Posted by flotz on Saturday, October 23, 2010 | Live Review

The Migrant from Denmark was in town last week. Folky, moody, indie: made sense in the NW.  Maybe it's the weather. Here's some pics by Adam Forslund:



Posted by flotz on Monday, October 11, 2010 | Interview

Elf Power plays The Vera Project Wednesday. [You can read a review of their last show in Seattle here.]  They are on tour with a new record. It’s got that mesmerizing Elf Power indie rock sound, the melodies familiar yet distinct, the vocals subdued yet strong, the lyrics grounded yet mystical.  Got a chance to catch up with Andrew Rieger and chat about the making of their new record – interesting how they combined both studio and home recording.  Also chatted about the narrator of the songs, although Andrew didn’t reveal much.

[audio src="elfpower.mp3"]

Artofthemix: Hey Andrew how is it going?


Andrew Rieger: Good - how are you?


Artofthemix: Oh good, it’s rainy here. We’ve had this Indian summer in Seattle and it’s still warm out but it’s been raining non-stop.


Andrew Rieger: Yeah that’s not unusual for you guys I guess. [laughs]


Artofthemix: Yeah, the rains are here. Fall is here. Where you at right now?


Andrew Rieger: I am in Charlottesville, Virginia. We are on tour and tonight we are in Charlottesville. Everything is going fine right now. I just stepped out and I am walking down the street talking to you.


Artofthemix: Nice, nice. How’s the weather out in Virginia right now?


Andrew Rieger: It’s beautiful. I am wearing a short sleeve shirt and feels great. It’s a little breezy but it’s not cold, very nice.


Artofthemix: So you guys got a new record out.


Andrew Rieger: Yeah it just came out a couple of weeks ago.


Artofthemix: Tell me more: I would love to hear more about who produced it and kind of how you guys made it, how you went about making it. Was it a long process or short process?


Andrew Rieger: It was a long process. We spend about 8 or 9 months writing and rehearsing and coming up with arrangements in songs. That’s a little longer than we usually take. Sometimes we have written the majority of the songs and acoustic demos and brought them to the band and then we work up arrangements together. But this time I did some of that but also some of the other band, they brought music and I would write vocal melodies and lyrics to their music. Thi was really fun and something different and kind of challenging for me. Then sometimes we would just make up stuff. I would come in with may be five minutes of song and we would work it into a full song and other times we have full song but it didn’t turn out that great. So we would take one part from it and put it into another song. So it was a long process of just pulling through tons of different music and coming up with 12 songs we really liked.


Artofthemix: Well the production is super pretty. There’s some a lot going on some of the tracks, flutes and various over dubs. It’s a rich production.


Andrew Rieger: Yeah we approached the recording differently than we have done in the past.  We recorded the basic tracks with Andy LeMaster at Chase Park Transduction, which is a nice professional studio in Athens. Then we took those tracks home and spent a lot of time experimenting and trying different things. Having more time to just experiment, to try indulge any kind of whim we casually felt.


Artofthemix: Oh interesting. You didn’t have the pressure of being on the clock in the studio!


Andrew Rieger: Exactly. We took everything back to the professional studio and mixed and mastered it there. So it’s kind of perfect mix between recording in a professional studio setting and also having the freedom and the time to try all the different things in the home recording setting. So yeah it was cool and definitely a different way of doing things for us.


Artofthemix: On the production front then is that Pro Tools you are using at the home studio or are you analog? How does that all come together?


Andrew Rieger: Well when we were at the professional studio we did everything on tape and then threw it on the computer and then we used Pro Tools at the home studio so it was a mix of analog and digital. The stuff we did at the home studio was all digital recording.


Artofthemix: I have to ask you because I have been listening to your songs for many years now and there is this certain narrator that seems to come up in your songs so often. The I, the first person. I am just curious, who is that? Who is this character, has he or she evolved over the years, can you speak to this narrator.


Andrew Rieger: Well I guess it is just me.


Artofthemix: So it is you then.


Andrew Rieger: I guess it is just me or whatever kind of character I am creating in whatever scenario is in the song. But you know it is pretty much just me I guess. There is no weird serious character or alter ego for fun. I mean I guess I am just singing it all myself and my life. It will be sometimes in a veiled and abstract manner.


Artofthemix: Right well, that’s funny you call it veiled because a lot of the time the songs are about taking away veils and opening up doors and going up stairs that you didn’t know were there and peering into dimensions that you weren’t aware of.


Andrew Rieger: I like to let listener kind of decide what the lyrics are about sometimes and I will try to not make it to straight forward and literal although sometimes I like to try to tell a story as well.


Artofthemix: I always feel like I end up on some sort of journey in your songs. So what did you have for breakfast this morning?


Andrew Rieger: For breakfast this morning, I had an egg and cheese everything bagel with fake bacon at a place called, Cajun’s Peacock, in Greenville, North Carolina. I’m sure that’s fascinating for your listeners but it’s the truth.


Posted by flotz on Friday, October 1, 2010 | Interview

The Mommyheads just released Finest Specimans.  Got a chance to catch up with Adam.

Artofthemix: What’s going on? How’s New York City?

Adam: The weather is changing.


Artofthemix: Fall is upon us.


Adam: Yeah more root vegetables in my food.


Artofthemix: Well you guys got this record coming out so that’s kind of exciting: Finest Specimens.


Adam: It is cool. Actually wasn’t even our idea, we were sort of ‘brought’ over to Sweden. There’s a group of people there that got into the band in the 90’s and were waiting like 10 years to see us. They just were like, “you need to get back together and come play here and we will set some shows up. We will have interviews ready for you and we will take pictures.” So we did that.


Part of that whole package was the concept hey we will make a greatest hits record. We will find a label, etc. It was nuts. It was sort of their socialist upbringing of getting things done. You know as a community, where everybody puts in to make a project happen. We never experienced that before and it was amazing.


And so then basically now we are reissuing it here [in the states] because it just ends up being kind of a cool record. It’s a good introduction to a lot of people who don’t even know the band here.


Artofthemix: I was wondering who picked the songs. It feels like a mixed tape you would make if you were trying to turn your friend on to the band.


Adam: Well, this guy Burt, he works at a cultural agency there in Sweden. It’s adult education organization that gets funded, I think by the government. I am not totally sure but it’s sort of like a free standing government organization for the arts and they have 4,000 bands that are part of the organization and they can put shows on. They said well come on over and teach some clinics and so we each spoke for about an hour on different subjects and that paid our airfare and lodging to some degree. And so this guy Burt, who always liked us, basically masterminded it. He basically would send me emails saying “if I have my way, this would be the record” and I said “well you know you don’t know one or two of the records as much as I do, let me suggest some stuff” so I would send him my ideas. It just went back and forth until he agreed it was good and the band agreed it was good. So it ended up being like the mixed tape that you want to send somebody to introduce them to the band you know.


Artofthemix: I listened to your stuff back in the day so it was fun for me to listen to it. I haven’t listened to some of those songs for years!


Adam: Me too![laughes]


Artofthemix: The stuff from Acorn was sounding really good, I got to say.


Adam: Well I did my own mastering on this because there were so many songs it would have cost too much. I tried to equal the quality of the last record, which is sort of modern and has a lot of like sound qualities that we couldn’t achieve back in the day. So I just tried to make it even and actually some of the older tracks started to really come alive you know, some of the songs from Acorn especially.


We definitely didn’t go for radio ready Bob Broderick mastering job, we just wanted to even it out. It’s kind of a cool record. Just to see the different years all the way to 2008 and hear it all together. It’s just weird because for like 10 years, or at least 8 years, I didn’t think about the band at all. And now it’s like it’s been the year of Mommyheads. It’s insane!


Artofthemix: I remember when Acorn started making the circles among my buddies. It was like this cult thing like, “hey do you know The Mommyheads? They are amazing!” So it’s really exciting to see this come out. What I am curious to see is if you will pickup new fans?


Adam: It’s a crap shoot, there’s a lot of stuff happening. We are in a commercial right now.


Artofthemix: Really! [And here it is]


Artofthemix: So the Matador 21 birthday party show just happened. All these bands from the 90s. And you guys are back. Is there something in the water, what’s going on?


Adam: Well 10 years is a good break for people to have.


Artofthemix: I hear Babe The Blue Ox is back together.


Adam: Oh totally we played some shows with them, they are awesome. They are still better than ever. All these bands are better than ever in my opinion you know.


I got two opinions about that, one is back in the day you had to play in tour and you had to be really good and so when those bands get together, if they just play their catalog, it’s fun, it’s like a good show. Now bands spend too much time on Twitter or their iPhone, they spend too much time making videos, too much time doing content and they don’t just woodshed. You know so it’s kind of like a weird syrupy pleasure to see these bands get back together that woodsheded and toured for 10 years in the 90’s and had no distraction. Because you are just like “wow their material, it’s different. There’s something about it.” It’s about playing together and it’s not about being cool or being hip or you know, it’s a different vibe those bands have from the 90’s you know.


And they have catalogue, you don’t get bored during the set if a band put out 10 records and they took a break for 8 years, you know there’s going to be 45 minutes set of almost complete sound and music you know – no clunkers.


Artofthemix: So if we get nostalgic can we go back, can you talk a little bit about when you guys recorded Acorn and sort of what was the context, where did Acorn com out of?


Adam: Well New York was full like a hotbed of same music, I mean there was, the downtown scene, it’s like the weirder your work was, the cooler it was. The Knitting Factory was a little place that was turning out crazy music you know, people screeching on horns, trying to be Ornette Colman but they were white! I mean it was like and New York was a different place, it was edgy and tough, there were no Whole Foods in the lower east side.It was just very eclectic, the bills were nuts you know, there was no theme nights, it was pretty insane. And Acorn just came out of sort of like that John Cage meets Pop you know. We wanted to make our own instruments like the original drummer Yon passed away was playing hub caps! There was a shock value.


Posted by flotz on Sunday, September 26, 2010 | Album Review

Been waiting a long time for this record. A long time. Like 8 years long. And now Orchestraville’s Poison Berries is at last here. 

Odds are you don’t  know this band. You should. In the 90s, they released some amazing records that defined the avant-pop genre. The compositions of Chris Forbes on those early records remain a hallmark of creativity within – and beyond – the boundaries of song smith mastery.  Their first couple records contain numerous gems that never received the attention they deserved.

For example, check out “Ersatz Love” from the eponymous Orchestraville (1998). Completely amazing:

These guys were so on their game in ‘98.  And then they followed it up At night, it is particularly lovely. (2001). Too hard to pick a favorite track from that one, but if forced, it’ll have to be “Dog As A Catalyst”:

And now after years of no Orchestraville fix, Poison Berries is finally here. The verdict? Well, it would seem that Orchestraville have pulled a Mommyheads.

What does that mean? Well, to explain, we must discuss another seminal yet obscure band from the nineties with a sensibility that defied convention with creative aplomb. In the pantheon of avant-pop, The Mommyheads sit among the stars. Their record Acorn, which can’t even be purchased any longer,cvr_acorn is a masterpiece and their follow ups hold their own, sparkling with the clever crafting of pop oddities.  They then were signed to Geffen and released an eponymously titled record that eschewed the odd in favor of demonstrating proficiency within the genre as opposed to stretching the genre. 

Poison Berries is akin to The Mommyheads big label debut.  Forbes flexes his songcraft muscles here, writing songs with hooks that don’t push boundaries but instead sate the ears.  There are the occasionally signature moments of guitar dissonance, with flat 5ths and chromatic clashes.  But these are few and far between. Most songs are characterized by a maturity, a confidence in pop.

And, overwhelmingly, most of these songs seem wrapped up in a bittersweet plea. These songs are not shimmery. Nor are they sappy.  They contain a melancholia, a resignation that fits in well with the title of the record itself.  Beware the poison berry.  “If yr feelin blue I learned a thing or two about making sorrow seem sublime” – a signature line from the record that characterizes the world weary tone that pervades the record.  Forbes voice is weathered. It cracks, it croons, it yearns without being satisfied. Even on the sunnier tracks, the lyrics belie the poppy sheen. Now, there are a few tracks that branch out: “Thank You Mr. Washington” and “I Take It Back” provide balance to the levity of the other tunes.  But, for the most part, Poison Berries is, well, a bit dark.  In an elliptical way. Lyrics suggest and connote without ever being direct -- the twisted turn of a phrase against a surprise minor chord.

For example, consider “You Wanna Be Like That.”

With a head nodding classical guitar riff and a gorgeous trombone solo, the song is pretty as can be. Yet the lyrics hint at failure and loss, the inability to meet the expectations one sets for one’s self.  The song also has what could be the best line of the record: “dishwashers in hell never see a clean plate.”

In a similar vein is “A Bird Without Wings.”

Again, there is this passive resignation in the song, a failed relationship about competing with one another, comparing one another, bringing one another down. “You picked me out and didn’t even know why.”

This is a mature record.  The production elegant, layers of tasteful guitar, bass lines and drums that compliment rather than overwhelm, and keyboards that round out the sound. The songwriting is top notch; the band is in command.  (Oh, and you can get it on limited edition vinyl too.)

So what is next for Orchestraville? Will we see Forbes muse return? And when?  And in what form will it take this time?

Posted by flotz on Monday, September 13, 2010 | Live Review

Was in SF and randomly ended up at Amnesia (how I got there I can't remember) with Toshio Hirano on stage plucking old time tunes like Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers for a crowd half his age. Something slightly absurd about the whole thing but it worked in the end. Oddly mesmerizing as he belted out these tunes with this twang delivery. Check it out for yrself: