As far as sibling-based bands go, the track record usually yeilds more rivalry then revelry. But for every Oasis outburst and Black Crowes blowout, there’s also the charming success stories of bands like Eisley. Comprised of four siblings and a cousin, Eisley has been cranking out rich indie pop/rock since before many of its members could even vote. 3 full-length albums and 10 EPs later, they’re back with Currents, their most ambitious and self-stamped project to date. Currents represents a band that has fully taken the reigns of the recording process as Eisley crafted the album on their own in their own studio.
Eisley’s Sherri Dupree-Bemis was nice enough to take some time out and talk to me about Currents, producing the album themselves, their current Kickstarter campaign, and our shared love for the EP format.
NoiseTrade: You’ve described your new album Currents (May 28, Equal Vision) as the first time you’ve had complete and total control over the recording process. As artists, what does that freedom look like at the beginning stages of recording and did those initial definitions change at all after the album was actually finished?
Sherri Dupree-Bemis: I think, if anything, it was just better than we could have imagined. It was so refreshing to realize that, after doing this for over a decade, we found a group of people (our label – Equal Vision Records) who trusted our artistic vision enough to let us take on the challenge of doing it ourselves. And it was challenging, to be sure!
Luckily all five of us in the band are very like-minded with our tastes/ideas musically, so I think it really unified the sound of the album. I’m not saying we would never work with a producer again because I’m sure we will - there are reasons producers exist. We might not have the big names or brightest musical minds as contributors on this project but we feel that, at this point in the journey, 100% Eisley is what we needed and we’re pretty confident that our fans will agree. I know we accomplished what we set out do to with these songs and on this record.
NT: What ended up being some of the prouder moments of the self-recorded/self-produced experience? Any lumps in the learning process?
Sherri: The proudest moment for me was seeing the drum/bass section (my brother Weston DuPree and cousin Garron) really step up into leadership roles, musically. On past projects, when working with producers, this wasn’t always the case because there was so much focus on my sister, Stacy and I, who do most of the songwriting. Producers were less likely to involve the guys and by default, we ended up making a lot of the artistic choices.
On this record, there were no real time constraints or pressures. So it really allowed the guys the freedom to step in and flex their creative muscles. We got to pick their brains and I think they really brought these songs to a level. The recording process is a learning process and you always take your lumps along the way, but I’m really proud of our band for working together as a team to overcome the obstacles that arose.
NT: Much has been written about the familial bonds (four siblings, one cousin) that make up your band. Does this add uniquely difficult layers to the struggles of self-production or does it somehow make them more manageable?
Sherri: I would say… absolutely more manageable, at least, for us. We’re an extremely close-knit family and the benefits far out way the negatives due to that. It’s extremely fun. Not to say we never disagree or have our small upsets here and there. But our friendships are so healthy and so important to us that we really work on choosing our battles carefully. We confront issues as they arise… before they turn into anything very serious.
NT: Due to 4/5ths of the band recently becoming parents, you’re currently running a Kickstarter with a $100,000 goal to help assist with the ambitious touring of Currents. To give a little peek behind the curtain, what new plans do you have for this tour and what all goes into touring with 4 new infants?
Sherri: The whole idea behind the Kickstarter (if those reading this haven’t read our page) is to basically help us tour our new record, visit other countries we haven’t been to in years and also enrich the live experience (shows) for fans by increasing production. We’re on an indie label (that we absolutely love), but indie labels don’t typically have the means to provide tour support or help build your live show production, so we’re trying to do that ourselves.
Yes, having four new babies to bring on the road definitely ties into those costs because we can’t travel around the country in a van any longer…it’s just a fact. Someone said, “So don’t bring the babies”. I think once you have a baby, you know that leaving them behind for months at a time isn’t an option. You want to be a part of every step of their childhood. You can’t be in a band and not tour.
The reason we tour is to go out and meet our fan base and thank them for their constant support of loving and buying our music. We always knew we would come to the point of having children in our lives and always knew it would be a challenge, but it’s something that’s so important to us as a band, and as individuals.
The Kickstarter will simply help us bring our music to our fans. We just want to meet them and be able to look them in the eye and thank them and also be unified in the joy of playing/singing music together with them. That’s something we won’t ever stop trying to do – come hell or high water.
NT: The final question is purely self-serving as I love when bands believe in the power of the EP. As a band that has released ten EPs since 2000, what’s your take on the purpose/function of an EP and what role does it serve for you as musicians and songwriters?
Sherri: I think it’s such a fun way to break up the 2+ years that generally lapses between entire albums. Having a smaller-scale, low stress outlet/format for putting music out into the word that, otherwise, might not end up on an LP seems smart to me. It’s also just a cool way to be constantly providing music to your fan base and allowing them to grow with you, through those sometimes awkward periods between full-length records.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t singing the ten cent blues, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
If you didn’t catch Paper Route’s The Peace of Wild Things during its celebrated release last year, then here’s your chance to make up for the missed opportunity. Paper Route is currently offering the much buzzed about album here on NoiseTrade in its entirety. Their dance rock guitars, sizzling synth grooves and slick beats play the perfect foil for the emotive vocals and rich songwriting found within each track.
Paper Route is currently out supporting The Peace of Wild Things with Imagine Dragons and you can find their full list of show dates HERE.
I recently spoke with Paper Route’s Chad Howat about The Peace of Wild Things, tour life and Wendell Berry.
NoiseTrade: You guys are currently out on tour with Imagine Dragons and then have a nice run of solo shows following that. What’s included on your personal pro/con list regarding tour life?
Chad Howat: Pros would be local food/coffee/drinks from a variety of interesting and unique cities around the world. Our guitarist, Josh, always finds the best local breakfast place and that’s always the first priority of the day. Cons would be lack of sleep and lack of personal space. There’s less time to be creative. Also, not having phone service in other countries.
NT: By the time an album finally gets released to the masses, bands/artists have usually already started planning for their next adventure. What’s been brewing in the Paper Route camp post-release of The Peace of Wild Things?
Chad: We’ve toyed around with a few different ideas but right now it seems like trying to block off time to start writing a new album. We want our third LP to be the best yet so we are anxious to see what pours out of us this time. We have a few other auxiliary ideas we want to do but right now writing seems to be the first thing after touring.
NT: Prior to the album’s release, you mentioned that this was the first time you were ever nervous about the content of your songwriting. This far out, has the feeling changed with night-after-night shows and fan feedback?
Chad: We aren’t nervous anymore. Jitters are common anytime you are about to release something to the public. The songs are vulnerable and honest and JT’s voice is front and center. There’s not much to hide behind on this album.
The feedback has been great, though. People come up and will say “this is my favorite song of the last year” or things like that, and the cool thing is that I think we’ve heard that about every single song on the album. People aren’t gravitating to one song and one song only, for better or worse. We’ve released probably 40 or 50 songs so far in our career and I don’t think you’ll ever get fans to agree on which is their favorite. I think that’s a good thing.
NT: The Peace of Wild Things shares its title with a Wendell Berry poem. Was that a direct nod to him and if so, how has his work influenced the band?
Chad: It was absolutely a nod to him. Jayber Crow was our favorite book when making Absence and when it came time to title this album, his poem popped into our heads. The title seemed to sum up the previous 2 years of making this album.
NT: All three of you have multiple creative outlets outside of Paper Route. How do you decide what is/isn’t a good fit for Paper Route and what else can your fans being looking forward to from these other endeavors?
Chad: I think Paper Route is all of first loves. We get to express what we are feeling inside and we are in control of everything from start to finish. JT put out his solo record at a time when he needed to release something for sanity’s sake and he had mine and Gavin’s support in doing so.
I’m always trying to write and whether or not those things become Paper Route songs remains to be seen. We try to play to our strengths and if a song feels like a “happy accident,” then it’s usually a Paper Route contender. If it feels well-crafted, but is missing the je ne sais quoi, then it probably needs to get destroyed and reborn to have a shot.
Sorry for the tangent… fans can expect us to tour hard for a few more months, and then we will figure out our next step.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t dancing on our graves, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
Amidst all of the sludgy guitar riffs and introspective angst of 90’s alternative music, The Presidents of the United States of America served as somewhat of a palate cleanser thanks to their fuzz pop ditties and their quirky sense of humor. Their explosive self-titled debut album went triple platinum with songs about kitties, peaches, dune buggies and… well, lumps. The eclectic trio was well known for their entertaining live shows and their unique instruments: a two-string “basitar” and a three-string “guitbass.” Never ones to take themselves too seriously, The Presidents always stuck out as a band that was ready to have a good time and put on a great show.
Currently, The Presidents are gearing up for an exciting run of shows on the “PUSA Plays the Good One” tour that starts April 10 in Philadelphia, PA, hits both the East and West coasts, and ends July 7 in Heerlen, Netherlands. To celebrate, they’ve compiled Get Back In The Van, an exclusive sampler for NoiseTrade that features 5 live acoustic tracks and 4 live full-on rock jams as only the Presidents can deliver. Download the sampler to either get your first taste or remind you of their goodness and then head on over to presidentsrock.com for a full listing of tour dates and ticket purchasing links.
