Monday, December 26, 2016

HOTEL LIGHTS SHINE BRIGHTLY ON 2016 ALBUM

Hotel Lights - Hotel Lights (March 7, 2006)
Hotel Lights - Firecracker People (August 19, 2008)
Hotel Lights - Girl Graffiti (August 16, 2011)
Hotel Lights - Get Your Hand In My Hand (March 4, 2016)


Darren Jessee is Hotel Lights, a project he's pursued for over a decade when not preoccupied by his duties as the drummer of Ben Folds Five. A North Carolina native who now lives in Brooklyn, Jessee has teamed with  musician/producer Alan Weatherhead and an impressive list of session musicians to create four sterling albums renowned for their elegance, understated hooks, and refined arrangements.  Get Your Hand In My Hand, released in March, 2016, "continues Jessee’s tradition of writing subdued, melancholy guitar pop," wrote PopMatters.com.   Kevin Matthews of PowerOfPop.com hailed the album as  "perfectly constructed pop-rock tunes drawn from the classic 60's/70's songbook, a fitting tribute to halcyon days, where sophisticated pop ruled the airwaves and the charts."


"
What he achieves on the album is a wonderfully crafted record with captivating songwriting and delivery," raved the Canadian website The Revue.ca. "It’s witty, dramatic, intimate, and emotional, at times it’s sad, but there is a warmth to it provided by Jessee’s voice and the alluring quality of the instrumentation on this record."

Q: There was a five year gap between Get Your Hand and its predecessor, and of course there was a Ben Folds Five reunion and world tour in there. Is Hotel Lights something you can put aside for a period of time, or are you always writing and demo'ing? Can you write on the road or do you need a period of quiet study? Does the fact that the album came together over a protracted period of time explain how the songs seem to segue through a number of different styles and genres?
Darren Jessee: Yes. There was a Ben Folds Five reunion album and tour, and after that I traveled the world as part of Sharon Van Etten's band. I'm currently touring with Hiss Golden Messenger. I don't write a lot while I'm on the road beyond gathering a few ideas here and there. It takes a routine for me most of the time. But when I'm home, I am often writing. I have new songs written for what will be the first Darren Jessee album.

Q: The tone of Get Your Hand In My Hand is also quite a bit different than the album before it, less joke and much more pensive and introspective. Was that a result of personal changes in your life (there are some great break up songs on this album) or is just the way your muse spoke to you?


Darren: If you listen to the tone of the first two Hotel lights albums, they could also be considered as you described, more introspective and pensive. The album you're referring to --Girl Graffiti, was a conscience decision on our third album to keep it looser and try different moods. I've gone back to my emotional landscape roots on the new album, and it's my favorite Hotel Lights album experience.

Q: I noticed in most of the reviews of Get Your Hand that many critics didn't seem to recognize "Lens Flare" as a bossa nova. How do you feel about the state of criticism today. the way your work is received, and the prevalence of DIY blogs over the magazines and newspapers of a generation ago?

Darren: I'm grateful for anyone who wants to write about my albums. There are so many hyperbolic statements in music criticism today, you really must listen for yourself to know what anything is. The idea that a music critic knows a bossa beat or even how to play chords on the piano is asking a lot. Almost every review of Hotel Lights starts by by citing that I was in Ben Folds Five and co-wrote Brick. The artfulness of Hotel Lights is often overshadowed by the discussion of defining me and then comparing it all to my past.

Q: A lot of rock music starts with a hook or a catchy, repeating chorus; you eschew those tools. When you start writing a song, what's foremost in your mind? Are you writing to a listener, or to yourself?

Darren: I'm writing for myself and trusting my intuition about it. But I do like to imagine how one of my friends will feel when they hear a new idea. That comes later when I'm mixing. I aspire to go with the flow of being creative when I'm writing. The hooks are subtle, yet they grow on you in the best way.


Q: There is a lot of the new album that reminds me of Big Star or Game Theory, bands that never had "hits" but which endure because to certain fans, those bands are the most important thing in their life. You said that you aren't that active in social media, but I'm wondering if you manage to maintain a sense of community with your fans?

Darren: I feel like Big Star endures because of the quality of those albums. When I'm on tour as a freelance drummer, I meet fans every day who don't know about my records. Which is also a problem Big Star ran into. I'm hesitant to compare us beyond that. I feel better when I'm limiting my time on social media. A little mystery completes a person. I was once pretty famous for a musician from NC, on MTV every hour. I didn't completely enjoy that part of it. I don't feel myself leaning into the idea of cultivating an image or seeking constant affirmation. I simply love being an artist and making meaningful music. I like keeping my mind in that space. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

VINICIUS CANTUARIA: BLAME IT ON THE BOSSA NOVA



Vinicius Cantuária - Horse And Fish (May 11, 2004)

 

