Vancouver indie rockers Said the Whale have toured with Stars, won a prestigous 2011 Juno Award and have a brand new EP, tenderly christened I Love You, but nothing prepared them for the disappointing tacos, stellar ice cream, desert beers and Vegas debauchery of their swing through the West Coast last month.
The Alternate Side asked Said the Whale's Tyler Bancroft to keep a photo blog for us and he did, even discovering a marvelous bit of Beastie Boys history at Capitol Records' rooftop in Los Angeles. Said the Whale embark on another brief North American tour on July 12 in Denver, Colorado. The band — Bancroft, Ben Worcester, Nathan Shaw, Spencer Schoening and Jaycelyn Brown — plan to release another full-length album this fall. I Love You is available now on Hidden Pony Records.
Check out Tyler's photo blog and the galloping title track of the EP, "I Love You," below:
Smitten Ice Cream, San Francisco, CA
Last summer Ben and I drank way too much on a flight from Toronto to Vancouver while watching the in-flight food network. What resulted was a sloppy list of must-eat places all over America, and Smitten Ice Cream was at the top. The woman who started the company also owns the patent for the ice cream machine she uses, which shoots liquid nitrogen into a mixing bowl that has the cream mixture, and turns it into ice cream right before your eyes in about 60 seconds. It's amazing.
We cut the drive from San Francisco to San Diego somewhere along the I-5. We lucked out and scored a hotel with a pool. The gas station across the street provided the 24oz cans of Tecate, and we provided the Waboba Ball, which is a little neoprene ball that bounces on water like a rubber ball on cement. Nathan reaches for it here.
Taco Tuesday, Old San Diego, CA
We had no idea that taco Tuesday is an actual thing in California. We had a night off in San Diego so we visited old town, which was absolutely packed with people. We managed to find a table, ate some mediocre tacos, and then started back in on the Tecate. Not much explanation necessary.
Capitol Tower, Los Angeles, CA
Some people we work with have offices in the Capitol tower and were kind enough to show us to the top of the building. Photographer Vanessa Heins captures a tender moment between Spencer and Jaycelyn. Somehow we all still love each other despite being stuck in a van together for the majority of the past six years.
Capitol Tower, Los Angeles, CA
Ben found a genuine MCA (Adam Yauch, Beastie Boys) tag that didn't get painted over. Apparently he tagged them all over the building during a Paul's Boutique album release party. RIP.
Almost Las Vegas, NV
Nathan prepares for Las Vegas with a quick shotgun at a gas station somewhere in Nevada. When he paid for his Coors Light, the clerk asked "are you gonna buy one for yourself too?" Zing!
Las Vegas, NV
While the rest of us were off gambling away our dinner per diems, Jaycelyn took in the sights. Las Vegas is the most ridiculous city I've ever seen, but also one of the most incredible. It's the height of decadence and the filth of the underbelly all at once, all exploding in a drunken mess of yard-long margaritas, vomiting frat boys and 6-inch heels. I'm sure we'll be back there soon.
— Tyler Bancroft, Said The Whale
(photos: Vanessa Heins)
Wait, where did the last six months go?The Alternate Side staff, swimming through the .WAV files, MP3s, CDs and vinyl records that arrive daily, is slightly astonished by the abundant bounty of good music released this past winter and spring.
Our lists for faves of 2013 — so far — barely scratch the surface. But TAS has selected some notable albums and singles that came out during the first half of 2013 (Stateside or internationally), including releases from Savages, Daft Punk, Phosphorescent, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Queens of the Stone Age, Kurt Vile, Jagwar Ma, Jon Hopkins, Laura Mvula, Waxahatchee and much more.
And yes, we have the right to change our minds once December rolls around:
Russ Borris (TAS Host and WFUV's Music Director):
1. Black Sabbath, 13
2. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
3. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
4. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Push The Sky Away
5. Rhye, Woman
6. Savages, Silence Yourself
7. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
8. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
1. Chvrches, “Recover”
2. James Blake, “Retrograde”
3. John Grant, “GMF”
4. Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”
5. Phosphorescent, “Song For Zula”
Alisa Ali (TAS Host, FUV Live Producer and On-Air Interviewer for WFUV):
1. Portugal.The Man, Evil Friends — This entire album is great. It's hard to pick just one song that is my favorite from it. I love it so much. There are so many different styles explored on this one album and amazingly, all the tracks flow so nicely. The band recently came to FUV's Studio A to do a session with us and they were all so nice. I had a really nice talk with John Gourley and he was just so thoughtful and present. Now that may sound like a weird thing to say — being "present" —but actually I've met a lot of people who make it obvious that they would much rather be somewhere else. Oy, don't get me started on that. But John was a pleasure to talk to. Also, I recently saw Portuga.The Man play at Bonnaroo and they invited Weird Al Yankovic up on stage to play accordion. So that makes the band pretty cool in my book.
2. Jim James, Regions of Light and Sound of God — This choice will probably not surprise anyone who knows me. I am a huge fan of this guy. I kind of think he can do no wrong. My Morning Jacket is probably one of my favorite bands and I love all of Jim James' solo work. I even think that the collaborations he does with other projects, like Preservation Hall Jazz band, Monsters of Folk, New Multitides and so on, are amazing. But this album is a great listen. I've often found myself listening to it on repeat for hours. It's definitely different from a My Morning Jacket album; people who prefer the more rocking aspect of MMJ may not be down with the solo album, but I am definitely on board with the funky soulful side of Jim James represented on this album.
3. Foals, Holy Fire — This band is amazing. I loved the album when I first got it, but my appreciation for it grew exponentially after seeing them play live (read my Governors Ball review for more on that). I love how the songs build on this album. I'm bopping my head in the first minute and then a minute later I'm in full-on dance mode. Although obviously there are tracks that get you from the first second, like "My Number".
4. Phosphorescent, Muchacho — This is a true work of art. I think this will be an album that I will still love 20 years from now. Timeless might be a good way to describe it: I feel as though time actually stops when you are listening to it and you are somehow transported into a vacuum. Sorry to get weird on you. Maybe that doesn't make sense, but that's how I feel. Maybe I should have listed this album as my No. 1. I have a really hard time with countdowns, so don't pay too much attention to the order these albums are listed in.
5. Kurt Vile, Wakin On a Pretty Daze — I am so impressed with this album. The first thing I love about this is the spacey arrangements and I don't mean that in a psychedelic way. I mean that the songs feel roomy and comfortable like sitting outside in the shade on a summer day with a breeze blowing. It is a beautiful feeling. I love his guitarwork too. This record also has a bit of a grungy and gritty feel to it too. I'm into this album in a big way.
6. Savages, Silence Yourself — Hell yeah! Here is a go-to record for the ladies (and fellas) who wanna get rowdy and break things. It's an aggressive album and I love these bad ass British babes. They are a breath of fresh air. What a brilliant title too: a much nicer way of saying, "Shut up" which which, by the way, is a great track on the album. It has a long intro though. I like it, but I often fast forward past it to get to the really good part.
7. Villagers, Awayland — This is a dense record. There is a lot to absorb, lyrically and musically, but it is an album that rewards multiple listens. My appreciation for this record has grown a lot since the first time I heard it. Awayland feels like a favorite novel that you want to read again and again. It's very poetic. It seems fragile at times and then there are moments where you feel like you're going down the rabbit hole.
8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mosquito — I wish there were more bands out there like this. Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been consistently putting out great music for a decade now (seems crazy to think they've been around for so long, right?). I love all of their records and this one is great too, possibly their best. It's sexy, creepy and cool. This is album is genius. Also, Karen O might be the best female front-woman of this generation.
9. Bombino, Nomad — This is an amazing record. I have no idea what this guy is saying — it's sung in the Tuareg language of Tameshek — but I love it. The guitars are so funky and rockin'. This may have something to do with the fact that it was recorded with Dan Auerbach, another guy who I think can do no wrong. This is a perfect weekend album for me and maybe you, if you get down with global beats. I think it is brilliant and I recently saw them at Bonnaroo and Celebrate Brooklyn and they blew me away. They are mesmerizing.
10. (tied) Daft Punk, Random Access Memories — This is an incredibly catchy and fun dance album. At first I was a little put off by all the guests, I thought that they were taking away from Daft Punk's electro feel, but I did a 360 turn and now fully embrace it. That "Get Lucky" song is undeniable.
MS MR, Secondhand Rapture — This is a great summer record. It's so much fun to dance to. I love frontwoman Lizzy Plapinger's voice because it sounds so earnest. She's a very versatile singer, going from commanding to sweet and suggestive, like on the track "Dark Doo Wop". I think these guys really excel on the upbeat, faster-paced songs, like "Fantasy" and "Salty Sweet". This is a pop record for indie kids.
Eric Holland (TAS Weekend Host, WFUV Presenter):
1. Palma Violets, 180
2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mosquito
3. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
4. Queens of the Stone Age, Like Clockwork
5. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away
6. Christopher Owens, Lysandre
7. Chelsea Light Moving, Chelsea Light Moving
8. The Men, New Moon
9. Foxygen, We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
10. Guided By Voices, English Little League
Kara Manning (TAS Content Editor/Writer, On-Air Interviewer for TAS/FUV, UKNY Host):
Albums (no order):
1. Jagwar Ma, Howlin'
2. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
3. Atoms for Peace, Amok
4. Karl Hyde, Edgeland
5. The Pastels, Slow Summits
6. Public Service Broadcasting, Inform, Educate, Entertain
7. Daughter, If You Leave
8. My Bloody Valentine, m b v
9. Everything Everything, Arc
10 (tie). Jon Hopkins, Immunity
and Boards of Canada, Tomorrow's Harvest
1. My Bloody Valentine, "New You"
2. Atoms for Peace, "Ingenue"
3. Temples, "Shelter Song"
4. Halves with Gemma Hayes, "Tanager Peak"
5. Samaris, "Góða tungl"
6. Daft Punk, "Get Lucky"
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Sacrilege"
7. Haim, "Falling"
8. Laura Mvula, "That's Alright"
9. The Knife, "Full of Fire"
10. (tied) Jagwar Ma, "Man I Need" or "The Throw"
Sarah Wardrop (TAS Substitute Host, FUV Assistant Program Director, FUV Music Weekend Host):
Favorite albums so far (alphabetical):
1. Generationals, Heza
2. Patty Griffin, American Kid
3. Iron and Wine, Ghost on Ghost
4. Leagues,You Belong Here
5. Erin McKeown, MANIFESTRA
6. Laura Mvula, Sing To The Moon
7. Rhye, Woman
8. The Shouting Matches, Grownass Man
9. Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mosquito
Ear candy on repeat:
1. Daft Punk, "Get Lucky"
2. Phoenix, "Trying To Be Cool"
3. Tegan and Sara, "Closer"
4. Justin Timberlake, "Suit & Tie"
Looking forward to:
1. Firehorse, Pills From Strangers
2. Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
3. Superchunk, I Hate Music
4. The Julie Ruin, Run Fast
The delightful resurrection of The Pastels has been one of the highlights of 2013, a year already brimming with surprise reunions and returns. Aside from a remix album, a film soundtrack, a theatre project and the 2009 release of Two Sunsets, a charming collaboration with the Japanese duo Tenniscoats, The Pastels hadn't recorded an official studio album since 1997's Illumination. That changed this spring when the Glasgow band quietly put out Slow Summits on Domino Records, a breezy collection of smart indiepop perfection spanning the seasons.
Over the years, The Pastels' lineup has dwindled to two permanent members — Stephen McRobbie and Katrina Mitchell — although former vocalist/bassist Annabel Wright and other longtime bandmates are featured on Slow Summits along with Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub, Craig Armstrong, and members of Tenniscoats and To Rococo Rot.
Due to last minute visa issues — the frustrated lament of many British musicians of late — The Pastels' Stateside tour was sadly postponed earlier this month (it would have included a stop at the soon-to-be-shuttered Maxwell's in Hoboken). However, The Pastels will play a handful of UK dates this summer, including the Green Man Festival in August, turning on another generation to their sweet, yet never sentimental sound. While The Pastels sometimes reflect the Velvet Underground's more winsome persona, in turn, the Glasgow group's gentle influence can be heard in bands like Belle and Sebastian and Noah and the Whale. Even Kurt Cobain was a fan.
The Alternate Side caught up with The Pastels' Stephen McRobbie over email to discuss the new record's unhurried evolution and to ask that inevitable question — what took them so long?
TAS: It seems that the title of your beautiful new album, Slow Summits, could refer to the time it has taken you to release a new album, apart from Two Sunsets with Tenniscoats in 2009. Did you plan to begin working on another Pastels record right after that release? Did that album serve as a catalyst?
Stephen McRobbie: It was helpful to work on and complete the collaboration with Tenniscoats. In a way that project started out vague with an idea to book a recording session just to see what happened. The first session wasn't fantastic for technical reasons but we all enjoyed it and decided we should try to make a record together. It had a natural momentum because we were working on it every time they came to Glasgow and in the end it came together quite quickly for us, probably slowly for them!
At the same time we were working on theatre music for 12 Stars. Completing those two projects, and The Last Great Wilderness too, gave us confidence to work in our own way on our new record, and to take our time when we needed to. Our sound was affected by the different needs of these collaborative projects, so in a way while making Slow Summits, we felt we had to put something more of ourselves back in.
TAS: When you look at the journey of The Pastels from the '80s to present day, what surprises you the most about how the band, you, and Katrina have changed in those years? How have you remained true to where you began?
Stephen: We've tried to always make the music that reflects us at different stages of our lives. I think there is something core to The Pastels which will always be there — an intention to express something truthful to us, a certain sound, a certain way. But some of the music that we've made on this record I just couldn't have imagined at the start of the group. In places it's really more complex that I would have considered.
TAS: What did you want to change the most following the release of Illumination and the departure of Annabel Wright?
Stephen: Well, if Annabel had stayed with us, it would have changed anyway. She worked on Secret Music and Slow Summits at the start, and there's nothing that we've done that I couldn't imagine Annabel being part of. On reflection I felt Illumination was very tentative and I think we wanted to try to address that but, as I say, we would have done that anyway. Mainly her leaving left more space for the others in the group and it introduced other colours.
TAS: Musically, there are so many exquisite moments on Slow Summits, like the instrumental title track, "Kicking Leaves," the woozy sweetness of "Summer Rain" and "Check My Heart." Did you start out with a lot of material and ideas, or was there a real conciseness to the process of building a select group of songs?
Stephen: We had a lot of material at different times but it took us a while to realise that we had everything we needed to make Slow Summits. "Check My Heart" was an important addition, it brought something pop. I think I was working on "Summer Rain" at the same time that Katrina was working on "Kicking Leaves" and with both I think we knew we had something. But there were other songs which we liked which didn't make it so there was a selection process.
TAS: Tortoise's John McEntire produced the record. What is it about his approach that suits The Pastels and worked best for all of you in this process?
Stephen: He's very technical and unfussy, he's got good instincts. I think we probably have quite a lot of shared tastes so aesthetically we trust him when it comes to sounds. He doesn't seem to mind our way of working, quite a lot of randomness and some very focused times!
TAS: Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub, Annabel Wright, Craig Armstrong, Ronald Lippok, Stefan Schneider, your friends from Tenniscoats and To Rococo Rot, all appear on the album. What was it about everyone's input that fueled particular songs?
Stephen: Well, we always felt that at all times that we would have a strong Pastels group sound, and we could bring in something else into it. Norman and Annabel have both been part of the group for so many years and we're very aware of their sounds. Katrina and I love Annabel's voice. Norman's very inventive and speedy and for instance really helped with the chorus on "Summer Rain." Ronald and Stefan were in at the beginning of Secret Music, After Image and Slow Summits and helped build them with a complete lack of ego. It was the first time we'd worked with Craig and he worked specificaly on the strings for "Kicking Leaves" which are so distinctive and beautiful. Tenniscoats played on "Night Time Made Us" and "Come To The Dance" and really brought something magical to those songs.
TAS: The music industry has changed drastically over the last decade, even since 2009. Did you find that a daunting prospect when planning your return?
Stephen: We never really considered that. I think we're fortunate in that we had confidence that Domino would stick with us and do their best no matter what kind of condition the music industry was in.
TAS: The Pastels join My Bloody Valentine, Boards of Canada, David Bowie, Daft Punk and others making long overdue returns this year. Any theories why 2013 seems to be the year of long-awaited returns? What other return. aside from your own, has meant the most to you thus far? And which band would you like to see release another album after a long hiatus?
