February 26, 2009

A good day for shopping

First there's the highly anticipated Flight paths by Pocketbooks, out now on How Does It Feel To Be Loved?

Pocketbooks website
Buy this album!

And then there's We come with friendly purposes by The Wendy Darlings, out on Lostmusic Records. 200 numbered copies only!

The Wendy Darlings myspace
Buy this album!

Last but certainly not least, you can now pre-order Every little thing counts, the new Colin Clary on WeePOP!

Colin Clary myspace
Buy this album!

February 25, 2009

Sex Clark Five

Next to all the various mysterious and difficult-to-explain reasons for liking a certain band, song or album, there's always this one intuitively recognizable feeling that has to be there after listening: for the songs to leave me wanting more.

Sex Clark Five's rather classic album Strum & drum! is definitely one of those records. The longest of the twenty songs clocks in at 2:43 and most are much shorter. Obviously being short alone doesn't make a song great, but for their 1987 debut SC5 managed to record mostly tunes with great melodies and hooks that won't quit. A lot is happening: some surf, beat, jangle, punk et cetera, all mixed together as infectious pop.

Sex Clark Five was a band formed in Huntsville, Alabama in the mid-'80s, at the time of recording this album consisting of singer and songwriter James Butler, guitarist Rick Storey, drummer Trick McKaha and bass player Joy Johnson. Strum & drum! is a collection of infectious and often somewhat politically charged songs, with some not annoying hints of humour mixed in.

After this first jangly pop explosion, things didn't necessarily get much better for the band. The subsequent albums I've heard have their moments, but this is clearly where you want to start.

Does anyone know if they're still going?

Download (Mediafire)
1. Sex Clark Five - The men who don't know ice
2. Sex Clark Five - Alai
3. Sex Clark Five - Valerie

February 23, 2009

The coincidence of love / The love of coincidence

Did I ever tell you about how I met my girlfriend?

I realise it's not of much interest to you. But I've been thinking about it a bit after this recent post in which I shone my negative light on those website statistic thingies, and I realised that that was not completely fair. Because without one my life would have been extremely different right now!

I'll quote myself just this one time:

"Then, after a while, I made the mistake of installing a website traffic counter. You know, one of those things that keep track of the amount of people visiting your website and the URL where they're coming from."

So, you know, that's what I obsessed about for a little while. Which made it easy for me to notice that suddenly my blog was getting quite some visitors from a forum called Bowlie, where someone had linked to a post I'd written about some of the live covers Belle & Sebastian had done. Wanting to leave a reply, I registered at the forum, choosing as a lazy username the initials of my then blog: RITH.

"What did I win and what did I lose?"

Well, shortly after I joined the forum, this girl at the other end of the world joined it too. For unclear random reasons, she chose my stupid username to click on first thing after she joined, leading her to my profile. She said hi.

Flash-forward four years. The Bowlie forum does not exist anymore, but this girl will soon give birth to my son.

Aw. Yes. Yes, I know. I'm sorry. That's a much too long introduction to a short message.

What I really meant to say, is that sometimes I get blown away by how the tiniest of things, the most insignificent seeming decisions, the most forgettable of moments... how those often turn out to be the ones that completely turn your life upside down. Every little moment can have enormous impact; you just don't know it yet. It makes life very exciting and also a bit scary.

Now think for a moment. Are you going to download these songs or not? Careful now. Take another second. Yes? No?

Either way, I might just have changed your life completely.

Sorry/You're welcome.

Download (Mediafire)
1. Klaus & Kinski - Flash-back al revés
2. Daniel Johnston - True love will find you in the end
3. Girlfrendo - Surprise, surprise

February 20, 2009

Undercover poplover, part 11

"I ain't lookin' to block you up
Shock or knock or lock you up
Analyze you, categorize you
Finalize you or advertise you"

Download (Mediafire)
1. The School - And suddenly
2. Shonen Knife - Top of the world
3. Po! - All I really want to do

February 19, 2009

The Kinks

Of course there's nothing new I can say about The Kinks. I'm not going to try. It just needs reminding every now and then how great they were. So here's an easy post!

Who wouldn't want to hear You really got me or Waterloo sunset at the climax of any indiepop disco? Who's not waiting for the day an Indiepop Tribute To The Kinks album is released? Who doesn't have at least a handful of happy childhood memories connected to one or more Kinks songs? Did I say childhood? No need to limit it to that. This music still makes me happy every time.

Unlike The Beatles, to name just another band, not all Kinks' classics have been played to death, while they easily wrote as many.

On a better day, I could have said all kinds of beautiful things about this. Today this'll have to do: I bloody love The Kinks.

Here's just a very few of my long list of favourites.

Download (Mediafire)
1. The Kinks - Stop your sobbing
2. The Kinks - I'm not like everybody else
3. The Kinks - Too much on my mind
4. The Kinks - Nothin' in the world can stop me from worryin' 'bout that girl

February 17, 2009

Interview: The Smittens

The Smittens. The name that the Burlington, Vermont quintet chose for themselves perfectly describes both the band's approach to music and the way indiepop fans over the world have come to feel about them: deeply affected by love. Their enthusiasm is always contagious, both live and on their records. Their third album The Coolest Thing About Love, released on Happy Happy Birthday To Me towards the end of 2008, is their best to date and one of the best twee indiepop albums of the decade. The lovely harmonies, clever and sometimes surprisingly dark lyrics, strong instrumentation, and above all the great variation make it stand out above their already great previous efforts. Dana Kaplan (guitar, keys and vocals), Max Andrucki (keys and vocals), Holly Chagnon (drums), Colin Clary (guitar and vocals) and David Zacharis (bass) once again prove that 'twee' does not need to be an insult and can mean a lot more than just having a cute sound.

Hello Smittens! This past year you released your third album, America chose a new president, The Smittens played at Indietracks, a hurricane killed 80,000 people in Burma, CERN started and stopped using the Large Hadron Collider while recession fears frightened the world and brilliant indie labels seemed to pop up everywhere. What will you remember most, looking back?

David: The UK Tour, playing two shows with Tullycraft, releasing our third record. 2008 also seemed to be the year of the outdoor show for us. We played on the outside stage at Indietracks, outside downtown Burlington at the Discover Jazz Fest (I KNOW! It was like Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Fest), In the Half Shell at Battery Park in Burlington. The Battery Park show was fun because we had a mosh pit that consisted of preschoolers and pumped up toddlers. 2008 was also the year of the engagements. Dana asked her girlfriend Katie to marry her and I asked Holly.

Dana: Here are a few highlights: my first niece (biologically speaking) was born, little Dylan Samantha Cohen. She has made this year over-the-top precious and sweet, and has helped to continually keep things in perspective in terms of the important stuff in life. The sense of curiosity that a new baby has is rather amazing to watch unfold. Also, my partner Katie and I got engaged (a term I was in fact reluctant to use for a while given the heteronormative culture of marriage that we did not automatically want to take on nor feel we fit into). Anyway, it just so happened that we sealed the deal right before I left for the UK, and she was able to come over and join us for part of that 2008 summer tour a week or two later... it was a fantastic way to celebrate, and we were able to spend a few days post-tour gallivanting around Brighton, a quirky and sweet seaside town with awesome sunsets and campy, kitschy gay culture that I romanticized ever since hearing Ballboy sing Olympic Cyclist. Through a number of experiences including my mom's previous battle with cancer, being a part of the Smittens, our current economic situation, et cetera... I have come to realize that you can't take things for granted or assume they will just be there, so make it count and if you are going to go for it, go for it fully! Oh yeah, and no doubt I will remember election night, sitting around the living room with some dear friends watching as our country made history by electing President Obama into office. I also graduated with my Masters degree in Mediation and Applied Conflict Studies this year, went to Arizona, and Jamaica in addition to The Smittens UK and US shows, had The Coolest Thing About Love come out, and the Let's Whisper six song EP, Make me Smile (released on WeePOP!). It's been a wonderful year.

Holly: 2008 was a great year. Touring the UK was a dream come true. Always always remember Indietracks and the energy and excitement of the crowd. It was an amazing experience. Our album coming out after working on it for so long and hard was a big accomplishment this past year. Of course I will always remember the day David asked me to marry him. That was a great day.

Max: I'll remember being in South Africa when my friend's father, a high court judge, made a ruling that led to Thabo Mbeki being removed from the presidency there. With my research focusing on South Africa, it was pretty amazing to be witnessing that moment in history from so close in. And of course I will remember playing and being at Indietracks — that fantastic weather and fantastic atmosphere. The rest of the UK tour was pretty awesome as well. In fact the whole, extended summer of 2008 was a blast - punctuated by bits of work. Seeing fantastic theatre and dance at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa; seeing whales so close to the rocky beach in the Western Cape; getting up early and walking the whole length of the Ice Cream Race with my friend Katy in Islesboro, Maine; eating and drinking until late in the outdoor cafes on Church Street in Burlington; picking blueberries and thrift-shopping with my friend Rachel in upstate New York; eating fish and chips on the banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow. I was also overjoyed that my dear friend Jen got a kidney transplant last Valentine's day. That was an amazing moment when I got her call at 6 in the morning.

Colin: 2008 was so crazy for us, I feel like it was a bit of a blur, really! I think our summer trip to the UK and especially Indietracks was the clear highlight of the year. We made a lot of new friends all over. Getting to play a little bit with Darren Hanlon was pretty awesome. Becoming part of the WeePOP! family really brought many smiles into our lives, too. I also feel totally excited that there's a club night in Glasgow that took its name from one of our songs - and David did the fliers for it, too! We love Glasgow! If you are ever there, make sure to go to the Half My Heart Beats disco night!

Your press release says you formed on a whim at a party in 2002. How should I picture that? Were you friends already? Did you make music before that, individually or in different bands?

David: We were friends before that, but the band brought us closer together. Colin was in a ton of bands before The Smittens, a list too long to name. I had never been in a real band, Dana and Max had a duo called The Archibalds.

Dana: I just remember being in Chang Mai, Thailand and getting an e-mail from Max in a random internet cafe that had a link to www.smittens.com with his exclaiming that they had formed a band. I went to the site and was totally Smitten, and a wee bit jealous! That was when I saw David's drawings for the first time. When I came back to Vermont I was invited to sing one of the original songs Max and I wrote together as The Archibalds (I hate Vermont), and the rest is history.

Holly: I had known Colin as a musician around town for years and seen his bands play. I was friends with him and David and also I had become friends with Max through a mutual friend. I knew Dana too through the same friend. I had heard that David, Colin and Max were putting together a band and might ask me to drum. A few weeks later they asked and I said yes and the rest is history.

Max: The party story is a bit of a simplification, and other band members can correct me if I get any details wrong. You have to remember the context, which is Burlington, Vermont, a very cool but very small city - with a tightly knit group of kids who liked cool music, arts, politics, et cetera. So we all kind of knew each other from around and had for years. I had always wanted to play some music and was frustrated about the very un-twee, and rather masculinist, music scene dominant in Burlington at the time and wanted to be in a band that was poppy and included girls and queers. I was sick of going to shows and watching boring boys on stage, basically. Dana and I had lived together beforehand and had written a couple of songs - her on guitar and me singing and on percussion and played as The Archibalds at at least one embarrassing queer open mic session, but nothing much ever came of it and then Dana went off to travel around Southeast Asia for a year. As I remember it, there was a New Years Eve party (2001-2002) where people in my house threw a fantastic party, and Colin played some cover songs and I ended up singing along. Holly was also playing around on the drums that night. Colin called me up, said he liked my voice, and we learned some songs and ended up playing a couple of shows, him playing guitar and me singing songs I'd/we'd written, also a little bit with our other friend Rachel. Colin and David were roommates, and I was becoming better friends with David at that point as well, discovering our shared love of My Favorite and lots of other bands. He was already recording bands, and when Dana came back to Vermont because of a funeral, recorded me and Dana playing 2 Archibalds songs. Dana went back to Thailand, but at some point that winter - I actually can't remember the exact moment - we all decided that David, Colin, and I should start a twee band, and, brainstorming about who could be a good twee drummer, remembered how Holly (who we'd all known) was a dancer and how she'd jammed out on drums at the New Years party and asked her to drum. We formed a band and played a few shows - including opening for My Favorite when they came to Burlington. Then Dana arrived back from Thailand, and we quickly decided she needed to join the band. The line-up has never changed since then. Our first show as a 5 piece was in September, 2002. Actually it was on September 19, which is National Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Colin: David and I were living together before the band got started and he would help me record songs on his 4-track and on his computer a lot. And I had known Holly for a number of years, but I didn't know Max or Dana until I met them through David when he invited them over to record a couple Archibalds songs. Some time later, after seeing Max sing at a party I offered to be his band - someone wanted him to sing at a party - and I said I would learn what songs he had and help him put together a few more so we could perform. After that went well, we repeated this at one of my other shows, me on danelectro guitar, Max on vocals and our friend Rachel sang with us a bit, too. After that David decided it should be a full band and bought a bass and joined and he and Max invited Holly - or suggested that we collectively invite her, which we did. I think that's how it went from my end - I remember one day while I was writing sad songs I kept talking to David on the phone as he was driving with Max - and one call was like - what do you think of the name Snowpants? and I was like "cool!" and then a little while later they called back and were all "fuck Snowpants! How about The Smittens?" That was the name that immediately seemed perfect for us! We wrote and learned some songs so we could play a show and then Max got Dana to come back and we all agreed that she so belonged in the band and she said yes and we've been playing and writing and working together ever since! I have been in a lot of bands over the years and I knew David and Holly from meeting at shows over the years.

Seven years down the line, you've released three albums, made friends worldwide and are one of the most loved twee pop bands in history. Satisfied? What should happen next?

David: Sweden.

Colin: Seven years? Yikes! Time flies, I guess. I am really happy that some folks seem to like to listen to our music and come to our shows – and making friends all over is a wonderful side-benefit. I'm not sure what comes next - I generally always am looking to what's next - and for us in the near future that looks like recording a single for WeePOP! and trying to make a new video and then sorting out what to record for our next album - I always want to make another album - I love getting to listen to something new we've made after we are done working on it. We really do owe quite a few places a visit, so I think more touring, too. The West Coast of the U.S. is something we've been scheming to do for a while and we keep trying to visit Sweden, too. I don't know what 'should' happen next, but I am really looking forward to making our next album. We also have a few other recording projects in the works - so we definitely have a lot on our plate - there's going to be a HHBTM anniversary this summer, so we may be recording something else new to commemorate that event as well. This spring we are planning to fly out for the San Francisco Popfest - so that will be our first West Coast show - and hopefully return for Indietracks again this summer.

Dana: Shoulds are tricky. I don’t think there is a cookie-cutter equation of what we should do next, though we all have some great ideas and hopes. One thing leads to another opportunity which leads to another, and suddenly we've accomplished more than we ever thought we would when we started out. I am totally satisfied and thrilled with all we've done, but I always want more too. If we didn't want more, well, then we'd probably be done. But every time we get together to practice or play shows or get a fan writing us an e-mail, it's totally fueling, and keeps the fire going. On my current wish list is a tour in Australia and an animated Smittens video.

Holly: There are more songs to be written and played. I would love to make another video, it's in the works. Keep touring to places we've not been before in the states as well as abroad.

Max: I am not too into thinking about it linearly. We all have lives that are very full and are all really proud of what we've done with The Smittens, and I think that each time we do something new it's exciting. It's also true that it can become a rat race where you become addicted to more and more success and end up never being satisfied with what you've done, and I think that's definitely a trap to avoid. I think we have such a bond that I expect that The Smittens will live on for a long time to come in different ways, but I personally have no 'goals' to achieve with it. If I ever had any they were achieved long ago, in terms of just making music that people got something out of. Obviously touring new places is cool to achieve - but what I have learned is that actually things like that are totally within our - and anyone's - grasp if you just work on it and make it happen.

I read somewhere that you're in something called The Green Movie. What's that about? Are The Smittens going to be movie stars as well?

David: Local Vermont Film Maker John O’Brien was making a documentary about the kids at the 'Greenest High School in the Country' down in Orange County Vermont. They asked us to play the prom. It was fun, it was in a barn. I believe the film is still in the works. There is a preview for it here.

Dana: I do think that we have this Monkeys/Archies-esque thing going on based on the drawings and dolls David does of and for us. Suddenly there is a strong visual representation to go along with our sound, and it gives us a different kind of package.

Holly: I love to perform and making a film around our music and image would be great.

Max: Not sure what has become of it, but filming it in 2005 was one of the craziest memories I have of being in the Smittens - literally playing at a high school prom in a barn, powered entirely by alternative energy, with entirely local food, and kids wearing recycled outfits, all of whom had arrived by sustainable transport. And man, teenagers just have so much ENERGY! I think we played every song we had twice over and they still danced like crazy the whole time.

Colin: Well, we aren't the stars of the movie - we're more like The Yardbirds were in Blow Up - the band at an event in a scene in the movie - but I would love to see it someday! I bet we'd be wiling to be in a movie! We more often drive around in the van imagining who would play us in a movie about us if there was one - that game always makes us laugh!

We do have some music in another independent film called The Graduates, but we haven't seen the movie yet - so we hope it's awesome! They have more info about the film here.

Your latest album is called The coolest thing about love. The coolest thing about love might be that it produces sincere moments of true passion, between people or as a form of art. My guess is that one of the reasons people love The Smittens so much is because they can feel the sincerity of the love put into the music. How do you put those songs together? What makes a Smittens song a Smittens song?

Colin: Thank you so much! Sometimes we will all be in the same room with whomever's singing or playing and we remind each other to sing with a love thought in our hearts - kind of like answering the telephone with a smile - to get the most sweet feeling into each track! A lot of how we work involves us taking turns trying out our ideas and building off of each other's enthusiasm and inspiration. I don't know how a song gets to be a Smittens song, but what makes a Smittens song a Smittens song is generally the interaction of all of us around the idea and execution of a the song - something dreamy and something enthusiastic, too. During any given Smittens recording session, the idea is generally to transform the songs into Smittens songs by thinking about them as Smitten-y songs as we make them. Almost like the intent gives the recordings some thing extra. I definitely think we try to make the songs go with each other - making an album, well, once we get a few songs down, that's when it starts to take shape and when we start to see what the album feels like and that's when we start deciding what else should go on the album to compliment those. Kind of like tasting something you are cooking and then adding things to taste. Maybe.

Dana: I think each song has its own story in terms of how it came to be, and often times what we play live turns into something different when we sit down to record it. We've each done some song writing on our own, sometimes we play pass the sentence where we all play a certain chord progression and then take turns singing a line (Capucine was written that way), sometimes Colin or Max or I will say "hey gang, this sounds like a Smittens song... what do you think?" Generally speaking we all have to feel some sort of connection to the song in order for it to be a go, whether that be based on the melody, the lyrical content, et cetera... Then we all get to put our own stamp on it, and voila! We've cycled through different equations, like at one point many of our songs were politically-based, we went through the phase of let's put an organ on everything we record, or handclaps, or harmonies, or everything has to be cheery... and those elements are still found throughout many of our songs, but we also try to work from the angle that anything can be a Smittens song, so as not to stunt our growth as performers or writers.

Max: I think there are definitely unspoken limits over what can and can't be included in Smittens songs. Like, you know, no vibrato singing, and no dissonant chords, et cetera. But for the most part when it's all of us just putting bits in the way we feel comfortable doing it, then the end product, the combination of all of it, just sounds Smittens.

What was the kind of music you grew up with?

David: Growing up I listened to The Beatles and my sister's Squeeze tapes then I moved more towards punk and indierock. In college I became an indie snob.

Dana: I grew up listening to the oldies, all the time. My parents have a great record collection and have totally influenced my ear with all sorts of things from Harry Chapin and The Angels to Peter, Paul and Mary, and Diana Ross. I have a sister who is five years older than me and so I always listened to whatever she was listening too - for a while it was lots of old school hip hop and then turned more into Simon & Garfunkel and They Might Be Giants. I wont lie, I went through a BIG Phish phase in highschool - we're talking about 40 live shows... that was before I had any inkling I would end up in Vermont.

Holly: I grew up with The Beatles, The Archies and The Zombies as a young kid. Then when I was older I got into bands like The Pixies, Björk, Mazzy Star and My Bloody Valentine. I've always had a soft spot for pop indie bands though and still love The Archies which I think shaped a big part of music style preferences.

Max: My parents listened to almost exclusively classical music when I was growing up, although my mom was an early 60s Greenwich Village folkie, and sang in an a cappella doo-wop quartet for much of my youth (as well as in a classical chorus). Also my dad is a professor of theatre so I grew up going to plays and sitting in on his rehearsals all the time. That influenced me a lot in terms of understanding how to put on a fun, inclusive, non-pretentious, professional-ish performance. Sometimes my parents would put on a Bob Dylan or Shirelles record, but most of the time it was Robert J. Lurtsema on public radio, all the way. I was a late-bloomer in terms of coming to pop music, and we didn't have cable TV or anything until I was a teenager. I think I first got into alternative music like R.E.M. and They Might Be Giants early on in high school. Then I had an obsessive Sonic Youth phase in my late teens, which I guess eventually somehow segued into riot grrrl, and then into Yo La Tengo, Magnetic Fields, Holiday, My Favorite, and other pop stuff that was going on in New York in the late 90s.

Colin: My mom had some good records to listen to and generally whatever was on the radio - I didn't have much exposure to independent music until I was in high school and heard things like The Smiths and R.E.M. and They Might Be Giants and The Dead Milkmen. When I got to college, I got involved in a lot more music because of the radio station there and also WRUV, our local independent college radio station. Those are places that really played things that I heard for the first time. I listened to the White Album a lot when I was little - that and Introducing The Beatles - those were the two that my Mom had.

The Smittens recently recorded a cover of The Angels' My Boyfriend's Back for the HHBTM singles club. I know in the past Colin also covered among other songs Ritchie Valens' Donna. If you could go back in time and claim any song as your own, which one do you wish you had written?

David: There are millions of songs I wish I'd written.

Dana: Anything by Lesley Gore.

Colin: There are far too many! Letter Never Sent (Trembling Blue Stars) just popped into my head, but I would also be happy to have written Hushabye (Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman) or Grass Stains (Jacob Borshard) - but at the same time, would that have the effect of erasing the version that I heard and that affected me so much? I guess I am pretty happy with the ones we've written. Generally any time I hear something completely brilliant that sounds simple and obvious I jump up and wonder "why didn't I write that song?", but I can't complain too much. I'm glad the songs I love exist at all.

Holly: Anything Zombies.

Max: Maybe Diana Ross' Love Child.

In your press release you call yourselves a 'DIY twee pop explosion'. How important is that do-it-yourself aspect to you?

David: We wouldn't be here if we didn't do it ourselves. We have handled every aspect of the being a band ourselves. We have some help along the way, but 85% of the work has been us.

Dana: It's what makes us us. It makes it all real and keeps us that much more connected to the things we accomplish, whether that's sitting around for a night and making buttons or recording songs or booking tours. We wouldn't be a band were it not for the philosophy that we can do it ourselves.

Max: It's mostly important in that you don't have to wait for anyone to do it for you, or for anyone's approval, or for a contract to be signed, or whatever. You just get on with it. If you think it's good, you record it, you release it, you promote it, you set up the tour, et cetera. You make friends and contacts and trade favors. Which can be a HUGE amount of work, and expense. But it actually gets done, which is the most important. It also helps to be part of a scene that's as small, closely knit and supportive as indiepop. Because you always know who to get in touch with and know they share a similar aesthetic and ethic and will, hopefully, be psyched about what you're doing.

Holly: We've done much on our own and it's gotten us where we are today. It's a part of the process and connecting with the community around us.

Colin: I think that things oftentimes don't happen for you unless you do them yourself - and that for us, we like to let folks know that it is possible to make something awesome with your friends if you just take the time to do it. We love working with our friends and getting help, too, so we're not standoffishly doing this ourselves, but it is how we do most of what we do. It does keep you more in touch with what you are doing if you have a hand in it. Part of what we try to spread is the idea that anyone can do it - and we encourage other folks to go and make and do things, too. I guess it's mostly important because it is how we function.

How difficult is juggling all your other projects and The Smittens, and give each the attention it deserves? Speaking of that, what are all your current active projects?

Dana: For me, it's not that hard. My other main musical project, Let's Whisper, is a bedroom pop duo made up of myself and Colin. Let's Whisper started during a bit of a heavier time in my life with a long term relationship ending and my mom's period with cancer. I had written a few less 'Smitten-y' songs and it was a way for Colin to get to play different guitar parts from what he was doing with The Smittens. I also write a few songs that I just end up recording myself as Dana Julie Kaplan (nothing released as of yet), and that's been a neat way for me to learn more about how to record and try some different sounding things on my own. Everything gets funneled to where it seems to fit best, and in a way, the various projects help to cross-promote all of our music. When it comes down to it, The Smittens were my first, and you know what that means... My heart will always belong to them and they always get first pick at any of my songs they want!

David: Most of my other projects are nonmusical, so that allows me an easy separation. Right now Kevin Alvir from Knight School (and formerly of Lil Hospital) and I are talking about doing a graphic novel together called I am your band.

Holly: It's a matter of priority and what needs getting done gets done. The Smittens are just a part of my life so it's not so much a juggling act as a way of life.

Max: I don't really have any other music projects on - though I sometimes talk about it with people. But I am doing a PhD in the UK, so that does rather make things difficult in terms of giving things attention. I am lucky that we've managed to somehow work it out and continue with the band. I haven't lived full-time in Burlington since 2004 actually, but I feel like The Smittens are actually better than ever. It does involve a lot of travel (and expense) for me, but I really enjoy getting out of Leeds and visiting, and luckily my academic schedule is pretty conducive to being able to take enough time to tour, record, et cetera. I hope to be returning to the US in the next year, which should make it all a bit easier! But having survived this challenge, I feel confident that geography, and the career choices we make, won't be too much of an obstacle to keeping The Smittens going in the long term.

Colin: Scheduling is always hard when you have more than one person involved, so trying to make plans with 5 people is that much harder. It's not impossible though! We make time for each other because we like to do the things we do and we respect each other's other relationships and jobs and priorities. It helps that we think of The Smittens as a family, because we know that we are all important to each other and are committed to our dream of making this music together. My other active project is lately primarily Let's Whisper with Dana, which is currently working on our first album, though we had an ep out on WeePOP! last summer called Make Me Smile. It's more of a low-key get together and record duo project, with dreamy and sweet songs which we've been working on for a few years. I also make solo Colin Clary recordings and have a new EP coming out on WeePOP! at the end of this month called Every Little Thing Counts. And I sing for My First Days on Junk, but that band has only played one show thus far. It's my friend Steven Williams' shoegaze/feedback band. Colin Clary and the Magogs are on indefinite hiatus - just because everyone is so busy with other projects and such. I hope we make another record someday, though.

When not making music, what do you like doing most?

David: I draw and make dolls.

Dana: I am a sucker for reality TV, to be honest, but I don’t have cable, so it doesn't consume much of my time. I love to travel, go for long walks either with Katie or my headphones, have friends over for craft days and dinner parties with lots of red wine present for either... I tried knitting once but that didn't stick. I love to skype with lil Dylan, I'm a fan of listening to This American Life, and these days, it's all about planning a rockin' wedding!

Holly: I love to dance! I was a dancer and performer for years before The Smittens ever formed. I take dance class and perform when I can. Dance parties at my house are a regular event. Like Dana and Katie, David and I are also in the midst of wedding planning.

Max: I really like cooking dinner for people and drinking wine and hanging out and having a good time. Also going out dancing, to the pub, to shows, et cetera. I read a lot, and I enjoy my intellectual life in human geography. I spend a lot of time in South Africa, which is where my research is based, and I love being there, and traveling around in general.

Colin: I like to listen to music, play strategy games, and go to the movies or read. I really like eating snacks and dancing slow in the kitchen with my girlfriend, too!

The indiepop community seems more alive then ever. Do you notice this as well? How do you find out about new music yourselves, and how do you feel about the whole internet music download revolution?

David: I read a lot of blogs, the indiepop list, talking to friends. I used to be a Deejay at WRUV in Burlington and that was a great way of getting new music.

Dana: I rely on David and Max and Colin and Holly to tell me about new artists and songs to check out. The digital age is a mixed bag in that less people get to hold our album in their hands, but more people get to listen to our songs through their computers and headphones. It's one of those 'shit or get off the pot' scenarios... it's happening and we can either hop on board or miss the opportunities. It's fascinating to grasp just how many have access to us. I remember when our video for My Favorite Dream was chosen to be on Myspace's 'top video of the day' and we had over 10,000 people watch it in the course of 24 hours. Wild.

Max: It's funny from my perspective because I think it really started to take off in the UK just about as I arrived here (in 2005). So I didn't know what it was like here before, but I have had the sense that there has been a lot of momentum recently, and I've really enjoyed meeting indiepop people here and going to gigs in Leeds, Manchester, and London, and it was so cool to be able to draw on some of those connections to book our UK tour last year. It's amazing, just from Facebook, to see how many UK and North American indiepop people know each other, and how many US bands have been touring over here and vice versa. That idea of an international pop underground seems to be becoming a reality (at least for a few bits of the world). I did have a feeling a while back that indiepop as I originally knew it from the mid/late 90s seemed to be dying out, or just freezing in time, so I’m overjoyed that it has all this new energy and new blood in it, while still remaining a friendly, generally unintimidating subculture.

Colin: I have been totally into last.fm for the past year - I love it because I can hear songs from bands from all over that aren't getting played on the radio around here - it's such a useful tool for learning about new music being made and old songs you never knew! It is lovely to know that kids really far away can hear our songs rather easily, too - just in terms of getting the music to the people and our songs in their heads. When we visited the UK last summer I think we were all blown away by how strong and vibrant the community is over there, compared to in the US. And that the kids there knew our songs and could sing along! The US is fantastic, but everything's so spread out here that it's harder to get a good concentration of indiepoppers all in the same place to really see and feel it! So we connect to the community from a distance sometimes as well! I love the whole looseknit-closeknit thing!

Thanks guys! There's a lot to look forward to already again. For example: both The Smittens and Let's Whisper will be playing at the London Popfest next week. How I wish I could be there!

Band photo by Serita Lewis.

The Smittens website
The Smittens myspace
Happy Happy Birthday To Me
Dangerfive Records

Download (Mediafire)
1. The Smittens - One hundred roses (from The Coolest Thing About Love)

Download (right click, save as)
1. The Smittens - Doomed, lo-fi and in love (from Gentlefication Now!)
2. The Smittens - Stop the bombs! (from A Little Revolution)

February 16, 2009

This love is fucking right! Or is it?

A long time ago, I started a weblog about music. The name was Revolution In The Head, and the main initial motivation was to force myself to stay informed about new music myself. By writing in English about bands I loved, as a nice bonus I practiced my language skills a bit as well. Things went well for a couple of years and I enjoyed what I was doing. Then, after a while, I made the mistake of installing a website traffic counter. You know, one of those things that keep track of the amount of people visiting your website and the URL where they're coming from.

Inexplicably, I started to care about that.

Slowly but gradually I shifted from posting because I wanted to, to posting because I wanted to keep the visitors coming. Why? I have absolutely no idea. What did I win and what did I lose? It didn't last long. With that wrong motivation the result was not often pretty, or worth reading, or fun writing.

Without having given it hours of thought, I can think of about four reasons to start a weblog about indiepop music. The most obvious reason is probably the same reason why people have been writing traditional fanzines for decades: the writers love the music, and like writing about it. Then, secondly, it might be for promotional reasons: the bloggers want more people to know about the music that means so much to them. Of course this reason often comes in combination with the first. Thirdly, there's a chance that some bloggers want to show off a little bit. They're proud of all the music they know or own, and want other people to be aware of that. Finally, there seems to be a portion of bloggers who post only for the sake of posting, who post just some MP3-links, sometimes with an added copied text from sources like the All Music Guide. The main motivation here seems to be to increase website traffic and to obsess over statistics.

I can't know any of this for sure, of course.

The reason I started this ramble is because I sincerely wonder what's the point in having a blog if you can't even put the effort in of showing the slightest bit of personal enthusiasm for the music you make available for free downloading. Where is the real satisfaction in just seeing your website counter go up? How do you benefit in having people not pay for music? Don't tell me you're fighting the system. Or do, actually. That might be an interesting take on things.

This post is not a rant against people posting links to free MP3s of complete indiepop albums. Honestly. That's for another day, perhaps. I don't necessarily object to people downloading albums. I'm not a hypocryt; I do that as well. But indiepop lives by the grace of passion. The whole indiepop community only exists because people are willing to put in their love and try to enthuse others with that spark. So if you want to be part of that, if you want to contribute to that it's really not that hard. Even if you decide to post a complete album, don't you want to tell us why you post it, why you love it, where we can buy it?

Look at me. I'm not a writer. I don't know a lot about indiepop. I just clumsily try to tell you what I like. I'm not very good at what I do. I don't claim my blog is better than any blog out there.

But I'm having fun.

I'm not telling you what should be fun for you. I can't, even if I'd want to. But I'm sincerely curious. Where is the satisfaction or fun in just posting a link and leaving it at that?

February 13, 2009

Everything's for sale (new Liechtenstein)

Liechtenstein, probably the best current band around, have a new three track CDR out.

Everything's For Sale is available on the Drill Building label through Fraction Discs. You know you want it. If it's anything nearly as brilliant as the previous two singles, you just know you want it.

Liechtenstein myspace
Fraction Discs

February 11, 2009


Pre-Tullycraft Sean Tollefson and Jeff Fell were Crayon, together with third member Brad Roberts. Between 1990 and 1994 the Bellingham, Washington band released a handful of singles and one official full length album, Brick Factory.

For those of you who think Tullycraft too twee, Crayon might be just the thing. Not that the twee elements were not included in the lyrics already (although none of the later so favourite obscure music references), but a big difference with the Tullycraft-sound is the combination of those lyrics with heavily distorted guitars, veering towards punk. Some people called it cuddlecore, but hmm. Let's just call it addictive.

The three immature mini-classics below are all from Brick Factory.

Download (Mediafire)
1. Crayon - Chutes and ladders
2. Crayon - Pedal
3. Crayon - Knee-high Susan

February 09, 2009

New Just Joans EP

In the interview last month Just Joan David already announced it, but now it's actually available for pre-order: the new Just Joans EP Love and other hideous accidents on WeePOP. I know a lot of people kicked themselves for missing the previous EPs, only realising their brilliance after they'd sold out. Don't say I didn't warn you this time. The release date is February 14, but pre-order now!

David, about the EP: "We were thinkin' of calling it 6.9 Love songs, cos it has quite a Magnetic Fieldsy feel. Is all songs of lost love and heartache... but there are a few disco bangers on it too!"

While you're ordering anway, WeePOP!'s also got the new Mexican Kids At Home EP available right now. They're ace too.

The Just Joans myspace

February 06, 2009

Undercover poplover, part 10

"The world was on fire
No one could save me but you
Strange what desire
Will make foolish people do"

Download (Mediafire)
1. The Raincoats - Lola
2. Dolly Mixture - The locomotion (live)
3. The Royal We - Wicked game

February 02, 2009

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

I've been busy.

I've hinted at it in previous posts, but now it finally seems I can be quite sure about it: I've bought a house. If nothing unexpected goes wrong in these few coming weeks, the house in the little picture is ours by springtime. It's going to be a big change, from my two-room appartment on the third floor in Amsterdam to a complete corner house with a garden in Almere. From living alone to living with a partner, a child and a dog.

Am I growing up or what?

Almere is one of the youngest cities in the Netherlands: 65 years ago there was nothing but water here. The Flevopolder was finished in the early 1940s, the first house was finished in 1976 and Almere became a municipality in 1984. It's quite a change from the 1000-year-old Amsterdam, in almost any aspect.

Our neighbourhood is called the Muziekwijk, with streets like the Beatlesweg and the Rolling Stonesstraat. It's wishful thinking to hope to find some indiepop-related streetnames, but hey, I still like it as it is.

If you're ever around, come visit. We'll have a garden party!

Download (Mediafire)
1. Pants Yell! - The not-so city life
2. Detroit Cobras - C'mon over to my house
3. Dragonette - Get lucky