Vinicius
Cantuária came to  Bar/None as an established star in his native Brazil, a leading figure in the worlds of bossa nova and jazz.  Leader of the rock band O Terco, he released six albums in Brazil in the 80's and with his album Sol na Cara (Grammavision), was a pioneer of the neo-Brazilian music in 1996.The multi-talented singer, composer, guitarist, and percussionist came to New York in the mid-90's and immersed himself in the city's avant-garde underground, collaborating with artists like Arto Lindsay, David Byrne,  Brian Eno, and Laurie Anderson. In 2004, he teamed with Bar/None for Horse And Fish, his 11th studio album.   "Since the earliest days of bossa nova in the 1950's, Brazilian singers and musicians have competed with each other to be the most understated, subtle practitioners of the form," wrote Chris Moss for the BBC. "Vinicius Cantuária is arguably the current master of the subliminally sensual." JazzTimes opined, "Even as Cantuária aims toward modernism, he interprets canonical Brazilian themes like 'O Barquinho' and Jobim's 'Ligia,' his voice taking on a strikingly intimate, vulnerable quality on the latter."  These days, Vinicius owns a studio in New York City and still travels frequently to Brazil, where he continues to create and produce. 

Q:  You came to America with an international reputation in jazz and bossa nova, but when you came to New York, you worked with many artists in the avant-rock world like Arto Lindsay, Laurie Anderson, and  David Byrne.  How did these collaborations change the course of your career, and what influence from these people have you brought into your current work?

Vinicius: When I started to work with that group of musicians I felt I had found a sound that entered well in my music and my aesthetic. It was a rich give and take of possibilities. I was influenced and in turn influenced these artists and together we made some fantastic music. Of course this all took my music to another level and my work still reflects this time in New York
 

Q:  Many Americans (including myself) were introduced to bossa nova by Frank Sinatra's collaborations with Jobim. How do you think Jobim's legacy and artistry has survived 40 years later?  Is he still influencing the music in Brazil and elsewhere?

Vinicius: Jobim is one of the biggest musical influences of the past century and his music is still alive and current, continuing to influence musicians across the world. And one of the reasons why his music is still current is that his harmonies and melodies, in addition to their Brazilian touch, create a bridge between jazz and classical music - something that makes it universal, seductive and appreciated by musicians and listeners
 

Q: What would you tell the American listener who is not familiar with bossa nova to get them to give it a try? What about this music is universal and timeless and appeals to so many different tastes?

Vinicius:  I think everyone has heard one way or another a song by Jobim, so in that way everyone has heard Bossa Nova, but for someone starting out I would recommend listening to the classic album with Stan Getz playing the classic "The Girl from Ipanema" From there you can discover many other recordings with the interplanetary music of Jobim and other bossa nova artists.








Monday, December 12, 2016

TWINKLE, TWINKLE, TINY LIGHTS



Tiny Lights - The Young Person's Guide To Tiny Lights (October 17, 1995) 
Tiny Lights - The Smaller The Grape, The Sweeter The Wine (March 18, 1997)

Tiny Lights straddled both the New Brunswick and Hoboken pop scenes when they formed in 1985, the brainchild of singer/guitarist John Hamilton and singer/violinist Donna Croughn. The original lineup included cellist Jane Scarpantoni,  bassist Dave Dreiwitz, and drummer John Mastro (brother of the Bongos' Jim Mastro.)  The group enjoyed a  remarkable decade-plus career, releasing seven albums and touring the country with artists like Michelle Shocked, 10,000 Maniacs, Henry Rollins, Poi Dog Pondering, the Feelies, and many others.   The band's unique mixture of orchestral pop and psychedelic improvisation - often expanding its lineup to include trumpet, saxophone, tabla, and bass clarinet - inspired Rolling Stone to dub the group "Sly & The Family Partridge."

Bar/None released the career-spanning compilation The Young Person's Guide To Tiny Lights in 1995,  and the group's final album, The Smaller The Grape, The Sweeter The Wine, in 1997.  Dave Dreiwitz and Jane Scarpantoni went on to enjoy long careers, Dreiwitz as a member of Ween and Scarpantoni as accompanist for Lou Reed, R.E.M., Bob Mould, 10,000 Maniacs, the Indigo Girls, and Bruce Springsteen. Hamilton and Croughn married and are now raising a family in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where John is a professor at Harvard University.


Tiny Lights (l. to r.) John Mastro, Donna Croughn, John Hamilton, Dave Dreiwitz
Dave Dreiwitz:  When Tiny Lights began, our goal was to make and perform beautiful music together. We worked very hard touring and recording. We had our own sound and that was what was most important to us.The very first Tiny Lights concert was in 1983 opening for The Bongos at the Showplace. I was a senior in high school. Somehow we always managed to get on some really cool bills. We played with so many different bands including John Cale, 10,000 Maniacs, Lenny Kaye, The Hoodoo Gurus, Lucinda Williams, Jim Carroll and The Feelies. When we started touring nationally we opened for Henry Rollins, Mojo Nixon and Michelle Shocked all on the same tour! In the early 90's, I remember one great bill at the original Knitting Factory with Kramer, David Peel (with the Pope of Pot!) and Luscious Jackson.

   












Tuesday, December 6, 2016

THE FEELIES ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM COMING IN FEBRUARY


The Feelies - Here Before (April 21, 2011)

The New Yorker proclaimed the Feelies "one of America's most beloved alternative rock bands," Rolling Stone listed their groundbreaking debut Crazy Rhythms as one the 50 best albums of the Eighties, and a small army of jangling, pastoral, and frenetic indie-rockers have claimed them as an influence over the last three decades.  Mostly, though, the Feelies remain an American original.  "From their Passaic County fastness, the Feelies imbued nerdy suburban goofiness with spare downtown cool, rocking out all the while," wrote Robert Christgau. But perhaps percussionist Dave Weckerman said it best, speaking to Jersey Beat fanzine back in 1986: "Being in the Feelies is like living in a pyramid. Nothing ever changes and no one ever grows older." 

Bar/None released Here Before in 2011, ushering the Feelies into the 21st Century following a 20-year hiatus. The label has also reissued the Feelies' four classic previous albums - Crazy Rhythms, 1986's The Good Earth, 1988's Only Life, and 1991's Time For A Witness, which are available here. 


O
n February 24, 2017,  Bar/None will release the Feelies' sixth album, In Between, and the band recently gave fans a first taste from that album with the song "Been Replaced."  We asked Stan Demeski - the Feelies' drummer since 1986's The Good Earth - how new songs come together these days, with the band spread out over five cities in three states.

 


Stan Demeski: Since we started playing again in 2008 we’ve had enough shows where we would have to get together several times a year to prepare for them. So we do see each other more than you might think. Both members who don’t live in the area anymore still have family here as well so there’s reasons other than the band to come back.  If someone has a new song and feels like playing it at rehearsal or sound check, we give it a shot. But usually demos are sent out before we play a new song. For myself, I work on them at home and try to learn the song forms. If Glenn has a drum part on his demos, I try to play what he has. I might change it to fit my style a bit or to how I think it could be more effective. That’s mostly changing the bass drum part to fit with the rhythm guitar part. Bill will record guitar only demos at home, put them on CD and send them to the other band members. Glenn does a similar thing but his demos tend to have more to them since he writes the lyrics and most of the melody lines. Some of his demos are almost complete songs. We did some demos for this new LP with just the three of us recording. I think Glenn put bass on those tracks to fill them out and get a better idea of the arrangements.

Q: Looking at the entire timeline of the Feelies, the past few years have turned out to have been some of the group's most prolific.  Is the band just in a good place now, or is there a sense of urgency that no one is getting any younger and there may only be time for a few more releases?

Stan:  A bit of both. I wish we would have gotten back together sooner but it didn’t work out that way. I think not playing music to make a living certainly frees things up. And we are getting older for sure. Glenn and Bill both seem to write more now, I’m not sure why. Bill has already mentioned working on 'the next record.'


Q: The Feelies have always been a band that radiated humility, in everything from the band's onstage persona to its interactions with its audience to the very humble interviews we'd read from Glenn and Bill.  I'm just wondering if, when you're by yourselves,does the band every start talking about its legacy and where the Feelies fit into the pantheon of American rock?

Stan:  I don’t, that’s for sure. And it’s their band, I just get to play in it. They can think about those points if they like, but I don’t think they do.











Monday, November 28, 2016

LIKE A BIRDIE ON A WIRE: BIRDIE BUSCH


Birdie Busch - The Ways We Try (January 1, 2005)
Birdie Busch - Penny Arcade (September 27, 2007)

Emily "Birdie" Busch, "Philadelphia's whimsical, verse-weaving siren," according to NPR,  has always had a way with storytelling. Her lyrics are introspective, offbeat, and oozing with  sentimentality. The nickname "Birdie" has nothing to do with singing; "it was bestowed upon me by a friend after a beret with metal studs was bestowed upon my head. It had nothing to do with singing, just silliness. So when they ask, 'what came first, the beret or the bird?' I say the beret," she told YellowBirdProject Blog.

After ingratiating herself in Philadelphia's alt-folk scene in the early '00's, Birdie's debut album The Ways We Try was recorded with producer Devin Greenwood (Amos Lee, the Weeds, JF Maher) and released on Bar/None in 2005.  At only age 25, Birdie captured the sweetness and complexity of some of America's finest singer/songwriters; A.D. Amorosi in the Philadelphia City Paper described the record as "Not dag funky but odd funky - her crackled rosiness draws you into [the songs] as would a painter's smallest strokes, asides that speak volumes when you stand closer. So get closer." Birdie worked with Devin Greenwood again for her Bar/None follow up album Penny Arcade two years later, recording the bulk of the album at Devin's South Philly home studio (dubbed "The Honey Jar,")  imbuing the album with a homey intimacy.

One of the standout songs is “The Huff Singers (North Philly,)” about a gospel singing group Birdie met while waitressing at a gospel brunch. “Mr. Huff, who is in his 80’s, carries a Polaroid camera around and he asked me if he could take my picture and then he gave me the copy. I love to visit the group in their rehearsal space and listen to them swap old time songs and recordings; we have made an effort to bridge the gap between cultures, and it’s a real pleasure for me,”  Birdie said at the time.

These days, Birdie Busch continues to perform and record in Philadelphia, with strong support from NPR's Acoustic Cafe and Philly's WXPN.  She released her latest album Thunder Bridge in June, 2016, and will be appearing at Ortlieb's in Philadelphia on December 7.





