On their sophomore release, Omni's meticulous groove and feverish guitar work is relentlessly refined. Bassist Philip Frobos discusses their unmistakable energy.
Earlier this year you spent some time touring with Franz Ferdinand. How did that come about and what was the experience like? Were they a band you were into in your youth? Did your time with them impact your abilities as performers?
It was right around the time we were finishing up our first full US tour this spring that they asked us to join them on the road this summer. It was a truly fantastic time, they are great dudes. We all definitely remember buying their album for the first time how impactful it was! Spending time on the road was so fun, and we all learned to be more confident and comfortable on the bigger stages watching them kill it every night.
As a three piece band, how is songwriting divvied up? Each instrument seems independent from each other. Is there independent writing from each instrumentalist?
Frankie and I have been writing everything up to this point. He writes drums, guitar and miscellaneous, while I handle the bass and vocals/lyrics. We write and arrange everything together.
If music weren't a viable way to make a living for you, what do you think you'd be doing with your time?
Well I was bartending, and I ran an espresso catering business for a little while. In another life it would be fun to be something more scientific...
Your sound is very distinctive with the new album being unmistakable as an Omni record from the first guitar note. Was the new record built using concepts, tones, and energy derived from the debut record? What was the balance for the new record in terms of new creativity and maintaining the unique identity the band developed during the first album?
A big part of maintaining that identity was we never stopped writing between the two. As soon as we finished writing "78" (the final song for the first album) we wrote "Southbound Station" shortly after. There were breaks and time off, but really we just wanted to vary in song compositions and styles with the same energy without repeating ourselves.
You guys are based in Atlanta. What's the music scene like there? How is your music a reflection of your time spent living there? Has the continued growth of the city changed the music culture?
There's always a lot going on, although we are a bit out of the loop. The Algiers and Lyonnais guys are always up to something cool. It's a beautiful city to live in and walk around.
How did the band form? How long after coming together did the debut record get finished?
Frankie and I had been friends for quite a while. We just wanted to write some music together and we were so pleased with the songs coming together that we just kept writing until we had enough for an album. Then it was like "I guess we should record this?" It took about a year of writing and playing a couple shows. It was a good time.
The fine folks at Pontcha Surf Club asked us to select some tracks for their Lake Trips playlist. Find the collection broadcasting from Pontcha FM on Spotify below.
Drag Sounds- Never Say You're Dead
Traffic Sound- Inca Snow
The Master's Apprentice- I Feel Fine
The Easybeats- She's So Fine
Jack Cooper- Memphis, Lancashire
Faith Healer- Sufferin' Creature
Nap Eyes- Trust
Crystal Syphon- In My Mind
Music Emporium- Winds Have Changed
Bo Diddley- Help Out
Lowell Fulson- Why Don't We Do It In The Road?
Paper Garden- Lady's Man
The Baroques- Love in a Circle
Ariel Pink- Another Weekend
R. Stevie Moore- Strawberry Fields Forever
John Cale- Please
The New Dawn- Proudman
Giorgio Gaslini- Donna piu'
I Marc 4- Airon
Daevid Allen- Rich Girl
Blue Phantom- Compression
Masahiko Sato- TBSF
Kikagaku Moyo- Streets of Calcutta
Sven Libaek- In the Wave
Franco Micalizzi- Trinity: con la stella di vicesceriffo
Paolo Renosto- Sophie
Remigio Ducros- Rock - H
Daniela Casa- Spiralys
Arawak- Accadde a Boston
John Andrews packed his leavin' truck and is headed up the country in his van on a solo tour playing intimate house shows before the wayfaring songwriter embarks on some other new roads.
When we last spoke, you were about to release Bad Posture, your second release with the Yawns. Since then, you’ve gone on a tour supporting (and playing with) Woods and made an appearance with Quilt as the backing band for a long awaited live performance from cult folk songwriter, F.J. McMahon. How was the tour with the Yawns and Woods? How did the McMahon show come to fruition? How did the time promoting Bad Posture affect your songwriting and creative mindset?
Man, it’s been a crazy few months. Bad Posture came out I thought I had an idea of how the year would pan out but it really took a left turn out of nowhere. Things were looking good and we were lucky to do some fun little tours with the Kevin Morby band, Mild High Club, Woods and Hand Habits. I really wanted to continue touring and doing it full time but the band went through some serious inner turmoil. It was classic Fleetwood Mac kinda stuff without getting too personal. I knew our tour in July would be our last tour before it even started and that being said it was one of the strangest 2 weeks of my life. Of all of our lives really. Our last show together was at the Bowery Ballroom. We finished out set with a Canned Heat cover of “Going up the Country.” That was the last song The Yawns played together. Anyways, The F.J. show was fun. F.J. is a sweetheart & it was a real interesting time re-learning these songs he wrote almost 50 years ago. He bought us all flasks for our own “golden juice.” Love that guy.
You recently moved out of the old farm house featured on the cover art for Bad Posture. From the brief videos and pictures you shared, it seemed like that house was more than just a residence for you. What did the house represent and what will you miss most about the home and living in that setting?
The Yawns all lived together in that house. It was this rural hippie’s commune dream that you read about in books or see in old films. The house was built in the 1700s, was an orphanage in the 1800’s and had a lot of character. We used to just sit in the front yard all day, play music in the barn together, and drink beer around the fire. There was always something going on. I had never spent so much time with people I lived with before. We truly were a big family & I’ll always look back on those days fondly.
In mid summer we opened our property to the public and had a mini Woodsist fest called “Boogie in the Barn”. Over 200 people traveled and camped in our woods. It was sort of like our “Last Waltz” and it truly was one of the best days of my life. Towards the end of living in the house I was mostly there by myself. Things started to feel creepy. My very last night living there I opened myself up to any spirits in the house and just thanked them for letting me live there the past few years. I went to sleep without any blankets on because it was hot out. I woke up around 5 in the morning and i was completely tucked in my bed with both my blankets. I guess there's a chance I could have done it in my sleep, but I also like to imagine it was Emma Critchett; the lady who ran the orphanage in the 1800s. True story.
What’s the current status of the Yawns? What are you guys doing creatively as a group or individually?
We are all sort of doing our own things. Joey is a carpenter now. Rachel says she’s getting a booth at an antique store. Luke trims medical marijuana. I’m all still friends with them. I’m not sure where i’m going to end up eventually. I’m thinking either Virginia or Hudson Valley. Who knows maybe i’ll even sell my soul and move to Los Angeles. Doubt it though. For now I’m driving across the country & keeping my things at my childhood home in Yardville, NJ. Thats just a cool way to say i live with my mom when i get back.
Right now you’re driving across the country by yourself and living in your van. How is this experience impacting your songwriting? What are the most enjoyable moments of the day as a van dweller? What have been the more difficult aspects?
My van is set up pretty sick. Got a bed in there and lots of storage. I’m bringing a little propane stove top to cook for myself when I’m camping. I’m planning on spending some days at Arches National Park in Utah with my guitar and notebook and finishing the writing process for this next record. I’m looking forward to this tour but also a little nervous. Driving across the country alone is a huge task. I am determined though. Gonna be a long journey. Wish me luck.
Although the Yawns are going their separate ways, you’re in no shortage of projects as you’re becoming a more regular member of Jagjaguwar newcomers, Cut Worms and also joining Kevin Morby’s band this Spring. How did you meet Max from Cut Worms? For you, what’s most captivating about his work?
Cut Worms played with the Yawns a few years ago in New York. It was his first show ever in New York & we just kept in touch and continued to play shows together. It’s been great playing with him because i have this tendency in my piano playing to accidentally get a little honky tonk or rag timey. In Woods, I usually have to tone that down because it doesn’t make sense with the music, but in Cut Worms i get to just go for it. Max’s music is timeless.
How did your involvement with Kevin Morby begin? Have you worked with him before? What instrument will you be playing? What’s it like preparing for a tour with Kevin?
When I first started playing in Woods, Morby was still in the band. I think at that point between Woods & The Babies he was on tour for like 2 years straight and was pretty burnt out. He asked me to play the singing saw on his record Singing Saw a few years ago. I’ll be playing piano with him. We start rehearsing in a few months. I haven’t spent that much time hanging with him so i’m excited to do some cool tours. They seem like a really fun bunch. I’ll also be playing in Hand Habits opening for him every night. Double duty once again.
You’re on a solo tour playing some very intimate house shows through October. How do you adapt your performance for such a smaller space than you typically play? How did you line up these spaces? Is there more or less stress and pressure for such a DIY and unique tour?
I booked 18 shows for myself across the country. Mostly house shows. Going back to my roots of DIY shows. I think it will be refreshing after years of having to work through booking agents and what not. My new record is all sold out & no longer in print so I burnt a bunch of CD-Rs to sell. I’m also selling cell drawings from my animations. I play the songs a bit differently solo. It’s mellow and quiet. I’m trying out a bunch of new material also. My music was made in my home so it makes sense for me to perform the songs intimately in other people’s homes. That and also no booking agents will work with me. I’m going to take it day by day and try not to get stressed out. It’s going to be challenging at times I’m sure but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Life gave me lemons and I’m making lemonade.
Becca Mancari’s debut Good Woman is an ode to memories and the patience to harvest their yield.
Good Woman is your debut full length record, trailing the successful single release of "Summertime Mama." What was the purpose behind the time between the single and an album release?
You know the old Nashville, "the power of one good song." I recorded "Summertime Mama" about two years ago, and it did a lot of work in those two years. I waited to release a full length because I was looking for the right producer and truly the right focus. I'm very happy I took my time and did something I'm proud of!
You've had a long, interesting journey leading up to this point in your life. You worked as a janitor in Florida, hopped trains and rode the rails in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and explored spirituality in India. How did those radical existences impact your creativity and help lead you to the songs written on Good Woman?
Ever since I was a young girl I knew I would never be from "somewhere." My dad had a pretty strong desire for movement so he instilled that in his children. I mean my first trip out of the country was at 14 to Lima, Peru. It opened my eyes to a big, beautiful, and bright world. Some of my travels were painful ones like driving heartbroken through the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona, leaving my first heartbreak behind.
Movement has always been my truest method of writing, see and soaking in the sounds of crowded city streets in Bangalore, India to living in the cement heat of South Florida taking out garbage bags as a janitor spending hours in quietness writing songs. Those memories are some of my sweetest because my songs come from experience.
Your most influential time musically came in Virginia and Nashville. What was it about those places and the music from their respective regions that was so impactful?
I moved to Virginia when I was 18. I went there to go to college, but little did I know I would find the music of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There was this wonderful and rich underbelly of musicians that lived in my town. I still laugh thinking back about being a young 20-something drinking moonshine and playing around campfires with old timers who taught me.
I had my first band in Virginia called "Sunshine and Happiness" and it was this communal kind of porch music, with traditional instruments but always with this movement toward the space and at its core rock and roll. There's something about mountain towns that bring out the ghosts and the beautiful rich underbelly of life.
Living in Nashville, a place rich in musical expression, how do you think your music is different from other songwriters in the city? How is your time in Nashville signified in your songwriting and sound?
It's funny cause a lot of my friends have said to me "I'm not really sure how to describe your music." I think that it's probably a lack of traditional musical training. I play by ear, and something that I hear a lot from folks is that my songs don't always have traditional verses or choruses. I also have this wonderful steel player who sounds like he's playing synth at times. It's very atmospheric and I love to make the listener feel lost or dreamlike when they listen to the music.
Nashville, has taught me to be yourself, write from your gut, trust yourself, and tell
your own true. Don't try and copy someone else. Learn from them and move deeply into your dark and light places.
Some of the songs on Good Woman have been played and performed by you for a while now. How have these songs changed over time? Did you have any direction or expectations for the production of the album?
They've kind of taken on new life forms with different band members coming into the equation. I love how my band is always trying to be more creative and dig deeper. "Arizona Fire" just keeps getting more and more tight when we play it live
and it's my favorite to play live right now.
When I came to production, I knew after one meeting with Kyle Ryan that I wanted him to produce Good Woman. I just felt like we were on the same page, we did not want this to be a throwback record or for it to have the "Nashville Sound." We just wanted to create together. Also a fun side note: the record is done completely by my live touring band!
You've played with a new band called Bermuda Triangle featuring Brittany Howard and Jess Lafser. What's special about this project? How did the group come to be? What's to come of Bermuda Triangle?
Oh man... the Triangle. It's just been this wonderful at times funny thing. We just really enjoy spending time together. They are my best friends and it was almost inevitable that we would play together someday. All I can say to folks is come to the shows, there's something very special about three women who can stand next to each other and watch each other shine.
Max Clarke's home-recorded demos introduce the tender songwriting of Cut Worms on his Jagjaguwar debut, Alien Sunset.
You've announced your Jagjaguwar debut. The EP is essentially the demo tape sent to the label. How did the first Cut Worms songs come together? How was the demo recorded and how long have those songs been workshopped?
I was living in Chicago in 2015 when I first started recording these demos. I was mainly just trying to get them out of my head and into existence. I’d gone through a few different lineups and attempts to start Cut Worms, none of which ever really got off the ground… But I finally ended up getting together with some friends — Josh Condon and Andrew Harper — and we started playing out around town, opening a lot for Josh’s other band The Glyders. We played around for about a year or so in Chicago, during which time I was writing and recording these songs at my apartment, then playing them live with the band.
You've played some higher profile bills than most artists with one 7" out in the world. How did your opening spots with Foxygen, The Lemon Twigs, Nick Lowe, and other more established acts come about? How did those shows help you develop as a performer?
Basically I got kind of lucky. After moving to NYC and playing a couple shows, I was fortunate enough to meet some great people who heard the songs and wanted to help me out… people with infinitely more connections in the music world than I had. I started off doing a karaoke-style performance, singing to a backing track comprised of my home-recordings minus the vocal tracks. I guess I figured it was New York, I didn’t know anyone to start a band with, I could act like anyone I wanted to. That was the first time I did any kind of performance like that, and it certainly opened up a lot of possibilities for me.
Through that I ended up finding some great musicians to play with, which was always the goal. Opening for a bigger act is exciting and the crowds are bigger, but they’re not really there to see you, so it’s kind of like an audition every time—you have to vie for their attention, and sometimes you don’t get it. I think that’s kind of forced me into becoming a better musician and sort of thickened my skin a bit as a performer.
How do you achieve your raw and simple sound? What's your studio or recording style like?
I’d been writing my own songs for years and tinkering around with a little 4-track digital recorder that had a built-in microphone. I had attempted to go into studios a couple times but I wasn’t quite able to get what I was after, so I finally just bought a slightly better 8-track digital recorder and a low-grade condenser mic (this was the most I could afford) and decided to try to do it all myself. A lot of people say I have an ”old” or “vintage” sound or whatever, which really wasn’t intentional believe it or not. I was trying to make it sound as good as I could, but I just wasn’t very good at recording. Also, I just like reverb… who doesn’t?
You're cover of Truly Julie's Blues appears on the Planned Parenthood Benefit record, Cover Your Ass Vol 1. How did you choose that track to cover? How did you become a part of this compilation and what was it like using your art to promote social change in this special and creative way?
I got the offer to do a song for the compilation through my manager and it seemed like it was a good thing to do. As far as song choice, I’d always loved that song, which is by Bob Lind — and I thought it had a perfect kind of bittersweet vengeance that fit right in with what I thought the mood of the compilation ought to be. I’m maybe too cynical to think that me recording a song I that like actually affected any kind of social change, but it’s a nice thought and a step in the right direction at least.
You moved from Chicago to Brooklyn recently. What's been different about living in the two cities? What made New York the place you chose to launch the official Cut Worms recording career from? Has your move impacted your songwriting?
I’d always wanted to live in New York City, but just never had the guts to make the move. I loved Chicago and still do, but it seemed time for a change so I left. My girlfriend Caroline had the idea initially and sort of had to convince me that it was the right thing to do, but obviously it was. I wasn’t so presumptuous to think that I was going to move to New York and then finally “make it” as a musician. In a lot of ways it was a step backwards—I didn’t know anyone here and I didn’t know anything about the local scene. I was also pretty unfamiliar with any record labels, and the thought of approaching any of them hadn’t even crossed my mind. I really wasn’t expecting anything to happen, just wanted to try something different and it ended up working out in my favor—or it has seemed so thus far.
What can you tell us about the LP that’s due out in 2018? What can we expect to hear?
I don’t want to say too much about it other than it’s a more thorough realization of my songs and it’s closer to the sound I was after when I was recording the demos, but didn’t have the know-how to achieve. I’m pretty happy with it as a whole and I hope people can make a connection with it when it comes out.
Gene Wilder- Pure Imagination
The McCoys- Fever
The Strange Boys- Poem Party
Last Year's Men- Paralyzed
Os Abutres- O Sapato
Os Santos- Ebb Tide
The Monkeys- Tapioca Tundra
Delicate Steve- Tattered
Golden Boots- Makebelieve
Adrian Lloyd- Got A Little Woman
D.R. Hooker- Forge Your Own Chains
Richard, Cam & Bert- Out in the Cold
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers- You Got Lucky
On their first tour after releasing A Deeper Understanding, Adam Granduciel's experiment in tonal perfection, The War On Drugs, stopped in Charlotte, NC to perform a career-spanning setlist. Cycling through a suite of guitars and pedals, Granduciel and company deftly sculpted a sonic tidal wave flooding every inch of the room. The group is firing on all cylinders and are not to be missed as they wind their way across North America and Europe.
Errobi- Aitarik ez dut
Träd Gräs Och Stenar- Sanningens Silverflod
Mose Allison- Parchman Farm
Lebrón Brothers- My Cool Boogaloo
Pete Dello and Friends- It's What You've Got
D.R. Hooker- A Stranger's Smile
Dave Bixby- War Torn War Born
Mad Walls- Lily
The David- Mister, You're a Better Man Than I
Jonathan Rado- Law & Order
Morgan Delt- Obstacle Eyes
J.K. & Co.- Christine
Moby Grape- 8:05
Laghonia- Everybody on Monday
Step inside the dark, introspective and naturalistic songwriting of Adam Torres.
Earlier this year, you released I Came To Sing the Song EP. How does this collection of songs build on your last release, Pearls to Swine?
Well, these songs were written around the same time as most of the songs that ended up on Pearls but have a more introspective focus on the writing process. There's a character in each of the songs that are writers in some kind of way. It made sense to put these songs together on a release and these songs were also recorded in the same recording session as Pearls, too. So, really, I Came to Sing the Song (EP) is technically & instrumentally an extension of Pearl but with a few themes removed and varied.
You've been touring extensively after the EP release. Do you use traveling and gigging as an opportunity to write new songs or refine older material? How does touring impact your mood, mindset, and creative motivation?
From my experience this last year, the touring grind has taught me to make time to write new material -- late nights after shows, the days in between tours, or while in the van or on the plane if we are flying somewhere. The reality of playing in new place (e.g. Australia and New Zealand recently) is a good opportunity to try out new songs because there aren't any expectations really from the audience. In general, I find touring to be extreme -- extremely gratifying or extremely anxiety-inducing. Some nights are amazing and the audience and venue work in coordination and then some nights are kind of hopeless.
Speaking of touring, you've enlisted Thor Harris, known for his involvement with Swans, a much more aggressive and heavy sound than your material. How did that connection happen and how does Thor use his talents and musical prowess on your tunes?
About two years ago, Thor was wanting to try something new musically in his life; I think he wanted to play softer 'pretty' music. So, we met at a show he was playing underneath a highway bridge in East Austin and we started hanging out and playing together. Thor is one of my favorite drummers in the world and he uses texture in idiosyncratic and interesting ways to add depth to the songs on our records.
You recently made a stop at Green Man Festival in Wales. How does your music translate at huge festivals like Green Man? Is something lost, or perhaps gained from performing on large festival stages to a field of people instead of a smaller club?
It's interesting to play larger venues or events because while the sound of the music we make is expansive and the vocals have a maximal sonic quality to them, our project has existed mostly in smaller or medium sized venues wherever we play (so far). I think the songs can breathe in bigger spaces, so the music gains an environment that it is more at home but really the difference is not big enough to say that either is better than the other.
Your style of folk music has a dark edge. Are you inspired or find motivation in the gloomier side of life?
These days, everyone must see the world from a conflict perspective in that people and nature are at odds with each other an bad things happen without reason. There is no justice in what is happening right now -- a white supremacist con-man is destroying our political economy from the inside out, our natural world is in revolt and the effects of climate change are devastating millions of people around the world. Fundamentally, and especially now in the post-truth Trump era, I do not view the universe as friendly. I hope the music and songs that I write can connect to that feeling and work through those emotions as some sort of way to heal.
Folk music tends to have deep roots in a sense of home. Where is home for you and how has that place on the Earth shaped your songwriting?
Home for me as become less and less defined the more and more I am traveling and touring solo or with my band. Home for me, for now, is playing shows and connecting and communicating with the people I meet while touring. It is nice to recharge when not on the road and for that purpose I live in the Austin area where my musical family and community live -- people that I love and trust and feel an affinity in our shared experience.
Nature and its value and importance is expressed in many of your songs. What parts of the outdoors are most sacred to you?
I've lived near rivers throughout my life so I've always felt humbled by their presence, as well as mountains. The news of the day and our day-to-day problems somehow don't seem to matter when in the presence of nature. The idea that the infinite is reflected in nature is awe-inspiring to me and affects me on a deep level, in a way that conventional religion has never been able to do. I grew up Catholic but struggled with a lot of the ideology associated with Christianity as I became older, witnessing injustices in my personal life or in the world events like the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, among many other large-scale conflicts. I trust nature more than human ideology because I feel like there is more to learn from nature than from dogma of any kind.
Wand discuss the exhaustive creative operation that guided their distensible new record, Plum, out today on Drag City.
Plum is the follow up to the 2015 record Golem and comes a year after releasing the solo record, The Unborn Capitalist From Limbo. How does Plum fit into the creative puzzle of the songwriting from the last couple of years?
We’ve come a long way as a band since Golem. I mean, when we recorded that LP we had never toured before. We hadn’t cut our teeth yet. We were just excited about making records, and being in a band. We used a lot of FX: fuzz, echo, reverb, lots of reverb to take up the space we weren’t filling with our performance. With the solo record, I made a deliberate attempt to dismantle that space. I wanted to hear what I sounded like without all the fuzz and reverbs and stuff… I wanted to know if my songs could actually stand up. We applied a similar idea to writing and recording Plum, though much more intense. We played for 3 months straight, 6-7 days a week, 4-10 hours a day-learning how to play and listen to each other. We recorded everything we did in demos, voice memos, field recordings, we bootlegged our own live shows and combed through it all, refining the songs in the process. They’re kind of like diamonds. The process which created them was an exhaustive exercise in possibility. With the end result being the approximation of all our choices.
In terms of how Plum fits the puzzle of our catalog, it more feels like the puzzle itself. Or a different incarnation of it. It kind of is its own catalog. Its own reality.
The video for the first single from Plum, "Bee Karma" features a introspective clown shedding self-reluctance. What was the process for making the video? Was there some level of creative independence you gave a filmmaker or is it a vision you or the band had?
I made that video with the help of my brother as the clown, and Abby Banks on the film camera. The idea was simple. The clown and the driver represent two sides of the same spirit: The responsible and sometimes worried driver, and the careless, self-obsessed clown. Both of their personalities run amok on screen in different ways.
The album art is a big blue cloud. What does the graphic represent and how does it illustrate the tone or theme of the record?
While writing the lyrics to the record, I became attracted to word combinations that, when invoked, would produce feelings of inexplicable nostalgia. Blue Cloud is such a simple combination of words, yet when you think of what a Blue Cloud could be… well for me I go to a place of calm reflection, where language can really function as an analog to the spirit. The album cover, for us, was the most honest way to give the record some corporeality. A hunk of meat to appear within and without.
Wand has always incorporated a fair amount of experimental effects and instrumentation. Are you influenced by experimental music and composition?
Yes, we are equally as influenced by experimental and unstructured music as we are by pop. And we are interested in the ways that they are defined by their relationship to each other. I feel like what we do sits somewhere in between, though is probably more pop than experimental. It’s getting harder to tell.
The album has varying degrees of recording clarity. Were there different production tools used to achieve the fog and fuzz of tracks like "Ginger" and "High Rise?”
We used a lot of different recording techniques. "Ginger" was a live improv I didn’t even know was being recorded at our space while Evan took a pee break. And “High Rise” combines a live recording and a studio “attempt” of the song. Neither bit of "High Rise" was very structured, and we mixed it out of curiosity to see if anything good would come of it. Dan (James Goodwin who mixed the record) just slammed the shit out of the board. He even took a picture of it with all the faders in the red.
The more times I listen to Plum, I feel a strengthened hinge revolving around the track "Blue Cloud" that seems to encompass all the different components of the other individual tracks' experimentation and expression. Is the album flow a conscious part of your songwriting or is it put together after the tracks are recorded?
I remember when we were mixing, we had no idea what the record would be called or what sequence the songs would go in. We went through so many different tracklists, and had a lot of back and forth about what would finally make it onto the record. It wasn’t until we stepped into Golden Mastering that the record really settled into something we all felt comfortable with. Now I can’t imagine it being any other way!
Photos by Abby Miller.
Since 2010, the organizers of Hopscotch Music Festival have supplied Raleigh, North Carolina with consistently adventurous and aggressively diverse lineups for the annual September occasion. The collection of artists on the 2017 lineup did not fall short of any rational thinkers' expectations. The four days brought legends from indie, garage, hip hop, country, and folk genres to the state capitol. Stages large and small were scattered across downtown filling a mega amphitheater, art museum, an opera theater, underground bars, and tight-fitting pour houses. Shows occurred all afternoon with many local record labels, radio stations, and organizations hosting free day parties with plenty of opportunities to catch live tunes and drink free beer and coffee at some. As has gone in years past, the festival has an intuitive curation of artists on the cusp of jumping up the lines of next year's go-round of festival lineups and albums on best-of year-end lists. We invite you to join us in constantly looking back at this year's festival as one of North Carolina's premier musical and cultural offerings.
Los York's- Sé que no cambiarás
Ti Paris- Bam' Pa m' Ladan
The Space Lady- Puttin' on the Ritz
Midnight Sister- Blue Cigar
Ariel Pink- Death Patrol
Michael Nau- The Load
Voices- Fall In Love Again
Francis Ouma- Kilindini Mujimpia
Bettye Lavette- Nearer to You
Fairport Convention- Autopsy
Manu Dibango- Ceddo End Title
Noah Sterba- 12 Bar Blues
Don Gardner- My Baby Likes to Boogaloo
Colomach- Yebo Blues
Unsettled, chaotic, and getting over it with Widowspeak's newest and most direct record, Expect The Best.
The Widowspeak style of songwriting has always been concentrated on mood and emotion. How is the mood of the new record, Expect The Best, different than the previous recordings? Are there concepts that are continuously drawn on for each Widowspeak record?
I feel like Expect the Best has a bit more of a somber sort of mood to it than other records we’ve made, also it’s a bit less embellished and a bit more chaotic; in a lot of ways I wasn’t really being very hopeful about the future, and the title, and vibe of everything, was kind of a comment on that. Not just about the future of the world, or my future as a person, citizen, woman, musician, whatever… Just this sort of dread I felt about everything. I felt pretty crippled by it, but also tried to not take it too seriously. That’s the mood I hope it has… dread, but trying to get over it. Like you said, we have always been really focused on mood, but with these songs it was less of storytelling and remembering, or painting a picture, and more figuring out how to get out of a dark place in the songs…. It just was the type of record I needed to make.
You made the move to Tacoma, Washington from Brooklyn and Upstate, New York before beginning the writing of Expect the Best. What prompted the move? What did you find beneficial about the change in location? What did you miss most about your previous living conditions?
I moved back home to see what had changed, or hadn’t changed, about my hometown and the Pacific Northwest in general, to figure out whether I wanted to permanently end up back there. I hadn’t lived there for about a decade and it just kept nagging at me, this need to go back and stay a while. I kept thinking that was why I never felt settled, in Brooklyn or upstate. In a lot of ways moving back (and then moving back east, again!) gave me a lot of closure on some things I hadn’t figured out. Namely that nothing is ever really figured out! That I don’t have to buy a house by the time I’m 30, that I’m not somehow missing out on things by still being adrift, and that the sort of yearning I have to try out different versions of myself, different places and jobs, might just be part of my personality, not something I need to over-correct by moving around all the time. Maybe it’s because I’m a Sagittarius. Ha. But really, I love Tacoma, and I love Brooklyn, and I love upstate New York. I think right now I’m going to try to be split between the Catskills and the city, and get back to Tacoma as much as I can.
Besides some new personnel, how was the recording process different for this record? Has your experience previously releasing 4 records with Widowspeak helped the effectiveness of the recording stage? Is the "album process" unique for each record?
We’ve made each record totally differently, whether as a trio, duo, duo plus studio musicians, or now with the live band, which I think has been great for us. It makes each one feel like a totally new experience. With this record we went in with Willy and James, who we’ve been playing with for three years, and were able to finally stop treating records like a studio project, and more like creating an artifact of the live sound. I think of anything Widowspeak has accomplished as a band or idea, (and I am of course proud of our recordings) this one comes closest to the way we play together, at shows, which is maybe the best thing we can do. And because we can’t tour all the time, I’m really proud of the way this record captures those shifts in mood and dynamics that we’ve worked on so long.
Expect the Best finds the bands experimenting with more energy and momentum than some of the earlier material. Was it a conscious effort to exert more force for this collection of songs? Was it something that came naturally from life's goings-ons during the conception of the album?
I think it definitely came naturally, and also sort of from being inspired by more forceful displays of emotion. I have always loved some louder, more frenetic, heavier music, it just didn’t really seem relevant to this project before. I tend to be sort of reserved about expressing myself, and usually want the songs to be more subtle, restrained, observational. This time we just wanted to let the songs have the energy that fit the mood, the words… and that felt like it needed some build and release of tension that we don’t always have on other records. That said, there is usually a song or two on our previous records that is sort of the same idea. We tend to jam heavy at our shows, too.
The albums first single "Dog" reveals the hostile compulsion to recede from a frustrating situation, feeling of disarray, or loneliness. You mention social media's discouraging ability to heighten this sensation. Are you motivated to create during times of high stress and lowdown feelings or is it a way to circumvent further distress?
I am definitely not motivated to create when I’m feeling down; I sort of have to be on the upswing to be able to distill that emotion into anything useful. I have to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It can be frustrating to want to be in a different stage of acceptance than where you are, but taking your time to journey through those sort of moods is important. Otherwise, they come back right away. In terms of social media, I am still working out how to find balance with it. On the one hand I’ve been critical of it forever, since I first got a LiveJournal or a Myspace, and I’ve really held onto the idea of wanting to preserve my integrity… not get too pulled into the need for validation, not oversharing or overposting or letting it be too much of my life, or time.
But on the other hand, it seems to be just a normal way of communicating for other people; with younger people it’s just the main way they express themselves. They don’t think too much about it, and it doesn’t bother them or cause anxiety, and is maybe just a mostly positive if not totally neutral experience. So, I’m trying to find balance. I find that it is super destructive to me to be scrolling through my phone when I’m depressed or feeling anxious, because I end up seeing all these people with their lives seemingly in order, all tidy and happy. Realistically, they have crises too. I don’t know, I’m still working it out.
How have your creative motivations changed with age? Are your writing styles and habits adapting with each year's passing?
I think my creative motivations have definitely changed with age. I’m 29 now, and have been writing songs since I was probably 15; in that time I think I’ve grown into myself a little, and also stopped being so concerned with the end result. I think less about what I wish I was doing, and just try to do it. I’ve gotten better about letting fragments of ideas be enough, overworking things less. And on the other hand, knowing when to let things go and come back to them. Sometimes it takes years, literally: “Expect the Best”, the title track, was based on a chord progression from the first year of the band.
In terms of changing writing styles, I think those sort of ebb and flow with whatever is interesting me at the time. The first couple records I was more flowery with language, more symbolic, and the last two records were more deliberate and direct. I’m not sure if one approach was “better” or “worse” but it was useful to me to think about things differently. And now, I am feeling more able to move on from the direct and maybe revisit previous approaches, or totally new ways of saying things. I don’t know, it comes in waves.
Expect the Best is your fourth record on Captured Tracks. It's pretty impressive to find a business relationship that works well enough to sustain that many years together. Has the label given you freedom to explore and experiment with the songwriting? How has the label helped Widowspeak get to the point it's at today?
Captured Tracks has definitely given us total freedom on all our records, and also are totally supportive of us doing things the way we want to, at our speed. They have definitely said that they imagine us being around for a long time, in whatever form or incarnation that is, which is really encouraging and also a relief. In the current music climate (maybe in all music climates forever, I don’t know) it seems like there are are a LOT of bands that are all vying for attention, for streams, for the chance to break out. I don’t know if we will ever “break out” but I am really grateful for Captured Tracks’ belief in what we are doing, in the music, and the fact that they don’t need us to prove we are “worth” some investment. The investment for them is just the longterm careers of artists, which is so great. They signed us after our sixth show or something, I forget, and ever since then they’ve helped us figure things out, on our own terms.
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Langhorne Slim's Lost at Last Vol. 1 is light for the light seekers dreaming of a more unified and beautiful world.
You've just announced your newest record, Lost at Last Vol 1. The collection is based in love and for those who cherish other people. What prompted this drive to write for these amorous emotions?
Love isn't just some hippie shit, it's ancient shit and can be used as a profound act of rebellion against the fear and negativity pounded into our being 24 hours a day. There's always been darkness and there always will be but the same is true for the light. This is a record for the light seekers, the dreamers and freaks who are willing to put action to the dream that we can all exist on a higher plane - a more united and beautiful world.
Do you typically have a singular or focused approach for writing each album or do they come together more organically? In terms of creativity, does your focus on the album write the songs or does a focus on individual songs form the album?
I've always written songs as they come and then at some point, they become an album.
Your last record The Spirit Moves was released in 2015. What has changed in your creative processes and motivations since then?
My main motivation for this record was to have a looser approach. To write songs that would stand up as straight with just me and guitar as they would with a full band or bigger production. I wanted to write folk songs, invite some my best friends and musicians into a living room and press record.
You host Pink House Sessions for some of the finest artists passing through Nashville to record an intimate live recording and video. How did this idea come to fruition? Is this something we can expect to continue with more artists performing at the house?
I found myself with the keys to an infinitely inspiring home. It called to me to open it as a creative space for traveling friends and musicians. One of my dearest friends is Joel Sadler, a brilliant videographer who films all the Pink House house sessions. I'm simply grateful to have this wealth of extraordinary musician compadres who feel safe and inspired enough to stop over and allow us to film them. There will be many more to come!
Our first introduction to your music was years and years (and years) ago sharing bills at the inception of the Avett's career. How did your relationship with Scott and Seth begin? How has your friendship developed throughout both of your creatively-rich careers?
Many years ago, our mutual friend Nicole Atkins hosted a tiny show for the Avett's in the back room of a restaurant in the Lower East Side. At the time, nobody there knew who they were. She invited me along to play a few tunes of my own. We immediately hit it off and they invited me to come open some shows for them in North Carolina. I was blown away when I got there. The place was packed with screaming fans and I'll never forget thinking, "holy crap, these guys are like the bluegrass Beatles." We've remained soul brothers all these years and I'll be joining them soon for their festival in Mexico, alongside John Prine (one of my all time musical heroes) and a slew of other greats.
You're performing at Bristol Rhythm and Roots 2017 this weekend. Have you played the festival before? The festival in Bristol is a great mixture of big stage performances and smaller intimate sets. What do you look forward to about performing at festivals? Are there any sets at this year's Bristol Rhythm and Roots that you're excited to catch?
I've had the pleasure to play BR&Rs quite a few times over the years. Its become a musical family reunion of sorts. I look forward to it all.