Head President Chris Ballew recently took some time to answer my part journalistic/part fanboyistic questions to talk about the impact of the band, what other musical outlets he’s involved in and what’s next for The Presidents.
NoiseTrade: You guys are about to head out on the tongue-in-cheekily titled “PUSA Plays the Goods One” tour where the majority of the setlist is going to be your triple-platinum debut album played in its entirety. What can fans, new and old, expect from this run of shows and what keeps the experience feeling fresh for the band?
Chris Ballew: Fans can expect an amazing, sugarcoated, explosive, pajama party, trampoline machine of happy good time music! Actually, it’s not that tongue-in-cheek. We really do believe that it’s a great record and we will be hard pressed to ever repeat that kind of amazing chemistry that we had at that time. But we will keep trying!
NT: In conjunction with this tour, you guys are trying out VIP package tickets (meet and greet, poster, signed cd, soundcheck, etc.) for the first time. Based on your years of experience with PUSA fans, does the meet and greet portion excite you or scare you?
Chris: The meet and greet portion is interesting. It’s fun to see who is so into us that they’re willing to pay extra and meet us. It’s often really exciting and surprising for both the fans and the band! It’s a good time.
NT: During the sometimes overly serious alternative music scene of the 1990’s, one of PUSA’s standout calling cards was the humor you guys injected into your songwriting. Was this an intentional strategy from the outset or just a natural overflow of your personality?
Chris: A little bit of both actually. I’ve been making silly music my whole life. I’ve also been making serious music as well. I have a lot of different colors in my paint box. But I do remember a distinct feeling that the scene needed to be lightened up a little bit and so it felt like it was time to bring out my silly stuff and see if it would be well received in that environment. I do remember watching the MTV Music Awards in 1992 or 1993 and thinking that the scene needed a little bit of a smile.
NT: Of course, the other major PUSA calling card is your uniquely customized 2-string “basitar” and 3-string “guitbass” instruments. While you have been asked about the logistics of these instruments a million times, could you give us some insight into your actual musical/headspace approach when writing on them?
Chris: By now, I am so used to playing two string instruments that I don’t remember the headspace I had when I wrote on regular instruments! It just seems completely natural now. In fact, I wonder why people don’t actually just learn on a two string or three string. It’s so much easier! I have also come to learn about the origins of rock and roll music and the African banjo and how they are connected. The idea of using fewer strings connects what we do back in time to the roots of rock n roll in Africa. Not that you will hear that in the music, but it is something that sort of influences how I feel when I play those instruments.
NT: In my personal opinion, one of the coolest “made it” moments a musician can experience is having Weird Al Yankovic parody one of your songs. Can you describe what it was like when you first learned he was going to transform “Lump” into “Gump”?
Chris: I think I learned about it when I saw it on the actual television! I don’t remember being aware of it before it happened. But it is an incredible experience to see Weird Al pretend to be me! The best thing that’s come out of that is that we are still friends. He’s a great guy and a really good listener and storyteller. He actually ended up directing a video for us from our 2008 album These Are The Good Times People. We also have had him as a guest in Los Angeles a few times at our live shows. He’s a sweet guy and an incredibly talented human.
NT: For those that may be unaware, your involvement and impact in the 90’s alternative movement actually stretches outside of PUSA. How did you come to be involved in projects with folks like Mark Sandman of Morphine, Mary Lou Lord and Beck and how did those experiences shape you as a musician?
Chris: Wow, that is a big question. I’ll take them one at a time. The importance of my collaboration with Mark Sandman cannot ever be underestimated. The experience of being in a band with him where we made up songs live in front of an audience formed who I am as a songwriter. He showed me the two string and three string idea and he also allowed me to be super weird and freaky while he stood there very stoic and confident.
Mary Lou and I use to vial together in Harvard Square and we formed a band called Strumpet in the early 90′s. Although we only played a handful of gigs it was a really fun experience for me to play the two string in a regular band as the actual bass player. We had an agreement back them that if I walked by and saw her busking I would take over her spot so she could use the restroom. That agreement still stands to this day and if I ever see her on the street, I have to take over and allow her to go use the bathroom.
My experience with Beck was insane. It seems like it was preordained that he and I would find each other. He is a raging genius and I must say that hanging out with him was both instructive and terrifying. I ended up needing to quit the band and move back to Seattle because his incredible songwriting power was shutting me down. But I had a great time hanging out with him driving around LA and talking about the transformation he was going through from “bedroom four- track guy” to “being on MTV guy.” All of that happened right before my time with The Presidents and our skyrocketing to success and so I look at my time with Beck as an educational experience; as far as how to deal with that sort of transformation.
NT: You’ve released a handful of children’s album under the Caspar Babypants moniker. What birthed this musical persona and what continues to motivate the DIY ethic behind the releases?
Chris: The Caspar Babypants experience has been the most fulfilling musical experience of my life. I love The Presidents and what we achieved, but there is an innocent, sustainable, happy place I have found for myself in making music for very small children and their parents. I don’t ever wanna leave it. I have been feeling for years that I wanted to make quieter, simpler, more innocent music. I met my wife Kate and looked at her artwork – which is childlike, bright, well made, folksy, and funny – and I realized that I wanted to make music that had all of those attributes. So I made music to go with her art and when I listened back to it, I realized it was children’s music. That set me on a path developing in writing music specifically for very young kids age 0 to 5 and their parents who need high quality music in order to relieve stress in their daily lives.
With this project I also got to go back in time and listen to very old music from the 1880s through to the 1920s and incorporate those vibes and feels into my own stuff. That link back to history was something I was longing for. The Caspar Babypants music has a purpose in the world and is very clear to me and I really, really enjoy that. Relieving stress for families is super important as I feel the parent-child empathetic connection is the most important dynamic that will help shape the future of human beings and the planet. Wow, I just got really cosmic!
NT: Is there a song for you that no matter how many times you play it, night after night it transports you and reminds you why you are doing what you’re doing?
Chris: Yes there is! And that song is…. ”Lump”! No matter how many times we play it (and we have played it at almost every single show we’ve ever played), it is as fresh and as alive as if I just wrote it that afternoon. I am not sure what it is, but I am never bored playing that song. In the beginning, it was me trying to write a Buzzcocks song. I guess I still channel them a little bit whenever I play it.
NT: With an active summer tour schedule hitting the Northeast, the West Coast and a few international dates, are you guys using soundcheck and downtime to work on some new PUSA songs? What’s ahead for the band?
Chris: We don’t really use soundcheck to do that kind of stuff, but we are playing around with some new ideas in the practice space in Seattle. We have a new song called “Finger Monster” that we are playing live and it’s super fun! Actually, that is a song that Jason and I started writing in 1996! We are planning to do some recording sessions and put out some new material. It probably won’t be in album form, but in little bundles of digital happiness. This is an exciting time to be creative because we don’t have the pressure of trying to get the music on the radio to color our creativity. We get to be self-indulgent and ridiculous again. Just like the old days!
NT: Finally, you’ve always had a knack for picking killer cover songs to record or just play live. What’s been your favorite one and are there any new ones for the upcoming shows?
Chris: Oh, just you wait! You will have to come to the shows to find out! There will be a ton of fragmentary covers sprinkled in the set. I always feel that doing a cover is a challenge. You have to bring your own personality to the song and have a reason to do it.
I think my favorite cover of ours is “Video Killed the Radio Star” because I loved that song when it came out, but I always felt like it needed to rock harder. Plus, we got to make that our last video ever in which I quit the band during the video!
When writer Will Hodge isn’t smashing matchbox cars, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
From Caleb Chancey, the lead songwriter for War Jacket:
Thoughts on the song:
I had never heard of the phrase “water wings” until I watched the British cartoon “Kipper” with my 2-year-old. When I was growing up, we called the little inflatable arm cuffs “float-ies”, but as with most things word related: the british win.
“Water wings” seemed like a wonderfully descriptive phrase to base a song around, so I started writing.
My first visual was someone on a sea shore, looking out on the water.
They are worried.
The lyrics start:
Though the water wings may keep you up
and your lungs may fill you up with air
Your spirit’s growing darker by the hour
and your clothes are getting heavier by the day
but they will find you
they will find you
when the day comes back
The character’s worry runs deeper as more instrumentation sets in:
Though the water wings may keep you up
and the river may carry you to the shore
your running out of your hope
and your spirit’s getting a little heavier by the day
Then another hope:
but they will find you
they will find you
when the day comes back
With the drum and cello drop, the story speeds across the sea, until we find the one who is sinking:
it feels like I’m going to fall
it feels like a cannon ball
it’s getting dark and cold
and it feels like a cannon ball
We know very little about the relationship between the two characters, but by having a children’s word like “water wings” associated with the one in the water there is a sense of innocence conveyed. An innocence about to be lost.
Check out “The Sparrow” from “The Spring Hollow Sessions” for the twin to this song.
Thoughts on the visuals:
We had an idea for the video. No budget. No crew. Just an idea. I started typing it out. LITERALLY as I was typing I received an email from the director, Stephen Stinson, saying, “I want to do a music video for you.”
So it started.
After about a month of planning, shooting, and editing we had the video. Nothing could have happened without massive effort and collaboration between a lot of incredibly talented people. Please look through the YouTube credits for the whole list of wonderful people.
The meaning behind ‘War Jacket’:
Everyone is going though something in their life. A struggle, a choice, a battle. Our desire is to write songs that connect with people in those struggles. Visual words and melodies that will wrap around them and remind them that they are not alone.
WJ has always played with the idea of being marked. The paint is to represent markings good and bad: scares, bruises, jobs, choices, etc.
Also, both the paint and the dancing an homage to the artist My Brightest Diamond, specifically her song “Be Brave” (which, subsequently provides added encouragement to the first character in “Water Wings”. In the midst of fear, “be brave”).
To represent both beauty and order within chaos. They dancers are also a mirror of the two character in the story.
For us vinyl enthusiasts, every third Saturday in April holds a very special holiday akin to the warmest/fuzziest childhood Christmas morning you’ve ever had. That’s right folks, Record Store Day.
Record Store Day started back in 2008 to celebrate all things music and to champion the independent spirit of the brick-and-mortar record store. The occasion is marked by a flood of unique, exclusive, limited edition vinyl releases from tons of great artists, along with a smattering of CD/DVD/cassettes, live performances and all day parties. (Purely for context – as opposed to shameless self promotion – you can read about some of my own personal RSD experiences here: 2012, 2011 and 2010.)
RSD 2013 is already shaping up to be just as magical as in years past. When the official release list came out last week, I noticed there were a few releases from the fine folks at Omnivore Records that really piqued my interest. Well, imagine my surprise and happiness to learn Omnivore was creating a little sampler here for NoiseTrade with a few tracks from their offerings. It’s a Record Store Day miracle!
The Omnivore/NoiseTrade RSD 2013 Sampler features songs from each of their three exciting RSD 2013 releases to allow you to get a pretty good gauge of the music on the albums. However, another big chunk of what makes the RSD offerings so special are the way the albums are presented, with special attention given to things like the artwork, vinyl quality and color of wax. So, here’s a quick rundown of what Omnivore has whipped up for each release represented on the sampler.
“In The Street” (Movie Mix, 2012) by Big Star: If you’re Big Star fan, you’ve probably been waiting with baited breath for the soundtrack to their upcoming documentary Nothing Can Hurt Me. Featuring 21 previously unissued demos/alternate mix versions of legendary Big Star tunes over two 12” vinyl records, this release is one of this year’s RSD favorites. Also, because we know how important sound quality and aesthetics are to you vinyl fans, it’s important to note that it’s being pressed on 180-gram gorgeous translucent yellow vinyl.
“Pressure Dome” by Three Hits: In the early 1980s, Three Hits had the distinction of being labelmates with R.E.M. as Hib-Tone Records released the debut single of both bands. This year, Omnivore is reissuing that Three Hits single “Pressure Dome” with a couple of rare extra tracks tacked on. With five songs total, this single is being released as a 12” on swanky purple wax.
“Visiting Hours” (1996 demo) by Old 97s: Featuring four songs that are finally being released 17 years after they were initially recorded, this double 7” from Old 97s is a pretty special treat for both fans of the band and for fans of alt-country in general. The first 7” features two never before released studio collaborations with country legend Waylon Jennings (“Iron Road” and “The Other Shoe”) and the second 7” features two Old 97s demos (“Visiting Hours” and “Fireflies”) from 1996. The two discs are pressed on yellow vinyl and are packaged in a stunning gatefold sleeve with art from Jon Langford (The Mekons, Waco Brothers).
“(Here on This) Lonely Night” by The Knack: As an added bonus, Omnivore added this track to the sampler because they are releasing The Knack’s Rock And Roll Is Good For You: The Fieger/Averre Demos. While it’s not an exclusive RSD release, Omnivore does have some great pre-order and bundle options if you’re interested in the early beginnings of the “My Sharona” rockers.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t too far to care, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
As the discussion surrounding “free/name your price” music seems to somehow simultaneously become clearer and blurrier with each passing day, it’s always nice to discover the pockets of undisputed success. I’m talking about those kinds of scenarios that firmly place all parties – artist, fan, service provider, the music community as a whole – into the verifiable win column. While there’s still no etched-in-stone model for any/every artist to just plug their individual parts into, the precedence has certainly been set to prove what’s possible.
In 2007, Radiohead released In Rainbows via a “name your price” digital format and before the physical album was sold in stores, it had already generated more total income than their previous album Hail to the Thief. When Five Iron Frenzy first announced their plans for a reunion album, they surpassed their Kickstarter goal of $30,000 in less than an hour and went on to raise over $150,000 during their 30 day campaign. Just last year, Amanda Palmer broke their Kickstarter record by becoming the first musician to raise over a million dollars ($1,192,793 to be exact) for her Theatre is Evil album. Regardless of the “major vs. indie” or “cult following vs. fan building” arguments, the results remain the same – artists are making direct connections with their fans outside of the old guard, middleman models and music fans are willing to talk back with their wallets.
While we here at NoiseTrade have seen this play out time and time again on our site, it’s still such a cool thing to continually be blown away by watching an audience respond to an artist in overwhelming fashion. Such is the case with Josh Garrels’ recent release of 5 of his complete albums.
A little over a week ago, independent singer-songwriter Josh Garrels put up his 5 most recent releases – Over Oceans, Jacaranda, Lost Animals, Love & War & The Sea In Between, and Love & War: B-Sides and Remixes – exclusively on NoiseTrade, all for the hefty price tag of just an email address and a zip code. For those inclined to “tip” (read: name your price), Josh is donating the proceeds to World Relief’s restorative work in Congo.
So let’s go over our ingredients here: independent artist, free album downloads, philanthropic organization attachment, zero strings attached. Is this a recipe for indifferent reaction, nominal potential fan-building, a few more pennies in the purse, just another artist adding to the noise or could the outcome be something else entirely?
How about… fantastic audience interest, invaluable connective fanbase additions and surprisingly responsive monetary movement? The feedback to Josh’s 5 album offering has been genuinely amazing and it’s been really awesome to see such interest in his art.
If you aren’t familiar with Josh already, there’s definitely a good chance that someone you know is. Plus, there’s really no better form of introduction than a free, no-risk 5 album tryout, right? With the ability to stream from each album page, you don’t even have to download the albums to test drive them. Just for kicks, let me recommend a few starting points: “Original Spacefan” (Jacaranda), “Sailor’s Waltz” (Love & War & The Sea In Between) and “Train Song” (Over Oceans). Go ahead, open another browser window and give them a shot. If by some chance there’s not even one track on any of the albums that you connect with, you’re out nothing. Thanks for playing and enjoy the rest of your day. I have a feeling that’s not exactly going to happen though.
If you’re already a fan of Josh’s work, then maybe this is a cool opportunity to pick up an album or two that you didn’t already have and possibly contribute to a work that is close to Josh’s heart. Maybe this is the first time you joined his mailing list to help keep track of upcoming shows and future releases. Maybe this is the exact opportunity you’ve been looking for to help get your friends hooked on Josh’s music. Whatever the reason, the most important thing is that connections are being made – between artist and audience, fan and fan base, and even entertainment and social awareness.
While all of the behind the scene “stats” are interesting, I’m just really excited that we’ve got another talking point to add to the “discussion” mentioned earlier. Inherent value is not defined in monetary terms and “free music” (when controlled by the artist) doesn’t have to be a one-way street.
Josh Garrels’ 5 album offering will be available through this Thursday, March 28 and you can find out more about Josh and his work at www.joshgarrels.com
When writer Will Hodge isn’t pulling out jives and jamboree handouts, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
Four days. 44 bands. Two stages. Free drinks.
With a tagline like that, it will be no surprise to anyone when Paste Magazine’s SXSW party gets packed to the rafters each day. Partnering with HGTV (along with NoiseTrade as one of its illustrious sponsors), Paste will be holding down the fort at The Stage on Sixth for four straight days (March 13-16) to continue their tradition of hosting some of the best musical performances of the entire festival.
For a cool example of what can happen at a Paste SXSW party, here’s a fan video of The Lumineers singing “Ho Hey” in the middle of the audience during last year’s festivities:
Paste’s party this year will host two stages with no breaks in-between sets that will be running from 11:30am-5:30pm each day. Here’s a look at their entire four day line-up to either help you make your SXSW party plans, tempt you into finally going or nail down your inevitable bemoaning of missing out on another year.
If you’re planning on going, you can RSVP at PasteMagazine.com/rsvp. Also, be on the lookout for a couple of snazzy gentlemen in NoiseTrade t-shirts. If you ask nicely, they just might have one for you!
For those of us sorry schlubs who can’t make it, Paste has compiled an amazing sampler featuring many of the bands that will be performing at their party. This 28-track compilation features standout tracks from Billy Bragg, The Lone Bellow, Brendan Benson, Ozomatli, Josh Rouse, LEAGUES, and recently added surprise guest AMANDA PALMER! (Amanda will also be speaking at SXSW on Wednesday, March 13 at the Austin Convention Center to give an in-depth talk about her record-breaking Kickstarter campaign, touring, merchandise and the many other elements of her successful DIY career.)
So if you are headed to SXSW, you can use this sampler to help soundtrack the drive/flight and if you are not, you can use it as a sonic coping mechanism to hold you over until all of the amazing stories and videos start trickling out. Either way, it’s a killer listen all the way through.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t living along old Mermaid Avenue, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
Don’t make people pay for music, says Amanda Palmer: Let them. In a passionate talk that begins in her days as a street performer (drop a dollar in the hat for the Eight-Foot Bride!), she examines the new relationship between artist and fan.
Alt-rock icon Amanda Palmer believes digital content should be free, and that artists can and should be directly supported by fans via a “patronage” model.
Brooklyn-based folk outfit Hem have made quite a wide-reaching impression since they first released their debut Rabbit Songs back in 2002. With a rich catalog of albums, EPs and compilation appearances, they have continually raised the bar of excellence and expectation for themselves and for their fans with each subsequent release. However, after a tumultuous season in both their personal and professional lives, there was a time when it seemed that Hem might’ve sung their last song. But somewhere amidst the heartbreak and confusion of that time was birthed a perseverance to continue creating and a new found respect for each other. The result is their beautiful new album, Departure and Farewell, releasing April 2 on Waveland Records.
Ahead of Departure and Farewell, Hem has joined with NoiseTrade to offer 2 brand new songs from the upcoming album, as well as their inspired Funnel Cloud album in its entirety. Rootsy, dreamy, orchestral and lush, Funnel Cloud is enough to make you a Hem fan for life, while “Tourniquet” and “Walking Past The Graveyard, Not Breathing” will sufficiently get you through the next month or so until Departure and Farewell is released.
Here’s their charming new video for “Tourniquet”:
I recently talked with Hem’s founder and defacto ringleader Dan Messé to get a little more info on Departure and Farewell, as well as discuss his thoughts on Funnel Cloud and their penchant for picking fantastic cover songs.
NoiseTrade: Funnel Cloud showcases a few different sides of what we had already come to expect from the Hem we met on your first three full-length releases. Where exactly did the inspiration come from for the cinematic songwriting, the more upbeat tempos and the 21-piece orchestra?
Dan Messé: On Funnel Cloud, we were inspired very much by our experiences with DreamWorks Records. More specifically, that was the first album we did AFTER DreamWorks was sold to Universal and we were released from our contract. The great Lenny Waronker, who originally signed us to that label made sure that our masters were returned to us, and he told us to keep moving forward no matter what. We just felt that we could repay his belief in our music by making our most ambitious album to date.
NT: Funnel Cloud features some fantastic guest appearances from James Iha (The Smashing Pumpkins) and Amy Helm (Ollabelle). How did these connections come about and what did each artist bring to the project?
Dan: New York City (and Brooklyn in particular) is a surprisingly supportive place to make music. Our connection with James came from recording in his studio (Stratosphere Sound) and him being one of the first individuals who believed in our sound. Lately, we’ve been working a lot in Saltlands Studio in DUMBO, which is located in a building bursting with other bands and producers. Sometimes – like when we’re putting together a chorus – it’s as simple as walking down the hallway and seeing who’s around who wants to sing.
NT: Hem’s music has always had a certain dreamlike quality to its sonic landscapes. Do you attribute that to the way the melodies are written, Sally’s swoony vocal delivery, the deft instrumentation, a combination of all three or something completely different?
Dan: Hem is a pretty great example of the power of collaboration, and the cinematic/dreamlike quality of our music is a direct result of what we each individually bring to the project. If I had to break it down, I’d say it starts with the tension that exists between a dark, heartbroken lyric, and a very pretty (usually major key) melody. Then Sally’s voice might just be the most comforting instrument going these days, and she can deliver a sad song in a way that sounds almost hopeful. Finally, we are suckers for a great arrangement, and we’re just as inspired by Copland and Gershwin as we are by The Carter Family and 70’s pop songs – that’s a pretty broad palette from which to draw – and we are fortunate enough to collaborate with arranger Greg Pliska who is able to realize our most ambitious ideas.
NT: Tell us a little bit about your exciting new album, Departure & Farewell. What got you back into the studio and what do you hope Hem fans will be pleased with and surprised by?
Dan: I think I’m even more grateful that we ever got ourselves out of the studio. We began this album back in 2007, and it’s taken over 5 years to complete. Originally, we had thought this might be our final album, so we were interested in tying up all sorts of musical and lyrical themes. For example, the song “Last Call” was written as an epilogue to the other ‘barroom songs’ in our catalogue. It begins almost exactly like “When I Was Drinking” (the first track off our first album Rabbit Songs) and then there are lyrical nods to that song, “Lucky,” “The Pills Stopped Working” and “Pacific Street” throughout.
It’s been a tumultuous 6 years for the band – both great and terrible – and many of the ups and down are reflected in the songs. In the end, not only were we able to complete this album, we were able to come back together as a band with a renewed appreciation for each other and the music we’re able to make together. I guess that makes Departure and Farewell both a breakup album as well as a reunion album.
As for surprises within the album itself, we have never created a more ambitious sonic palette – from the super hi-fi, to songs that sound like field recordings, we’ve tried to draw from all the music that we love to create something new. We play with vocal arrangements more than ever in these songs. Harmony has never been more important on songs like “The Jack Pine” and “The Tides at the Narrows” (thanks to Tall Steve Curtis and Dawn Landes). We also play a lot with choirs and smaller vocal ensembles (like the gospel trio on “So Long”). Finally, we even go so far as to play with Sally’s voice by multi-tracking it on “Things Are Not Perfect In Our Yard.”
NT: From Elvis Costello to Johnny Cash to R.E.M. to Ray Price, Hem has always had a special knack for channeling amazing cover songs. What goes into choosing them and are there any special new ones in the arsenal?
Dan: Between albums, we usually try to record an EP featuring cover songs as a way of exploring new sounds for the next full-length album. For example, when we recorded our cover of Johnny and June’s “Jackson,” it helped us move toward the lush sound of our album Eveningland.
How we pick cover songs is more random. Sometimes, it has to do with being asked to contribute to a tribute album, like when we recorded “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” for the Rolling Stones tribute. Mostly though, it comes down to songs we love that we think we can make our own somehow. Lately, in rehearsals we’ve been warming up with Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Sally does a mean Robert Plant…
When writer Will Hodge isn’t getting fractured in the echo and sway, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
From the first time I heard Sandra McCracken’s voice singing a duet of Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” with (then future husband) Derek Webb in the late 90s, I was hooked by the unique emotional weight carried in her voice and her powerfully gentle delivery. As I have followed her career, she has continually built upon (and surpassed) this initial sonic stamping with album after album of lyrical creativity, thought-provoking confessions, encouraging challenges, honest longings and communal engagement. Her attention to the craft of complimentary musicianship is phenomenal as well. She has proven again and again that there will be no throwaway lines or stray instrumental noodlings on a Sandra McCracken album. You can enter into each album with confidence, knowing that both entertainment and enrichment are waiting within the sounds and spaces.
Her newest album, Desire Like Dynamite, follows true to this preceding catalog. Your heart, brain and ears will all be equally attended to as clever melodies dance with candid lyrics above a rich bed of folk-pop instrumentation. Take opening track “Go” for example. A whimsical string line and (serendipitously taped-up) piano introduces deceptively understated lyrics like “Listen when you first wake, your compass aligns to the sounds of the morning, thoughts like tiny earthquakes alive in your head, a light and a warning.” As the additional organ, drums and trumpet usher in the chorus, the song literally comes alive in conjunction with the direction of the lyrics. With “Forgiveness,” the quiet piano ballad unrolls over a steadily strummed acoustic guitar that gives just enough of an uncluttered foundation for the gravity of “When the blessed assurance is hidden behind a great cloud, when the joy is a secret and pain like a trumpeted sound, oh for grace to be measured by more than my means and to love with a love that gives free without strings.” You could actually pick any song as this poetic synergy is genuinely found throughout the entirety of Desire Like Dynamite, creating an integrated listening experience that sticks with you long after the final song has ended.
In addition to writing and performing, Sandra produced Desire Like Dynamite with (now present husband) Derek Webb, with additional co-production assistance from Jordan Brooke Hamlin and Joshua Moore. Derek, Jordan and Joshua also contributed their talents via a variety of instrumentation throughout the songs. Sandra even has a few impressive guest vocals from her friends Matthew Perryman Jones (“The Wait”), Lori Chaffer (“Dynamite,” “Forgiveness”) and Chelsey Scott (“Forgiveness”). The final result is a stirring album from a fantastic artist that is beautifully accompanied by a creative community of friends.
Desire Like Dynamite is currently available in physical or digital form from sandramccracken.com, as well as through iTunes and Amazon. You can also get three of the songs (“Go,” “Gridlock” and “Dynamite”) via her NoiseTrade sampler HERE.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t crawling down the avenue, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack