Happy holiday weekend, NoiseTraders! No matter how you’re spending your long Memorial Day weekend, this week’s batch of tunes is guaranteed to brighten the shine of your shenanigans. Here at NoiseTrade, we just love us some Mason Jar Music, the uber-talented and creative Brooklynites bent on “preserving analog principles in a digital age.” Of their many audio-visual endeavors, their Decoration Day series is one of my favorites and well worth checking out and staying up on. Decoration Day was the original name for Memorial Day when it first originated after the Civil War. For the last three years, Mason Jar Music has taken Memorial Day weekend to craft a new collection of themed cover songs and the results have been absolutely astounding. Knowing they’re working on Decoration Day, Volume 4 this weekend has got me so excited and I seriously can’t wait to hear what they’ve been cooking up for us. Alrighty, get into all the things!
On Memorial Day weekend of 2012, Brooklyn’s Mason Jar Music had a recording session get cancelled at the last minute. Instead of just locking up and heading home, they called a few friends over and had their own impromptu recording session that paid tribute to some of their favorite American music. Covering Billie Holiday, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, Cheap Trick, and more in their soulful, indie-folk way, they popped out this amazing 6-track EP in just a weekend. Using the original Civil War-era name for Memorial Day, they dubbed the EP Decoration Day, Volume 1 and a musical tradition was born.
The very next Memorial Day weekend, Mason Jar Music reconvened to record the equally wonderful Decoration Day, Volume 2. They pulled together another rag-tag collection of musical friends (this time with horns!) and paid homage to the gorgeously soulful, funky side of the 1960s. They stomp and sway their way through songs by The Beatles, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield, Sly and The Family Stone, and Bill Withers. They also tackle one of the most beautiful unofficial anthems of the Civil Rights Movement, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” made famous by a whole host of legendary artists.
Knowing a good thing when they hear it, Mason Jar Music used Memorial Day weekend of 2014 to record another EP of unbelievable covers. This time around, the troubadourian collection focused on 1990s radio-ready pop music for Decoration Day, Volume 3. Lauryn Hill, Smashing Pumpkins, Sheryl Crow, and New Radicals are just a few of the artist who get tastefully reworked here. If you’re just sampling a track or two, get hooked on Flearoy’s smoldering (and thankfully autotuneless) run-through of Cher’s “Believe” and M. Lui’s lazy-day groove on Macy Gray’s “I Try”.
Delicate Machinery Suspended, a collection of transitory poems from Anne M. Doe Overstreet, promises to “take you from deserts to constellations, pomegranates to milk & brandy, in language so flawless you won’t want to let it go.” Does that sound like something you could go for on a long holiday weekend? Immerse yourself in the poetry of Delicate Machinery Suspended and you’ll see why Luci Shaw of Harvesting Fog stated that Overstreet “employs the skilled chemistry that swells the words back into realities so startling and new that no object or person remains unchanged.”
When writer Will Hodge isn’t directing his feet to the sunny side of the street, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
When Jon Foreman isn’t busy fronting Switchfoot or collaborating with Sean Watkins for Fiction Family, he’s quietly been writing and releasing a staggering collection of solo material. After his much loved Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer EP series and his Limbs and Branches compilation, Foreman is back with The Wonderlands, a multi-EP project featuring songs written to represent the movement of a full day – 24 songs for 24 hours.
We recently chatted with Foreman about the creative scope of The Wonderlands, its decade-long gestation, and what makes EPs such a cool format for this type of release.
(We’re also offering Foreman’s new Old Seasons, New Day EP, featuring new song “Terminal” and a few other classics from his solo catalog, so don’t miss it!)
NoiseTrade: Your new multi-EP project The Wonderlands will spread 24 songs out over four separate EPs, with each song representing one hour of the day. What first sparked this idea for you and did you find yourself having to alter any elements of your songwriting approach to fit the creative slant of the project?
Jon Foreman: I’ve always been fascinated with the strong emotional ties that music can have. A song can bring you back to a place or a season of life like no other art form can. There are certain songs that I like to listen to at certain times of the day. For example, first thing in the morning I love listening to “Flamenco Sketches” off of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.
A few years back, I began thinking about the idea of a 24 hour concert. What if you tied songs to certain hours of the day – creating a 24 hour world of lyric and melody. So that was the inspiration for this project.
NT: What can you tell us about the writing of “Caroline” from Sunlight, the first single from the first EP of the project?
Foreman: For me songs are born out of the gray space, the things I don’t fully understand, the things that I can’t put in my pocket. Until the day we die we are those question marks, those volatile souls capable of unknown acts of light and darkness. Who knows what is hidden behind your eyes? This song was inspired by a friend of mine that I haven’t seen in a long time. I was wondering who she has become.
NT: You’ve said that The Wonderlands took 10 years to make. What all contributed to that lengthy timeframe and what made it finally feel completed?
Foreman: Some of the songs were written during other periods of my life, (say for example, while we were making the Switchfoot record Nothing is Sound) but never found a musical home. For me, I want to create a environment for the songs to live in. So one song by itself only tells a piece of the story, but in the context of the album, more of the colors are revealed.
As this record took shape, these songs from many different periods of my life felt like they found a common home.
NT: This is totally a music nerd question, but as a huge fan of EPs myself, I’d like to get your opinion on what you find significant about the EP format (as opposed to singles and full-length albums)?
Foreman: An EP is a much more manageable group of songs. To go back to the Miles Davis record I mentioned earlier, most copies of Kind of Blue only have five tracks. It’s a complete musical statement.
Of course, music will always be judged by our subjective ears. Recorded music as a widely available medium has only been around for less than 100 years. But you have to look at the role that music services in our culture. To require someone’s undivided attention for a long period of time is getting more and more difficult.
That’s why in many ways this 24-hour project makes no financial sense! Many people would argue that the best way to make money with music today is to release one song at a time. To really grab everyone’s attention with one single. But for me, I guess I already have a day job making rock ‘n roll. So this project as a purity and the freedom that I’m truly thankful for. I simply want the music to to find its way to open-minded people.
NT: Finally, what are some of your favorite EPs that you’ve dug over the years that you would recommend listeners check out?
Foreman: One of my all-time favorite EPs is David Garza’s 4-track Manifesto.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t swinging at two below par, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
Welcome to the weekend, NoiseTraders! We’ve had quite an exciting batch of features this week (Torres, Vanessa Carlton, Shelby Lynne, Kopecky, love+war, and more), so if you missed any of them, now’s your time to catch up on a lot of musical goodness! Even our 24HR Records feature has spiraled me down quite the YouTube rabbit hole of 24-hour writing/recording sessions from many of my favorite independent artists. On top of all of that, you know I’ve got my weekly handful of recommendations that I INSIST you lend your ears to, if only for the opportunity to possibly find your new favorite band. Don’t feel like listening to anything? Well, I’ve got a nice book recommendation shuffled in for you as well. Don’t say I never gave you nothing. Alrighty, get into all the things!
When a band describes themselves as “a spaghetti western cooked in the ovens of Detroit,” you can’t help but give them a listen, right? If you give Late Night in Bolo Ties a spin, you’ll hear that Flint Eastwood definitely makes it worth your time. Pulsing dance beats, infectious chorus melodies, and lead singer Jax Anderson’s cool-croon-to-banshee-wail vocals make this four-track EP a must listen for anyone looking for songs with an unmistakable slinky bravado. Fans of Chvrches, The Kills, and the Alison Mosshart-led side of The Dead Weather will find lots to love in Flint Eastwood. I know I sure do!
Drew Kohl is a Nashville-by-way-of-Athens, GA singer-songwriter that mixes together banjo-led bluegrass influences and traditional folk rawness on Sweetheart, his beautifully unpolished collection of Americana. Whether it’s pedal-to-the-floor stompers (“Is It You?” and “Are You Gonna Be My Friend?”) or tear-in-my-beer ballads (“Someone To Let You Down” and “Drops of Ink”), Kohl describes the sound of Sweetheart as merely “twangy love songs.” This brand new EP of original songs really showcases Kohl’s songwriting talent and rings with the promise of amazing things to come.
When Daniel Bashta isn’t writing songs for bands like the Newsboys, Third Day, David Crowder, and Jesus Culture, he’s been quietly releasing albums of his own material as well. Last month, Bashta released his newest solo offering For Every Curse and he’s currently offering up the mesmerizing instrumental version of the entire record here on NoiseTrade. For Every Curse: The Instrumentals highlights Bashta’s ear for melody and his orchestral approach to composing, all creating a cinematic listening experience that truly transports as it unfolds.
I’m a sucker for an enthralling collection of short stories and School Police from John Biggs is exactly that. Simply described as “Seven short stories about being far from home,” School Police packs quite a punch in its deceptively economical 56 pages. Biggs infuses a lot of rich (and often conflicted) emotion into his characters, making for a truly satisfying and engaging experience for the reader. Biggs poignantly toys with the journey from alienation to connection, creatively unpacking its varying layers of successes and failures along the way.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t cutting like a buffalo, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
While The Old Ceremony (Yep Roc Records) has been honing its self-described “Southern gothic pop” sound for over a decade, their new album Sprinter (out July 14) features some of their most eclectic and cinematic songwriting to date. Check out their exclusive NoiseTrade sampler New Stream For The Old Ceremony to hear the first single from Sprinter (“Ghosts of Ferriday”), along with six other favorites from the band’s back catalog.
I spoke with The Old Ceremony frontman Django Haskins to chat about his band, new album Sprinter, and his exciting work with super group collective Big Star Third.
NoiseTrade: The Old Ceremony released its self-titled debut album back in 2005. Did you celebrate the decade milestone in any way this year and does it even feel like it’s been 10 years since its release?
Django Haskins: It’s bizarre to think that first TOC record was a decade ago (and my first solo record was two decades ago). But then again, being in a band is a bit like dog years, so we have been through a lot since then. We had a big decade celebration show at the time but we are more interested in what we are going to do with the next ten years.
NT: Your new album Sprinter is your second album with Yep Roc Records, but it’s actually your sixth album overall. What’s been some of the biggest differences the band has felt between your non-label and label releases?
Haskins: Having a label means that there are other people who are thinking about how to get the music out there, which is a massive luxury for an indie band.
NT: Your cinematic brand of songwriting is usually based around the acoustic guitar, but then you always seem to add some really interesting and non-traditional instrumental coloring to the finished product. Do you hear these other instrumental parts in your head during the writing process or do they just come out once you guys are in the studio?
Haskins: I wrote mostly on acoustic at home, but the band arrangements are built around electric guitar. The sounds are definitely the creation of the band. I don’t come in with a finished product in mind. Over the years we’ve developed a shared language of sounds, so the challenge for each of us is to expand the vocabulary with new arrangements.
NT: Over the last few years you’ve been a part of the super group collective Big Star Third (featuring Jody Stephens of Big Star, along with members of The dB’s, R.E.M., Let’s Active, The Posies, and more) that’s been playing Big Star’s Third album at various concerts and live events. How’d you get hooked up with this inspiring project and what has it been like playing with such an eclectic cast of musicians?
Haskins: Our local impresario friend (and label mate) Chris Stamey knew that I was a Big Star fan, and I can’t express how lucky I feel to get to play with all these amazing musicians. I’ve even made some good friends out of it, like Gary Louris (of the Jayhawks), with whom I’ve got a side project called Au Pair. And Skylar Gudasz and Brett Harris, who sing in all of the Big Star Third shows, have always been great traveling companions on these outings.
NT: Three of your fellow Big Star Third bandmates got involved on Sprinter, including Mitch Easter (Let’s Active) producing the record, Mike Mills (R.E.M.) performing as a guest musician, and Chris Stamey (The dB’s) adding arrangements. Were there any big differences in collaborating with them outside of the Big Star material or was it just a continuation of what you were already doing with them?
Haskins: It was very different, mostly because these were my songs, not someone else’s. But Mitch brought the same unflappable charm and depth of musicality as always, Mills played and sang his ass off, and Stamey did the arrangement with the same meticulous dedication as he would with the Big Star stuff. This was definitely the album of collaborations and it made sense to bring in the larger Big Star family to help.
Hi-de-ho, good NoiseTraders! I’m on the road from Atlanta back to Chicago this weekend, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. This week’s batch of music picks contains some really strong releases from some of my most favorite genres – hymns, hip-hop, and jazz-folk (yes, it’s a thing). Even this week’s book selection holds a nice place for me because it reminds me of my very first “favorite author” Shel Silverstein. I truly hope you enjoy at least one of these as much as I do, but if not, there’s always next week. Alrighty, get into all the things!
Since 2000, Kevin Twit and the Belmont University RUF group have been putting out incredible CDs of old hymn texts set to brand new music. With their Indelible Grace VII album Kickstarter campaign having just been fully funded, they’re offering up their previous collection, Joy Beyond the Sorrow: Indelible Grace VI to celebrate the milestone. Featuring NoiseTrade favorites like Andrew Osenga, Matthew Smith, Sandra McCracken, Jeremy Casella, Katy Bowser and more, Joy Beyond the Sorrow truly holds some of the best Indelible Grace hymns to date. McCracken’s “Upon a Life” is easily the most repeated track for me, but give the whole album a spin to find your own favorite.
Applejaxx is a NC-based rapper that effortlessly mixes together slick hip-hop production, Christian themes, and a myriad of pop culture references to create a sonic stew that is equally engaging, enlightening, and entertaining. Reminding me of what I love about Humble Beast’s Foreknown, Applejaxx weaves humor into his social commentary without ever forsaking one for the other. On his brand new album A Night at the Movies, tracks like “Ric Flair (Stylin’ and Profilin’)” and “TMNT” sound amazingly fresh and are sprinkled with just the right touch of nostalgic nuggets. Besides, any song that starts off with an old-school NWA-era Flair promo is guaranteed goodness!
Jazz-folk duo The Likes of Us create wonderfully unique sounds with their retro-spiced arrangements and flawless vocal interplay. Live at Maewather Music is their first live album and it perfectly showcases both their talent for the stage and also their comfort level in front of an audience. This 6-song live EP is solid from top to bottom, but “Train’s Comin’” and “More than Friends” are definitely my favorites of the bunch.
In the first grade, my teacher introduced me to Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends and I was immediately enraptured with his whimsical, tongue-in-cheek approach to children’s poetry. E. Michael Lunsford’s playful and imaginative Sometimes I Get My Shoes on Backwards carries on in the Silversteinian tradition – even down to the simple monochromatic drawings – and it works really well to both entertain and also further the genre.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t memorizing the dictionary and polishing the stars, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
As the tenth anniversary tour of their second LP The Everglow approaches next week, NoiseTrade was able to ask Dave Elkins (vocals/guitar) of Mae a few questions about their upcoming tour and their tour sampler on our website. Be sure to listen to the sampler and check out the tour when it comes through a city near you in the next two months.
NoiseTrade: It’s been ten years almost to the day since The Everglow came out, which for someone who actually listened to it then, I cannot believe. How does it feel for you guys to soon be back performing an album that shaped not only your lives, but so many other lives?
Dave Elkins: It feels pretty incredible. We had high hopes for the album when it came out back in 2005. For me, as a 23 year-old songwriter and musician, I knew the album had potential to be special and to have meaning to our fans. But I was so young. I could only see the horizon at that time. I really had no expectations or aspirations for the album to be meaningful to people 10 years later.
A childhood dream of mine was to become an artist and to write, perform, and produce music and somehow make a living doing it. Now we’re talking about a tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of my band’s second LP. I’m terribly grateful and quite humbled. From The Everglow artwork and lyrical tattoos we see on our fans to requests to perform marriage proposals on stage at our shows to seeing pictures of baby girls named after our band, I’m truly humbled.
NT: You played a few shows for your ten-year anniversary of Destination: Beautiful two years ago. Are you expecting this tour to be anything like that one? What are you most excited for?
