - "In A Dream" [zshare]
Last June we were completely leveled by the demo "Rad Pitt" from Manchester band Egyptian Hip Hop. Now, the band is set to release their debut "7, double-sided "Wild Human Child/Heavenly" single. The better of the two cuts, "Heavenly" bleeps and bloops with the band's miles away vocals. It is reflective and exactly the kind of sound that deserves to soundtrack a growing generation of kids who need their own cathartic, "I'm ok, you're ok," Breakfast Club-moment. The video borrows from found footage of tourists visiting London, the viewer made into an awed, youthful explorer from 1984. We suspect this is what we need.