Stephen: No idea, it's strange, I thought we'd be out there on our own! It's been a wild year of unexpected and daring strategies. Because, they're our friends, it was so great to see My Bloody Valentine coming out with something so graceful and strong. The David Bowie comeback was quite emotional, I think. Still processing Boards Of Canada and Daft Punk. For me, a new Movietone record would be the greatest thing but I don't think they're even ready to start, unless they too have been working on their own daring and unexpected strategy.
TAS: If there were a motto that defined The Pastels, what would it be?
Stephen: Complicated simplicity in everything.
Hooded Fang might possess a thrashing, heavy metal-ish moniker — and a somber title for their third album, Gravez — but there's an exhuberant sparkle to the Toronto band's fuzzed-out, kaleidoscopic, sometimes surf-pop songs.
They've added a grittier edge to their sound (and stripped down the lineup to a quartet) since their 2010 debut, Album, allowing the vibrant, raw elements of their live shows drive the recording of Gravez. The Polaris Prize-nominated Hooded Fang (for 2011's Tosta Mista) has been touring North America this spring — the band launches a string of Canadian and West Coast dates tonight, June 12.
The Alternate Side asked bassist April Aliermo if she'd keep a tour blog and she did, covering gigs, a visit to frontman Daniel Lee's mom and noshing on loads of Chinese food:
Hooded Fang Tour Blog:
This is our homie Scott Harwood:
Contrary to what this photo might convey, he is a darling. Daniel [Lee] and I met him in Berlin this past winter (where we were writing and recording for our other band, Phèdre). He has a wicked electronic project called Ken Park that you should all check out. He's also never been to America, and he's really great company, so he's coming along on our North American tour with us. After so many Hooded Fang family trips, its fresh to have a new face around. Bonus for me, taking Scott along on tour also means that I have someone to scope out handsome men with. In London, Ontario, beside the venue we played at, Scott had his very own shine shop.
These are our pals Blonde Elvis playing with us in Hamilton. Jesse, Carlyn, Rich, Colin and Jordan:
They are a tight band. We took them with us on the first four dates of our tour - - - we wish they could have done the whole trip with us! We met them through the Toronto music scene, which is actually quite the nice community. For the most part, everyone sees each other's shows, is happy to collaborate and is friendly with each other some how. Daniel and I started a concert series called Daps All-Ages and Jesse's other band, Young Mother, played it once. Maybe that's how we met them.
Pre-show visit to Daniel's sweetest, loveliest mama, Margrit Weber Lee:
It was her birthday and we freakin' almost forgot. This is Daniel with her. NEVER FORGET YOUR MAMMA'S BIRTHDAY! EVEN IF YOU NEVER TALK TO HER OR DISLIKE HER, SHE STILL CARRIED YOU AROUND FOR 9 MONTHS AND STRUGGLED TO GET YOU OUT OF HER VAGINE OR HAD HER BELLY CUT OPEN FOR YOU.
Pre-show visit to our pal, famous sign painter, Dougie Kerr:
One day, we cold-called him at his work, Honest Ed's, and made friends with him. He did the fonts on our last two records and every now and then, we catch up over a pint with him. Nothing like painting classic fonts the good ol' way. This crazy Scottish mo'fo bikes 100Km every weekend. If only we could be in as good shape as him one day. On this tour we've brought a skipping rope and a soccer ball. Lane has vowed not to eat any McDonald's, Daniel is trying to quit smoking, and I'm taking 'er easy on the drinking. We'll see how it all goes.
Our hometown show was rad:
Weeaves, Planet Creature and Blonde Elvis played with us. The turnout was fantastic, and a lot of our pals came out. It was particularly exciting for me to share the stage with so many women, which can be rare enough in this indie band world. Jasmyn leads Weeaves and has an amazing voice. Planet Creature is a sick band comprised of five gals. Carlyn plays wicked guitar for Blonde Elvis. Its very empowering and inspiring to see so many super women musicians.
Post-show Chinese food with our homie Patrick Kyle.
He is quite the cook and a psycho comic book artist. He did the artwork for Gravez. He has also made a lot of really great comics. I'm particularly drawn to his series, Distance Mover. His drawings are fantastic and his story lines and dialogues are well-written. He prints them on a risograph at home so the colours are fantastic too. Instead of panels, Patrick tends to make his comics on full collage- like pages. So cool, I'm also lucky that he's looking after my bike, Pink Decay, while I'm on tour.
Our Montreal show was super fun:
It was in this DIY loft space called The Plant. The people who run the space are friendly and do things like have movie nights and Sunday night dinners for people to drop in on. When we were there, they were preparing a giant vat of kimchi. It was a tease because it won't be ready for a whole month so we will be missing out on the whole thing. DIY spaces rule. I have been based out of Montreal for the last few months. Above, you can see D.Alex [Meeks] sleeping amongst most of Blonde Elvis in my living room.
– April Aliermo, Hooded Fang, June 2013
Below, check out Hooded Fang's tour dates and the band's latest single, "Bye Bye Land." Gravez is available now on Full Time Hobby.
Hooded Fang Tour Dates:
06/12 Winnipeg, AB - Windsor Hotel
06/13 Saskatoon, SK - MOSO Fest at Vangelis
06/14 Edmonton, AB - Brixx
06/15 Calgary, AB - Palomino
06/16 Vancouver, BC - Media Club
06/17 Seattle, WA - El Corazon Lounge
06/18 Eugene, OR - Cozmic Lounge
06/20 San Francisco, CA - DNA Lounge
06/21 Los Angeles, CA -Viper Room
06/23 San Diego, CA - Soda Bar
The release of the Maccabees' third album, Given to the Wild, just over a year ago heralded a new chapter for the enterprising UK quintet.
The confident, expansive nature of the record, flush with powerful tracks like "Child" or "Feel To Follow," earned the Maccabees a 2012 Mercury Prize nomination, a slew of nominations for the upcoming NME Awards (a "Best Live Band" nomination places them in the same category as the Rolling Stones and Blur) and notable tours with Florence and the Machine and the Black Keys.
The Maccabees embark on their very first headlining North American tour tomorrow, February 8, in Minneapolis — a big deal for the hard-working band. They've got two stops in New York — Bowery Ballroom on February 14 and Music Hall of Williamsburg on February 16 — and they'll be playing "The Late Show with David Letterman" on February 15.
TAS chatted with the Maccabees' frontman Orlando Weeks on the phone from their London studio in Elephant and Castle earlier this week where the band was writing and rehearsing new songs ... and considering a fourth album:
TAS: Are you working on new material?
Orlando Weeks: Yes, we’ve been here since the new year pretty much and just getting on with it.
TAS: So you’re aiming to get a fourth album out quite quickly, then?
Orlando: Well, it always takes two times longer than you think, so we figured we’d get along with it.
TAS: So where are you with it? Just cobbling ideas together?
Orlando: Yes, I think that’s fair to say. We’ve got lots of bits and pieces and three or four songs. It’s good and we’re enjoying it.
TAS: Are you thinking of working with [Given to the Wild producers] Tim [Goldsworthy] and Bruno [Ellingham] again or do you think you might do this yourselves?
Orlando: I think we’re hoping we can do it ourselves. We’ve learned so much in the process, over the last few records. It just feels like a natural thing, rather than try and explain what we’re thinking ourselves [or] through someone else.
TAS: Wasn’t that the threshold you crossed with this album? That you were the best interpreters of what you wanted to do with your music?
Orlando: Yes, I think now that we’ve got the tools and the know-how, we can do that. It took this record to give us the self-assuredness that we could do it. I think that’s the big thing that changed with this record: the confidence.
TAS: Do you think Given to the Wild reinvented what the band could be for all of you?
Orlando: I don’t know if we’d put it that way, but it’s given us more opportunities than other records and probably taught us more than previous records have, in terms of our approach of being a band and making and recording music. [It's given us] the steepest learning curve.
TAS: It’s just been over a year since the album came out in the UK. What is the thing that surprised you the most in that journey? What shifted, for you, in how you deal with each other as bandmates?
Orlando: We were all very happy with how the record ended up. It took a great deal out of all of us to get it to a place where we thought it was presentable. I think that we went pretty much straight out of that into the most frantic touring we’ve ever had. It was a make or break [situation]. We’ve enjoyed this year — and touring — more and that could have easily not been the case?
TAS: Did you think this album could have been difficult to translate live?
Orlando: It’s not even that. It could have easily been too much. It could have made us not enjoy it, and by not enjoying it, not make the most of the hard work that we put into making the record. But we did manage to do it and it’s been such a nice year.
TAS: You’re on the brink of touring North America. What are you looking forward to the most?
Orlando: Teetering on the precipice! We’ve never done our own tour in the States. We opened for Bloc Party for about two weeks a while ago. We’ve done a little bit on the coasts. This is our first headlining tour. We went out with Florence and the Machine for four or five weeks and then whether it cost us an arm or a leg, we were going to make sure we went back and saw the people who said that they wanted to see us for a long time. It was decided then, really, that we were going to make it happen and I’m really pleased we are.
TAS: Is there anywhere you’re looking forward to going in particular?
Orlando: I think the whole thing is going to feel brand new. It’s our first headline [North American] tour, we’ve never been to Canada, we’ve never been to quite a lot of these cities. It’s all going to feel fresh and we get to do it with a couple of our friends in America, [bands] we’ve known for a long time. It’s going to be a real touring party. We’re bringing a guy called Gambles, a friend of ours named Matthew [Siskin] who was with Levy. And then, Reputante — a New York band and the singer James Levy [Ed. Note: and Tim Wheeler of Ash]. James has released five or six records and Matthew’s just about to release his first solo record, which is beautiful. It’s a good night out! I’d go and see those two play.
TAS: You’ll be playing New York on Valentine's Day. Are you romantics? Do you have anything special planned?
Orlando: I don’t know! We’re still struggling to make some new songs, I think if we bust out “Nothing Compares 2U” I don’t think that will make the night. We’ve been talking about it.
TAS: Are you hoping to have several new songs?
Orlando: Today we’ve been trying to bully a couple of songs into presentable shape.
TAS: Any titles yet?
Orlando: No! We haven’t even got an ending for two of them, so for the moment, I think a title would be a little bit cart before the horse.
TAS: You have supported so many bands, like Florence and the Machine and the Black Keys. What have you learned from other headliners to be a great headliners yourselves? What will you try to avoid?
Orlando: I went on tour with a band for five weeks and I think I got eye contact from one of them, once. So I think eye contact is a big thing. I’ve learned that eye contact is underrated. The Florence tours — we’d never experienced generosity like that. She had 30-something people with her on that tour and would happily go with every single one of them for a drink and I think that’s testament to her, her band and her crew. That’s the thing; it’s got to feel like family, especially when it’s so far from home. And it did. Eye contact and make it feel like family.
TAS: Is there anything that you request on a rider?
Orlando: No, but we did go into a venue once and Mötley Crüe had been there the day before us. Their list was there and it included an AK-47 and a boa constrictor. No trace of the snake. Or the AK-47. We think the snake took it.
The Maccabees North American Tour:
02/08 -- Varsity Theater - Minneapolis, MN*
02/09 -- Lincoln Hall - Chicago, IL*
02/11 -- Mod Club - Toronto*
02/12 -- Cabaret Mile End - Montreal*
02/14 -- Bowery Ballroom - New York, NY
02/15 -- The Sinclair - Boston, MA*
02/16 -- Music Hall of Williamsburg - Brooklyn, NY
02/17 -- Black Cat - Washington, DC*
02/19 -- Masquerade - Atlanta, GA
02/21 -- Trees - Dallas, TX*
02/22 -- Fitzgerald's - Houston, TX
02/23 -- The Parish - Austin, TX*
02/25 -- El Plaza - Mexico City *
The great American punk band Mission of Burma has spent the last decade not only relishing its reunification, but reinvigorated by it. The band's last year has been especially fecund with fresh, vibrant material with the release of Unsound, the group's fifth studio album, and a retrospective collection, Learn How.
Mission of Burma — singer/guitarist Roger Miller, bassist Clint Conley, drummer Peter Prescott and multi-instrumentalist/engineer Bob Weston — has also announced a handful of Stateside tour dates this winter thus far, including a trip to New York to play Bowery Ballroom on January 18 and Cambridge's The Sinclair in Harvard Square on January 19.
TAS asked MIller if he'd keep a tour diary of Mission of Burma's December jaunt through Europe for us and he wrote of the band's travels, from Wiltshire, England's Stonehenge, where it's difficult to avoid joking about "Spinal Tap," to the snowy Swiss Alps, where Mission of Burma's members showed off their fine, Boston-bred ice skaing skills:
Mission of Burma European Tour Blog, December 2012:
Stonehedge on a sunny day
UK (December 6):
We had to hit Stonehenge between shows in the UK. A Druidic priestess at the gate stated: "I feel something from you men. Something is not well. You make sounds larger than stones falling from on high. You insight others to mayhem." Needless to say, after buying a plastic model of the place (which we dutifully pieced together in Glasgow after acquiring the correct glue), we bade a hasty retreat before her curses set in.
Mission of Burma in the Alps
Zurich, Switzerland (December 8)
Strange - we were pretty unknown here. As Clint noted, the crowd appreciated "Comes Undone" as much as "Revolver," with no special response to either when they began. But they were totally enthusiastic. A girl came up to the merch. table at the end of the night saying: "I never heard of you guys before tonight -— where have you been all my life?" Quite a change after the UK, where we are quite known.
After the Zurich gig we spent the night at a relative of Bob's (his wife has Swiss blood) in an amazing church-like building on the hillside over Lake Obertz. The next day we had off, so we all went skating on the frozen lake down the slope. Most of us hadn't been skating for years but it came back quickly. Pete especially had the strong ankles and was way ahead of the pack most of the time. I generally prefer being barefoot if it's warm enough, so I have an odd love/hate relationship to skating.
At any rate, I was generally the last one in the reindeer games on this occasion. Skating is one of our things, so we all brought our skates from the States. Because they have blades on them, we had to put them into guitar cases and the big box/tub we use for guitar cables and stomp boxes — those babies would never pass TSA in any country.
After skating we returned, ankles sore, to the church on the mountain slope where our hosts had prepared an excellent fondue-style feast, replete with a log fire. Plenty of grappa to go around, so that pretty much put any more "action" out of the way for the rest of the day. But it was a fun time, as we had just played nine nights in a row and needed to relax. We were all seriously entertained by the goats in the courtyard, which inexplicably bleated all throughout dinner. Great times. We live for the times off where we actually get to see stuff other than the inside of clubs.
Zagreb soundcheck, a bit chilly
Zagreb, Croatia (December 10-11):
Zagreb was quite great. Their appreciation for our behavior ran deep. The local beer, Velebitsko, was quite excellent. Our host just barely escaped being drafted into the Bosnian War, avoiding going house to house killing people. He was grateful for that fact, and we for him. A true gent.
The Holocaust Memorial, Berlin
Berlin (December 12-13):
The Holocaust Memorial had a rather profound feel to it. Never forget. Wait — where's the memorial in the U.S. for the Indians we did the same to, systematically putting them into reservations/concentration camps and annihilating them with no remorse? Ah well, this is the U.S. Responsibility is for others.
The Ramones museum had all sorts of artifacts of Ramonian Nature. We thought it might be too goofy to visit, but it was really kind of a trip rummaging through the museum. Berlin really has it all.
Pete got sucked into the vortex in Den Haag
Den Haag, Netherlands (December 14-15):
The show in Den Haag, Netherlands, was the only show that didn't really connect. It could be that Pete got sucked into the vortex during "Learn How." A few moments later he reappeared in the audience, clambered back onstage, and led us into a rousing version of "Class War." But by then, half the audience had left. "What good is a rock band without a drummer?" Yeah, well ....
Next day caught the M.C. Escher Museum. Hallucinatory Mathematics was Mr. Escher's rule of thumb. Works for me.
Overall the tour definitely did its job. Rock was dispensed; rock was ingested. Jimi Hendrix played guitar as we crossed the low mountain pass into the Czech Republic. Lemmy vocalized (sic) over the plains of northern Italy. Such it is as it is.
— Roger Miller, Mission of Burma, December 2012
As The Alternate Side staff sifts through EPs and singles on a daily basis, discovering up-and-coming bands — especially those without a debut album yet — there are always a few that we find ourselves championing tirelessly to anyone who'll listen to us.
It's difficult to ascertain the chance of a new name breaking a big way, despite the hype of blog love or tastemaking lists like the BBC Sound of 2013, but the bands and artists we'd like to take over the world this year include Chvrches, Savages, AlunaGeorge, Public Service Broadcasting, Hunters, Pins, Angel Haze, Guards, Fidlar, Milk & Biscuits and Indians. The bands we love — and why — are below:
Russ Borris (TAS/WFUV Host, WFUV's Assistant Music Director)
2012 Picks: Guineafowl, Hospitality, Alabama Shakes
Led by Richie Follin (brother of Cults' singer Madeline Follin), this Brooklyn band will release their full-length debut, In Guards We Trust, on February 5. Catchy, well-crafted songs that sound well produced without sounding overproduced.
Armed with a drum set, drum pads, keyboards, laptops and video controllers, Robert DeLong has made one of the catchiest songs I've heard in a while: "Global Concepts" certainly warrants serious attention. Look for his debut album Just Movement in January.
Hailing from London, this all-female, post-punk pop band absolutely shreds on this song called "Husbands." There's a fierceness to it mixed with a Joy Division and Siouxsie and The Banshees vibe. Oh, and a little "Holiday in Cambodia," too. Really impressive.
Alisa Ali (TAS Host, WFUV Producer and On-Air Interviewer)
2012 Picks: Alabama Shakes, Tony Castles, 2:54
Great Scots! I am really looking forward to hearing more from this Glasgow trio. The two songs I've heard so far, "The Mother We Share" and "Lies," are serious ear candy, much like the first Passion Pit album (Chvrches toured with Passion Pit), although Chvrches have a more electronic feel to them, like The Knife. They will be releasing a full length in 2013; no date yet announced. In the meantime, check out their impressive debut gig at the Art School in Glasgow from this past July where they played "Lies."
Dan Croll is the English Reeses Peanut Butter Cup of new music. He's got his folk songwriter songs embedded in electronic grooves and, much like the peanut butter chocolate combo, it's a winning creation. His debut album will come out in 2013, but his EP is out now. You've probably already heard us playing his current single, "From Nowhere," on The Alternate Side, but in case you missed it, listen below.
For "Cheap Bear" and good times, Fidlar are the L.A. punks for you. I can't play "Cheap Beer" on the show (there's a cuss word), so you'll have to follow the link to hear that song. They've got a couple of singles out now, but they'll release a full-length debut on Mom + Pop Records on January 22. Check out their vintage Creedence-flavored video for the song, "Gimme Something"
Eric Holland (TAS Weekend Host, WFUV Host)
2012 Picks: 13 Ghosts, Air Review, Zambri
I'm looking forward to Outernational's debut album which is due in 2013. They are an overtly political band in the spirit of The Clash who Tom Morello has worked with as a producer.
Kara Manning (TAS Content Editor/Writer, Substitute Host, WFUV/TAS On-Air Interviewer)
2012 Picks: Daughter, Lucy Rose, Friends, The 2 Bears
Public Service Broadcasting
J. Willgoose Esq. and Wrigglesworth might sound as if they belong in a P.G. Wodehouse novel, but the pair, who call themselves Public Service Broadcasting, are actually a London electronic duo. They cleverly marry vintage public information films and documentary footage, much found at the British Film Institute, with criss-crossing threads of krautrock, dance rock and synth pop, like the precocious children of Lemon Jelly and Neu! Singles like the dazzling "Spitfire," from The War Room EP, and the kaleidoscopic "ROYGBIV" are beautifully produced, often emotionally stirring and their accompanying videos, like "Everest" below, visually arresting. Public Service Broadcasting will release its debut album, Inform-Educate-Entertain, this spring and will launch a lengthy UK tour in May.
Yes, the London quartet Fiction might indulge into some retro-'80s flourishes — there's elements of Orange Juice, Echo & the Bunnymen, ABC, the English Beat and Talking Heads skittering about their music — but they do it with such aplomb that it works perfectly. Their cheeky single "Careful" was one of my favorites of 2012 and Fiction will release their new single, "Museum" (below) and their debut album, The Big Other, on March 4 on Moshi Moshi.
Milk & Biscuits
Is it possible to develop a loopy band crush over just one single? Yes it is. Last month, Brighton "supergroup" Milk & Biscuits — founded by Matthew Davies and Max Erle — released a fetching and completely addictive single, "White Noise," which takes an inspired, left-of-center, punked-out poetic detour near the song's end. Milk & Biscuits, which released its first EP Balcony Times in 2011, is readying a debut album, Spirit Nap, this year on Big Salad Records, but fans of Belle & Sebastian and the exquisite pairing of Pastels/Tenniscoats might want to look these scrappy and sweet-sounding Brits up immediately.
Manchester's explosive, eerie but oddly nonchalent Pins set off their singles, like "Eleventh Hour," "Say To Me," and the title track of their new EP, "Luvu4lyf," like slow-burning fuses on a series of time bombs. They sound like they don't give a damn (they do), their sinewy songs dawdle and seethe, and they they probably belong in Williamsburg, but the fact that they don't, brooding fitfully in the same city that gave birth to Joy Division and A Certain Ratio, makes this all-female quartet even more fascinating.
Sarah Wardrop (TAS Substitute Host, WFUV Assistant Program Director, WFUV Music Weekend Host)
2012 Picks: Alabama Shakes, Gary Clark, Jr., The Cold and Lovely
Amy Klein left Titus Andronicus in 2011 to try out some new creative adventures, and to say the least, she's kept busy. Writing and the band Leda are two projects, and another is a duo with drummer Catherine Tung, called Hilly Eye. They're set to release their debut, Reasons to Live, on January 22, and the single "Amnesia" previews the raw delicacy and distortion to come.
The UK duo of Aluna Francis and George Reid released the EP You Know You Like It earlier this year, and its title track was one of my favorites of 2012. Now they've come in at No. 2 for the BBC Sound of 2013 award in anticipation of their full-length, debut album. I guess I'm not the only one looking forward to it.
I first heard the hard-to-Google Indians (a.k.a. Copenhagen's Søren Løkke Juul) ahead of our CMJ Showcase at The Living Room. The title of the song "I Am Haunted" pretty much sums up my reaction to his sound, which manages to merge expansive dreaminess and intimacy. Look for Indians' debut album, Somewhere Else, out on January 29. [video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZhvxpIXy78]
Although Brooklyn's Spirit Animal craft athletic psychedlic rock, the band found itself briefly hobbled in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Like so many other people in the area, Spirit Animal's members were hit with storm damage, losing instruments and recordng gear.
Nevertheless, the quartet, which recently released their EP This Is A Test, which is available for a free download on the band's Bandcamp site or the widget below, shook off the stormy setback and embarked on a brief tour earlier this month, traveling down the East coast. Spirit Animal — singer and Moog master Steve Cooper, drummer Ronen Evron, bassist Paul Michel an guitarist Cal Stamp — will be heading out on wintry roads next year too, beginning on January 17 in Chicago and making their way back to New York to play a late show at Mercury Lounge on February 1.
Curious about their travels this December — including a Hurricane Sandy benefit that Spirit Animal played in Nyack, New York —The Alternate Side asked the band members if they'd do a tour blog and Steve Cooper sent back a detailed account of Spirit Animal's adventures, accompanied by a Bruno Mars soundtrack and the greasy residue of chicken nuggets.
December 15, Rock 'n' Roll Hotel, Washington, D.C.
We couldn't have asked for a better beginning to this tour. For starters, we remembered Road Trip Pro Tip #1: when dipping chicken nuggets in sweet and sour sauce while driving, always remove your scarf and jacket. This way, if you totally wipe out and a nugget ricochets off your collarbone you still have a chance to cover up the mess for showtime using the scarf and jacket you so brilliantly removed.
As for the show, it was the perfect kickoff for a few reasons: a) D.C. is our surrogate hometown since a few of us lived in the area and started our careers there b) It was the opener's (Kin Heads) first show and they drew a big crowd of new faces c) We discovered that Paul [Michel] still has the flexibility of an adolescent gymnast.
December 16, Habitat for Humanity Benefit, Nyack, NY
Nyack has a very quaint vibe even though it's only 45 minutes north of New York City. It sits high up on a hill and you can see the Hudson River for a long stretch towards the end of the drive. We lost most of our backline and some of Paul's recording gear in Hurricane Sandy, so participating in this benefit hit home for us. The mood wasn't somber at the event, though, it was very local and festive with people from the neighborhood milling about, food vendors giving taste tests, and a filled-up donations area. Someone had donated a Raggedy Ann doll and when I saw it, I was amazed at how iconic the doll still is. The photo booth came equipped with ridiculous props and wigs which afforded us the opportunity to take our first ever, family style Christmas pic.
December 18, Mercury Lounge, New York, NY
We'd never played the early show at Mercury before (they have early and late [set times] each night), but as it was the end of December, it was dark outside by the time we were loading in, so it was actually indistinguishable from previous Mercury Lounge experiences. Churchill was very welcoming and played a great show. It was packed, so some of our newer material -- which is heavier on the crowd participation demands -- got a solid workout . [Ed. note: the two photos below are courtesy of Michael DiGiovanni]
December 19, The Fire, Philadelphia, PA
Jim's Cheesesteaks had literally no line after the show. Translation: The night was a huge success. [Sidenote: Sadly, the joy surrounding how quickly we'd gotten to eat our cheesesteaks and how damn good our cheesesteaks were did not prevent us from winding up in a heated, multi-day dispute about the right way to order a cheesesteak and, further, how one's cheesesteak order relates to the value of one's opinion about food henceforth. Boys will be boys.]
December 20, All Asia, Boston, MA
We thought we were ahead of the game leaving a full nine hours before we needed to be at All Asia ... but it was barely enough. Boston traffic was batty. Luckily, we had been falling for the new Bruno Mars song, "Natalie," so we kept the van rocking on repeat mixed with new favorites like Haim and one of Paul's go-to road rage pick-me-ups/get-me-downs, Cloudkicker's "Beacons." Even something as highly syncopated and aggressive as that was no match for Paul's unabated hatred of traffic, however. Since this was an early-ish show we had time to meet up with buds after the gig who run a cool Electronic Music School called Mmmmaven. They throw parties at a space called Middlesex as well. It has a banging new sound system so we knocked a few back and danced up on some strangers.
December 21, The Space, Hamden, CT
The last night proved to be pretty unique. Hamden is a suburb of a relatively tiny city (New Haven) and The Space is located in what looks like a small business complex. Even odder, the structure that houses the stage is this kind of stand-alone "house" in the middle of the parking lot. On the way there other artists had told us they'd played there and loved it, and once we arrived we saw stickers and posters from all kinds of bands like Races, Two Gallants, even Cisco Adler. The showroom is all ages, so there's no alcohol, but they have a separate structure across the parking lot, The Outer Space, that has beer and wine and was hosting a craft/homebrew festival that doubled as a fundraiser (in conjunction with a Kickstarter campaign), to open a new venue called Spaceland Ballroom. It was all very hip and unexpected.
— Steve Cooper, December 2012
Spirit Animal 2013 Tour Dates
1/17 - El ‘n’ Gee (New London, CT)
1/20 - Woodruff’s (Ann Arbor, MI)
1/21 - Cause (Minneapolis, MN)
1/23 - The Whistler (Chicago, IL)
1/24 - Blind Bob’s (Dayton, OH)
1/25 - Zazoo’s (Louisville, KY)
2/1 - Mercury Lounge (New York, NY)