October 31, 2008

The Kravin' "A"s

The Kravin' "A"s were formed in 1987 by Bruce Brand, previously the Milkshakes' drummer. For The Kravin' "A"s he switched to guitar, and was joined by members of other famous Medway garage bands. Long story short: they recorded one album, in 1988, which was released in 1991. It's very good.

That's all you really need to know.

The Kravin' "A"s myspace

Download (Mediafire)
1. Pay day
2. Look back and laugh

October 30, 2008

Interview: The Tartans

This year The Tartans seemed to come out of nowhere. Suddenly the Los Angeles four-piece was there, and almost casually released two of the best singles of the year: My baby doesn't care for you on Cloudberry and Cats of Camerford on Yay! Records. But who are The Tartans?

Hello Tartans! When and how did the four of you start making music together?

Brian: Lon and I started working on some new songs together just as another project we were involved in was ending. Then we recruited Jesse to help us flesh out our sound, and attempted to get Yvonne to join us, because she played many instruments well. However, she insisted she had no interest in being in a band. We waited in some bushes outside her house with baseball bats in hand before we convinced her to participate in the band.

Both your name and music would suggest a Scottish background. Is there indeed a Scottish link or is it just a randomly chosen name?

Brian: Our friend, Mabern, used to compile lists of band names for imaginary bands of all genres while he was bored at work. On a list of names for genres as diverse as New Jack Swing and Fantasy Metal, contained within were a few names he thought were suited for a band with our sound. So, we went with The Tartans. At the time, we thought it had a nice ring to it, and weren't deliberately referencing anything Scottish pop. Though I am a Cunningham, and we do love Postcard Records, so it's hard to argue it!

The trumpet added to Cats of Camerford changes it from a very good song to a perfect song, just like the glockenspiel in My baby doesn't care for you adds that nice extra touch. Partially due to these nice arrangements, your sound reminds me of sixties Motown and nineties Belle & Sebastian. But you might have had something very different in mind. How would you describe your own music?

Yvonne: Yes, we do love sixties Motown and nineties Belle & Sebastian. I think we're informed by many of the same sounds that influenced Belle & Sebastian in their early years, like Love and northern soul 45s.

Jesse: We are the sound of an elephant sitting on another elephant's shoulders whilst riding on a motorbike, while a seal bangs a wooden spoon on a skillet and yells, "Harold! There's no motorbiking in the apartment!" That's me paraphrasing...

Brian: ...if you know what character he's paraphrasing, you win the privilege of us sleeping on your floor when we come to your town.

What bands did you listen to as teenagers?

Lon: Iron Maiden, Dead Kennedys and the Crass Records catalog.

Jesse: Mostly post-punk, then punk, hardcore and some hippie business.

Yvonne: I liked some bad-ass broads, like Pauline Black from The Selecter, and Ari from The Slits. But I also had a softer side - I loved The Pastels and Nick Drake.

Brian: I was pretty obsessed with American groups like Sonic Youth and Pavement in my early teens, but by 16 I had a great passion for The Smiths like any good teenager, but also stuff like Talulah Gosh. My expensive addiction to rare soul 45s thankfully didn't hit until I had at a least a very modest income.

Can you try to describe how a Tartans song develops from a first idea to the final finished product? How does the songwriting- and recording process happen?

Brian: There's no exact formula for how our songs develop. More often than not, it starts with a guitar part, and the rest is filled in around it. My Baby started with a bassline I wrote. What About You started with a bassline Yvonne wrote. 1939 started with a couple chords Jesse was casually strumming one night. We flesh out our sound with whatever instruments are at our disposal - and hopefully we're proficient on them!

The music world has changed a lot over the last decade, mainly due to the introduction of the internet. Although it's a positive thing that good music from all over the world is easily available for those who know where to look, a negative seems to be that for the less actively searching masses it's becoming harder and harder to find something worthwhile within that overwhelming supply of bands. How do you try to make yourself heard these days? How do you find out about interesting new bands yourselves? And what do you think are current bands that deserve more of our attention?

Brian: We're not very good at self-promotion, so we're fortunate that Eric from Yay! and Roque from Cloudberry happened to notice us and enjoy what we do enough to release our music. As for finding new music myself, there are certain labels - Slumberland, Yay!, What's Your Rupture, et cetera... - whose new output we'll always check out. We seldom seem to have that magical moment where we go to a live show and are blown away by an unfamiliar band. As for current bands that deserve more of your attention - some favorites include Jeremy Jay, The Monolators, Cats on Fire, Magic Bullets, Liechtenstein, and Catwalk.

How is the Los Angeles pop scene at the moment? Do you feel part of a scene at all?

Brian: There isn't really an indie pop scene in Los Angeles, though that's not to say no good music is being made here. Nothing so unified as a 'scene', though. The closest we come to being part of any scene is our involvement with Yay! and all the Oxnard bands, who are about an hour's drive away from us.

On the sleeve of your Cloudberry single Roque printed a quite fierce message against the Series Two Records label. Did you have a bad experience? Or was this only a personal message from Roque? What happened?

Yvonne: We have nothing to do with the message printed on the sleeve contained in our single, nor do we have any history with the Series Two label. We cannot speak on behalf of Roque, though we are quite supportive of him and appreciate his desire to spread our music to new audiences.

Are there plans to play shows outside the Los Angeles area? On your myspace you express the band's shared love for bicycles. There are probably more bicycles than people in Amsterdam... A good enough reason to come over to Europe I'd say!

Yvonne: We'd really like to venture overseas and across our own country one of these days, but the obligations of daily life and finances have a way of complicating things. If time and airfare have a way of cooperating, we'd love to tour Europe by bicycle with our instruments strapped to our backs.

Lon: We might have to borrow drums and amps, though!

What's up next? Do you have future releases planned already that we can look forward to?

Brian: We're always working on new material. We have another single on Yay! in the works, but we've only just finished two of the three recordings. It should be out by springtime.

Thanks Tartans!

The Tartans myspace
Yay! Records
Cloudberry Records

Download (Mediafire)
1. The Tartans - 1939

Download (Right click, save as)
2. The Tartans - My baby doesn't care for you

October 29, 2008

The 10p Mixes

In the ever continuing search for new music, every once in a while you stumble across a nice band that makes you immediately want to search for their releases, only to find… nothing.

The 10p Mixes are such a band, from the Liverpool area. Danielle has one of the most pleasant voices in indiepop, and Will's guitar playing gives their catchy songs a nice edgy drive. So far the duo have been home-recording a small set of sweet lo-fi songs, but their ambition is to grow to a full band. A drummer has been found already, but at the moment they’re still searching for a female bass player.

So, if you’re a venue, promoter, record label or bassist and you want to help get this music the attention it deserves... write them on their myspace.

The rest of us, all we can do is be patient, and enjoy the little bit of music available on last.fm. And download Sorry, of course.

The 10p Mixes on myspace
The 10p Mixes on last.fm

Download (right click, save as)
1. The 10p Mixes - Sorry

October 26, 2008

Interview: One Happy Island

Foto by Brynn DizackBoston quartet One Happy Island make simple but very addictive indiepop tunes, made even more irresistible with injections of ukelele, kazoo, harmonicas and handclaps. Fun? Fun! They released two great EPs on WeePOP! this year (one of them the label's first 7"), joining the impressive group of 2008's nice new surprises. I talked with Rebecca Mitchell and Brad San Martin about the band's past, future and more.

One Happy Island started after Brad posted an ad on craigslist, asking: "Was anyone at the Lucksmiths show? Wanna start a band like that?" What exactly happened? Did you all come to audition for Brad? How did this group of strangers transform to the band you are now?

Brad: As far as what happened, that's pretty much it, but with a twist. I posted the ad in May of 2005, and before long a band called Okay Thursday emerged, consisting of me, Rebecca, Clint, and a singer named Sarah Korval. There weren't really auditions or anything – we just hung out a bit to make sure we liked each other! Okay Thursday played for almost two years, but the music that we were making and the music we heard in our heads were growing farther apart. So Clint, Rebecca, and I took some time off in spring of 2007, rehearsed acoustically in Clint's apartment, and the smaller, more colorful sound that is One Happy Island started then. The split from Okay Thursday was very difficult, as we had all put a lot into it, but it brought us closer together as friends and collaborators. The addition of Shannon in December of 2007 elevated the sound immensely, and made even more things possible.

How did you decide on your name?

Rebecca: We didn't really dwell on naming the band too much at first, but when we were asked to play the Cream of the Pop Festival, that set a deadline. My girlfriend Brynn and I were walking through a grocery store parking lot when she pointed out a license plate for Aruba that said 'One happy island', and somehow it stuck. Now Aruba has a new campaign: '90,000 friends you haven't met yet' – which would've been a better band name, I think.

It says on your website that "...it is the intention of Shannon, Rebecca, Clint and Brad to take their songcraft and melodies to new levels of fun, fun, and fun." Still, some of your lyrics cut quite a bit deeper than that quote might make us believe. It's mainly the extremely eclectic instrumentation that provides the fun part. Is this contrast intentional? Can you give us an insight in how you usually put a song together?

Rebecca: A lot of our lyrics are about some real emotional stuff, but I think it's presented in a way that makes it more accessible. It's easier to laugh at ourselves when we're playing dinky little instruments than it is to be all serious and dramatic. I wouldn't want to watch a band, especially a new band, perform one slow, dramatic song after another.

Brad: As far as putting songs together goes, it’s a process that is still evolving. It has become more and more collaborative over time. It used to start with one of us bringing in a nearly-completed song – and that still happens now and then – but now a lot of times someone will come up with a melody, and send it around, and someone will suggest a lyric or a theme, and it goes from there. An idea will evolve in practice, as we decide on the tone of the song and the instrumentation. We really do sweat over every element of a song. It takes a long time sometimes, but it makes for really exciting and interesting performances – not just guitar-bass-drums bashing.

Rebecca: I, personally, write happy songs because I only like/know a handful of chord arrangements. I also have a hard time writing anything longer than 60 seconds, so it helps to pass things around.

Your latest EP, Secret Party That The Other Party Doesn't Know About, was produced by Colin Clary (and also Steve Williams). As a songwriter, Colin seems to write at an incredible speed, writing enough to release even a couple of albums a year. How about you? Do you ever get writer's block?

Rebecca: I can't answer this question because I have writers block. Sorry.

Brad: Ha ha... I try to write every day, even if it is just a little musical or lyrical phrase. But yes, there are times when I just feel stuck. It helps to take a step back, go for a bike ride, maybe listen to some music or watch a movie. You can't force it. I think it is worth mentioning that this band discards a great deal of material. We are very picky about what we choose to undertake, and a lot of songs crash into the ocean on their way to One Happy Island.

The wide range of instruments must be fun to handle at live shows. It seems you are a very democratic band, with all members doing everything all the time, including vocal duties. What do you think makes a really good show? What are some shows you remember that you really enjoyed?

Rebecca: I love the democratic aspect of the band. We all have very different styles of playing, and I like to see that come through. Some of us are better at certain instruments, so we divide up duties for those songs. Or, sometimes we divide up instruments just to stay sloppy. None of us wanted to be lead singers coming into this, and I think it makes it easier on all of us if no one accepts that responsibility! But also, I'd hope that the variety makes it more interesting to watch or listen to. I'd like to start rotating vocals even more for our next batch of songs. We gotta get Shannon and Clint to sing more!

Brad: It's really fun to subvert the time-honored lead-singer-plus-band dynamic. It always takes folks by surprise when there is more than one singer... and when I was a kid listening to tons of records, I was always interested in when someone other than a band's lead singer sang – like when Chris Difford would take a vocal in Squeeze, Keith Richard’s occasional lead vocals on Rolling Stones albums, Marty Donald’s lead vocals on Lucksmiths albums, et cetera.

Rebecca: It's not really pop, but The Gossip has been my favorite live band for... like, ever. The energy is unreal and I feel like they support the audience more than any other band I've seen. I think I'm too shy to get that sort of energy on stage, but Beth Ditto, in particular, has been my inspiration for getting the courage to go up there in the first place. Basically every band that Rachel Carns has been in, too. As for pop music, The Besties are always awesome. I love watching The Smittens. The 500s are great. All those bands let nothing hold them back, and I admire their ability to just enjoy performing and get the audience going, no matter how many people are in the crowd. I should also mention that I admire Dolly Parton's stage banter... or, just Dolly Parton in general.

Brad: The first time I saw The Lucksmiths, I basically quit the garage-punk band I was in, in order to see what I could do with the notebook full of songs I had written that no one had heard. I think they are riveting, yet so basic. They take simple tools, and with a lot of wit and character, produce so much energy and emotion.

Does Boston have a pop scene that you feel part of?

Rebecca: There's a handful of bands within a reasonable radius, but not a ton of them in Boston. I think most of the indiepop stuff that happened here happened before we all moved to Boston. It's hard to get people interested sometimes, since Boston is always sort of an 'in between' city for people waiting to move to San Francisco or Austin or New York City. In the short time that we've been playing together, we've seen a lot of great bands break up or move! I do feel part of a pop community in a broader sense. Popfests have been great, cause all these people from all over the world come together. We're never sure where they're hiding during the rest of the year, but everyone resurfaces for popfests!

Terms like 'indiepop' or 'twee' always seem pretty vague. What does the term 'indiepop' mean to you, and can you describe if or how it fits you?

Brad: To me, the word 'indiepop' suggests possibilities. So many genres – whether it's bluegrass or jazz or garage-punk or power pop – are defined by rules and limitations. With indiepop, there are no limitations...

Rebecca: Indiepop is pretty broad, but I also think it's a forgiving genre in that no one is going to come down on us if we mess up, don't look the part, or are motivated purely by fun. I like the term indiepop, because when I tell people I play pop music, they often think of Britney Spears or Green Day or something. The twee label makes me kind of uncomfortable, because while I love a lot of twee bands, I also see how it'd be easy to be stuck with that label forever. We're still pretty new, and there's a lot that we want to try that's not all cute and fluffy.

Brad: Yeah, the word twee has specific implications that can box you in – as much as we like a lot of bands who are described as twee.

Will we get a chance to catch you live in Europe on day?

Rebecca: Hopefully! I don't have a passport yet, though. I need to get my eyebrows waxed before I can go get my picture taken. And maybe even a haircut.

Brad: I just had a passport photo taken a few days ago. I strongly recommend a haircut – I regret not getting one.

What can we expect next? An album? International mainstream fame?

Rebecca: We're working on a full-length album, which will hopefully be out in the spring. We're discussing a southwest US tour around that same time.

Brad: This record will be really interesting – more expansive with a lot of different instruments, some new rhythms and themes, but also a lot of hooks. We’ll see what happens from there...

I'm looking forward to hearing more! Please work on getting those passports, we'll be waiting impatiently here in Europe...

Original band photo (in colour) by Brynn Dizack.

One Happy Island myspace

Download (right click, save as)
1. One Happy Island - Temporary tattoo
2. One Happy Island - Potential

October 25, 2008

The Carrots

The Carrots, an Austin, Texas sextet will make you feel like you've fallen through a time warp. They brilliantly evoke the spirit of classic 60s Motown girlgroups and pop girlgroups from the late 50s. Their myspace says it all in the section 'sounds like': 60s girl groups IN LOVE!

Despite the sugarsweet pop sounds and authentic old sounding production, I don't get the feeling I'm listening to a mere gimmick. The Carrots manage to give a modern vibe to the traditional pop sound without losing sight of what makes a tune exciting and interesting.

This year they've released two four-song 7 inches on Elefant Records, first Doing Our Part and later Beverly. Both are great listens!

The Carrots myspace
Buy their EPs

Download (Mediafire)
1. The Carrots - I tried to call you
2. The Carrots - Kissing and telling

October 24, 2008

Interview: Pocketbooks

Delicious boy/girl harmonies, irresistible piano- and guitar hooks plus clever lyrics... If I were to make a recipe for perfect pop, those would be the ingredients. It's no surprise that Pocketbooks are one of my very favourite new popbands: they've got all that. This fall the London quintet are working on their first album. A good time to ask Andy Hudson (vocals and piano) and Emma Hall (vocals and keyboard) a little bit more about the people behind the pop.

Hello Emma and Andy! On your website it says you formed in 2006, having met on the dancefloors of London's indiepop- and northern soul clubs. What made you want to start a band together?

Emma: Hello! Well, Dan, Mark (former guitarist) and I were in another band and were on the lookout for something more melodic than what we were doing. When we heard that then-solo Andy was looking for a band to bring his songs to life, we jumped at the chance! It all just sort of fell into place from there.

Pocketbooks' line-up has changed quite a bit since you started. Does the current band feel like the definitive Pocketbooks?

Andy: Well, the first nine months when we had the original line-up with Mark and Ben were really exciting. For a couple of us, it was our first proper band and it was really fun travelling around the country and playing songs. I guess we're a bit more confident as a band now that Jonny and Ian have joined and we've played lots of gigs together, but it wouldn't really occur to me to say either line up is definitive - I've really enjoyed being in both. We've been really lucky in that everyone that's played in the band has been really nice, positive and fun to be around.

Emma: Maybe it is just a confidence thing as Andy says, but for me it feels completely natural for these particular five people to be in a band together.

Right now you're in the middle of creating your debut album. Can you already reveal a little bit about the recordings on it?

Andy: We've hopefully finished all the recording, and we're just mixing it now. We recorded it in a lovely studio under a ukulele shop near Brick Lane in London. We've tried to record a really fresh and upbeat album that people will enjoy dancing to, and there's a lot of new songs, some of which we've been playing live over the summer. It'll hopefully be out sometime next spring (fingers crossed!).

How do you go about putting a new song together?

Emma: Andy writes all the different parts for his songs and records them as a demo for the rest of us to listen to, whereas Dan and I tend to hum (or strum) our ideas to each other and after a few glasses of wine it turns into something resembling a song!

What does the term 'indiepop' mean, to you?

Emma: From the band's perspective, it's about being free to make the pop music that we love without compromising ourselves just to make money. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make a living out of it though, as long as you can keep your creativity and enjoyment at the same time. As a fan of indiepop, I find the bands are full of creativity and energy that the more mainstream bands often lack.

Andy: For me, it's mostly about the fact that everyone's encouraged to join in and do something, whether it's starting a band, writing a fanzine, putting on gigs or anything else. I like to think that it's a really welcoming community and think there's always a really friendly atmosphere at indiepop gigs.

If you look at the mainstream pop scene, I'm fairly sure you don't hate it all. Can you confess some musical guilty pleasures?

Andy: I actually love lots of mainstream pop, and I think some of the others do too. I don't really follow the bands, but I really like lots of pop singles. This year, I've secretly been enjoying at least three of The Ting Tings singles, The Promise by Girls Aloud, and the Dizzee Rascal/Calvin Harris song.

Emma: Oh yeah, Girls Aloud are ace aren’t they! I confess I don’t follow the mainstream pop scene much, so when I hear something that makes my ears prick up, I never know who it is! I’ve always loved Kylie though, and am quite enjoying Estelle at the moment.

Your website tells us to 'expect a sprinkling of dazzling 60s soul alongside some sparkling indiepop charm!' Which are favourites on either side of that mix of genres?

Emma: I'm not sure the 60s soul thing comes across in our music, but I grew up listening to my mum's 7 inches from back then - stuff like The Shangri-Las and Dusty Springfield. On the indiepop side, Kitchens of Distinction have remained my favourite band through the years. In recent years, Comet Gain and Cats On Fire have made a huge impression, and I’m currently discovering how brilliant Ultrasport are!

Andy: From the 60s side, I just love the freshness and energy of some songs by The Supremes, Tony Clarke, Betty Adams and The Ronettes, among others. As for indiepop, I’m not sure how many of these qualify, but I really like The School, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, The Go! Team, and Darren Hayman.

So far you’ve released a 7" (Cross The Line) on Atomic Beat Records and a CDEP (Waking Up) on Make Do And Mend Records, and both received great reviews. Does 2008 already feel a bit like the year Pocketbooks conquered the world? What is your proudest achievement as a band so far and what ambitions are left for the next few years?

Andy: I think the thing I've enjoyed most is the opportunity to meet lots of fun, enthusiastic people and play a small part in the DIY community that's sprung up. I think we're feeling increasingly confident about trying new things, so we've played a few outdoor festivals, started our own record label and (hopefully) recorded an album, which are all really exciting steps for us. For the future, I'm really looking forward to the album coming out, but aside from that, I think it's just about making sure we keep enjoying ourselves.

Pocketbooks played on both editions of Indietracks and this summer you were also invited to perform at the Rip It Up festival in Sweden. What are your favourite memories from these festivals? What do you feel was the biggest difference between the Swedish and English festival?

Emma: We were completely bowled over by how friendly and hospitable people were at Rip It Up. They would bend over backwards to make sure we were looked after and having a good time, and they are so efficient! It was our first gig outside the UK so it will always hold fond memories. At one point during our set I looked out to see people singing along to our songs to a backdrop of green fields and blue sky – a perfect moment. I think this year's set at Indietracks was both our favourite and our best to date. In my mind, it was a sort of turning point for us as our new songs went down really well, we clicked as a band and with the audience, and found a new confidence in ourselves. Playing shows like that are the reason we love being in a band!

The time of summer festivals is behind us, winter is coming soon… a good or bad thing? What’s your favourite season as a person and as a band?

Emma: Well as you may have noticed we've got a song for every season! I don't think I have a favourite season though – they all have a certain magic about them. I do love the run up to Christmas however, as everyone is in good spirits and there's a certain buzz of excitement in the air. I also like the way it's OK to be a bit silly!

Andy: I think we're still lacking a proper, bleak winter song actually. I'm okay about winter coming along, but I think spring's my favourite season. Just the feeling of the days getting longer and all the naïve optimism about the year ahead.

Speaking of naïve optimism... how can I convince you to come play in the Netherlands?

Andy: We'd love to come to the Netherlands. We're always open to offers, although sadly our money doesn't always run as far as our imaginations! Still, we've already made it to Sweden, so the Netherlands will be easy!

Indeed! I'll take that as a promise, then. Thanks Pocketbooks, and good luck with finishing the album!

Buy the Waking Up EP here.
Buy the Cross The Line single here.

Pocketbooks website
Pocketbooks myspace

Download (Right click, save as)
1. Pocketbooks - Falling leaves
2. Pocketbooks - Don't stop

October 23, 2008

Hello, my name is Kuma

Sometimes of course, indiepop IS kind of twee.

WeePOP!'s latest release is Kuma's Hello, my name is Kuma. Kuma is, apparently, an Alaskan bear who moved to Portland, Oregon about four years ago. There he started making music with Ricky.

Ricky you might know from The Galactic Heroes or The Get-Arounds. Kuma himself hasn't been in a band before.

If you like sweet, fun and intimate guitar popsongs, you can pre-order the EP now.


Download (right click, save as)
1. Kuma - Hello, my name is Kuma
2. Kuma - My litte sister, Haruko

More MP3s on Ricky's blog.

October 21, 2008

Indiepop ≠ twee

One of the more pointless things one can do is trying to define a genre, but hey, we do it all the time anyway. We do it to explain what we like, and to defend what we like. Anyone who categorizes their favourite genre as 'indiepop' will be aware of the prejudices against it with people who don't actually know what you mean. And it's a tough one to make clear, indeed. The best I can offer is something like: indiepop is (mainly) guitar based, smile inducing melodic pop with an intrinsic DIY aesthetic and a positive feel about it - even if the lyrics can be quite gloomy sometimes. It has as a primary goal to just exist - everything else is considered a bonus.

This is not a post about defining the genre though. Sorry for that.

Writing the above was a reaction to reading some reviews of indiepop records and -festivals in mainstream media, that seemed to automatically equate indiepop with twee. Even though a lot of indiepop fans do this too, and even though it's hardly considered an insult anymore, it just doesn't seem correct. Is this important? Of course not. But yes. Even if we don't want to admit it, it defines quite a big part of our lives. And I don't feel that twee at all. Not all the time.

Download (Mediafire)
1. Vivian Girls - All the time
2. The Manhattan Love Suicides - Jonny boy
3. Crystal Stilts - Crippled croon
4. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Everything with you
5. Slow Down Tallahassee - The beautiful light
6. Jay Reatard - Always wanting more

October 19, 2008

Slow Club

Sheffield's Slow Club are Charles and Rebecca. They both sing and play guitar, while Rebecca adds all kinds of percussion (think water-filled glass bottles, spoons, and the backs of wooden chairs). According to their myspace, Charles is heavily influenced by Leonard Cohen and Rebecca by Rod Steward. You can completely ignore that claim though, because they actually sound like a mix of a rockabilly Tilly & The Wall and a folk-pop White Stripes. Fun, in short. Even if you don't like the White Stripes; don't worry. Slow Club's highly addictive songs sparkle of sweetness and intelligence.

They have two singles and an EP out so far on Moshi Moshi Records. All three are very recommended!


1. Slow Club - Trick question
2. Slow Club - Me and you
3. Slow Club - Because we're dead

October 16, 2008

Come back?

Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum climbed the stage for the first time in a long while during the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour. Exciting news?

I've gone through little phases where I got so annoyed with Neutral Milk Hotel. So bombastic! So over-ambitious! And those pretentious nonsense lyrics! But one blink of an eye later I always fell in love again. Always, completely. I can't really explain it, because all the above objections stay true. It's like falling in love with a pretty girl. The kind of girl that's usually not really your type, on top of that out of your league, and you know it. Oh, how you hate all her mannerisms, her affectations... But she's so pretty. So, so pretty. All you can do is sigh and give over.

I'm not sure if I'm hoping for a Neutral Milk Hotel comeback, really. Sometimes a book is closed, every chapter written as it should, end of story. So, exciting news? Not really. But at least it's good to see Jeff feels healthy enough to have some fun with his friends.

Download (Mediafire)
1. Neutral Milk Hotel - Song against sex
2. Neutral Milk Hotel - Holland, 1945
3. Neutral Milk Hotel - In the aeroplane over the sea

October 14, 2008

Interview: Eux Autres

Eux Autres have made two of the most addictive albums of the decade: Hell Is Eux Autres (2004) and Cold City (2007). Responsible for these wonderful garagy pop gems were Portland-based siblings Nicholas and Heather Larimer. Quite a lot has been going on since that last album's release, so I thought this would be a good time to ask Heather for an update.

Hello Heather! I read on your website that you've been recording some new songs with two new band members, Yoshi Nakamoto (The Aislers Set, Still Flyin') on drums and Nevada on keys. Has this resulted in a very different Eux Autres sound? What do you do now Yoshi is drumming?

I think it does sound fairly different. It's like we went from the small Crayola box to the big glorious Crayola box that has Burnt Sienna in it. Nevada and Yoshi are both such great musicians. It's thrilling to see what they come up with. Our songs just seem much more fully realized.

As far as live shows are concerned, I'm going to be adding more secondary percussion — tambourine, shakers, xylophone, extra floor toms, et cetera.

So Yoshi and Nevada are going on tour with you in the future as well?

We certainly hope so. We took Nevada on tour last December and it added a lot to the show. And Yoshi is one of my favorite people to be around anyway, so having him on tour would be great. I'm worried that I'll get injured from laughing so hard though.

This phenomenon really happens. One time on tour I laughed so much that I got a bizarre ailment. On the drive home, I kept saying, "Guys I think I'm having a heart attack." Turns out I had this inflammation of the chest cartiledge called costochondritis. It is caused by 'explosive chest expansion'. Usually, chronic coughing. But in my case it was laughing.

Can we perhaps look forward to you playing some shows in Europe?

We really, really hope so. We'd love to get over there as much as possible. As soon as possible. If Obama doesn't win our election, then permanently perhaps.

One of the things you recently recorded was a Bruce Springsteen song for a tribute compilation. How did that happen? Are you admirers?

We were asked to do it by Where It's At Is Where You Are Records, which is very flattering. But of course we're Springsteen fans. I mean, he's amazing. Plus, his song Nebraska (the state we grew up in) is about Charles Starkweather, the serial killer, who was both of our parents' garbage man when they were children. So for us, on a personal level, there's that macabre point of entry into Springsteen's work. On a lighter note, Springsteen's working class anthem Glory Days was a very divisive song in our household. It was on MTV a lot - Nick loved it and I hated it. Now I love it. I finally came around.

I've read about some of your other influences elsewhere: from Carpenters to Guided by Voices and from Blondie to Françoise Hardy. What are more current bands that you like?

We like Papercuts, Still Flyin' (obviously), ...always like what Spoon does. Blitzen Trapper is awesome. Love The Dodos. Blood On The Wall are cool. They're like the crazy brother and sister from down the street. The ones you're a little scared of.

You’re scheduled for a release in Slumberland Records' Searching For The Now split single series. Do you know who you'll be sharing your single with?

Nope. But we're very excited. We were hoping for a reunited Aislers Set. Anyone would be great, really.

Searching For The Now is a series started by Slumberland to celebrate the recent resurgence of great pop music. Have you also noticed that the independent pop climate has changed over the last few years?

Well, I think that it's so much easier to make your own record and put out your own record now. It's made the world of music more democratic. I think right now in history is a great time to be making pop. People are ready for a little sweetness. You feel as if you're providing some relief and light to the world, albeit minor.

Of course I need to ask something about your French lyrics. Where does this Francophile interest come from?

Our mom lived in France in her youth, so she gave us the Francophile spirit. Then, when it was time to make a band, we were looking for a limitation to work within (other than the limitation of our musicianship). We needed a niche in order to give ourselves permission to make music. Just starting a band seemed so vast in possibility, it was terrifying. So we decided to make a band that would revisit 60s French pop and American garage, with weird simple lyrics, et cetera. Of course, it's evolved away from that now. We may or may not have more French songs in the future.

It's been almost a year since you've released Cold City. Apart from the recordings mentioned above, what have you been up to since then? What do you do when you're not playing with the band?

Well, we've been moving around the country. We both left Portland. Nick moved to San Francisco and I moved to New York City. I sang on some other great bands' records — The Village Green and The Minus 5. We have day jobs, too. Nick gets paid to make pictures and I get paid to make words.

Everyone I play your extremely catchy songs to loves them; all reviews I've read are very positive; you're both good looking... you seem ready for a big mainstream breakthrough. Is this something you're aiming for?

Wow, such kind words! Thank you!

Of course we'd love it if we could support ourselves with our music, at least for a few years. That's any artist's secret dream. But right now we can make whatever we want, whenever we want, so that has its merits, too. I don't have a manager trying to put me in a pink vinyl mini skirt or something like that.

If that big breakthrough would indeed happen and you're big big stars, what do you think would change about Eux Autres?

I always used to say that if we made it even minorly big, the first thing I would do would be hire a roadie/drum tech. I HATE setting up drums. But now Yoshi has to do it. Ha ha!

Maybe we'd have a nice practice space. With a water cooler. And I would like to take a shiatsu practitioner on tour. And eat sushi instead of burgers. And no more hotels that have mysterious stains on the carpet.

But then again, all the funniest stuff happens when you're just scrapping it out. Success separates you from other bands, and from the people who come to see you play. All these layers of bureaucracy start to intervene. It's easier, but not as fun or random. The best part of being in a band is going to get pizza with random fans in Modesto or Philly because they're happy you're in town. Or just hanging out, singing Neil Young songs and having beers backstage with other bands. That doesn't happen nearly as much once you're big time.

But first: a new album?

Right now the plan is to put out a lot of singles, but I could see us compiling them or recording an album down the road. We've been working with Jason Quever of Papercuts. He has a great studio that's all analog. So far the sessions have been extremely fun, low-stress. Just wonderful.

That all sounds great. Thank you Heather!

Cold City is available on Happy Happy Birthday To Me.
Hell Is Eux Autres and the Partick Nil 7" are available on Bon Mots Music via the bands' webshop.
The Other Girls 7" is available on Knock Yr Socks Off Records.

Eux Autres website
Eux Autres myspace

Download (Mediafire)
1. Eux Autres - When I'm up ( from Cold City)
2. Eux Autres - Ecoutez bien (from Hell is Eux Autres)

October 09, 2008


Legendary Swiss all girl band LiLiPUT (first named Kleenex) is one of those rare punk groups that managed to make timeless songs, the kind that keep sounding new and fresh, with most of the original exuberance and excitement still intact.

While Kleenex had started as a relatively typical art-punk band, after the forced name-change (a copyright issue) the girls started to experiment more while at the same time managing to find a more pop-oriented sound.

LiLiPUT turned out to be immensely influential on the riot grrrl movement 10 years later, and now still sounds more relevant than most of those followers. Significant music, hypnotic and fun!


A compilation of the complete works of Kleenex/LiLiPUT (46 songs) is available on Kill Rock Stars.

Download (Mediafire)
1. LiLiPUT - Die Matrosen
2. LiLiPUT - You
3. LiLiPUT - Eisiger Wind
4. LiLiPUT - Tschik-Mo

October 08, 2008

Interview: The Lorimer Sound

Last month the debut EP by The Lorimer Sound arrived in my mailbox, which I immedeately liked a lot. The only thing I knew about this new treasure I got from the tiny bit of information provided on their myspace: they're based out of Chicago, Illinois, and their names are Christopher, Kristine, Dan and Lisle. That was about it. Now Chris helps us find out a little bit more.

Hello Christopher! When and why did you decide to start making music together?

I had been playing in my friends' bands for a while, but had been making all these demos on the side for a few years. After moving to Chicago in 2007, I decided to see if anyone else would be interested in bringing these songs to life. The 'band' is mostly just me, but I always welcome the help of friends to add to the music.

How did you come to the name The Lorimer Sound? Who, where or what is a Lorimer?

When I first started this project, I had the idea to write songs about growing up in Brooklyn, New York. Lorimer Street is the street where I was born, so that is how I came up with the name. The only song I kept from that batch was Brooklyn bound, but the name stuck!

You describe your music as a mix of indie pop and sixties britpop. How planned out was that sound? Did this develop naturally or consciously?

Well, growing up listening to the Beatles, Monkees, Kinks, et cetera, I always had a soft spot for that style of music. I wasn't really playing that style until a friend played me a Ladybug Transistor album - Once I heard that, my jaw dropped! I said 'Wow, this sound is really great - it's new, but yet old'. That's when I decided to start shaping my songs in that direction.

The Greensheets EP on WeePOP! is your first release. What can we expect next?

I think you can expect another EP within the next year. I already started working on the next batch of songs. If all goes according to plan, the next EP will not be as bright. I want to continue along the lines of Notre chanson en Francais as far as keeping the songs more melodic and not as poppy, but we shall see.

That might be my favourite on this EP, so that's good news! Thanks Chris, and thank you The Lorimer Sound!

The Lorimer Sound myspace

Download (right click, save as)
1. The Lorimer Sound - Brooklyn bound

October 02, 2008

Fall cleaning

I've been dusting, vacuuming, dishwashing and bathroom cleaning like crazy yesterday. One thing to make a day like that a bit bearable is the right soundtrack: dig out some half forgotten classics, turn op the volume and go for it.

Today I woke up in a clean house with big credits to the following albums:

The Primitives - Lazy 86-88
Go Sailor - Go Sailor
Cub - Betti-Cola

Download (Mediafire)
1. The Primitives - Buzz buzz buzz
2. Go Sailor - The boy who sailed around the world
3. Cub - My chinchilla