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TAS In-Studio

Foals: TAS In Session

Foals' kinetic live shows have anchored the Oxford band artistically, as aptly described by the title of the quintet's powerful third album, Holy Fire. There's an emotional grandeur and confidence to the new album, reflecting Foals' determination to forge fresh paths, unsettling old habits.

The band is on a lengthy North American tour and returns to New York for the Governor's Ball Music Festival on June 9. They'll also play a busy festival season, including Glastonbury, Latitude and Fuji Rock, this summer.

A few weeks ago Foals did a session for The Alternate Side and frontman Yannis Philippakis discussed the unusual recording of the album, which involved the boiling of bones and broken microphones.

Below, watch Foals play two songs from Holy Fire, read highlights of Philippakis' interview,  and listen to the entire session when it airs this Friday, May 31, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11 a.m., also streaming online:

UPDATE: Listen to the TAS session with Foals in the FUV archive now.

Russ Borris: How are you today?

Yannis Phillippakis: I’m pretty good! It’s good to be in New York. We’ve been touring around the country and stuff and we’ve just been in the wilds of Louisiana so it’s nice to be somewhere with paving on the streets.

Russ: Less swampy! New record is called Holy Fire. The new record represents the constant evolution of the band. What was different about the recording process?

Yannis: I think the psychology of the band was slightly different. We felt more confident making this record. We didn’t feel like we had as much to prove in certain ways as we did with the start of the band. We had a real hunger to liberate ourselves from feeling like we needed to make a certain kind of album or have an album that was cohesive. We wanted to make a record that was as diverse as possible yet still sounding like us. We pushed out all of the boundaries and perimeters. We tried to push them away and make something that was more governed by intuition. We’d write stuff on a gut feeling. If we felt good about something, we rolled with it. We wouldn’t analyze it or discuss it very much.

Russ: Did you used to overthink the record?

Yannis: Yeah, I think so. Definitely. It was a natural thing to do, just because of who we are. We can be a little bit neurotic and we also really care about everything we make. We definitey used to wormhole a little bit and we realized that it became counterproductive. You’d destroy everything that you make. You’d make something and then feel dissatisfied. We tried to recraft it into something that would give us fulfillment. The fact that we’re older now; we realized that it doesn’t need to be like that. We can open a window, now and then, and let things breathe. Take a walk. Not place so much value on everything. We overpressured the whole thing in the past. Some of that is necessary. You have to suffer a bit for your art. But when it becomes counterproductive, you have to know when to press the “off” switch.


Russ: I think you did vary things up. The album feels diverse in a lot of ways; it feels bigger, a little grander, even a little edgier, like “Inhaler.” Or in “Providence,” which sounds a little gospel.

Yannis: That song is definitely a weird one. It was a Frankenstein of various things that came together. I don’t know where the gospel line came from. I’d been listening to some gospel and stuff, but it just seemed to fit over the track. We went to record it in London — the opening bit of vocal is just the live take of it in the room, recorded through a shoddy mic. I had a broken mic I was singing into and it would be feeding back into an old, broken amp in the room … as well as having a proper, clean take. We just decided to use the lo-fi version of it because it felt more like those old Alan Lomax recordings.

Russ: That must be fun to stumble across things in the recording process that you don’t plan or think on.

Yannis: Yeah, that’s the best bit about being in a studio, really. For me, it’s the best bit about making music: going into a studio and just having an adventure and trying out different things. We’ve never been the kind of band that just goes in and bashes out the tracks and gets nice, neat versions of everything and then we leave. We like to get weird on it. We see the songs almost as bits of elastic that you can try to push and pull into as many different directions. The one that it fits the best is the way you should go. We did a bunch of weird stuff in the studio. We collected a load of bones for percussion and we sampled various insects and embedded it into some of the tracks so that there’s this organic, weird menace.

Russ: You said bones?

Yannis: Yeah, the bones didn’t actually make it onto the record but we went to some lengths to collect bones from butchers. Like shoulder blades, rib cages ….

Russ: Cow bones, chicken bones?

Yannis: And some sheep. And then we boiled them all down and got the gristle and the cartiledge off. And they didn’t sound that great.

Russ: So you did all of the work … and it wasn’t that useful. A letdown.

Yannis: Yes, but you have to go to those extremes to find something good. In that instance, it didn’t work. It’s important to go to those lengths.


Russ: I love that version of “Moon,” more stripped-down. There’s something that really matches the title. It feels atmospheric and spacy.

Yannis: Thanks. That song was written in the way that we played it. It was just me and Jimmy in a dark little room in Oxford one night. We had some bottles of wine and I think I’d recently watched [Lars von Trier's] “Melancholia.” We wanted to write an apocalyptic song, but one that had peace in it — be accepting of your fate, entropy and all those things. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record and to play live.

Russ: You knew that was the closer.

Yannis: We did, actually. It was so melancholic and it feels like a last gasp of air. There was never anything that was going to follow it.

Russ: You guys worked with Flood and Alan Moulder on this record and that has to be half thrilling and half intimidating. What was that like?

Yannis: It was cool. It was a bit intimidating, I guess. What was really good for us, and we benefitted from the process, was having two people whose records we really loved growing up and we implicity trusted them. From the moment that they were on board to make the record, that helped us with confidence and stuff like that because you feel, if Alan Moulder and Flood want to work with us and they think this song or riff is great, it’s going to be great, right?

Russ: There’s a storied history with these guys, a crediblity, that they automatically bring into the room. So they’re working with you … and that’s got to bring credibility to you at the same time.

Yannis: Totally. Just within the chemistry of making a record. We were talking about some of the more destructive tendancies that the band had had in the past. Some of that was born out of an insecurity or paranoia within making a record, that it wasn’t going to be good enough. So then we’d end up second-guessing ourselves or the producer that we were working with in the past and not be entirely trusting of them. Just as a foundation to build a record on, this time, to have that belief and admiration for the people we’re working with just meant the whole process was way more positive. Even when we’d have problems, it wasn’t beset by a type of real impending doom feeling where you’re like, “We’ve made a lame record.” The whole time we had a belief that we’d made this record that was going to be great. It feels good.

Russ: What is it that they bring to the table that eased things for you?