Birdie Busch On Philadelphia:

Philly has been a city that has allowed me time and space to react, write,record.live, love, and everything in between. It's not a "hustle" kind of place although it is incredibly diverse and amazing. My relationship has changed in that I've come to feel more responsible for my contributions to this place, not only artistically but civically. I do a lot within the context of my community and use my art and music to make it all happen, including using albums to raise money for public schools and also visual art grants, which you can check out at link below. http://www.emilybirdiebusch.com/civic-art/

For me, the dawn of the Internet had less computer time and more real time. Not that that wasn't an element of it. But initially, there was a lot of hanging out at bars, open mics, etc. And when hanging at bars, you were really there! Ha. No one was looking down at the screens, present focused energy seemed to still be upheld. Gosh I miss that. The collective experience without fractured attention.

Philly has so many amazing musicians and that's always felt like a constant to me. Right now, I've been really enjoying Rosali Middleman.
I also really love this group that plays a lot of vintage Hawaiian kind of stuff.

But I could honestly send you a long list of great music from Philly of all different feels.

Being in a smaller city has benefits and setbacks. I have had friends that left for bigger cities to seek more paid work in music, especially engineers and people in the production side of things. Many of us here combine many different things to make our lives work. Music is a huge part of my vitality, but with the state of music and living here I do a lot of different things. In the end I think it all informs each other and strengthens my soul.



Monday, November 21, 2016

SHEFFIELD BEAT: REMEMBERING STANDARD FARE


Standard Fare - The Noyelle Beat (March 16, 2010)
 

Music was the family business for Emma Kupa. Her mother was in the Eighties anarcho-punk band Poison Girls. So perhaps it wasn't too surprising when she and teenaged pal Danny How started playing together.  When they poached drummer Andy Beswick from Danny's brother's band, Standard Fare's alluring blend of adolescent crushes, young adult sexual longing, and gleeful indie-pop melody was born.  Pitchfork.com wrote of the Sheffield, UK trio, "The album's highlights-- 'Fifteen (Nothing Happened),' in which lead singer and bassist Emma struggled mightily with her temptation to sleep with a 15-year-old, or 'Philadelphia,' where she waited a year to revisit an overseas fling in the titular city-- hit upon an acidic, wide-eyed middle ground." Bar/None released Standard Fare's debut album The Noyelle Beat in March, 2010.  After a second album, Out Of Sight, Out Of Town in 2011, the group disbanded in 2013 but remains on friendly terms.
Standard Fare today
A Conversation With Standard Fare

Q.) Emma is playing with Mammoth Penguins these days. What are Dan and Andy up
to?

Dan: We have a couple of bands together; Skeletal Shakes, where we play indie-punk-pop, and The Hangtown Thieves, which is old-time country-rockabilly. They're quite different but both great fun to play around with. We don't take them out much, but we're always writing and recording new things.

Q.) You got to tour America twice around the time of The Noyelle Beat. What was

your biggest surprise in the States, something you weren't expecting?


Dan: The biggest surprise to me was how far this scene went. We traveled all that distance and to cities we'd never been to, but we'd still meet these bands who played and loved the same music as us. 
We'd meet people in the afternoon and they'd drive 2 hours just to see the show that night, and people who'd let 3 strangers stay at their house just because they had guitars! Everyone really looked out for us.
Andy: Having the chance to tour the US, twice! with the guys and the band! was the best thing ever, and was a lot of fun! The roads there are much much longer than any road in the UK, haha.  However every gig we played was well worth the drive! I'd say the Splorks gig was something I wasn't expecting, when they combined chucking an array of teddy bears around the audience in a mosh pit (and we all joined in). That was the most insane thing I had ever witnessed :) 

Emma: The DIY scene in the US is full of such lovely people. We were shown such kindness. The first Philadelphia show we did was in a warehouse in the middle of nowhere and we were getting electric shocks off the microphones but it was fun. There were a lot of long drives but the drive from NYC to New Haven was the worst as it was during a major storm and we had to keep driving past and even getting out to move fallen down trees in the road. We got to a dive bar pretty shell-shocked but played our set anyway.

Q.) I know you played SXSW in Austin and a festival in Athens,GA, two
cities that have produced great U.S. indie rock. Did you have any heroes or landmarks in those cities that you were especially excited about?

Andy: I just remember weaving through people, with beers in our hands, in the sun, walking around the streets at the SXSW festival and there was a different sound coming out of every door we passed! It was incredible there being a part of it. We had a busy schedule, but I do remember getting the chance to see Rival Schools set. I had never seen them before, and they were awesome, they had a massive sound with popping drums!

Emma: There was a great buzz in both cities while we were there. SXSW is such an experience and I remember a hairy late night drive with a red-neck taxi driver… We were keen to play Athens because Happy Happy Birthday To Me records had put out some great bands including Sourpatch.

Q.) In NYC, you got to play Death By Audio, one of the city's (now sadly
defunct) all ages, DIY venues. I've met people from Europe and Japan who marvel at the concept of illegal, unlicensed underground clubs like that flourishing in a major city. What was your reaction to DBA and are there venues like it in your part of the UK?

Dan: I don't think we really understood the concept until we tried to find the place! I think it was a brilliant idea really, that music should be available to everyone.
It might be the difference in legal drinking ages making pubs more accessible but I've only recently started to see similar places in the UK, like an old vegetable warehouse in Nottingham. We played a couple of warehouse shows whilst we were in the US, everyone was totally up for it, it felt really in the moment and it never got out of hand.

Emma: The all-ages thing is really important in the US I think and it is getting more so in the UK. I think it’s difficult to start up unlicensed venues here in the UK but there are more DIY spaces that are legal but are all-ages and bring your own booze like JT Soar (Nottingham) that Dan mentioned and The Audacious Art Experiment (Sheffield) and DIY Space for London.

Q.) As one of the few non-American acts to have been on Bar/None, do you
have any bands who have recorded for the label who were big influences or favorites of yours growing up?
Dan: When Bar/None first got in touch I remember seeing they put out Evan Dando's solo album and that was it, I was completely in. He's an absolute hero of mine, the varying sound, slow-soft/fast-loud, I still have the same albums of his on repeat now. It's something I can always go back to and suits many different moods.  Now, whenever I hear They Might Be Giants on the radio, it reminds me that we were a part of something really cool.

Andy: I'd not listened to a great deal of the stuff on their label before we were in contact with them, but now, I seem to have records and follow quite a few on it now! Like the Front Bottoms, The Moms, Parlour Tricks, and Of Montreal. It was a pleasure meeting Glenn and Mark and was great fun working with them too, they have a great studio!

Emma: I had a similar experience to Dan in that the connection to Evan Dando was really exciting for me.
 



\\


Monday, November 14, 2016

THE ORDINAIRES - ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY!




The Ordinaires - One (April 26, 1989)

The Ordinaires were a nine-piece art-rock ensemble who came out of New York City's post-punk/No Wave scene of the Eighties, a band whose avant-garde eclecticism drew comparisons to everything from Henry Mancini, Captain Beefheart, Philip Glass, and Stravinsky.  In truth, though, the music of the Ordinaires was simply unclassifiable, which is perhaps why the band found a much more receptive audience in Europe than in the U.S.  Bar/None released One in 1989 in an effort to find the Ordinaires wider stateside distribution and appreciation.  Co-produced by Martin Bisi (Material, Sonic Youth, Live Skull), Bill Krauss (They Might Be Giants) and The Ordinaires, One's cover art featured an eerie computer-generated composite photograph of all nine members of the band. The Ordinaires disbanded in 1991.

Largely ignored for more than a decade, the Ordinaires became the obsession of radio producer, field recordist, and songwriter Myke Dodge Weiskopf, who has produced a fascinating audio documentary about the band.  "Nine Views Of The Ordinaires" can be enjoyed below.  Myke Dodge Weiskopf then explains what inspired the documentary and some of the challenges in completing it.
 


 
Myke Dodge Weiskopf:  Any music documentary worth its salt has to start with the music. I came of age listening to the Ordinaires' albums in the Midwest in the pre-Internet era, so their music always seemed like a gloriously strange anomaly. Even now, with the ability to dive deeply into any genre of music from every time and place, their music still sounds utterly unique. And from a storytelling perspective, the backstory of the Ordinaires seemed like a no-brainer: a nine-piece orchestral rock band coming out of this crazy downtown New York art/performance scene and trying to make the big time. So the documentary served two purposes: to expose more people to this unjustly obscure, yet brilliant and idiosyncratic band, and to explore the individual and group dynamics that went into keeping a project like that afloat. Fortunately, all I had to do was scratch the surface and the stories came pouring out. It was a dream come true in every way
What I find fascinating about the Ordinaires is that their trajectory seems to mirror that of the Lower East Side scene more broadly. They started off as a modest but idiosyncratic home recording project - with echoes of Arthur Russell, to my ears - and then adopted this very brittle, post-punk/No Wave sound, which was very much the archetypal sound of that scene in 1980-1982. But as the Lower East Side scene swelled, with folks like They Might Be Giants and Ann Magnuson and Steve Buscemi and Eric Bogosian breaking out into the larger world, the Ordinaires' sound blossomed magnificently into this new kind of organism that featured very lush and ambitious arrangements, but still welded to that rock'n'roll core. And I think by that point - say, 1986 and onwards - the Ordinaires were entirely their own thing. As Elliott Sharp says in the piece, they represented the maturing of that scene into a beautiful and expressive new art form. Then, as the LES scene fractured and imploded due to gentrification and other social factors by the end of the '80s, the band was also splitting at the seams. So in a way, the Ordinaires are a perfect allegory for the scene from which they came. It was a glorious moment in time, perhaps one of the most riotously creative in NYC's musical history, but it was never built to last. And that is both the poignancy and the perfection of the Ordinaires' story.

The Ordinaires and their extended circle were almost universally enthusiastic and helpful in putting the piece together. They were generous not just with their time, but also with their material keepsakes: gig posters, cassettes and DATs of archival material, VHS tapes of TV appearances and videos, you name it. And they each gave such great interviews: reflective and honest and funny and clear-eyed about the history and legacy of this most improbable band.
The hardest thing, really, was just putting it all together afterwards. I conducted 15 interviews in five days and received hours and hours of archival audio. It was just an overwhelming amount of material. It took me a long time to sit with it and let it marinate and allow the structure and the key elements to rise to the surface. And there were other personal mitigating factors that kept me from getting it done ... but here we are.
And yes, there are still a few members of the inner circle that I'd like to incorporate into a revised version of the piece, and I'm hoping those folks will come through once they've had a chance to listen to it. I think it's only natural that some folks aren't as interested in looking back, but it would be a shame to miss those voices in the freewheeling cacophony that defined the Ordinaires. The piece will go on either way!

The Ordinaires on iTunes


"Kashmir" 

"Death" 

"The Dance Of The Coco Crispies"

"Bacchanal" 
Ordinaires - Kashmir from Ernie Fritz on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

GLASS EYE'S KATHY McCARTY INTERVIEWS FORMER BANDMATE LISA CAMERON


 

 

 


GLASS EYE - Bent By Nature (1988)
GLASS EYE – Christine, Hello Young Lovers (1989)
KATHY McCARTY – Dead Dog’s Eyeball (1992)
KATHY McCARTY - Sorry Entertainer (1995) 

 

Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

We've revisited Glass Eye's contributions to Bar/None before,  but we wanted to bring this to our readers' attention:  In this 2007 piece from The Austin Chronicle, Glass Eye's Kathy McCarty interviewed her former bandmate Lisa Cameron, who transitioned from Dave Cameron after decades as one of Austin's most popular, beloved musicians.

http://www.austinchronicle.com/features/2007-06-08/481955/

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

STARLING ELECTRIC: EVERYTHING GOOD ABOUT MUSIC FROM 1965 TO 1977


Starling Electric - Clouded Staircase (August 19, 2008)

Originally the solo project Ann Arbor, Michigan native Caleb Dillon, Starling Electric had morphed into a full-fledged band by the time Dillon boasted that on his self-released, homemade power-pop debut  Clouded Staircase "we
specialize in everything truly great about pop music from 1965 to 1977."   Robert Pollard, the Posies, and the underground music press quickly became champions, and Bar/None gave the album a wider release in 2008.  Pitchfork opined, "it hits all the right notes-- the harmonies, the chiming guitars, the baroque arrangements, the slightly psychedelic twists and turns," equal parts "Beach Boys, Byrds, Beatles, Big Star, and even a few bands that don't begin with B." A decade later, after innumerable lineup changes, Dillon and Starling Electric have just released a fourth album,  Electric Company.


Starling Electric, 2008

Q: Promo for Clouded Staircase boasted that it was "recorded entirely in bedrooms, basements, closets, and bathrooms." How are you recording these days?

Caleb Dillon: For Electric Company, we recorded in every possible way and with every level of fidelity and equipment quality. A small handful of songs were recorded in a local studio that we briefly had free access to, but then I smeared on layers of gross 4-track cassette parts over them. In the instances that I'd started recording something at home, it often ended up in a more polished version through our home studio.

Whenever I record anything it's a huge mess, especially since I don't use computer programs. It's up to our resident genius, Ben, and the other amazing musicians in the band to figure out how to make my feeble, noisy, garbage music as palatable as possible. To someone unfamiliar with recording, it's definitely NOT the way to do it - but it works for us. Anything recorded "incorrectly" is enormously appealing to me.

Q: You've been compared to bands as intimate as 10CC, as sophisticated as
Genesis, as pop as Elton John, and as grandiose as ELO and Queen. When you create a new song, are you writing to a certain imagined audience, or just to the muse in your head at the time?  Does the song dictate the arrangement, or do you conceive the "sound" you want first and work backwards to achieve it?
CD: A lot of those musical associations were meant to describe our live show and attitude, as opposed to how the songs are presented on an album. My imagined audience is never anyone but myself and what I happen to be into in that moment. I try to set the bar high, so that what I write has to sit comfortably in my mind alongside some of those musical influences. And I rarely achieve that, but at least I start out with pretty lofty standards!
It's more about the "feel" that I'm looking for than the "sound," since the "right sound" is not something I do very well on my own. I might be really obsessed with Gary Lewis & The Playboys on a particular day and want to try to write something similar...but I'm so inept at what I do that I'll end up with a synth-and-drum-machine-fueled Gary Numan ballad or something. That's not an official example, but it may as well be. Basically, anything good I've ever done has been an accident.
Caleb Dillon, 2016
Q:  Are you still in Ann Arbor?  What's the political climate been this past year in the middle of America?  Are you rooting for fellow Michiganers MC5 to get into the RnR Hall of Fame, and was the legacy of Detroit's MC5 and Stooges an influence on your development as a musician and songwriter?

CD:  I lived in Ann Arbor for about 10 years, and recently relocated to Grand Rapids. I really don't care about politics. It's not interesting to me personally, and it has nothing to do with music. Music is supposed to be an antidote to all that business and trickery and money and ridiculousness...they're just not even in the same universe.
I respect and appreciate the Stooges and MC5, but they weren't important to me or my good friends growing up. My songwriting is much less informed by having grown up in Michigan specifically than having lived in small towns and rural areas in general, where the spirit of making your own fun permeates every day. Even when I was a teenager, Detroit seemed scary; a dirty, morally bankrupt dead-end place that I had no desire to even visit. I realize that's exactly what made it appealing to a lot of other people!
I love punk, and Iggy Pop is clearly one of the great minds of our time. I love "Bored" by Destroy All Monsters. I love Motown and "96 Tears." But if you're talking about home state music, I'm much more of a Del Shannon kind of guy.

Q: What's the nicest thing anyone's ever said/wrote about your music, and what's the most incomprehensibly wrong-headed?
CD:  Whatever anyone's opinion is of my music is valid; it's their opinion, and it's not for me to say what's right or what's wrong. Once I create music and put it out into the ether, it's irrelevant how I think someone should feel about it. Several people with immaculate musical taste and knowledge have singled out one or more of my albums as one of their favorites of the modern age, and it's pretty hard to beat that. When your heroes put their arm around you and tell whoever is with them "you gotta listen to this guy", that's pretty intense. I can run on that energy for a long, long time.


     



Friday, November 4, 2016

HAPPY 30TH ANNIVERSARY, TMBG!

HAPPY 30TH ANNIVERSARY, THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS!

Bar/None released They Might Be Giants' debut self-titled album on November 3, 1986.  It became a sensation on college radio and MTV put the video for "Don't Let's Start," filmed at the New York State Pavilion from the 1964 World's Far, on heavy rotation.  The team of John Flansburgh and John Linnell, childhood friends from Massachusetts, formed the band when the duo found themselves living in the same Brooklyn apartment building after college. The group's unusual name came from the 1971 film They Might Be Giants, which in turn was taken from a Don Quixote passage about how Quixote mistook windmills for evil giants.  And Cervantes was inspired to create that image by a canto in Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem, "The Inferno."

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

THE MOMS: NOT YOUR DAD'S ROCK 'N' ROLL BAND

The Moms - "Snowbird EP" (September 16, 2016)

Bar/None has always been known for its close association with the Hoboken music scene, but The Mom's,  one of the label's most recent signings, is better described as the quintessential New Brunswick band.  The power trio formed at Rutgers when its members weren't old enough to get into bars yet and honed its talents in the Hub City's fabled basement-show scene. Once the band started performing, the boys never looked back, hitting the road and releasing early recordings on two small labels.  The Moms'  Bar/None debut EP "Snowbird" was co-produced by Pete Steinkopf (Bouncing Souls) and Brett Romnes (I Am The Avalanche) and mastered by Jon Marshall (Misfits, The Front Bottoms, Murphy’s Law).  The EP  ("six short sharp bursts of discordant punk rock that should improve your day immensely and keep a smile on your face" - The Punksite) offers just a taste of what to expect from this up-and-coming combo, composed of Joey Nester, and brothers Jon and Matt Stolpe.


Joey Nester: The Moms formed in the closet of my New Brunswick apartment on 16 Central Ave, where I had my amps stacked up among my clothing. This is the place that most of the early Moms songs came to be. It wasn't, however, until after I left Rutgers after two semesters that we began to play shows. Our first drummer Don and I had girlfriends that lived at 63 Plum St and we coerced them into throwing shows in the basement, a haven on which we bestowed the name "Dickland." I have a fondness in my heart for New Brunswick basement shows. It is a scene unlike any I have witnessed across the country due in part to the sheer amount of shows that occur all year round. These shows embody a spirit that is distinctively Rock and Roll. They are subversive, all inclusive avenues for young people to express themselves without worry of jaded promoters or age restrictions. It is arguably the only scene in New Brunswick outside of the library where there are no ulterior motives of violence or girl/guy ratios - just good clean appreciation for music, fun, and the community where it thrives. New  Brunswick basement shows are a good example of what i believe to be a good slogan for Rock and Roll - "everybody's invited!"

In today's day and age, there are plenty of places that will not allow underage bands to play. This restriction is hardly an issue in New Jersey because there are plenty of places to play where age is of no concern - basements, VFW halls, all-ages venues like Montclair's Meatlocker, etc... When The Moms embarked on our first tour, I was underage and this posed a concern as several of the shows on that tour were 21+. My solution was a money order to China that resulted a few weeks later in a fake ID. That got me through a few years at out of state venues where I technically should not have been allowed to play. As we've gotten older, I realize that there is a shift in the crowd. Younger fans at a bar show are only concerned with the music being played, whereas the older crowd has a partial motivation for the booze. This past September, we had a big issue at our "Snowbird EP" release show in Morristown. We had booked the venue far in advance with the promoter's permission to make it an 18+ show. We had talked about the details and logistics of having underage people in the crowd and the bands and it was all well and good - until we showed up to play. Much to our surprise, the owners of the bar had put a kabash on the 18+ rule at the very last minute and at 10 PM, the bouncers swept the crowd and purged the room of anybody underage. It was a ridiculous shortsight of the staff that left a very bad taste in our mouth for the venue. Corrina, Corrina was told that they couldn't even go back into the bar to get their gear! Fortunately, nobody that was forcibly removed from the bar held it against us. We're still figuring out how we're going to make it up to those people.

One of our favorite places ever to play was The Asbury Lanes - a sentiment shared with many, many people in the NJ Rock and Roll scene. Leave it to government to use eminent domain as an excuse to bury one of the greatest institutions for punk in the whole country. Perhaps it wasn't as iconic as The Stone Pony. Or maybe it was because the only ones that voiced an objection to its closing were "just a buncha punks," but the scene lost a good all ages venue in Asbury Lanes. Other venues worth mentioning are Swayzes in Atlanta, Buzzbin in Canton, Churchill's in Miami, The Cavern  in Russellville,  AR, and basically any place anywhere with good, passionate bands full of solid people.

As for crazy stories, there are many - like the time we were robbed in Cincinnati, only to get everything back a few minutes later. Or the time Jon pooped his pants on stage. Or the time I drank too much whiskey and hopped on a freight train in Lexington, KY. Or the time I drank too much whiskey and got a firm talking to from Steve-o of The Holy Mess, or the time we played one of the most unexpectedly great last minute show in Shitsplat, Nebraska to a bar full of Moms fans, or the time we ended up at a diner in Japan with good buddy from home Dwyer, or the time we got pulled over in North Carolina and Jon had to eat all the weed, or all the times when we DIDN'T get pulled over, or the time we had to change an alternator on the side of the road in Long Island and still made it to the show in time, or the time we had to drive through the Rockies on 5 of 8 cylinders, or the time we drove 16 hours between Bismarck and Boise in a blizzard, or the many, many times where we were almost murdered with alcohol by the bar we played in, or the time we were almost robbed by a guy with a sword in Connecticut, or the time we saw a vagrant with a rifle and had to take shelter behind a church, or the time Matty literally went crazy. The list goes on and on... to live in a van and play in a rock and roll band is to open yourself to a wide array of hairy experiences.



Listen To The Moms:
The Bottom
Seen Enough 
Road Soda 

Monday, October 17, 2016

TOM PRENDERGAST: ON THE RADIO

TOM PRENDERGAST - BAR/NONE FOUNDER


Tom Prendergast deserves his own plaque somewhere in Hoboken.  As one of the founders of both Pier Platters (the town's pre-eminent record store in the Eighties and Nineties)  and Bar/None Records, he's one of the unsung heroes of the Mile Square City's music scene.  These days, Tom lives in his native Ireland but he's keeping his hand in music with a weekly radio show called "Last Bus Home" on Limerick City Community Radio, 99.9 FM. The program offers an eclectic mix that ranges from jazz and American standards to indie rock. Last Bus Homes airs on 99.9FM at 10:30 pm on Sunday nights on but you can listen any time online at www.mixcloud.com/LCCR.

Tom:  This isn't the first time I've done a radio show. I worked at a pirate radio station in the 1970's, but not since then.Limerick City Community Radio is three years old and I've been with it for two and a half years. I got on there by simply asking!  Thank you for listening and please do tell your friends.


PLAYLIST FOR THE LAST BUS HOME, SUNDAY THE 2ND OF OCTOBER

IVOR CUTLER-LIFE IN A SCOTCH SITTING ROOM
FRANKIE SIMS-SHE LIKES TO BOOGIE REAL SLOW
NAZARENE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH CHOIR OF BROOKLYN-WHO'LL JOIN THIS UNION
SILVER JEWS-TRANSYLVANIA BLUES
JOE HENRY-CURT FLOAT
TON T HALL-I LOVE
ROY ORBISON-THE CROWD
THE UNTHANKS-HERE'S THE TENDER COMING
IVOR CUTLER-BEAUTIFUL COSMOS
MY FAIR LADY-ASCOT GAVOTTE
ELVIS COSTELLO-SHE
KD LANG-THE AIR THAT I BREATHE
TIM BUCKLEY-SONG TO THE SIREN
CHARLI HADEN-WAYFARING STRANGER
IVOR CUTLER-THE SURLY BUDDY
ANITA O DAY-TEA FOR TWO
GOTAN PROJECT-CHUNKAS REVENGE
DANGERMOUSE AND DANIELE LUPPI-THE ROSE WITH A BROKEN NECK
MEL TORME-GUILTY
IVOR CUTLER-BIG JIM
BETTY DAVIS-THEY SAY I'M DIFFERENT
RAY CHARLES-HONEY HONEY
IVOR CUTLER-EVERYBODY GOT


PLAYLIST FOR THE LAST BUS HOME SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 25TH

MIA-MANGO PICKLE DOWN RIVER
JOHN ZORN-STRATEGIES
TONY ALLEN-GET TOGETHER
DISCLOSURE-WHEN A FIRE STARTS TO BURN
HOLFER CZUKAY-HEY BABA REBOP
PEADAR O RIADA-SEAN O RIADA
JUNIOR CREHAN-LAMENT FOR WILLIE CLANCY
                              -FAREWELL TO MILLTOWN MALBAY/MOTHER'S DELIGHT
BOB DYLAN-THE MIGHTY QUINN
THE BYRDS-CHESTNUT MARE
MOUSE- A PUBLIC EXECUTION
DANGERMOUSE WITH SPARKLEHORSE-STAR EYES
JIM O ROURKE-THESE HANDS
TORO Y MOI-WHAT YOU WANT
PAUL MC CARTNEY-MAYBE I'M AMAZED
THE KINKS-MILK COW BLUES
DR FEELGOOD-RIOT IN CELL BLOCK NO 9
JONATHAN RICHMAN-SHE CRACKED
CHARLES MINGUS-LOS MARIACHIS