Abe Vigoda are a punk rock band based in Los Angeles, California. Originally from Chino, the band met while at high school, and started playing together because they ‘were big nerds and didn’t party’ who all ‘geeked out over the Smashing Pumpkins’. After a few local releases the band hit it big with their third full-length album Skeleton (Post Present Medium 2008), which received critical acclaim around the world. I caught up with guitarist Juan Velazquez ahead of their show at La Sala Rossa to talk about their latest album Crush (Post Present Medium 2010), their shifting influences, and the Los Angeles music scene. Read the rest of this entry »
Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
The Besnard Lakes were formed in 2003 by husband and wife duo Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas. Two of their three albums, including their most recent, The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night (Jagjaguwar 2010), have been nominated for the Polaris Music Prize. I caught up with the band during their North American tour. Read the rest of this entry »
The Fugitives were formed four years ago on Vancouver’s East Side. The band comprises the combined talents of artists Adrian Glynn, Barbara Adler, Brendan McLeod, and Steve Charles. A group of multi-instrumentalists, songwriters, poets and novelists, their primary focus lies in banding together to integrate their sensibilities into a dynamic mix of modern folk.
Band member Brendan McLeod was gracious enough to answer a few questions for Midday Procrastination ahead of the band’s UK tour. Read the rest of this entry »
The Silly Kissers are one of Montréal’s most exciting new bands. With one album under their belts, headline shows at Pop Montréal, and new material on the way, there couldn’t be a better time to chat with band members Jane Penny, Bob Lamont, David Carriere, Jeremy Freeze and Thom Gillies. Read the rest of this entry »
Kingdom is a New York City based producer and DJ. His combination of off-kilter garage-esque beats, treated R&B vocal samples, and pulsating synths caught the attention of more than a few prominent listeners last year. Two of those listeners included Alex “Bok Bok” Sushon and James “L-Vis 1990” Connolly. The duo run the influential London based Night Slugs label, and released Kingdom’s first full EP, That Mystic, to critical acclaim back in the summer. Midday Procrastination caught up with Kingdom before his Lookout show at Le Belmont on Friday. Read the rest of this entry »
Ariel Pink is the stage name of Ariel Marcus Rosenberg, a Los Angeles based musician. His latest album, ‘Before Today’ has received critical acclamation across the world. Midday Procrastination caught up with him before his hectic tour schedule reaches Montréal.
Firstly, where did the names Ariel Pink and Haunted Graffiti come from?
Well Ariel comes from my parents, so the first bit was easy, but I’d always hated my second name, so being an artist just gave me an opportunity to change it and play with it. The Haunted Graffiti has just been the name of a project I’ve been working on at various times throughout my life.
It’s well known that you started out making hundreds of home recordings, which were all eventually released on Animal Collective’s record label ‘Paw Tracks’. How did that happen? What kind of experience was that for you?
It was a little bit strange, because the Animal Collective guys heard the music so many years after I’d first made it, and so when they helped release it, I was a little bit displaced artistically from where I was at the time. In hindsight, it wasn’t that much of a difference, maybe five years, but at the time it felt a lot longer.
And now you’ve jumped to 4AD and released an album that has got significant exposure at the same time as it was created, has that felt any different to you?
Fair enough! So, now you’re on tour as well. Did you always perform live, or is that something that came along with the recognition?
No, definitely not. When I started making music I didn’t really think about playing live at all. I started after The Doldrums came out in 2004, and it was mostly a promotional thing, trying to get people to prick up their ears to my sounds. I think a lot of the time I felt validated, and some times disappointed, but at that time it was weird, I didn’t really take playing live seriously, because it was such a new thing.
Musically, it seems you choose a great variety of different sounds, but united by an overriding feeling, I want to call it nostalgia, but the sounds are very particular, very 1980s. Would you agree with that? Did you have a particular desire to unite these different ideas with a coherent sound?
I think that’s just my musical sensibility cutting through everything. It’s not really thought out, I mean, I even think that within 1980s music there was a lot of nostalgia, y’know, those feelings of yearning and of winsomeness were quite prominent. I think it’s fair to say that my music sounds like 1980s music, because of the instruments and sounds, but that it has a different twist on the nostalgia, because I’m being nostalgic towards it!
What do you think about the prevalence of nostalgia within the contemporary indie scene?
Actually that might be my fault! When ‘The Doldrums’ came out in 2004, it was incredibly contradictory, because it didn’t exist in the world it was released into in some ways, because it had been recorded around 1999. And then that record itself harked back to another era, and was recorded on such shitty equipment, that it became this weird ‘current-nostalgia’ thing. I think people thought it was like a half-ironic mind experiment, sort of like I was trying to do something that wasn’t completely real or true, but as more people listened to those early recordings I think they just found that the songs struck a chord with them. They felt that they could be more vocal with their interests, and present their interest in nostalgia. Sometimes it’s just more natural to hark back and feel safe, especially in today’s society, and I’m happy to show that in my music.
And how do your lyrics and sounds come together when you write songs? I mean, for a song like ‘Fright Night’ you mention ‘Freddy’, alluding to those old ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ films, and you’ve got all this imagery that feels like it could have come straight out of the ‘Thriller’ video, and the music really fits this theme, with loads of ghostly reverb etc. Does the music come before the lyrics or do the lyrics match the feel of the song musically?
Oh that’s great, because with that song in particular I had real trouble with the lyrics. I had the sound down, and the music all finished, but it was the hardest song off the album to get lyrics to. I went through probably like four or five hundred rough drafts before I decided on them; it almost didn’t make the album. It was at the stage where I had the feel of the song down completely, so I could have just garbled some random lyrics and still had the same feel. No, the lyrics definitely need to fit in with the feel of the song musically.
Okay, and do you think some of your influences come out quite clearly in your songs? When I hear ‘L’estat’ it sounds like you’re trying to lead the reader on a story, somewhat in the manner of Paul McCartney, would that be fair?
Well Paul McCartney has been a great and long lasting reference point for me. I mean, just in terms of his execution and arrangements, I’m constantly looking up to him. He understood how to communicate with simplicity, and the idea of the reaching the lowest common denominator being a great thing to achieve in music – that there is no need to be fancy all the time. I think that’s a hard thing to do – it is difficult to create simplicity. Over and over again pop musicians have tried to do it. Think about it, every time a new pop record comes out we look for the same things, ‘innovation’, ‘genius’, and ‘melody’. Great pop musicians always manage to achieve those things, but maintain that ability to reach everyone.
Do you think it’s partly that combination of lowest common denominator pop melody with such over the top dramaticsm that attracts you to the Cure? On songs like ‘Little Wig’ you seem to lean that way, with the incredibly open and inviting upbeat tempo and melody, but lyrics that have that dramatically self-imposed ‘I don’t worry for no-one’ vibe.
Well, I think you’ve just summed up my never-ending devotion to the Cure. For me, they’re such a great reference point, and I want people to remember them for that kernel of truth they had back in the 1980s. Y’know, like, they were so faithful to this idea of writing great pop, but at the same time, such a shambles. Robert Smith was this bumbling drama queen, and they were always in various states of falling apart or fighting through various image crises, but they always had the great pop sensibility. It’s interesting, because they’ve come to be recognised as this great influence and Robert has became this sort of ‘god like’, but cartoony, figure. It’s funny to me that we see him through these new coloured glasses, but, really, he was obsessed with drama and smeared makeup, all the while really understanding the musical essence of new wave 1980s pop.
Ariel Pink plays with Os Mutantes, November 16th at Le National ($23.50).
Dave Brunelle and Evan Woolley are the promoters behind Dubma$hine, a local dubstep and party venue. I caught up with them to talk about successful music promotion in Montréal, and how they managed to bring dubstep to a wider audience.
Steve: Tell us the story of Dubma$hine. How did it get started?