Yannis: Various things. They’re very different characters. Flood’s kind of like the Mad Hatter of the session. He’s the one with the weird ideas and he’s not bothered with using pro-audio stuff. He just wants to put an SM7 in the room and get a take, get a vibe. He duped us. When we first went in, he wanted to do reference versions of all of the material we had. We had a lot of songs. He said that we were just going to do demo versions, so don’t worry. There’s no red light. And actually, we were doing demo versions but they became, often, the actual album version because we played in a way that was unconscious and free. Sometimes the problem with takes is that you feel that you’re being recorded. He totally sidestepped that by tricking us. I take my hat off to him. We’d hear back the takes — say we did a demo take and then a proper one the week later — and we’d A and B them and there’d be a humanity to the takes where we weren’t aware. Your ego kicks in when you’re told you’re doing a take because you want to make it great, but it doesn’t come off as well out of the speakers. A large majority of the record was done in that way. Unconscious takes at the start of the session.

Russ: From Antidote to now, what have you learned about yourselves as a band?

Yannis: Oh, so much. When we started the band we came from a very specific scene in Oxford that was quite constricting in many ways. It was po-faced, indebted to post-rock and all this stuff. When we started the band, it wasn’t something that started naturally. We had a pre-idea of what we wanted it to be, so there were almost rules at the beginning, an aesthetic. Perimeters. We wanted to make very precise, clean-sounding music with guitars that was indebted to techno and Steve Reich. We had this idea of what we wanted to sound like. That was exciting to us at the time, something we believed it, not a schtick or some marketing thing. We had an appetite to make that. But since then, everything has been about deconstructing all of those rules and doing the opposite. Creating more space for ourselves and trusting each other. Allowing it to be something that’s governed more by the five of us in the room and the energy that comes about from the five of us. I guess it’s become a little more hippie as it’s gone on! We just know a bit more about what we’re doing now.

Watch The National Perform 'Graceless' In Session With WFUV

Watch The National play "Graceless" off of its new album, Trouble Will Find Me, for FUV at the Cutting Room Studios in Manhattan, on now.

The National has steadily held our attention ever since their 2001 self-titled debut. Over the years, the band has developed a uniquely somber yet lush style. The musical arrangements ebb and flow like tides and often have an eerie and tense feel to them — as though you may get pulled into an undertow. But there are also moments of serenity and joy in their sound. It is not lighthearted, easy-listening pop; it's rousing and dramatic music with poetically dark and evocative lyrics.

The music is created by two sets of brothers — The Devendorfs and The Dessners — with Scott and Bryan Devendorf on bass and drums respectively, and twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner who both play guitar. The deep baritone voice of the band belongs to Matt Berninger, who writes the lyrics.

Today marks the release of the band's sixth full-length album, Trouble Will Find Me. We'll air this session tonight at 9 p.m. ET on 90.7 WFUV and you can also ilsten to it now in the FUV archives.

Be sure to check out the amazing videos of The National performing some of the new material from The Cutting Room Studios here in New York City.


Daughter: TAS In Session

When London's Daughter visited FUV and The Alternate Side last October, the band members — three self-professed perfectionists — were still working on their debut album, If You Leave, still tweaking their 10-track collection.

The critcally-acclaimed album, which tempestuously shifts between stormy confessions and whispered ruminations, was finally released in March on Glassnote Records in the States and 4AD in the UK.

Daughter wraps its first lengthy (and mostly sold-out) North American headlining tour this Wednesday in Los Angeles. However, singer-songwriter Elena Tonra, guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella will be back Stateside rather quickly. The trio tour with The National this summer, beginning August 4 in Indianapolis, IN. They'll be tirelessly making the rounds of UK,  European, North American and Japanese festivals as of next month, bounding from Glastonbury to Fuji Rock to San Francisco's Outside Lands.

In addition, Daughter have, much to their surprise, found themselves with an unexpected YouTube hit, going viral a few weeks ago with a melancholy cover of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," recorded for BBC's Radio 1, which has already registered over 1.2 million hits. They gracefully deflected shouted requests to play the song again during their Bowery Ballroom show on May 1, but haven't completely ruled out the possibility of bringing the cover into their set at a future date.

When Daughter passed through New York a few weeks ago, Haefeli and Aguilella stopped by for a conversation with The Alternate Side (Tonra was battling a cold).

Listen to the interview, including performance highlights from Daughter's fall 2012 TAS session, this Friday, May 24, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11 a.m. ET, also streaming online.

UPDATE: Listen to Daughter's session now in the FUV archives.


Kara Manning: Last time you were touring the States you didn’t have an album out and now you do. Can you discuss the steps that were made in altering and shapeshifting your sound from your EPs to your debut If You Leave?

Igor Haefeli: I don’t know if it’s shapeshifting, but it’s definitely carving and fine-tuning what we wanted to do sonically speaking. For us it’s been a progression; we’ve mutated in lots of different ways. It was sort of a goal and we went step by step with each EP. His Young Heart, that was recorded in a bedroom and it was very much just a few mics, a few guitars and that was it. It was more to showcase the songs and Elena’s voice. The second one, that’s where Remi really became more active in the creation of the EP. We went into a proper studio that time with a producer, Ian Grimble, and we spent a lot of time working on those four tracks. We were way more careful than we were with the album in a way! We wanted to make a statement because we thought we might have been slightly misunderstood with the EP. People were calling us folk.

Kara: You recorded the album in a piecemeal form and when we last spoke, you’d worked with Rodhaidh McDonald, but you also brought Jolyon Thomas into the mix. He has worked with M83 and Maps and I wondered what textures he brought in. Igor, you had produced one of the EPs?

Igor: Exactly, the second one I just did more additional production. But on the album, I did cover quite a bit of the production. Rodhaidh came, we had three weeks with him where he worked on creative mixing and additional production. When we did th last interview, we had reached a point where we could finish and deliver the album, but it just didn’t feel right. We weren’t ready. So we got put in touch with Ken Thomas who mixed the album and Ken referred us to his son Jolyon. We re-recorded three songs in a more live setting — “Youth,” “Shallows” and “Tomorrow" — the three songs we’d played live before, were a bit more rehearsed and ready to be played as a band.