Elkins: We’re playing the album from start to finish every night and since our audience is aware of that going in, we have added a few special moments before and after the album as it sits in our set list. Beyond that, since our audience knows which song is coming next, one after the other, the curtain is somewhat lifted. The soul of the set every night exists when we share in the experience of the album from “Prologue” to “Epilogue” with our audience. We are going on that hour or so long journey together.
I’m making it a point to connect with faces in the crowd and watch where the show takes them. The nostalgia and the energy and music all come together and it makes me believe in the future of Mae in a way that I haven’t in over 5 years. That might be the best part of this anniversary celebration.
NT: The album is considered to be a concept album, much like a story as noted on the tour website. Can you tell our readers what the story, or stories, behind the album is?
Elkins: For the most part, the songs were written independently of the whole “concept” idea. Once I put them in a particular order, I could identify with an arc of a story about a young man identifying his dream and making it a reality. It might seem a bit juvenile today, but at the time I really was watching my dream come to life. In 2003, I celebrated my 21st birthday and had my band’s debut record come out the next day. I played over 300 shows that year, traveled overseas the following year, put out more music and played another 300 shows. The trajectory was that even more just like this was coming. The fact that I had achieved all of this was absolutely a dream coming true.
I wanted to write songs independently of this concept but then put them in an order that might encourage our listeners to believe like I had believed and dream like I had dreamed and make it happen – whatever it was they wanted – just like we were making it happen. The season of The Everglow brought color into my life that I hadn’t yet experienced. 10 years later I’ve grown some as a songwriter and find more identity and meaning in the “gray” but at that time the colors were bright and the story was simple. I’m so grateful that the songs and the story still resonate with our audience.
NT: The album artwork is worth mentioning because each song has an illustration. What was it like having Ryan Clark from Demon Hunter create the artwork for the album and how were those illustrations created?
Elkins: Ryan Clark is a genius and an unbelievable graphic artist. Ryan was working with our former label Tooth & Nail, delivering artwork for a few of their other artists when we approached him to collaborate with us for The Everglow artwork.
My parents taught me how to read with books on tape when I was a kid. I’d put a cassette into the player, open a book, and read along. If I ever got lost, the sound of chimes would ring to let me know it was time to turn the page. That was such a vivid memory for me and I wanted to recreate that in it’s own way for our album.
2005 was an interesting time for artists and for the music business. iPods were becoming household items and the lure of the LP was really starting to diminish. We were aware of how this was affecting the industry but we also knew that we were making a record that was meant to be a total experience from its packaging and artwork, to the track listing and segues. With my favorite albums, I always just start at track one and let the record play. It was definitely a goal of ours to make an album that was meant to be experienced the same way. Ryan and his artistic contribution is a gigantic part of how we accomplished this.
NT: You guys are doing four VIP packages for your fans along with regular tickets, which one includes a private acoustic show. What made you decide to have four more options?
Elkins: We’ve got everything from a general meet-and-greet to a private acoustic show within our VIP packages. Since we are playing a 13-track album every night, there are plenty of songs we want to play but really just don’t have enough time to play. The acoustic show is the way we get to self-indulge a little and invite an intimate audience to be a part of that moment. Aside from that, we have two other VIP packages. The token vinyl package with a tour exclusive 12″ rainbow variant vinyl version of our Destination: B-Sides album, and a lesser package for those who aren’t collecting and listening to vinyl just yet.
NT: On your sampler for NoiseTrade you share three songs from three different albums, along with a song from each opener, what was your reasoning behind this?
Elkins: We’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Everglow right now. But we’ve put out a total of seven releases. We’ve got a lot of music that even some of our more devoted fans might not be aware of. I met several people in January when we toured the northeast in celebration of The Everglow 10th anniversary who had never seen us play live until that particular evening. Those late blooming fans weren’t aware of some of our later releases including: (m)orning, (a)fternoon, and (e)vening which is a series of EPs we put out in 2009 under our own label, Cell Records. Taking advantage of this opportunity to partner with Noisetrade and share our music with a brand new audience – as well as connect with Mae fans who might not be familiar with our other records – is perfect for us right now.
We’ve taken a lot of pride in the bands we’ve taken on tour with us over the years. From MUTEMATH to As Tall As Lions to Copeland, we’ve always done our best to introduce our fans to great music and great bands. Expect a carefully crafted show with energy and killer songs from every band who shares the stage with us this Spring!
NoiseTrade Books is seeking an editorial intern.
NoiseTrade Books helps authors and publishers meaningfully connect with readers through the exchange of free ebooks and audiobooks for email addresses and postal codes.
The editorial intern will work with the NoiseTrade Books team to identify and communicate with authors whose material is a good match for the platform. The editorial intern will read, research, and prepare summary presentations on manuscripts and gain invaluable editorial experience.
Intern will be expected to work 10-15 hours a week, remotely.
To apply, email resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Intern Application” in the subject.
Greetings and salutations, NoiseTraders! I’d like to be the first to wish you all a happy Free Comic Book Day to you and yours. Not only are we contributing to the festivities with an incredible batch of graphic novels available here on NoiseTrade, but we also amped up the hullablaoo with a fantastic joint interview with industry behemoths David Gallaher and Steve Ellis. Whether you’re deeply entrenched in comic books or care nothing about them at all, Gallaher and Ellis unwrap the process in such an engaging way that anyone at any level can enjoy it and learn from it. Oh yeah, there’s some really, really great music waiting for you in this week’s picks as well. Alrighty, get into all the things!
Folksy husband-and-wife duo Lowland Hum just released their self-titled sophomore album on April 14, so I thought it would be a good time to revisit the incredible sampler they compiled around their debut album Native Air. Like many, I was first introduced to Lowland Hum via their mesmerizing NPR Tiny Desk Concert back in March of 2014. Since then, Native Air, their Four Sisters follow-up EP, and their most recent Lowland Hum album have been in frequent rotation for me. Don’t miss this enchanting pair of singer-songwriters and the wonderful musical world they’ve create together.
Skinny Gibbz is rapper from Rustenburg, South Africa that has quickly been making a name for himself in the incendiary local hip-hop scene there. Along with writing and rapping, Gibbz also produces his own material, which draws heavily from Fela Kuti-inspired afrobeat rhythms and Gibbz’s own distinctly percussive vocal delivery. His brand new single “Hae Wena” was just released earlier this week and it’s unbelievably catchy. The track’s infectious rhythms are guaranteed to get you moving and will undoubtedly ignite your next friendly gathering into an instantly sweaty dance party.
Ridgewood, NJ’s Prawn reminds me of early Pedro the Lion and that alone is more than enough to draw me deeply into their emo-flavored brand of energetic indie rock. After listening to the array of singles they’re sharing here on NoiseTrade (“Scud Running,” “Settled,” “Costa Rica,” and “At Dawn We Left”), I was able to hear the nuances of their own sound lovingly working its way into my eardrums. So far, “Scud Running” from Kingfisher (their most recent release) is my favorite, but listen to them all yourself and see what sticks out to you. There’s certainly a lot to love with these guys.
Celebrate Free Comic Book Day in style with a double feature from Jamal Igle, one of the most popular and prolific creators in the comic book industry. Igle is mostly known for his work on the Supergirl and Firestorm franchises and featured here are two complete stories featuring characters of his own creation, Molly Danger and Princeless. Igle started out as a 17-year old intern at DC Comics and has now been in the comic book business for over 20 years. With experience drawing for characters like Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Shi, and more, it’s easy to see what Igle naturally brings to Molly Danger.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t almost there (it’s on the tip of my tongue), you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
To help celebrate Free Comic Book Day, we spoke with graphic novel legends David Gallaher and Steve Ellis about their unique collaborative partnership, their work on High Moon and Box 13, and their recommendations for other authors and illustrators we should check out. Not only were both guys completely gracious with their time and answers, but I think they really gave an incredibly interesting interview that anyone can relate to and enjoy, regardless of whether you’re a comic book know-it-all or not. Also, don’t miss their Free Comic Book Day offering High Moon: Summer 1890 available HERE.
(Ed. – Yes, technically this is a NoiseTrade One-on-Two, but just go with it…)
NoiseTrade: First off, for those who may be new to graphic novels, can you explain the roles and the relationship between author and illustrator? Who is responsible for what and at what points do those roles overlap?
Steve Ellis: In general, a writer gives an artist a script that breaks down the story, page by page, panel by panel, with dialogue and location notes. The format is similar to a screenplay. After that, the artist interprets the scrips, turning them into a storyboards from which he draws the final artwork.
What makes the way David and I work so unique is that he creates a much more fluid and flexible script that allows me the room to interpret the story in a different way. Often, we layout the book together and think about our stories from the inside out. This allows for a much strong relationship between the visuals and the text.
NoiseTrade: You guys have worked together on a wide variety of graphic novel properties including High Moon for DC Comics, Hulk and Darkstar for Marvel Comics, The Only Living Boy, Deadlands, and most recently Green Lantern Corps for DC Comics. When did you guys first start working together and what sparked your creative partnership?
David Gallaher: Steve and I knew each other in passing through some mutual friends. We had also done work for both the role-playing game company White Wolf and the comic studio Moonstone Books. In 2007, I ran into Steve again and we got talking about my ideas for High Moon.
Ellis: High Moon was the start of our creative relationship. During that time, and completely by accident, we found ourselves living within blocks of each other. I think the proximity of living so close to each other helped make for better stories. It’s pretty atypical in comics to have this sort of collaborative relationship that gives your the space to build off of each others ideas in such an expansive way.
NT: To celebrate Free Comic Book Day (May 2), you guys are offering up High Moon: Summer 1890 here on NosieTrade. What inspired you guys to create this “werewolf western” saga and what can you tell us about its main character, Matthew Macgregor?
Gallaher: On the narrative side, High Moon was inspired partially out of my love for Celtic Mythology, old-time radio, and role-playing games, but MOSTLY out of my love for my little hometown of Frederick, Maryland. Frederick was riddled with Civil War history and steeped in supernatural ghost stories. In my early twenties, I always though it’d be a great place to set a historical horror series about vampires and werewolves. Some of those ideas evolved into what High Moon eventually became … a rusted, beat up, visceral story about an ‘unchanging man in a changing time’ … the whole world is changing around Macgregor, but he just doesn’t want to change with it. There’s a lot of resonance in that message for me.
Ellis: Visually, I was looking a lot at old westerns. Sergio Leone, obviously. There’s a lot I learned from High Plains Drifter too. The gruesome landscape, the intensity of the colors, the savagery of the palette. On the werewolf side, I made the creatures sinewy and gnarly. A wolf isn’t bulky by nature, so I imagined that a werewolf would look thin and stretched out.
NT: Last month you guys offered up Box 13, a digital graphic novel you both created that is loosely based on a radio show of the same name that ran in the 1940s. What’s your association to the original source material and in what different directions are you guys taking it?
Gallaher: As an army brat, I grew up on old-time radio serials, specifically things like Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, Jimmy Durante, Box 13, The Shadow, Gunsmoke, and Flash Gordon. There was an opportunity to create a project for the iPhone, something that would be essentially the first-of -its-kind sorta project. The idea of adapting a radio serial, like Box 13, which was a stylish noir series, into a visual drama for the eyes was too tempting to resist. I took a lot of joy in watching new media and old media come together and duke it out like that. As we developed our version, I drew some elements from my own life and weaved them into the series to make a spy-fi, neo-noir thriller that drew on my own anxieties, hopes, and interests. It’s a crazy amount of fun, with nods to the original radio show sprinkled around.
NT: Box 13 has been described as being the first comic designed specifically for the iPhone. What exactly does that entail and how did the end result goal shape the creation process along the way?
Ellis: When we created Box 13, the main idea was to consider the ratio of the panel page against the ratio of the cellphone screen. At the time, comics were ported from print to digital. This made for a less than optimal reading experience. We specifically made something that used the iPhone to its full advantage, playing with user-experience in a way that heightened how digital comics were experienced. We had the foresight to design the story both for digital and for print concurrently. As a creator, it was a fantastic experience and a great experiment.
NT: Who are each of your respective heroes in the graphic novel/comic book world? What is your favorite example of their work that fans should check out?
Gallaher: That’s tough. Certainly folks like Jeff Lemire, Dan Slott, Mark Waid, Will Eisner, and John Buscema to name a few. There are so many favorites to choose from.
Ellis: Mike Mignola, Walt Simonson, Bernie Wrightson, and Duncan Fegredo. They are all really illustrative storytellers. It’s a hard question, but yeah, I think that’s a good start.
NT: Finally, what current series are you both reading as fans and what new authors and illustrators should we keep our eyes on?
David Gallaher: A double-whammy of tough questions. Author-wise? Let’s see. Jody Houser. Janelle Asselin. Steve Foxe. Hannibal Tabu. Joey Esposito. Deron Bennett. David Walker. All sharp writers. Illustrator-wise? Let’s see … Ray-Anthony Height does some fun work. Jamaica Dyer’s work — which is available right here on NoiseTrade — is really fresh too.
Steve Ellis: I keep my eyes on creators like Becky Cloonan— she is outta sight writing and drawing books. Illustrators like Ben Caldwell and Jamal Igle are great. George O’Connor and Joe Infurnari are guys I like. And I dig on what Dan Slott is writing at Marvel right now.
Hey there, hi there, ho there, my friends! I hope this missive finds you well and that all is dandy in your little corner of the world. If you’re gearing up to attend Bonnaroo this June, we’ve got a couple of early ‘Roo-themed goodies for you before you head to the farm. First, be sure to nab our HUGE 38-track Bonnaroo Mixtape 2015 sampler featuring Against Me!, Brandi Carlile, Twenty One Pilots, Rhiannon Giddens, Guster, Courtney Barnett, and many, many more. Second, don’t miss our interview with Bonnaroo co-founder and music festival guru Ashley Capps. Alrighty, get into all the things!
In between recent stints as a live guitarist (Kings of Leon, Lees of Memory), punk rock troubadour Ethan Luck has been recording songs for his follow-up to last year’s spectacular Hard Seas EP. “Damned” is the first of these new tracks to be released and Luck’s West-Coast-meets-East-Coast twang fuels this beautiful barroom singalong that sonically lands somewhere between Bakersfield and Nashville. I can’t seem to pick my favorite between the arm-around-your-buddy’s-neck full band version and the drink-alone acoustic version, but Abby Gundersen’s fiddlework on the latter might just be enough to tip the scales.
The Wallies are a Sarasota, FL-based no-holds-barred rock band and their album artwork for Covers perfectly captures the vibe of their raw brand of red, white, and blue American rock ‘n’ roll. Covers allows for a really cool look at The Wallies through five unique cover songs: “Diane Young” (Vampire Weekend), “Best of Friends” (Palma Violets), “Will You Be Mine” (Earth Angel), “Lightning Bolt” (Jake Bugg), and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” (The Orioles). Their garage rock take on “Diane Young” is probably my favorite of the bunch due to the spirited vocals of Croatian-born lead singer Neven Skoro.
Over the last couple of years I have found myself describing Courtney Barnett as “an Australian Guyville-era Liz Phair” (a HIGH compliment from me, by the way) and the more I listen to her, the more I believe she is exactly that (and much, much more). Barnett’s unassuming vocals, deadpan delivery, unadorned guitar-playing, and playful lyrics all mix together to create a sound that is somehow both comfortably familiar and entirely brand new. Her World Cafe Session features four tracks from her “debut album” The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas spliced between an enlightening interview with host David Dye.
Joey Esposito’s Pawn Shop graphic novel series captures the intertwining lives of a widower, a nurse, a punk, and a city employee, all living out their days against the revolving backdrop of New York City. In Issue #1, the widower character walks around Manhattan and tries to make sense of his upturned life. Each subsequent issue (also available here on NoiseTrade) focuses on a different-yet-correlative individual to create what USA Today’s Brian Truitt calls, “four stories of love, loss, pain and hope… both a memorable love letter to New York City and a touching study on the interconnectedness of us.”
When writer Will Hodge isn’t clean as a whistle, baby, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack