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TAS In-Studio

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.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8HNG0HtxaU]

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."

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJO3tJeXtvg]

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!

Wild Belle In Session At WFUV And TAS

Wild Belle is a Chicago sibling duo, but the pair's debut album, Isles,  stretches further afield as a psychedelic love letter to the sounds of Africa and the Caribbean.

Natalie Bergman's languid verses glide alongside the tenor sax of her brother Elliot, and it's all dressed in a delicious dub sensibility. No wonder Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Tom Tom Club are fans.

Wild Belle tour the UK and the Netherlands this week, then return for US gigs, including a stop at Coachella on April 14 and 21.

Below, Watch videos of Wild Belle's recent live session in TAS and WFUV's Studio A and listen to Natalie and Elliot Bergman's conversation with Rita Houston in WFUV's archives.

[video:http://youtu.be/sj-N_DUV5qc]

[video:http://youtu.be/ltlRorz2EX0]

[video:http://youtu.be/HBAeISdV4es]

Toro Y Moi: TAS In Session

Toro y Moi, aka Chaz Bundick, joined the madding crowds at SXSW last week for a series of showcases. By month's end, Bundick and his bandmates are headed to South America, supporting his third and — in his estimation — most deliberately "pop" album to date, Anything in Return.

Toro y Moi — Bundick, guitarist Jordan Blackmon, bassist Patrick Jeffords, drummer Andy Woodward and special guest Katie (shakers) — recently made a detour to the Bronx for a live session which airs on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, March 22 at 11 a.m. EDT, also streaming online.

Below, watch videos of the four-song set, including "High Living" and "Grown-Up Calls," and read highlights of Bundick's conversation with The Alternate Side's Alisa Ali. 

Anything In Return is out on Carpark Records now.

UPDATE: Listen to the Toro Y Moi session in the WFUV archives now.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyTh8DDQju4]

Alisa Ali: You were doing some falsetto on that one.

Chaz Bundick: I like to sing falsetto.

Alisa: A lot of guys say that is the one thing that kind of scares them but they do it anyway.

Chaz: It’s not too bad. I think I started doing falsetto when I first started Toro y Moi. I was in my room and there wasn’t anyone to hear me sing high notes and I think that’s where it started.

Alisa: Now you’re singing in front of everyone. When did you first start singing?

Chaz: I started singing in bands when I was 15. I guess that’s the start of it. Before that I’d sing along to songs, but everyone does that.

Alisa: What did your high school band sound like?

Chaz: Freshman year. Me and Patrick. It was kind of post-indie rock, like At The Drive In, sort of. And then the next band after that was The Heist which was more indie rock, like Interpol, Broken Social Scene, indie rock!

Alisa: What’s the next genre you’ll go to?

Chaz: Ska!

Alisa: Sweet.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_l4xUhOuWg]

Alisa: I understand that you also graduated college; a lot of musicians drop out.

Chaz: My first tour happened a month after I graduated. I wasn’t trying to do music, it was one of those unattainable goals that I had in my mind. It’s cool that it happened right after I graduated.

Alisa: You were a graphic design major. What was the shift in focus?

Chaz: Graphic design is my passion too.

Alisa: You’re a very passionate man, Chaz. Many passions.

Chaz: I have three.

Alisa: What’s the third?

Chaz: Salad.

Alisa: Wow.

Chaz: I was doing graphic design and was focused on that in school. The music thing just happened. I wanted to do it seriously so I put my focus on that once Carpark showed interest. I put some songs on the internet and it got some buzz.

Alisa: So you’re really good at multi-tasking?

Chaz: It was kind of all I did. I was doing graphic design in the daytime and at night, after school, I’d record music at home. I’ve been doing Toro y Moi since I was 15. Started off on a four-track cassette recorder, now it’s here.

Alisa: You said that when you listen to your first album, [2010's Causers of This], all you hear are laptops and you wish there were live instruments on that record. That said, I don’t see a single laptop here.

Chaz: It’s inside of my Nord. There’s a computer in there. Yeah, making electronic music is an interest of mine, but so is playing with a traditional arrangement. The live band was always a goal for Toro y Moi even before I started being noticed. When the time came to play shows, it was definitely a goal to get the band together. [This band] is all longtime friends. Patrick and I went to high school together. Andy and I were roommates. Jordan was a camp counselor.

Alisa: Your camp counselor?

Chaz: Yeah, he was actually our skate camp counselor. At the skate park. I met Jordan through skateboarding. We broke two decks already on this tour.

Alisa: What is a deck?

Chaz: A piece of wood.

Alisa: What are we talking about? A ramp?

Chaz: A skateboard is just a piece of wood with wheels.

Alisa: Oh! Okay, a skateboard! I’m not a skateboarder! I wear shoes.

[video:http://youtu.be/yedPkeWqWys]

Alisa: Chaz, I read that you said that this album was just for fun. You were just trying to make music that your girlfriend would dance to? I really hoped that you were still together.

Chaz: Oh, yeah. We’re longtime daters. The only song I was referencing was “Cake” and that was me just trying to make a pop song. It’s fun, every once in a while, to make a fun song that people can relate to, not referencing obscure soundtracks.

Alisa: Clearly you have an affinity for that specific genre of music.

Chaz: Totally. Some of it is good, but most of it’s not that good. Some of it is catchy and poppy and not just benign stuff.

Alisa: Some of the music you like or some of the music you’ve created with that inspiration?

Chaz: Some of the radio music.

Alisa: You described this record as your “pop record.” You’re sticking by that?

Chaz: In a way. Most of my songs are pop. I don’t think I go too far outside of that. To me, pop is whenever something is accessible and people can relate to it, no matter what kind of instruments you use or how it’s produced. It’s melodic.

Alisa: I don’t know if I’d describe this record as pop, but I like it. Maybe the “Cake” song is the poppiest. In your estimation, what is good quality pop music?

Chaz: Okay, commercially successful and then maintaining a fan base, I’d say bands like Talking Heads, Radiohead, the Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Weezer — they’re doing it smartly and they’re not being used.

Alisa: That explains a lot, because I’d never consider any of those bands pop!

Chaz: It’s cool to get to arena status but not worry about getting cheesy.

Alisa: You never worry about being cheesy?

Chaz: No, you just have to be yourself. There’s a lot of musicians out there now trying to be characters and it’s ridiculous. It’s the internet that’s doing that too, the internet is creating memes and everyone’s trying to go viral. Trying to get that fast check. I’m really working on trying to build something. That’s what we’re trying to do.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiuL5x1Umts]

Palma Violets: TAS In Session

The members of Palma Violets might have honed their garage rock chops in a drafty squat, but the quartet is a hot commodity in the UK music press, marked as ascendents to The Libertines' long-vacated throne.

The band's debut album, 180, is released this week on Rough Trade, a label picked by the four friends because of a rich, rock 'n' roll legacy that included their major influences, namely The Libertines and The Strokes. Stepping out of their unheated studio to embark on a lengthy tour next month, Palma Violets are bound for SXSW and have also lined up UK and European dates, a visit to Coachella, and a North American jaunt beginning in late April, returning to New York on May 9 (Music Hall of Williamsburg) and March 10 (Bowery Ballroom).

Recently, the band — guitarist/vocalist Sam Fryer, bassist/vocalist Chilli Jesson, keyboardist Pete Mayhew and drummer Will Doyle — tumbled into The Alternate Side's Studio A for a raucous set and a conversation with Eric Holland.

Below, watch exclusive videos of the Palma Violets' live performance and listen to the session this Friday, March 1, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11 a.m. ET, also streaming online.

UPDATE: Listen to Palma Violets in session now in the TAS archives.

Eric Holland: What’s the story on the name [Palma Violets]?

Chilli Jesson: Well, we wanted to be cool. The Beatles or the Rolling Stones, but both of those names had been taken. So Sam had this great idea.

Sam Fryer: Calling it after my favorite sweet. Palma Violets are very lovely sweets, but everybody hates them. I love them. Do you like them? We pretend to like them just because it’s the band.

Chilli: No, no. I’ve been an avid fan of Palma Violets, probably before you were born, Sam.

Eric: Have you been in bands before the Palma Violets? Did you get your chops going in other groups and then hook up?

Chilli: This is my first proper band.

Sam: It’s my first proper band too. We’ve done little talent shows in school festivals and things like that, but no bands that play shows to the general public. This is the first serious band. We’re very serious.

Eric: Did you all go to school together?

Chilli: I didn’t. Pete and Will both went to school with Sam. I went to a different school. But I met them all at a festival in England. Reading. Who was playing that year?

Sam: Radiohead headlining. The Arctic Monkeys.

Eric: Where’s Lambeth in London?

Chilli: You know Waterloo, right? It’s literally right next to Waterloo.

Sam: Very close to Big Ben. Just the opposite side of the river, a few blocks down.

Chilli: We’ve got a little squat there and it’s called Studio 180. It’s quite an affluent area but then there’s this one rubbish looking house and that’s ours.

Eric: The four band members live there?

Chilli: We did. But it gets cold during the winter.

Eric: No heat? And that’s where the name of the album comes from?

Chilli: Exactly. All the songs were born there so it seemed like a fitting name.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weEz_f32PFE]

Eric: Do you guys write together?

Chilli and Sam (together): Yeah.

Chilli: We have separate ideas and then come together.

Sam: We’ll go away from each other and then come back with the ideas that we’ve gathered and formulate them together.

Eric: Then you’ll write music and lyrics? One more than the other.

Chilli: Who ever sings the song normally writes the lyrics.

Eric: After “Best of Friends” started to get attention, is that when the record companies started knocking on the door?

Chilli: No, we didn’t have “Best of Friends’ then. Record labels are desperate.

Sam: They’ll jump on anything.

Chilli: So it was like, we just had this squat kind of place and they found it quite interesting.

Sam: We played one show and a person in the industry was there. I think people begin to talk very quickly. We weren’t very good then, but people saw potential in us. We did about three or four songs and a few covers. Eventually people started coming along and we played to anyone who wanted to hear us in our little room which was quite exciting for them, I think, to come to a really strange place and see a band. It must be very different because, normally, they’d just go on MySpace or Facebook and listen to one of the demos. They'll listen to 30 seconds of it and then move on. Whereas with us, they had to come and listen to a whole set.

Chilli: And if you wanted to walk out during our set … to walk out of a show, you’ve got to really mean it.

Sam: Lucikly no one did.

Chilli: No one did so we knew we were kind of on to something.

Eric: Did you have a few different labels courting you?

Chilli: Yeah, we were wined and dined, weren’t we?

Sam: They’d bring us gifts.

Chilli: Yeah, that was all good, but now they don’t even care about us. We’ve seen them in the streets and they just shrug us off. Now we’re with the beloved Rough Trade Records.

Eric: A legendary label with people like The Smiths.

Chilli: Yeah, the Smiths, the Libertines.

Eric: The Strokes.

Sam: Arcade Fire and stuff.

Eric: Did that play a role? My favorite groups and I want to follow?

Sam: Definitely. Groups that we grew up listening to and have been very inspired by. Every rock and roll band wants to be on Rough Trade. It’s the rock ‘n’ roll label, isn’t it? They come as a pair, rock ‘n’ roll and Rough Trade. It’s exciting. The Libertines were a starting point for me as a 13-year-old kid and from the Libertines, came the Clash, Sex Pistols and then so on. The Pixies. The Velvet Underground. It all unfolds, goes onto the next. I’m very grateful to the Libertines.

Eric: Someone had a Nick Cave t-shirt on in one of the videos.

Chilli: We’ve all got ‘em! He was my favorite kind of musician. When I met Sam, I gave him all my Nick Cave records and he gave me all his Clash records. We swapped and exchanged. A happy relationship with Nick ever since.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghU5H-BKkgA]

Eric: Did that song title make it into the song?

Sam: Yeah! It did. I don’t think we say “step up.”

Eric: I noticed in a few of the songs that I didn’t understand the natural connection between song title and song. “Chicken Dippers?”

Sam: That was a song … I didn’t have a fitting title! I couldn’t come up with one so I just gave it to Will. I said, “You’ll have control now, Will.” He came up with “Chicken Dippers.”

Chilli: He’s a genius that boy. A genius.

Eric: When it came time to record, was that daunting? Fun?

Sam: I felt daunted.

Chilli: I didn’t like it.

Sam: We still don’t like being in studios that much. We’re a three take band.

Chilli: It was easier with Steve.

Sam: Steve Mackey, the producer, made us feel quite comfortable. He knew we were new to the whole thing.

Chilli: He’d been in the same position as us and knew how to deal with it. He embraced mistakes and that was a good thing for us.

Sam: He was a very excitable gent as well which made us very excited.

Eric: He was isolating instruments?

Chilli: Live. No, it was completely live. We tried to do the vocals all live.

Sam: There are songs, like “Three Stars” on the record, that’s actually live vocals on the record. We wouldn’t be able to do overdubs. We’re not good enough yet!

Chilli: We’ll get there.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X47-jvUXsPk]

 

Metz: TAS In Session

When Metz visited The Alternate Side late last year, the hard-thrashing trio was, without doubt, the loudest group to ever take over Studio A.

That brutal drive, hardcore brio and sinewy muscularity which uplifts Metz's smartly-crafted songs — or more suitably, missiles — is splashed across the band's self-titled debut album, out now on Sub Pop. The three ferocious Canadians — guitarist/singer Alex Edkins, drummer Hayden Manzies and bassist Chris Slorach — might know how to make pummelling rock, but they're also savvy enough to understand that a real melodic structure elevates that seething wall of noise, displaying the artistry within the assault.

Metz kicks off a European tour this week and they'll begin a North American tour on April 8 in Montréal. They'll storm their way to New York to play Bowery Ballroom on April 17.  

Below, watch videos of the thunderous Metz in session and listen to a conversation with the trio on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, February 22, at 11 a.m. ET, also streaming online.

UPDATE: Listen to TAS in Session with Metz now in our archives.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkU8c3duzeQ]

Eric Holland: You’re loud. It’s a musical loud. Can you tell me about the aesthetic?

Alex Edkins: It’s our natural approach to making music together. We have a similar background in music, growing up and going to punk and hardcore shows. It’s not premeditated, we don’t think about it too much. That’s what comes out when we get together.

Eric: Talk about the role of each instrument. Chris, you on bass. Do you see yourself in the pocket, are you keeping time?

Chris Slorach: Yes, well, Hayden and I play off of each other a lot in this band. Nobody is trying to play anything fancy. Half those songs are two notes, but you play around with whatever suits the song. I don’t play fancy or try to show off, I just stick straight in a groove. That’s is for the bass. The other guys are a little fancier than me.

Eric: Hayden, [you're] on drums with tremendous power.

Hayden Menzies: Yeah, I work out. I’m kidding. I don’t. Ever. Because there are only three of us we like the limitations that we have with only three different instruments. We try to make all of those gel together and just have one wall of sound. Not necessarily noise — volume isn’t always deliberate. It’s just what makes that wall of noise sound appropriate for our ears.

Eric: You do compliment each other well. It’s unlike listening to a power trio like Cream, especially live, because they’re really in competition. They’re all playing lead. But I don’t have that sense with you guys.

Alex: No, that’s true. We definitely try to make one unified big noise. It’s not like a bass line walking around and then a lead guitar. The approach to guitar and bass is usually trying to find notes that compliment each other, that come together to make one thing as opposed to several different things. We’re always aiming for what the song needs mostly. This record and the songs we play today are very much stripped down and to the point. No fancy stuff. That’s what we enjoy doing and what works best with the three ingredients we have.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PGTTyuZvic]

Eric: Why was [“Dirty Shirt’] left off the album? Because it was a newer song?

Alex: Yeah, we just ran out of time, basically. We took a long time doing the actual record and the way things were working out, when we wanted the record to come out and when we actually started talking to Sub Pop about when it would be released. We didn’t quite have that one ready to put on the record. It was also a little bit different; I think it would have fit in terms of flow on the record, but it just seemed a little bit of a step in a barely different direction. It felt like it should be its own thing and when they asked us if we wanted to do some sort of pre-order initiative, there were other options, like tote bags and earplugs. But music is what we like to do best.

Eric: You guys don’t strike me as tote bag guys.

Hayden: No.

Chris: I don’t think that would have been a hot item. The Metz tote bag.

Hayden: It would fall apart.

Eric: You started the album before you hooked up with Sub Pop?

Chris: We finished it before we hooked up with Sub Pop.

Eric: You’ve been together for five years. Was it a situation where you’ve been saving your pennies from gigs until you had enough dough to finance the recording of your first album without getting involved with a record company?

Chris: We took so long making a record because we wanted to have the right songs for a record. We released a bunch of singles before, but I don’t think we had the songs that would make a cohesive album. We didn’t think we were quite there yet. But when we had this batch of songs, we felt like they worked really well together. We didn’t start making the record expecting it to come out on any specific label. If it didn’t come out on Sub Pop or something else, we would have put it out ourselves. It was a fortunate thing that we finished it up, sent it to them and they really liked it and decided to put it out.

Alex: It was a record we were going to make, regardless.

Hayden: [Sub Pop] has been fantastic from day one. They’ve been really friendly, supportive and encouraging. We couldn’t think of a better home for the record. We got really lucky. A great group of people.

Eric: The first band I think of with Sub Pop is Nirvana. Fans?

Alex: Yeah, huge fans.

Eric: There’s certainly a commonality between Nirvana and you guys.

Alex: Well, thanks.

Eric: You mentioned hardcore and another band I think of when listening to you is Bad Brains.

Alex: Oh wow, that’s awesome. We never heard that one before.

Eric: The energy more than anything.

Chris: Yeah, we’re big fans of them.

Eric: Alex and Hayden, you’re from Ottawa. Were you guys getting turned onto local bands growing up?

Alex: It was a mix. At that time there were a whole lot of bands from the States coming through town, some playing small venues that were tapped into that DIY punk scene. I think I went to a show maybe three, four or five times a week. Almost all of the time. There was always music and you were meeting like-minded people and musicians. I got hooked right away, during school. That’s how I met Hayden, a mutual friend through music. There was great local music, but some of the cream of the crop from down south too.

Eric: A healthy scene in Ottawa?

Alex: At that time, yes. It still really good there. It’s changed. It’s got a different sound, but it’s still healthy and full of music lovers.

Eric: Chris, you were in Toronto.

Chris: I grew up on the East End of Toronto which was a little devoid of rock culture. I was into indie rock and punk growing up that I got from my sisters. When I was about 13, I decided to start putting on shows and that’s where I started hearing a lot of the bands. I don’t know ... I was a big music fan and I listened to a lot of stuff, listened to bands and put on some shows.

Eric: Working as a promoter?

Chris: Yeah, it was more like no one else was doing this thing where I was, so I started doing it. I was too young to get into most of the bars. I was doing all-ages shows until I was older.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA37k0DUvkw]

Eric: Alex, I noticed you have a keen and precise use of feedback.

Alex: Yeah, I’m sitting on the fence between trying to make something that’s musical and precise and at the same time very over-the-top, unhinged and a little crazy. We like to flirt with both of those aesthetics and put them together. At times we’ll be super tight — or try to be — and other times be lose and almost improv. We have space to dabble. Those spots are planned out beforehand. It’s something we love, but we also love that controlled pop song structure that we go for as well.

Eric: I think it’s in “Headache,” the opening, there’s a little feedback squeal. Jimi Hendrix, Sonic Youth, Neil Young? Who do you favor?

Alex: All three.

Chris: We’ll take them all.

Eric: On drums, Hayden, I hate to be comparing, but you have to have reference points. Are you a fan of Helmet and John Stanier?

Hayden: Yeah, definitely. I had a bunch of Helmet records. I think Meantime was my favorite. Great drummer.

Eric: Some similarities between the two of you?

Hayden: I can see that. I’ve also been told Animal from The Muppets which is kind of weird, but I’ll take that too.

Chris: You’re not quite as funky as Stanier, I think.

Hayden: Yeah, he’s locked in. That’s an admirable quality, especially on drums. I try to take some of that aspect when I really need to and, like we said before of other instruments contributing to the song as a whole, I’m trying to put in whatever the song needs for it to be the end result that we’re going for. If I kick for three minutes and don’t touch another drum, that’s fine. That’s what it takes. But if you go a little nuts and improv every night, I can try to do that too. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on the level of beer.

Eric: How sacred are melodies to you three?

Alex: In the band or in general?

Eric: Both.

Alex: It’s something that we’ve been trying to integrate more. I think at first when we released our first three singles, our approach to making music was quite different and we used vocals and lyrics as sort of an afterthought. Just thinking of it as one more instrument in the pile. But with this record, we wanted to put a bigger emphasis on the vocals in general, but also the melodies and try to have — even if it’s a stretch — some kind of little hook that people can grab onto. That we can grab onto. Yeah, I think it’s there in small amounts. With music in general, we’re big fans of great songwriting and memorable melodies. It’s working its way into what we do every day, I think.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqis-p4IWXw]

Menomena: TAS In Session

The shakeup in Menomena's lineup after Brent Knopf's departure in 2011 didn't throw remaining members Justin Harris and Danny Seim too far off course. In fact, the duo's new album, Moms, is likely Menomena's strongest and most accomplished album to date, bringing clarity and a mature emotional focus to the reinvigorated duo's songwriting.

The split with Knopf didn't alter Menomena's live performances too drastically either. For their session at The Alternate Side, Harris and Seim brought along keyboardist/guitarist Paul Jason Alcott, percussionist/pianist Holcombe Walker and guitarist Matt Dabrowiak and this new incarnation of Menomena launches another swing through the States this week, beginning February 12 in Iowa City, Iowa. Looking ahead to the spring, the guys will also play the Sasquatch! Music Festival this May.

As The Alternate Side's Alisa Ali discovered, although Harris and Seim might have an irreverent streak and a mercurial relationship, there were highly sensitive familial issues that aggressively drove the writing of Moms. Read interview highlights and watch videos of the band's four-song set below. Listen to the entire session when it airs this Friday, February 15, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11 a.m. EST, also streaming online.  

Menomena's Moms is out now on Barsuk Records.

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

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkPOsSSxL-c]

Alisa Ali: So Danny, how much of your golden ticket did you have to split with your therapists?

Danny Seim: That’s a good question. These songs are suicidally depressing on one level, but you can smile through it. It gets better.

Alisa: Did you actually see a therapist? Your mom’s been ….

Danny: Well, not because of my mom, but there’s been a plethora of other reasons. Premature balding, weird voice cracking.

Alisa: You have so much hair. You need a haircut.

Justin Harris: And put your pants back on. That tape is holding his hair on; it’s an illusion.

Alisa: Danny’s got a piece of tape around his head. I guess to keep your headphones on? Or maybe that’s your look?

Danny: It’s my look. I wear these headphones all day and show up at alcohol establishments.

Alisa: This new record is called Moms and obviously the theme of this record is based around your moms. Was that an easier way to approach writing lyrics, with a narrowed topic?

Danny: Actually, yeah. I think they flowed pretty quickly for Menomena. We typically take three years too long recording every album. The last one was definitely the longest but it’s always bene a real pulling teeth/birthing/kicking heroin kind of habit. It’s always been a struggle for us. I hate to oversell this because there are things like famine and AIDS. Making obscure indie rock records is pretty low on the old who-cares-about totem pole. They’re all pretty rough; we always struggle getting these things down and getting going. But this one, Justin and I agreed on the theme pretty early on. From that point, once we started getting into the writing process, it was only about seven or eight months before we were wrapping it up, which is extemely fast for us.

Alisa: What was the catalyst for you? Was it the realization that you’d been alive longer than you’d spent time with your mom? Was there a specific thing that made you remember that?

Danny: Yeah, it was in the same month that she died, 17 years later, and I was 34 at the time. I’d just started writing these songs. This isn’t some huge emo thing; after 17 years you become an adult, whether you like it or not. I wasn’t … I still miss her, but it wasn’t a daily I’m-crying-in-my-pillow-every-night because of her. So when I came to that realization, the songs took shape. At least the lyrics. I talked to Justin about that and he had a lot he could relate to, not just specifically with his mom, but family in general.

Alisa: Do you think this would have come out in some form at some point anyway?

Justin: No.

Danny: On a record? Or like in therapy?

Alisa: On a record. This would definitely come out in therapy.

Danny: I don’t know. I guess it comes out in one way or another. It was important for both of us to be writing about something that we could both focus on rather than trying to rehash the usual Menomena song topics which are things that are usually too vague or singing melodies on top of syllables with words that don’t sound too horribly embarrassing. It’s really easy to have a focus and work towards it.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXJK2VGNgEc]

Alisa: I’ve interviewed a lot of bands with multiple songwriters and they often don’t know what the song is about if they have not written it. Sometimes they have an idea, but sometimes they say when they write songs, they try to be vague so that the experience can be relatable to the person who is singing the words that they’ve written.

Justin: Yes, we’ve always done that. I feel like this album’s not too much of an exception, but it’s more personally based. I think in the past we’ve tried to keep it vague.

Alisa: You’ve been friends for a long time and known each other since high school. So when you write a song, I would assume that you do know what it’s about?

Justin: We can take stabs at it.

Danny: I think I asked Justin once if a song was about me or another bandmate we had once.

Justin: And I said "no," but I meant, "yes."

Danny: You said, “Don’t flatter yourself,” I believe.

Alisa: Generally, your past albums have been democratically represented. [You each] brought five songs. Is it the same way when it comes to sequencing? Does it matter who gets the lead track? Who gets the last word?

Justin: Not really. We have belabored sequencing in the past, but this time it flowed pretty easily. We often start off alternating and then we move some things around a little bit. It just so happens on this album, it’s every other as far as a song that I’ve written and Danny’s written. Without democracy, it’s chaos. We all know that.

Alisa: Did you just bring five songs each? Or more?

Justin: Danny started off with 50. I started off with four. And I had to write another one. No, there weren’t too many more beyond what’s on the album.

Danny: About 14 or something like that.

Alisa: What do you reckon will happen to the other four?

Justin: Chaos.

Danny: B-sides.

Alisa: Why didn’t they make the cut?

Danny: They weren’t very good. No, we kind of know the songs we put the most effort into. We haven’t always had the hardest time deciding what song should be cut, it more how they should be arranged. We wanted an even nine or 10. The stragglers were left to die.

Justin: It’s like children. Some are better than others.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNvAFYADU3Y]

Justin: This album is the first one that I’ve ever recorded using a pick. Which is totally lame. To everybody but me. I used to despise bass players who used picks.

Alisa: Why?

Justin: I thought it was dumb. Like they were trying to be guitarists. I never liked the sound of it. I was always pro fingers.

Danny: Justin Harris, pro fingers.

Justin: Paul McCartney used a pick. Recording with a pick, for a few songs, opened my eyes to a whole new world.

Alisa: I didn’t realize there was a big difference.

Danny: There’s not.

Justin: That was the worst answer on any radio interview ever.

Alisa: No! It’s an interesting insight.

Justin: To no one.

Danny: It’s kind of plucky.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tczs1y1S5PE]

Wild Nothing: TAS In Session

Singer and songwriter Jack Tatum's hazy Wild Nothing reveries are steeped in rain-dappled hues of British grey, but the Virginia native, who recorded his debut album, Gemini, in his Virginia Tech dorm room, still cuts his own distinctively lush path of dream pop.

Wild Nothing's second release, Nocturne, is likely one of the prettiest albums of 2012 and it earned Tatum a cavalcade of critical praise. The shy singer, who primarily records everything on his own, was somewhat stunned by the effusive attention, admitting that he never expected his songs to attract so much attention, so quickly. Not that Tatum steers away from some rather famous friends: Nocturne was produced by Nicolas Vernhes, of Dirty Projectors and Deerhunter fame, and Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams starred in Wild Nothing's video for "Paradise."

Recruiting a real band for touring over the past couple of years  — the current lineup is keyboardist Kevin Knight, drummer Jeremiah Johnson, guitarist Nate Goodman and guitarist Jeff Haley — Wild Nothing will embark on a tour of Australia and Japan in early March, heading north to travel through the UK and Europe beginning on March 18 in Liverpool (including a date at London's Scala on March 21).  They're also booked for Coachella, Primavera Sound, Field Day and more locally, New York's Governors Ball Music Festival from June 7-9.

Tatum, now based in Brooklyn, visited The Alternate Side with his bandmates and played a gorgeous four-song set. Hear the session this Friday, February 8, at 11 a.m. on TAS on 91.5 WNYE, also streaming online, and below, read highlights of the interview and watch videos of Wild Nothing performing tracks like "Only Heather" and "Nocturne" in Studio A.

UPDATE: Listen to the Wild Nothing session now in the WFUV archives.

Nocturne is available now via Captured Tracks (US) and Bella Union (UK).

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9H8ANidSRyk]

Kara Manning: You basically recorded Gemini, your first album, in your bedroom. But you had to go out and tour that record; is that when this band came about?

Jack Tatum: Not this exact band. The band has changed a little bit over the past couple of years since that album came out, but the live band was born out of a necessity to [tour] the album. Jeff [Haley] and Nate [Goodman] have actually been playing with me since the beginning. Kevin [Knight] and Jeremiah [Johnson] joined at the beginning of this past summer.

Kara: When you were [writing] Nocturne, were you thinking in terms of how the songs would sound live?

Jack: It was definitely important to me and it was something I thought about a lot. We spent a lot of time on the road after Gemini came out. For all of us, it was the first real band experience we had so there was a lot of new stuff, learning how to be a band and what it means to tour. That really influenced the way I went in to record Nocturne, thinking about the larger context — this wasn’t just a song I was writing in my bedroom. It’s now something that will be played. It was really important to have live drums on the album. I definitely wanted that from the beginning, [to give] songs more of a translatable spin.

Kara: You got critical raves for Gemini — an [album that you were writing] in off-campus housing while you were still a student at Virginia Tech. Were you stunned that the album made such a deep impression?

Jack: Yeah, of course. I tell people this all of the time, but it wasn’t really something I expected to go anywhere. I liked it, I was proud of it and I had some faith in it. But I didn’t know it would turn into this or I’d be making music like this. It was totally shocking, especially for a pretty introverted person. The first few months were really strange. Touring was crazy.

Kara: Do you remember your first gig and how scary that was?

Jack: Oh yeah, absolutely. I remember the first couple of times that we played in New York. We played at [Brooklyn's] Monster Island Basement which I think is now defunct. We were terrified. There couldn’t have been more than 10 people there anyway and we sounded awful [laughs]. It’s been a long road for us.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0pW61iYzvY]

Kara: I was intrigued to read that you were very much influenced by Fleetwood Mac, [in] sound and production elements. Was Fleetwood Mac the underpinning to a lot of the influence on this record?

Jack: It kind of was. When people ask about this album — a lot of time people want to know particularly with my music because it’s so referential or widely considered to be — Fleetwood Mac was really big. Mirage is probably my favorite Fleetwood Mac album. I like Tusk for different reasons, but Mirage is a really good pop record. Production-wise, it’s really clean, almost to the point that it’s cheesy. Some people probably don’t like it, but I think the songs are really strong. “Gypsy” is one of my favorite songs ever. “Hold Me” I just love.

Kara: What was it like working with producer Nicolas Vernhes — who has worked with Dirty Projectors, Atlas Sound and Dirty Projectors? [Why was he] the right choice?

Jack: The whole reason I ended up meeting with him, months before we started working on it, I’m a big fan of Deerhunter, Atlas Sound and Bradford Cox as a songwriter. Knowing that Nicolas had worked with him was big for me and he’s in the neighborhood; Rare Book Room is in Greenpoint which is where I live in Brooklyn. It seemed to make sense and we got along really well. It ended up being the best fit. He became the person who pushed me to do things differently.

Kara: Was it just you or was everyone involved in the recording session?

Jack: It was just me and then we had a session drummer come in, a friend of mine. It was pretty much just me and Nicolas in the studio, for the most part. I spent three weeks there, just the two of us.

Kara: You said that drums played a huge part in this album. [You used] a big, fat, thick drum sound, like Stuart Elliot or Charlie Morgan would get on Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love or Bowie’s “Modern Love.” It’s visceral — is that what you were looking for?

Jack: Absolutely. I’m glad you said “Modern Love” because Nicholas and I listened to Let’s Dance, the Bowie album, a lot. Especially for drums; it’s all relative. Some people may not like it, but I love that drum sound. I’m a huge Kate Bush fan, obviously. I covered “Cloudbusting” a few years ago. Those were definitely important records. Drums were big! Jeremiah is an amazing drummer and the first time we practiced, he just knew the songs inside and out, bascially. I say that drums are important in the record, but it’s all still fairly simple stuff. I don’t think that drums have ever really taken a central role in my music. It’s definitely more a nice backbone. It’s an interesting album in that I think it works best as a whole. You can take certain songs out and listen to them for their own merit, but listening to it start to finish makes sense, at least in my mind. To listen to everything in context to the other songs.

Kara: I heard that you had to play “Only Heather” 16 times in a row. Because you’re about to make it 17 [times].

Jack: Two days ago we went back to the Rare Book Room, where I recorded the album, and we did a live video [for the song]. So we played it a lot!

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nj78i-f80U]

Kara: Jack, where did you grow up?

Jack: I grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Kara: Did your parents have the most amazing record collection or did you scrounge around [for music] yourself?

Jack: They did, in their own way. It’s not the music I felt I grew up on. They didn’t listen to the music that inspires what I do. I found out about '80s, UK music. I’m such a huge fan of music in general and it’s not necessarily genre-specific.

Kara: What was it about [bands from that era] that appealed to you?

Jack: It’s moody, a lot of times textural. It’s the same reason I like shoegaze music, especially with Slowdive, for instance, or parts of My Bloody Valentine. It’s never really important what they’re saying so much, it’s how the music and the instruments playing together creat this full environment. I’ve always loved the combination of relatively happy sounding music with sad vocals.

Kara: When you began making music, did you always think of yourself as a singer? How did you find your voice?

Jack: It’s very natural. I don’t feel like I put much thought into it. I feel like I started singing because I was writing songs and I just had to. Vocal melodies have always come very naturally to me, but I’ve had to learn how to sing and that’s something I’ve been trying to figure out since I was 15. I still don’t think I’m a great singer, but it fits what I do.

Kara: Any comparison make you crazy? Happy?

Jack: I haven’t heard too many comparisons about my voice. I’ve heard a lot of people saying, with Nocturne, that I sound like Billy Corgan. I don’t think it’s bad, but I just don’t hear it myself!

Kara: Is it true that “Nocturne” — the track and the album — came from suffering huge bouts of insomnia in Savannah?

Jack: Normally I don’t sleep a whole lot. A lot of these songs were written very late at night. That’s what I did when I lived in Savannah; I didn’t have much to do. I love Savannah, it’s a beautiful place, but it’s kind of boring. I’d just stay up all night working on music.

Kara: Was there one song on the record that was the trigger for the rest of the album?

Jack: Definitely the title track. That was one of the songs, early on, that I finished in the demo stage and it was a fully-formed song. That was kind of the one where I finished and went, “Okay, this makes sense. This is what I want to base the rest of the album around, the feeling that [“Nocturne”] in particular evoked for me. That became the central song for the album and why I ended up naming the album after the song.

[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvTqMyRHKUo]

Kara: Jack, you’re here today Nathan, Kevin, Jeremiah and Jeff. In terms of looking ahead to a third album, do you think you’d work as a group?

Jack: Yes, it’s something I’ve put a lot of thought into and a third album isn’t even on my radar as of yet. But it’s something I’m interested in trying eventually. I’ve been learning to let myself not be such a control freak [laughs] because I’m so used to being in control of everything.

Kara: Are you a terrible perfectionist?

Jack: Yeah. Definitely. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Kara: You were a communications major at Virginia Tech. You were there during the shootings in 2007?

Jack: Yes, that was [Nate's and my] freshman year.

Kara: This is such a naive question, but that must have affected you in such a great way. Do you think being bold enough to go for what you wanted in life was perhaps out of that experience?

Jack: I don’t know. I never really thought of what direct correlation what I do now has to do with that event. It affected me a lot as a person, definitely. I think, more so, it affected my relationship with Blacksburg, the town where Virginia Tech is. It’s a weird thing for me to talk about or for anyone who was there to talk about. Not because … it’s a sensitive subject. I’m not opposed to talking about it. It was just so strange and surreal and horrific. It seems like an awful dream at this point, like it didn’t happen, but it did. It affected me a lot as a person and I think in a lot of ways it shakes you up and makes you realize what you want to do. We knew people who were directly involved with that and it’s such an awful thing … I don’t know.

Kara: You don’t ever recover from something like that.

Jack: It kind of stays with you.

People Get Ready: TAS In Session

It's hard enough sustaining any rock band, but what if a group manages to weave two creative disciplines into one cohesive whole? The theatrical split personality of The Lisps or The Citizens Band comes to mind, but Brooklyn's People Get Ready is making strides as an indie rock band and a dance troupe.  

People Get Ready released its self-titled debut in the fall on Brassland Records, but didn't follow the usual band trajectory, like first-time sets at the Living Room or Pianos. Instead, singer and guitarist Steven Reker (former dancer for David Byrne's last tour), drummer Luke Fasano (ex of Yeasayer), bassist James Rickman (ex of Lissie Trullie) and keyboardist Jen Goma (A Sunny Day in Glasgow) honed their chops at performance spaces like The Kitchen in Chelsea, where they were part of a dance series several years ago.

The band is following a more traditional route these days, opening for Local Natives at a sold-out show this Friday, February 1, at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Another gig, a late show at Mercury Lounge, follows on February 8 and People Get Ready commences a tour with Deerhunter this April.

Not long ago People Get Ready visited The Alternate Side for a live session to talk about their robust, hybrid vision of choreography and music. Watch videos of the band's visceral performance below and listen to People Get Ready's interview and set this Friday, February 1, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11 a.m. ET, also streaming online.

UPDATE: Listen to the People Get Ready session now in the FUV archives.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvuljnLaiE0]

Alisa Ali: Steven, I saw you doing a little dancing while you were singing. Is it hard for you to completely seperate those two worlds?

Steven Reker: I don’t know why you would.

Alisa: Exactly. That’s a little bit of your mission statement behind the band, right?

Steven: A lot. We like to integrate performance work into what we do as a band.

Alisa: I know you’ve done shows where you’re playing and dancing?

Steven: We do shows where we basically frame contemporary dance or performance within a live band experience. We’ve done that at places like the Kitchen and New York Live Arts, in theatres, instead of traditional venues like Bowery Ballroom. I’m a choreographer and a dancer and I filter [those experiences] through the band.

Alisa: Were some of you playing music and then dancing? Or were there points where you were doing both a the same time?

Steven: Definitely both at the same time. We have the help of some other performers as well so we pad out the whole thing with other dancers, dancers who sing and play music.

Jen Goma: Music is a loose term because we make sounds that do have a musical quality or are part of the musical landscape, with our bodies and using our bodies to manipulate. Maybe it’s not exactly an instrument; maybe it’s a microphone.

Steven: There’s a duet that Luke and I do where we are swinging microphones around. It’s all choreographed and timed. It’s dangerous and fun.

Luke Fasano: It’s impeccably choreographed.

Alisa: I can just picture the rehearsal of this and people getting smacked in the face.

Steven: You would actually break a jaw.

Luke: We [don’t] get smacked in the face. We get smacked in some other parts. Really, the look on the person’s face who is right in the front [of the audience] when you’re winging this microphone around is great. Worth it.

Steven: Sensational.

Alisa: You also also picked up floorboards and made use of this space for sound as well.

Steven: Basically we have this idea or concept of creating sonic landscapes through movement. The two can’t exist without the support of the other. That’s another thing that we did — we took Masonite sheets and manipulated them to make a lot of fun noises and from that, movement. Choreography just emerges.

Alisa: Did you incorporate these different sounds into the making of the record?

Steven: When we made this record, which was over a year and a half ago, we were still figuring out what we wanted to do as a band. These are just the songs and I think our next record will probably exemplify some of the other things we do.

Alisa: In recording, do you want to make some changes for the second record?

Steven: I think we’ll just represent ourselves in the performance work and try to capture some of the sounds that we make during our live performances, apart from the songs that we do.

Luke: I think we compartmentalized it to a greater degree initially. Like “this” happens in a performance in a theatre and “this” happens in a club. We’re trying to think of ways to bring those all together. Even on the record, you get that feeling.

Steven: Really, what we want to do is make a film. We’d do our performance work and capture it in a pretty cool way. So if you know of any producers or directors! And a suitcase full of cash.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io-hxKxn-9A]

Alisa: Steven, you and Luke met at Austin City Limits?

Steven: Luke and I met quite a few years ago.

Luke: We bumped into each other while we were both on tour [with other bands] and we just wanted to start a band. Steven had been keeping himself sane by writing a lot of material while he was on the road, so it comes as a natural outgrowth of that.

Steven: [We first met] at a dance show. Tara, Luke’s wife, is a dancer with the Trisha Brown Dance Company. I was acquainted with Tara through some dance friends. This was in 2005 at Chez Bushwick, a salon where they had performance pieces.

Alisa: Do all of you have dance backgrounds?

Luke: Just Steve basically. Jen, did you?

Jen: Musicals. I’ve tread the boards. That was something that Steve and I talked about when we first met too; there were two brains where I did bands and I did classical music. I did singing for musicals, classical choirs and things like that.

Luke: We all have choir experience.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkMEVd8UXrM]

Alisa: So what was the comfort level for you guys in performing choreographed pieces?

Jen: It never feels comfortable. We all make stuff and initially, when we come up with it, we think it might be impossible. But we at least try it. It never feels like a walk in the park.

Luke: I generally get involved with “it involves swinging a [mic] around.” Watching me try to dance is comical.

Alisa: So the choreography is collaborative?

Steven: Very much so. I work with each person for a little while and, exactly what Luke said, figure out their strengths. From that, hope for the best.

Alisa: Steven, what are the strengths of Luke, James and Jen?

Steven: I think I can speak from the broad sense that each of them has deep intuition. I think they know how to use their bodies. I won’t bore you with specifics. All of them have a great sense of their own bodies.

Alisa: What about music? Do you hash this all out together?

Steven: I usually just work on some songs by myself and have a lot of ideas. I bring them to the band and Luke fleshes the percussion out. We go for it.

Alisa: Lyrics?

Steven: Usually just me. I’m not much of a writer, to be totally honest. It’s very important and I take a long time. I write a lot of stuff down and edit it like crazy, getting it down to the most basic and simple thing. A loose narrative … and [then I] cut it down to size. I think the most challenging thing is keeping this whole thing going — in a good way. We’re trying to do what makes sense to us and maintain our integrity the whole time. That’s sometimes challenging.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQBf7bemxN4]

Cloud Nothings: TAS In Session

Cloud Nothings' Dylan Baldi has very understanding parents. Not quite clicking with college, the teenage Cleveland musician, who was studying the saxophone, dropped out — with the blessing of his mother and father — and focused on his own music.

Signed by Carpark Records the following year, the prolific Baldi and his band Cloud Nothings has released three albums in three years — the most recent being 2012's Attack On Memory. A fourth album is already in the works and Cloud Nothings will launch a tour of Australia, New Zealand and Singapore on January 26.

Listen to singer and guitarist Baldi and his bandmates — drummer Jayson Gerycz, guitarist Joe Boyer and bassist TJ Duke —  in session with The Alternate Side on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, January 25, at 11 a.m., also streaming.

Below, watch the Cloud Nothings perform live in Studio A and read highlights of Baldi's interview with The Alternate Side's Russ Borris.

UPDATE: Listen to the Cloud Nothings' session now in the archives.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiDk74OevGE]

Russ: How did this all come together for you guys as a band?

Dylan Baldi: I made some songs in college because I hated college and wanted to leave. So I thought starting a band would be a really efficient way to do it. It was three years ago and things sort of took off.

Russ: So Dylan, you tell your parents, here I’m writing songs and I’m going to drop out of school?

Dylan: Yeah, that was it! (laughs). They were like, “We can tell you don’t like this, so just do something that makes you happy.” It went fine.

Russ: Do you have a lot of recollections of some of the [early songs] that you wrote?

Dylan: Our first record is the first songs I wrote, pretty much. I remember it very clearly because it exists on record!

Russ: So when you start out, it’s just you and you’re now at the point where you have a fully functioning, really great band. So how do you get from you trying to get out of college to the band as it’s constituted now?

Dylan: These are just friends of mine from around Cleveland. I needed a band to play a show, basically, so I asked them to play.

Russ: Now, this represents where the band is. Attack and Memory  [has a] different vibe?

Dylan: It’s a lot different than the early stuff. It’s the kind of stuff I’m into now.

Russ: What’s really impressive about the record is when you take a listen through it, it has this very raw, live feel. It’s very real sounding, from the first note to the last. I know that you worked with Steve Albini on this. What does he bring to the table?

Dylan: (laughs) Albini just records you. He does it really, really well. He doesn’t make suggestions or anything, but anyone who plays in that studio comes out with a record that sounds sort of the same as a lot of records that come out of there (laughs). It’s just a live band playing. He just made it sound really good.

Russ: It’s what you wanted though.

Dylan: Yeah, I don’t like records that are big and produced. There will never be a trumpet on a Cloud Nothings record.  

Russ: It’s funny because in soundcheck, you guys messed around with a piano and I was thinking that it would make its way into the mix.

Dylan: We were playing school fight songs! But there is a little bit of piano [on the record].

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE5vOp0tVlw]

Russ: You don’t get enough instrumentals on albums these days.

Dylan: I don’t like singing that much because I yell and it hurts my throat so we needed something to calm it down a little bit.

Russ: Was that really the mindset on the record?

Dylan: Well, I wanted lyrics and up to the very last minute, I was like, “What should I sing?” Then we recoded it and I thought it was okay.

Russ: You started writing on your own, so as far as this album is concerned, how did it differ?

Dylan: I wrote the main parts of the song and I’d come in and we’d play. Everyone else would make their own parts around it so it was more of a group process.

Russ: It was it a byproduct of having a full, functioning band?

Dylan: It was just because I was bored writing the kind of songs I was writing before. I wanted to do something different.

Russ: So you’re just starting out and you’re already bored?

Dylan: Teenage angst.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlvMuNeC6vk]

Russ: When you were in college and trying to write songs, are there certain artists or bands in your head?

Dylan: Definitely. There are bands like The Wipers that I love a lot. And bands that you look up to because of the way they operate, they did things on their own their entire career, like Fugazi or Dead Moon or something. Bands you can respect for reasons like that and try to be influenced by their approach.

Russ: Do you feel like in a short period of time that your writing is growing? Lyrically there’s some stuff that sticks out, like in “Wasted Days”: “I thought I would be more than this.” But the way that’s delivered goes beyond the simplicity of the line.

Dylan: I like very direct words. And in music I like to be direct and present. That’s how I am as a person too.

Two Gallants: TAS In Session

Two Gallants is back after a five year hiatus with a new album, The Bloom and The Blight, and a new record label, ATO. Singer/guitarist Adam Stephens and drummer/vocalist Tyson Vogel might have had good experiences with their other projects, but the lifelong friends have a special camaraderie that's evident in their music and album artwork (a photo of the pair as kids graces the record's front cover).

Two Gallants kick off a tour of the States on January 16 in Bellingham, Washington with Future Twin and head to Australia in February. No Houston, Texas shows slated on this road trip; Stephens and Vogel discussed in detail with TAS's Alisa Ali about their harrowing — and infamous — experience with an over-zealous police officer in October 2006, a situation which ended up with Vogel in jail for a day.

Watch videos of Two Gallants' TAS session below, which includes a live performance of a spanking new, untitled song as well as selections from The Bloom and The Blight. The interview airs this Friday, January 18 on TAS on 91.5 WNYE, also streaming online. 

UPDATE: Listen to the Two Gallants session now in the WFUV archives.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgqtIUYxVgo]

Alisa Ali: It’s been a while since the last record, five years. What were you guys up to? I know you both put out solo records during that time.

Adam Stephens: We both toured a bit. We were still playing a lot of music. Tyson toured with his band Devotionals and was with Port O’Brien, as their drummer, for a while. I had my own band and toured the US a couple of times. Then we eventually brought it back together.

Alisa: What was the difference between working with those other bands and this dynamic that you two have?

Adam: Well, there’s a lot less people to deal with and that’s nice. Tyson and I have known each other since we were five years old so it’s pretty easy for us to come to an understanding on a lot of things. Most people just don’t have that benefit of experience with anyone, let alone someone you’re in a band with. I know we both learned a lot [by playing with other people], but mostly we learned how grateful we are to have what we have together.

Alisa: The cover of the album is the two of you [as children] — you do look the same, actually.

Tyson Vogel: That was the funny part of it, especially trying to find the art for the record and finding this photo. At the time, when we were thinking what to do, it seemed really appropriate. It shows the longevity of the friendship, but pokes fun [at the fact] that we’re adults but not much has changed.

Alisa: One of you said that this record was a “passage” into your adulthood. Tyson?

Tyson: I think where I was coming from with that … I think in our time off as well, when we played with other musicians and experiemented and tried to expand the musical language, our individual one, we learned a lot. So when coming back, playing as the Two Gallants, I feel that we both brought something fresh and new to it. We had matured over that time that we weren’t playing together. But hopefully in any kind of art or music, it’s supposed to progress. It’s supposed to change.

Alisa: How do you reckon your playing has changed? Do you feel you’re playing guitar differently, Adam?

Adam: Yeah, I used to do a lot more finger-picking, more of an old-timey thing. These new songs have a lot more power chords and I do play a few licks here and there. There’s a lot more flat picking involved. It used to be pretty much exclusively finger-picking which is a pretty different sound.

Alisa: What made you change?

Adam: I don’t really know. I think it can be one dimensional sometimes to keep doing it. It has an antiquated, very particular sound that to a lot of people is reminiscent of Appalachian music. The new songs that were coming together felt more aggressive and you can’t get too aggressive with finger picks on! There’s a limitation.

Alisa: When you’re home, fiddling around with the guitar, are you still fingerpicking or shredding power chords? Adam: No, I still mostly fingerpick when I’m alone. I love to play that way. Tyson: Closet finger picker! Adam: That’s so disgusting! Alisa: Tyson, has your drumming changed?

Tyson: I think the thing that’s a little different about drums is that it’s such a mutable instrument. I see drum playing being excavating things. You have to learn new ways of approaching the same thing to help play a roll into a song. I feel that I have a little bit more knowledge about that then when we put out our first record. Adam: We both changed up our style to make these songs a bit more to the point. I think our past records [had] a little too much going on which was potentially distracting sometimes. We wanted to strip it down a little. It still has its complications, but to me, what I like the most about these new songs, is some of their simplicity.

Alisa: Can you tells us a little bit about “Cradle Pyre?";

Adam: It was one of the last songs to make it on the record. It came together right until the moment we were recording it, so it’s got a different history than most songs. Usually we try out most of our songs on tour and see if we like them. This one was pushed out into the world.

Alisa: Did [producer] John Congleton encourage you to put that on even though you hadn’t trial-tested it?

Adam: No, I think we only had ten songs (laughs). We started playing and then we started recording four months after we started playing together. All of the songs were written in that period. [video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkhD39B0bJ8] Alisa: Earlier you guys were talking about getting to the point with songs. This record is very tight. Economical, 30 minutes. Did you work on the songs to strip away excess elements?

Tyson: As Adam touched upon before, I think with these songs, they wanted to be to the point and focused. I think it was a bit of a meditation for us, listening to what the song needed, and trying to keep it in its pure and undistracted form. That’s what we really tried to hone in our own musicianship. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing to be simple. In the process of growth for any song it goes through these different forms. It’s a real orchestration of things. For sure, things were definitely shortened. Alisa: How much of a struggle was it to change but maintain your unique sound?

Adam: I don’t think it was much of a struggle. I think that we’d be capable of escaping the way we sound. I think we’re uncomfortable with purity because every time we have something that seems a little too precious, we end up unintentionally dirtying it up by the way we play. That’s the way it goes. We didn’t think consciously about that at all. Most people who know our music would hear us and know who it was.

Alisa: What was the experience of recording like?

Adam: This was probably the most fun I’ve ever had. I really don’t like recording. I don’t like idea of making decisions that are irreversible. I just have a problem with that.

Alisa: That’s why you get a producer!

Adam: Still, our name is on the cover of the record and we are the ones who have to deal with it.

Tyson: We don’t really allow many people into the process. John was there. We wrote the songs.

Alisa: When it comes to making decisions, why was it easier or more fun than it had been in the past?

Adam: Working with John was just a pleasant experience. He alleviated any stress or if anything got confusing or we were in a doubtful position, he always would make some gross, immature joke and break us out of it! It can get lonely and depressing in a studio all day long for weeks at a time.

Tyson: Especially if you’re more on the perfectionist side of things. You get really in this kind of wormhole and lose perspective. Alisa: So it’s more freeing to play live and do shows?

Adam: Yes. We’re still going to play records, but I like to constantly change songs. I don’t think songs are ever done. To me, they should be changed. You have to allow them that freedom. But once you record something, it’s set in stone as far as the version that people are going to refer to. There really isn’t a song that we’ve ever recorded that I wouldn’t have wanted to do differently. But, you’ve got to deal with it. We add a lot of outros and different things to songs. There’s a song called “Despite What You’ve Been Told” on our last record which has this long outro now that we’ve developed over months of playing it. Everything changes.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFNplVDMop0] Alisa: That’s a new, untitled song. Have you recorded it?

 

Adam: No.

Alisa: Good! You can take this recording home with you so you can remember how it goes. Now as far as touring is concerned, you guys have had some crazy situation where your show got raided by the police and you were tased?

Adam: Yep, me. And Tyson went to jail?

Alisa: Can you tell me that story? Or is it too painful?

Adam: We were playing this show [in Houston, Texas] at Walters on Washington and we played our fair share of underground shows where the cops come. [If it's an] unofficial show and usually they’ll be pretty cool about it, sometimes they even let us play if we just turn it down a little bit. Not only was this [Houston gig] an official show — we had a contract — but a cop just stormed in, came right up on stage and was yelling at us to stop playing. We were in the middle of a song and kept playing while I was trying to talk to him. Tyson was keeping the beat going and I was playing the guitar. I asked him what the problem was and I guess in Texas, you’re not allowed to ask that question. I felt like we had the right to be informed about what we were doing instead of just being told. He wouldn’t work into someone else’s workplace and just tell them to stop writing an email. I just wanted to know why and he didn’t like that question. I asked again, Tyson stood up and this [cop], a giant dude, just tackled us both to the ground. It turned into total chaos. [The cop] went after this kid.

Alisa: Did kids jump on the stage?

Tyson: No, there were probably about 150-200 people there. When you see this intimidating figure come in and tackle two people to the ground, everyone started to freak out. People had their phones and digital cameras out, making sure it was documented, and then [the cop] flipped out.

Adam: I think someone might have thrown a bottle at him. Who knows?

Alisa: How come you went to jail, Tyson?

Adam: My instincts … I don’t know. At one point he came at me with a taser and shocked me in the stomach with it and said, “You’re coming with me.” My instincts, from high school and drinking in public, immediately came to life and I bolted and left. All these kids cleared the way and escorted me out the door. Eventually some people I found a few blocks away took me back to their house. Meanwhile, [the cop] arrested Tyson, two guys from one of the other bands that were with us, and a photographer that was there.

Alisa: What a crazy story.

Adam: Yeah and Tyson spent almost a whole day in jail. Almost 20 hours.

Alisa: Was that the worst 20 hours of your life?

Tyson: No, it wasn’t the worst 20 hours, but it was definitely an eye-opening experience.

Alisa: What did you learn from being in the slammer?

Tyson: It gave me real, first-hand experience in being able to observe and see how things work. Jail is not for rehabilitation. It’s incarceration, it’s uncomfortable … I had to sleep on the floor, wet from the show, it was freezing. I woke up and the guy next to me was obviously a thug, tears tattoed on his face, and he informed me about what was going on. It made me realize that everyone that I was with knew exactly the procedure. They had been there before. It really opened my eyes to how cyclical and unconstructive the system is.

Alisa: Do you guys get a little paranoid now at shows when you see the fuzz?

Adam: No. Chances of something like that happening twice in one lifetime is pretty slim.

Tyson: The funny thing was is that I had to go back to court three or four times to Houston. And the two other members of the band that we were with couldn’t afford to go back and forth, so they took a Class D misdemeanor, had to write a letter of apology to the city of Houston and pay $500. And here, this police officer who was way out of protocol, gets a little pat on the back. He does it again, a year later, to Okkervil River … and it’s terrible. It’s a shame that no one is accountable for that and I spent thousands of dollars trying to clear my name of something I didn’t even do. But … here we are. As a positive outcome, I now how a very unique perspective.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2togNabm80]

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