Kara: “Youth” was the only song to make the leap from an EP to the final album. Why?

Remi Aguilella: It was a song that definitely connected at our live shows. Again, “Tomorrow” and “Shallows” are also songs that we played before live [and hadn’t been released] but it felt right to put those three songs on the record. There’s a couple of other songs that could have made it, older songs, but didn’t feel right.

Igor: “Youth” felt like it really went well with the feeling of loneliness that Elena wanted to express in the record. At some point we thought of bringing in the EP version, just remixing it, but we tried that and it didn’t feel right at all. So that’s where we re-recorded it and sonically, it felt like it was really fitting the rest of the record.


Kara: You did a cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” for BBC Radio 1. Such an inspired cover! Were you asked to do that or was it something you were being very cheeky about doing.

Remi: It was a choice. The day it came out, we began listening to it.

Igor: It came out a bit later in the Europe than it did in the US. Like three or four days before we played the cover.

Remi: We knew we had to do a cover for that particular session and we just didn’t know what song to choose. The day before the session was the only time we could rehearse it. We tried it, it seemed to work fine for us, so we tried it.

Igor: We were quite happy with it, actually. We’d only had one day to get something together. For the live [covers], it needs to be relevant to Radio 1 and playlisted, and that seemed, for us, one of the best choices out of the songs available to cover.

Kara: Is there any temptation to record it as a B-side? There have been so many YouTube hits of it.

Igor: I think we’d need Daft Punk’s approval for that! But maybe we’ll play it live, we don’t know.

Remi: Haven’t really thought about it!

Igor: We didn’t expect this reaction at all. It’s been amazing. Most people seem to be really liking it. Never say never.

Kara: Looking ahead, you’re playing Latitude, you’re playing Glastonbury. Massive festivals. Massive crowds. Yet the music is so intimate and what Elena is singing about is so raw. Have you adjusted your live shows to accommodate that?

Igor: Having played a few festivals last year and playing big stages at those festivals, we seem to have found some form of balance. Obviously, you work on set lists and stuff, take out a few songs that might be too long, but in general, it’s all worked out quite naturally. It’s great to have a bit of rowdyness that you do with bigger crowds. It goes with the vibe of the festivals. But we’ve just done a European tour and our own headline shows and we played a few big venues. Somehow, it seems to work. It is weird, though, to play to 800 people and everyone being dead silent.

But I think it’s thanks to Elena’s lyrics. This form of intimacy that is created every night … we’ve also brought in a fourth musician to play with us to play the the new songs. We make him play keyboads. Anything we need him to play, he plays! It’s such a fine line. It’s quite difficult to walk that walk, in away. To get it to work. There are times that we feel quite vulnerable on stage — I’m talking for myself now — but if you look at our setting and songs, [we wonder] if it’s going to work with this crowd tonight?

Kara: You’re going to be opening for Sigur Rós on some dates. That’s a band that has a similar aesthetic as you; an intimate, but expansive sound that draws the crowd together. Do you think what you discover live will inform the next album?

Igor: I think so. For example, we haven’t really taken that consciously into consideration, but we were playing festivals, going back to London and recording for two weeks, and then going back on tour, and then going back to record. So, in a way, that informs how you’re going to think about the song and record. At the same time, we were in a bubble. So that’s why when we came back from tour, we had to come down a bit from the whole high that you get when you’re on tour. Again, be a bit more introspective.

Remi: At the same time, most of the songs were not written on the road. So you get this balance of playing a big stage in front of a lot of people, and at the same time, going back home and working on the songs. So, again, you’re back in your small room. You’ll get that weird balance between playing a song that was written in a small room, for yourself, and then playing it in front of a lot of people who obviously came for that sound. Sigur Rós and Bon Iver have made it work.

Kara: Can you tell me a little about the evolution of “Tomorrow,” a song you’d been doing live for a while?

Igor: Elena completely wrote that song by herself ages ago. That’s the first song that we began playing as a three-piece. Funny enough, that’s a song that Elena wrote and for a project in music school, she used it. That’s where we both met Remi, Elena and me, because he was drumming for our school project.

Kara: Your songwriting class. Igor: Yeah, it was like an arranging thing and that’s where Remi came into the equation.

Kara: So this song has a lot of resonance in the history of Daughter.

Remi: For sure!

Igor: Again, it fits the whole aethetic of loneliness and being worried about loneliness really well.


Kara: The three of you bring so much to the process of Daughter, but Elena is the one who writes the lyrics. And she goes to a very dark place sometimes. Does she really need a break and to get away from everyone to write?  

Igor: Yeah. Definitely. Elena really needs to go into what she calls her “dark room” and lay down her thoughts into some form of song. That gets worked on later, but the lyrics often come quite early and remain unchanged throughout the whole process of building a song.

Kara: So you’ll build the song around the lyrics? Or does it work in tandem?

Igor: Often, yes. On the album, the process started changing, but very often that’s how it works. I reckon, at least for us and for most bands where the singer has something to say, it really needs to start from there or it doesn’t work. Having worked with Elena quite closely, you can bring her a chord progression but if it doesn’t inspire her or bring anything to her, it doesn’t work.

Remi: You can’t force it. Igor: You can work for months on that but it’s never going to feel as genuine and honest as [when] Elena brings it first. Again, the process is changing and there’s not rule to it.

Kara: Is she a slow writer or write quite quickly, in a fit of inspiration?

Igor: It’s very sporadic. It’s definitely fits of inspiration. It just happens like that. The lyrics just arrive and they don’t change. That’s what I find amazing. It’s just there. It’s really strange; it’s like a painter would paint a painting once and he’d done. He’s not going to rework it or change it. Obviously, sometimes, there’s a slight tweak. But it’s great because it means that that there’s not that much self-consciousness which makes it so much more honest.

Watch Iron And Wine Live At WFUV

Sam Beam is the mastermind behind Iron and Wine, and he released his first record back in 2002, called The Creek Drank the Cradle. It was an intimate and mostly acoustic affair, but over the years, Sam has expanded his sound. He's now on his fifth full-length Iron and Wine album, Ghost On Ghost, and it features lush backing vocals, strings, a horn section and a deep affection for a retro-'70s sound.

Sam brought along nearly a dozen bandmates when he recently stopped by WFUV to talk with Carmel Holt about the new album. Listen to the Iron and Wine session now in the FUV archives. See video of the live performances below, and catch Iron and Wine at The Capitol Theatre this Sunday, May 19.

More from the FUV Vault:





Haerts: TAS In Session

Newcomers Haerts are an international band, embracing members from Germany, Britain and the States. They've got just one released single to their name, the handsome and lushly retro "Wings," but the quintet is already generating early adoration from the blogosphere  and readying the release of a full-length debut later this year.

Haerts — vocalist Nini Fabi, keyboardist Ben Gebert, guitarist Garrett Ienner, bassist Derek McWilliams and drummer Jonathan Schmidt — are touring with the Shout Out Louds now and will hook up with Atlas Genius in late spring, playing with the latter at Bowery Ballroom on June 18.

Below, watch Haerts perform "Wings" and a new track, "Hearts," in Studio A and listen to their TAS session this Friday, May 17, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE, also streaming online.  

UPDATE: Listen to Haerts in session now in the TAS and FUV archives.

Alisa Ali: How did you all meet? Some of you are from Germany, some from England and some from the United States.

Ben Gebert: We’ve all been playing in different bands, been involved in different projects, and met over the last couple of years.

Nini Fabi: I think, through different projects we were invovled with, some of us knew each other for a few years. We met Garrett through our producer. It all came together in the last year, really. We ended up in the same place and it seemed the right thing, to play together.

Alisa: The band name is “Haerts,” but it’s pronounced “hearts.” Why did you choose to spell it that way?

Garrett Ienner: We just liked to do it that way.

Alisa: I spoke to Chvrches and they said the reason [they used a “v”] is so that when people Google them, they could find the band instead of a million churches. So I thought that might have been your thinking?

Nini: I think that’s just what the name is. There might be a lot of stories about how it came up and the story might change, but we just decided that’s what the name would be... When we had Haerts we knew it would be the right thing. You tell it to your friends and you know they’ll be questioning it, but you don’t care.

Alisa:  St. Lucia [Jean-Philip Grobler] has produced your single, “Wings.” Is he also going to produce the full-length record?

Nini: Yes.

Ben: We met him about three years ago through a mutual friend from Germany. We started working with him two years ago, really casual, and it ended up being a great collaboration.

Alisa: I thought you just formed last year.

Ben: Well, we started working with him a while ago. The whole Haerts project really developed in the last year.

Nini: At the beginning Haerts developed in the studio and it was Ben, me and Jean [St. Lucia] just starting to try out new things. It all came together.


Alisa: “Wings” is out now as a single, but will you include that on the album?

Ben: Yes, it will.

Alisa: I saw a video that I really liked — you guys are making a face — but I was talking to your manager who said there was a new video. Can you explain the premise of that creepy video?

Garrett: Somebody that we were working with gave us this footage.

Derek: The footage is from a PSA video that the BBC did in the late 70s. So it has a creepy vibe. But I think the PSA was about kids not messing around power lines.

Garrett: Play it safe videos that told kids how to stay out of trouble.

Nini: The original onces are way creepier since they have scary voices.

Alisa: Do you guys play it safe? Are you accident prone?

Nini: Sometimes.

Jonathan: Depends on who you’re talking to, I think.

Nini: You should check out our Instagram.

Alisa: Are there a lot of pictures of you guys falling down?

Ben: Some.

Nini: There’s a few injuries.

Ben: I touched the transformer of my old Wurlitzer and it fried me.

Derek McWilliams: I was like, Ben, don’t touch that one bit and he did. He went a different color. We had it all in bits. It was plugged in and we were trying to make it better and it didn’t work. He was glowing too.

Ben: I don’t think I ever recovered. My brain is off since then.

Derek: His hair was totally different before. I had the typical walk-up-to-the-microphone to sing and a bass amp wasn’t wired properly. I walked to the mic and it put a massive electric shock into my mouth.

Alisa: What’s that taste like?

Derek: Like lightning really. Like blood and foil.

Jonathan Schmidt: Like when you hit your head really hard, a metallic taste.

Alisa: You all seem to know what that tastes like. Have you all been shocked?

Nini: Many times.


Alisa: Now “Heart” will be released on your forthcoming full-length album. Progress report?

Ben: Right now we’re figuring out the whle concept and flow of the album. I’d say between 10-12 [songs].

Garrett: Regular album length.

Alisa: Do you have 10 or 12 songs?

Ben: We have a lot of material.

Nini: We’ve recorded so much material over the last year and I think it doesn’t really matter how many tracks there are for us; it just has to feel right. We want everything to be a cohesive album and we’ll know when that happens. I think we have all of the songs at this point. We just have to fine tune it and get it ready.

Alisa: Find what you like the best?

Nini: That’s part of it.

Garrett: And make some finishing touches on the album. We just got back from Nashville where we were recording for a couple of months.

Alisa: And where you filmed your new video for “Wings.”

Garrett: The day after the recording session, actually.

Alisa: Is the vinyl copy of “Wings” your first piece of recorded material?

Jonathan: It’s the first physical copy of anything we’ve done.

Alisa: Will you put out the album on vinyl as well?

Ben: Absolutely. Always wanted to have a full-length album on vinyl. It seemed like such a cool thing.



The Black Angels: TAS In Session

Indebted to the Velvet Underground, Austin's The Black Angels have shaped their own style of darkly evocative psychedelic rock, spanning over four albums and shifting iineups. 

On the band's latest album, Indigo Meadow, a crisper rock sound emerges on the John Congleton-produced album, stripping away elements of The Black Angels' fuzzed-out psychedelia. Politics also step to the lyrical forefront with topical songs like "Broken Soldier" and "Don't Play With Guns." 

The Black Angels are on a lengthy North American tour this spring and will also play the UK and Europe — includeing Glastonbury—  in June and July.

Not long ago the band played an acoustic set for The Alternate Side. Watch the videos and read highlights of Russ Borris' interview with vocalist and bassist Alex Maas below and listen to the session this Friday, May 3, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11 a.m., also streaming online. 


Russ Borris: ["Don't Play With Guns"] is catchy and its got a weight subject matter. Was that one of the first ones you wrote for the record.

Alex Maas: One of the first songs that we wrote was “Indigo Meadow” and “Broken Soldier.” The lyrical content for “Guns” was created in November of 2011 or somewhere in there. We actually sat down and constructed the song in January 2012. It’s a song that’s always going to be current. It always has been and always will be until we figure out what’s going on. You never know what’s going to be on the record. You just start documenting the music.

Russ: Is it hard to let go of certain tracks?

Alex: Yeah, it’s like picking your favorite child. When you look at all the songs together, you can pick out what’s cohesive and what’s not cohesive. Some things stand out; maybe you want something incohesive. But we just put it to a vote at the end of the day. You’re a democracy.

Russ: The words I’d use to describe the record would be “cohesive” or “focused.” Did it feel like a different recording process?

Alex: The process? Not really. It was the same that we always do. We have tons of ideas and we get together and hash them out. We might take a chorus from another song and stick it on something else and mix/mash a song until we have something we like. But the process wasn’t that much different. The first two records were written in Austin and the third was written in Los Angeles. This last one was written in Torneo, Texas, on the border of Texas and Mexico. It’s another country there. It was a cool facility called Sonic Ranch, 3000 acres and four or five studios on this property. We went out there, stayed for a month and made this record. It was nice to be out there and be engulfed in the music.

Russ: It feels like how these songs come together for you guys. It’s not like, “I had this cool riff on the acoustic guitar and we’ll write some lyrics and we’ll be done in an hour.”

Alex: Songs do come together like that. Sometimes people talk about how songs come together in a dream, they wake up and hear a melody. That happens, but in terms of getting the exact song on the record, there’s more of a sonic alchemy where you have a guitar riff, but it might be better as a vocal melody. Or you have a vocal melody and it might translate better on an organ. It’s trial and error.


Russ: What is it that you guys have learned as a band, not just in the studio, but on the road about yourselves?

Alex: To be patient. Keep an open mind. Know that everything takes time. Any overnight success is very rare. Follow your heart. Russ: Everybody is working towards the same goal. Alex: Yeah, if you vote on things, it makes it seem better. You don’t have one dictator running the entire ship.

Russ: The sound you guys have some say is an acid rock or psychedelic thing. Was that always the love you guys have, the influences. Obviously, there’s the Velvet Underground where the band takes its name.

Alex: Musically, in this country, people come from all over the place. The music that we wanted to create and were most drawn to was the sound from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Whenever we started writing, naturally, that music came out. Most of our record collection was from that era. I grew up in Houston, so there was everything from old country music to hip-hop. The whole gamut. When we first got together, the core records were the Beatles, the Velvet Underground, that kind of stuff. I remember the first time I heard the Velvet Underground, I thought, “Wow.” It was so dark. “Venus in Furs.” After listening to the Beatles as a kid, I heard “Venus in Furs” and was like, “Man, that’s amazing.” It blew my mind. A game-changer for me.

Russ: You have a way of using the effects, on your vocals or your guitar, where things can get a little spooky at times. There’s a little dirtiness to it.

Alex: Haunting and spooky ... that’s a good place to be if you can get there. You can freak yourself out a little bit. But at the same time, there’s something about what the Velvet Underground did that was very pretty. There was that underlying layer of darkness, though, and not in a gothic way. If you can get the chills while you’re playing a song, with your friends, that should be a keeper song.

Caveman: TAS In Session

The members of local band Caveman have gauged their process wisely, opting to gig diligently around New York City rather than setting off in a van for the North American hinterlands.

Collaborating with producer Nick Stumpf of French Kicks, Caveman recently released its second, eponymous album on Fat Possum earlier this month. The Brooklyn quintet — Matthew Iwanusa, Jimmy Carbonetti, Stefan Marolachakis, Sam Hopkins and Jeff Berrall — will get out of the five boroughs for a bit this spring and summer, playing Sasquatch! Music Festival over Memorial Day weekend and opening for Rogue Wave beginning on June 15. That bill comes to New York on June 21 (Music Hall of Williamsburg) and June 22 (Bowery Ballroom).

Caveman recently did a live session for The Alternate Side which you can hear this Friday, April 26, at 11 a.m. EDT on TAS on 91.5 WNYE, also streaming online. Watch videos of the quintet in Studio A below.

UPDATE: Listen to Caveman in session in the WFUV archives now.

Russ Borris: What feels different between the first and second albums?

Matthew Iwanusa: I think that this new record has more of us. We got to play together for a lot so it’s kind of where we are as a team. That comes out in how much bigger the sound is on this record compared to the first one.

Jimmy Carbonetti?: Like he’s been saying, we’ve been touring together for two years since we recorded the record. We’ve already been playing music seperately a lot and together, but this time, we really were mind-reading each other. We don’t even need to talk anymore.

Matthew: We don’t talk.

Russ: Talking is overrated.

Jimmy: The trust is there. We just respect each other’s musicianship a lot and look up to one another. We play music and leave it open. Even live, things can go differently and take on its own vibe.


Russ: Before you guys were Caveman, you knew each other. When did the band get going?

Matthew: Well, Jimmy and I went to high school together. We knew each other too well, but the band got started in 2009. We started there, got everyone together and it was a great experience. Right off the bat we started to work on the record and we tried to play the biggest shows possible in the city. We tried to keep it focused to the city. Our old bands all hit the road right away and we learned a lot, personally, from that. With this project, we really built up New York.

Jimmy: From the mouth of [producer] Nick Stumpf, “Conquer your hometown.” Those were his words of advice. We met him on my birthday, my 19th.

Matthew: You were 19 and I was 18.

Jimmy: We were at Siné Bar and Jeff was working, our bass player. That’s where we met him. So it’s a coming together of best friends and Nick produced both records as well. We did the new record at Rumpus Room. Albert [Di Fiore] engineered, put down the vibe.

Russ: As a new band, you’re trying to figure out who you are and the relationship between band members. But for a guy to say, “This is what you need.”

Jimmy: New York City is a huge place to start. It’s not like you’re playing the same place once a week. You can do a borough tour.

Matthew: I felt that Nick almost acted as a manager when we first started. He played in a band called the French Kicks forever. For me, he just helped out any time I needed advice or had a question. He’s a great guy. It worked out really well.


Russ: You said that the album was a little larger. A little spacey in its bigness?

Matthew: Totally. We’ve been thinking of a lot of sci-fi movies and soundtracks. We got into that studio and it was so huge. We really focused on the sound of everything and tried to make it spaced out.

Jimmy: Like Joe said too, we were always talking about recording air and I think that’s a big part of the spatial sound too. You can have everything closed mic, but when you’re in a really big room, or a big studio, you can really feel that room. We focused on a lot of the bigger sounds and keeping it really open.

Russ: Did you do sci-fi marathons on Netflix?

Matthew: Actually Sam and I lived together for a minute, multiple times, but in this one situation we lived in the same room for four months and we watch almost every sci-fi movie on Netlix. That could be something to it.

Jimmy: It was like one long date.

Matthew: The longest date. We watched a lot of “X-Files” which was fun. I got really obsessed with it. Then Sam and Jeff got into “Battlestar Galactica” when we lived together and I got tapped out at that point.

Jimmy: At one of the truck stops when we were on tour, me and Jeff saw a DVD with twenty movies on it and we were blown away. Twenty sci-fi movies.

Matthew: Probably a two-sided disk.

Russ: Can you name any of those movies?

Jimmy: “Revenger from the Swamp Five.” That one stuck out for me.

Russ: As a band, you guys are collaborative. How do the songs start?

Matthew: It depends. There are some songs we all wrote together. A lot of times I’ll bring in a melody and a quick chord progression, we sit together and really make the whole song after that. The majority of it is a collaborative effort.

Jimmy: We all bring a vibe, turn off the lights, turn on the fog machine and it happens.

Russ: You do need a fog machine.

Jimmy: We’ve got one in the car.

Russ: If we let you guys take over and be guest DJs, what song what you want to hear.

Matthew: Probably a Stone Roses song. “Fool’s Gold” or “I Wanna Be Adored.”

Jimmy: Let’s flip a coin.

Matthew: What is that, a penny? You’re flipping a penny?

Jimmy: That’s all I got!

Russ: Let’s go heads on “I Wanna Be Adored.”

Jimmy: It’s heads.


Ra Ra Riot: TAS In Session

Ra Ra Riot has taken some dramatic turns over its seven years in existence. The band's latest shapeshifting feat on its new album, Beta Love, brings an electronic sweep to Ra Ra Riot's sound, reflecting not only a change in lineup and approach, but a new producer.

The group — Wes Miles, Matt Santos, Milo Bonacci, Rebecca Zeller, Emily Brausa and Kenny Bernard — will be touring with Postal Service this spring, playing Brooklyn's Barclays Center on June 15.  

The Syracuse-born band recently visited Studio A for a session and a conversation. Below, watch the live performance videos and listen to Ra Ra Riot this Friday, April 19, at 11 a.m. EDT on TAS on 91.5 WNYE, also streaming online

UPDATE: Listen to Ra Ra Riot's TAS session now in the FUV archives.

Alisa Ali: For your last album, The Orchard, you went to a peach orchard.

Matt Santos: Yeah, we wrote the majority of it in a peach orchard in upstate New York. Finger Lakes region. Really beautiful farm that was run by Red Jacket Orchards.

Alisa: So did you guys have millions of peaches for free?

Matt: We had hundreds of peaches for free. They were mostly, to my chagrin, white peaches. The yellow peaches were ripening as we were getting towards the middle of our stay there. We had a long weekend of shows and then they were all taken. They were all ripe and taken in the time we were gone.

Wes Miles: Just that one weekend We came back and they were gone.

Matt: We didn’t see that coming. Wes, Milo and I woke up early the day we got back and we literally had baskets and tote bags. We thought we’d go out and they’d be perfect. And all the trees were bare. That’s when the album took a dark turn.

Alisa: What about Beta Love? I heard you went to Missouri.

Matt: Mississippi actually. I have found online that some places say Missouri.

Wes: Really?

Matt: No, Oxford, Mississippi. Mostly to work with the producer [Dennis Herring]. He has what is renowned as one of the top five studios, [Sweet Tea]. in the country. One of the best, nicest, vibiest places to record. Also, his skills are to be reckoned with.

Alisa: He’s worked with Elvis Costello and Modest Mouse. What did he bring to the table?

Matt: It’s kind of hard to parse out from the rest of us. Some of the biggest things were just pushing us to do our best, to try new things.

Wes: Just with a lot of our individual performances on the record, a lot of the sounds and I think he really helped us a lot. The songs are a bit more trimmed down, I guess.

Alisa: Did they start off long?

Matt: In the demo phase, usually there’s snippet type demos — 30 seconds — and you have to fill them out. There’s also jam-type demos that are really long. We had a fair share of both, but usually we’d let those longer ones be long. We do like to jam! I think that we were, for the purposes of making this record, making a condensed, concise, purposeful sounding record.

Wes: Just like our answers to interview questions!

Alisa: This record does sound very different from your previous releases and I remember, for The Orchard, Peter Silberman of The Antlers did a crazy remix in which he took snippets from the entire album and turned it into one song. But your new record does take a more electronic approach. Was that a little bit of an influence?  

Wes: As far as The Antlers remix goes, we let artists have carte blanche. That one turned out great. Making the record, we spent a lot of time thinking about a lot of changes we could make. We had been given an opportunity to change. Our original cellist left and we also felt at the end of making The Orchard, [our process] had become restrictive and limiting. [We realized] that insisting on every instrument playing on every section of every song was actually burdensome for all of us. We got an opportunity to pare back those arrangements and that was something we were really excited about.

Matt: A lot of the electronic stuff had been floating around for a while. In our first incarnation we had a lot of electronic riffing going on, but over the years, we became a little more self-conscious about having these synth-heavy songs. But, like, “Too Too Too Fast” on The Rhumb Line or “Foolish” or “Too Dramatic” on The Orchard, you can tell the songs are built on keyboard riffs. This time around, we wanted to to be more open and go with what felt right.

Alisa: So were most of these songs composed on keyboards?

Wes: Yeah, I think so. Most of the songs I write for the band start on keyboard and a lot of times [a certain part] will sound better as a string arrangement or a guitar riff. For me, writing on keyboard is really familiar, but as Matt said, we decided to not move away from that, to not be afraid of keyboads and electronic sounds.


Alisa: The lyrics for the record are very futuristic. You were inspired by William Gibson and Ray Kurzweil. Were you all reading the same book at the same time, The Singularity is Near?

Wes: No, that kind of started a while a go. Matt read that.

Matt: I was reading that book, Ray Kurzweil's book, when we were living on the peach orchard we were talking about. I forget why I’d gotten into it. Perhaps because all of the peaches were gone and I needed some sort of salvation so I turned to this idea about technology and singularity.

Alisa: I don’t see the link between technology and peaches. Please elaborate.

Matt: I knew that once the singularity happened, I’d be able to download infinited peaches.

Wes: Infinite peaches.

Matt: I was reading that book and Wes studied science in school, so I bounced ideas off of him. We started talking about that book a lot and everyone else in the band got interested or at least were humoring us, talking about it all of the time. Part of that attitude, embracing what we were into at a given moment with this new record, I think when it came time to work on these songs, I remember Wes emailing me, “I think I’m going to write a song about Ray Kurzweil.” In the past we would have said that was awesome, but we can’t do it. But we’d been talking about these ideas, they were interesting to us, so [we thought] let’s examine them further.

Wes: The book hit us at the right moment and Matt and I are really into weird science things. From there, that was a catalyst to William Gibson and that was a big influence on the lyrics. It’s all part of the story, but we’re all reading different things.

Matt: We spend so much time together.

Wes: Everyone reads the same thing so we always talk about it.

Matt: Eventually. We’ll go, “What are you reading?” Have a little chat. We’re always sharing ideas.

Alisa: So a little bit of a book club?

Matt: Yeah, a litlte bit. Wes: We all sleep three feet away from each other.

Alisa: On tour ... or always?

Wes: Just on tour. (laughs). And recording. It’s hard to read something without other people knowing. On our early tours when we’d sleep in the van and no one could fall asleep, I would tell people stories, very boring stories, until everyone was sound asleep.


Everything Everything: TAS In Session

Playing a triumphant gig at New York's Bowery Ballroom last month, Manchester-based rockers Everything Everything deftly proved their mettle as one of Britain's most thrilling young bands, assertively leaping from arena-worthy anthems ("Duet") to tonque-twisting raps ("Photoshop Handsome") to soulful stretches of dystopian angst ("The Peaks").

Surprisingly, the ambitious group's spirited Mercury Prize-nominated debut, Man Alive, never received a proper Stateside release. Fortunately, the quartet's confident second album Arc — released in the U.K. in January — will finally get a much-overdue release in the U.S. later this spring or summer on RCA Records. For the moment, Everything Everything has an EP, Cough Cough, available for frustrated American fans. Far luckier British followers can catch Everything Everything play a sold out gig with Two Door Cinema Club at Alexandra Palace on April 27 and take on various U.K. festivals this May.

The band — singer and guitarist Jonathan Higgs, bassist Jeremy Pritchard, drummer Michael Spearman, guitarist Alex Robertshaw and touring keyboardist Peter Sené —  got slightly lost on their way to the Bronx, but you can hear Everything Everything's short-but-sweet session on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, April 12, at 11 a.m. EDT, also streaming online.

Below, watch Everything Everything perform "Cough Cough" and "Kemosabe" in Studio A. 

UPDATE: Listen to the Everything Everything session in the FUV archives now.


Kara Manning: Your 2010 album Man Alive — Mercury Prize and Ivor Novello nominated — never got a proper release in the States.

Jonathan Higgs: No, nobody wanted it. That’s basically why we’ve been away for so long. There was nothing here to play. We can’t really account for that. There was a really terrible review on Pitchfork that might have something to do with it. If you’re a small, indie-ish label in this country and I imagine if you’ve got to sell a fairly hyped British band, you kind of need Pitchfork and I think that was a kind of spanner in the works for the people who were interested in the album to begin with. I can kind of see what happened.

Kara: They were kinder to you this time around. Brand new album is Arc which came out in January in the UK but it doesn’t come out here until the spring. You have an EP out now.

Jonathan: Yes, Cough Cough. It’s basically it’s some taster bits from the first record and this second album. Like the Beatles did! Just amalgamate two albums and put that out as a U.S. release! That was the idea.

Kara: On Man Alive, there was something more busy, frenetic and muscular about that record. Arc is more tender, more contemplative. You wanted to change your sound?

Jonathan: We wanted to change our approach. The way we were communicating to listeners. The sound is virtually identical and a lot of things are very much the same, but our attitude changed, I think. Our self-confidence grew hugely and we didn’t find it such a struggle. We didn’t feel we had to cover everything in detail and try to trip ourselves up the whole time. Our fear of being a cliché or being too traditional or being boring. The first time around we thought that was the worst possible thing to be and we wanted to destroy our songs halfway through each one!

Jeremy Pritchard: Before they started to enjoy ....

Jonathan: Yeah, take each one and take them elsewhere because we could and we thought that was exciting. Because it is exciting. We still find that very interesting.

Kara: In interviews, though, you also said that Man Alive felt for you, unformed in some ways. You have trouble listening to it? Or was that taken out of context?

Jonathan: That’s been said to me a few times now and I don’t think I actually said it, but I think I was getting out the fact that once you’ve made a record, I don’t think it’s very healthy to continue to be in love with it. Right now, I don’t think Arc is as exciting as I did six months ago and hopefully I’ll continue to feel that way. Whereas I’m starting to get back into Man Alive!

Jeremy: Your relationship changes with the songs change all the time!

Jonathan: If you thought, right, that’s the best thing I’ve heard in my life, I did it, good night! Then it would be pointless to do anything else! I want to do something better than Arc now. I’m getting hungry again and thinking I could do better. It’s absolutely healthy so that’s probably what I was saying about Man Alive, that I don’t really listen to it now because that was a year ago. I think when you’ve created something and you get very close to it, for a while it’s the best thing you’ve ever heard. And then, pretty quickly, you think, "I’ve got to get over that now."


Kara: When I first saw the video to “Cough Cough” last fall, it reminded me of the summer riots that happened in 2011 in the UK. Manchester was hard hit, where you’re from. I read, after the fact, that [the riots were almost a catalyst]. When I interviewed you for TAS over email a couple of years ago, you’d said that a lot of the new songs were leaning in a direction of hip-hop or dance, but the songs on Arc do feel more tender.

Jonathan: That’s interesting. I think of Arc being more R&B or hip-hop, but aggressive ... I don’t know. I think it is in places. Lyrically it’s angrier. But it’s performed in a bit more of a subtle way. It’s more palatable, it’s not obvious. It is like that in parts, but it’s more feminine — that might be the word. It’s a bit more considered, it’s a bit more of a sit-down record as a start-a-riot record. Not in the way that it’s boring, but in “let’s think about things.”

Kara: You’re not afraid of being political. Were the riots a catalyst?

Jonathan: They were something I kept touching back to, because they were so present, in our faces. [They were] certainly in the news for a big part of 2011 and afterwards. We saw it and we were there and it was happening in our streets. It felt very real. There were all these things going on in the world — the Arab Spring, people not having a good time — and this was our tiny version of it. Yeah, I think it made the troubles of the world very real for a short period and then everyone forgot about it.

Kara: There’s a dystopian sense to songs like “The Peaks” or “The House is Dust.” Did you [want to be] more political on this album?

Jonathan: I’m not more political, certainly, but I’m less afraid to make it clear, I guess. That’s all to do with the whole confidence thing that changed between the first and second albums. I’m still, by no means, an overconfident guy, but I became less afraid of saying what I wanted to. I guess it was a realization that people are listening to us and it does matter. I’ve got this platform and I might as well use it instead of shrouding it in mystery and making everyone think I was clever. Why not actually try to communicate to people? That was the big change, I think.

Kara: How do you bring in ideas to the balance of the band?

Jeremy: For the most part, Jonathan writes on a guitar or piano and transfers that basic harmonic or rhythmic idea into a laptop. That will either be one section or two little sections, back to back or looped. We didn’t have whole songs come in and we worked them up into full songs and restructured and arranged them together. We’d done that for some of Man Alive, but for some of it, we’d taken the demos wholesale and dressed them up. So we worked much harder collectively on songs this time and honed them. We’re very aware, having been through the entire process of making an album from start to finish once before, that certain things were going to be asked of us and we could buck those questions or be ready for that. So rather than write a four-and-a-half minute song and say, “This is the first single” and have to find a minute to take out of it for radio, we could like it as much as the long version if we cut that minute out on our own terms and not make it a compromise. Make it something that we still like. So we were whittling everything down, honing the parts and playing in much larger rooms as well.

Kara: You used Elbow’s studio.

Jonathan: We did. Which is a really big old warehouse, an old mill in Salford. You can’t really be too busy in there because it all gets lost in the space above your head. You can really hear the room on the recordings. We did a lot of writing, arranging, basic demo recordings and playing as a live band in there. That did inform the sound a bit and it certainly informed the arrangment.

Kara: You’re also ruthless about chucking songs to the side that you don’t think will work.

Jonathan: Sort of. We kind of know.

Jeremy: You know when there’s a spark in a song.

Jonathan: You have to do that. You have to get into the habit of doing it, even if the thing you’re working on is not brilliant. We were out of the habit of writing by some 18 months while we were touring Man Alive. We were sort of the jukebox band.

Jeremy: There’s also the fact that you might have a song and the verse is amazing and the chorus isn’t. We’d play it and play it going, “This is so amazing!” But we’d never get there. So we don’t just chuck the whole thing, we’ll just put the chorus to the side and then later, we might need a verse and go, “What about that amazing thing we had three months ago?” We’ll try it out, change the key, change the tempo, change the feel and sometimes it works. Sometimes it’s something you never would have thought of and this amazing alchemy happens.

Kara: You worked with David Kosten again, who worked with you on Man Alive. Did you feel that he was working with you quite differently [on Arc]?

Jonathan: It’s hard to say because I think he wanted to do all of this stuff the first time around, but we weren’t hearing him. I think we had to make that record the way we did, the first one. You couldn’t have told us otherwise. We wouldn’t have known to do otherwise. A lot of bands don’t get the chance to make a second one, unfortunately. I think it’s very important to let a band do what they want first time around.

Jeremy: Which we were allowed to do.

Jonathan: In terms of David, we felt like we had some unfinished business, really, in terms of some of the places we wanted to go sonically or in styles or to have really strong songs for radio. He always erred on the side of wanting and we’d go, “No! That’s stupid! We want to do THIS!”

Jeremy: And he’d have to let us (laughs). We all wanted the same things out of it. We talked about using different producers, we had a meeting with one other guy and realized, immediately, while this other guy was sat in front of us, that he had none of the backstory that David had with us. None of the understanding and three-year run up that we’d had with David.

Jonathan: Purely because he hadn’t been there (laughs).

Jeremy: Everyone else was at a distinct disadvantage with us. Over half of the job, if you’re producing Everything Everything, is an understanding of the dynamic and man management and managing the relationship. As far as the songs go, we’re pretty autonomous. Hence, the fact that it’s credited as David Kosten and Everything Everything. At his behest.

Kara: What is the dynamic?

Jeremy: Whatever Mike the drummer says, goes.

Jonathan: I just think that we’re difficult to work with, frankly. We’re quite stubborn — individually and collectively. It’s difficult to manage that ... or can be.

Jeremy: Attention to detail. Anal.

Jonathan: That’s the one!

Listen To Sky Ferreira In Session on TAS on WNYE On April 5

Electropop singer and part-time Yves St. Laurent model Sky Ferreira, who released the Ghost EP last year, is attracting blog buzz thanks to her single "Everything is Embarrasing." She's been working on her debut album and came by Studio A for a TAS session this winter. Listen to Sky Ferreira's conversation and session with Alisa Ali on TAS on 91.5 WNYE today, April 5, at 11 a.m. EDT, also streaming online.

UPDATE: Listen to the Sky Ferreira session now in the WFUV archives.