Evan Woolley: It began before I met Dave actually. I was living out in the West Island, and a couple of my friends asked to borrow my speakers, for a party. We ended up doing that a couple of times, and no-one at those parties had really heard dubstep before, but I liked it, and a couple of my friends were casual dubstep DJs. So after the first couple of times I decided to do something bigger, and to charge for it. The problem with that was I did it alone, which is a pretty big mistake for a first event. I only made like $35, but everyone enjoyed it and said I should do it again. I personally thought the party itself was shit though!
Steve: Who played at those first parties?
Evan: Just local acts really, but someone I’ve always worked with from way back in the West Island has been Orphan. He’s a local DJ, but he improves every time, and one of the things which would make me happiest as a promoter is if I could break him to a new audience, so I always keep him booked.
Steve: So how did this develop into Dubma$hine? How did you meet Dave?
Dave Brunelle: Well I lived in like the next-door loft to where his party was, and actually over the course over four months from March to June saw about six or seven parties happening in spaces around that area. And I thought, well I’ve seen how people do it, and the mistakes they’ve made, and I want to try it.
Steve: What kind of mistakes are you talking about?
Dave: Things like budgeting way too much money, so for our first event, we decided to make sure we had broken even just from our pre-sale tickets, so that everything at the door would be profit, which allows us to fund our next party.
Steve: So how did that first party come about?
Dave: I was kind of sceptical, we didn’t know each other, but each took a leap of faith, y’know, and gave ourselves a month to plan our first party, called ‘Blood on my Nikes’, and it turned out really well, 300 people came.
Steve: What do you think contributed to that success?
Dave: I think we were very open. We started reaching out to lots of different groups. I think the key to running a successful event is reaching out to as many different groups as possible; the bros, the ravers, the hipsters, the hardcore dubsteppers, all the various schools and colleges.
Steve: And of course the internet. How has that helped you?
Dave: The internet for us is such a big tool. Of course we use Facebook, which is a great way of quickly spreading a message, but I’m also a film student at Concordia, so we used Youtube, and started making videos for our parties. Which is so cool, you can just take your iPhone out, show a commercial for a party, and it makes it look a whole lot more legit.
Evan: I think some promoters just print the flyers, put up posters, make a Facebook page, and then cross their fingers. I don’t think that does enough, so that why we decided to do more.
Steve: What was the difference in size between the first and second party? Were you trying to make it considerably bigger?
Dave: Our attitude was basically, ‘lets step it up’. We almost tripled our budget to try and get way more people through the door. Which meant we had to do a two room party. You’re not gonna get 800 people to a one room party. You have to sell it, you have to say it’s got DJs from San Francisco, 16 DJs, etc. You have to sell it. I mean that’s one of the reasons we called it ‘Bassfest’, it get’s people pumped.
Evan: And it worked, we ended up getting around 500 people more at ‘Bassfest’ than ‘Blood On my Nikes’. Just from pre-sale tickets we’d sold more than ‘Blood on my Nikes’.
Steve: Which is a huge number for the Montréal dubstep community, isn’t it?
Dave: For sure, the community has traditionally been very small, but very well knit. Now I think those days are over after Bassfest. Before that, dubstep was Koi Wednesdays; all the big names went there and there was nothing much outside of that. There were some Psytrance parties happening that would have Dubstep in a second room.
Dave: Yeah, we just wanted to throw a huge party with dubstep at the centre. Actually that was how I first decided to throw a huge dubstep party. I was at a Pystrance party called Overdrive back in May, and they had all the local dubstep DJs like Vilify and Construct in the smaller room. And I thought that it just needed more people and a bigger space.
Evan: And dubstep is a great genre for big spaces. I got into it really because I always want more bass, which dubstep brings.
Dave: It suits him cause he’s our sound-tech. He builds all the speakers for our parties and stuff.
Evan: Yeah all I want to do is build the speakers, hook it up, and do sound check. After sound check I was done, that’s all I wanted!
Steve: So you’re saying that your second party, Bassfest, broke dubstep to a wider audience.
Dave: For sure. It was like we were saying, between us we had friends in the West Island, the plateau, CEGEPs, Universities etc. It was just a crazy mingling of people. Ask anyone in the dubstep community, it had never been like that, some of the hardcore fans didn’t like it being broken out like that, but most people, and the DJs and fans, just thought it was cool that so many people liked the same music as them.
Steve: So with that in mind, what do you think about the dubstep DJs in Montréal? Do you have any particular kind of dubstep that you like to play, because the genre changes so quickly?
Dave: Well firstly I think they’re very good. There are not so many of them, so they tend to work well together and focus on trying to get people dancing, which is what we’re all about. The DJs at our parties have to play something people can dance to. As you know, most of the big Montréal DJs like Vilify, Construct and Wampa play a really dirty type of dubstep, so we save that for the peak of the evenings, and try and get a more pop sound played earlier.
Evan: Which is something someone like Orphan is really good for. [Ed – see comments below for discussion on this]
Dave: And at our next party, Inspector Dubplate from the UK is going to headline it, we’re flying him in especially for the event, and we’re gonna have Risk, who are a live dubstep band, open up for him.
Evan: I wouldn’t say we look for a specific sound, we like everything, and just want to find good DJs. I don’t think it’s a good move to look for a certain sound, because then the party has the same music all night. We spend a lot of time thinking about the order artists will play in at our parties.
Steve: So finally, tell us about your next party. Why should someone who doesn’t listen to dubstep go to it.
Dave: Okay, our next party will happen on Friday the 5th of November and Inspector Dubplate is going to be the headline act. All I can say to people who might not like dubstep is, look, there are going to be 600 people, from all walks of life, it’s only $15 and BYOB. Come and try it, meet some new people, and try something new, and party till 6 or 7 in the morning!
Dubma$hine is based out of 3810 St-Patrick, Montreal. You can reach them on 514.466.0520 if you’d like to find out more about booking their parties and events. Their next party is this Friday, the 5th of November 2010 at 10pm.
Homo Duplex (who we previously covered here) is Kristina from the Maynards and Ron from the Memories Attack (who, somewhat unusually for a band mentioned on Midday Procrastination, have a wikipedia entry). They live in Nova Scotia and compose songs by drawing random musical descriptors (speed, mood, instruments, etc.) out of a hat, then sticking to ’em. Their name is Latin for double human. Midday Procrastination caught up with the band just before their second live show ever, and first in Montréal, for an exclusive first interview.
How did you guys meet? You’re married right?
Ron Bates: I think we met through CKDU, which is the Dalhousie University radio station. We weren’t studying there at the time, though we both had done.
Kristina Parlee: CKDU is good because it involves the community and the campus together, so a lot of the members are former grads, or people involved in the music scene around Halifax.
RB: It’s good to have music programmed by the community; apart from CKDU there are no really good radio stations in Halifax.
How is the music scene in Halifax?
RB: It’s really good.
KP: Yeah it’s been really good for a really long time. It’s small, but the scene is very supportive; all the artists support one another.
RB: There’s high turnover within the scene. A lot of the bands don’t have much longevity though, though the people within the scene do. So maybe ¾ of the bands that existed 2 years ago don’t anymore, but the people who played in those bands still make music in Halifax.
You’ve both played in other bands as well then?
RB: Yeah I’ve played in a band called The Memories Attack, which is sort of on a bit of a break right now. I also have another side project called Combat, which is a noise project really. Kristina also played in a band called The Maynards, who I thought were one of the best bands in Halifax.
I’m really interested in the way you write songs for Homo Duplex. In your own words ‘these songs were composed by drawing random musical descriptors (speed, mood, instruments, etc.) out of a hat, then sticking to ’em’. How did you decide to begin writing like that?
RB: We wanted to start a new project from scratch, but because both us listen to quite a range of different types music we didn’t really know what we wanted it to be. On top that we wanted to remove ourselves from our comfort zones and break our habits; if we drew seven-minute song with trumpet and piano it would be more of a challenge than just writing a more typical song.
How did you decide what to write on the slips?
RB: we just tried to think of every possible permutation
KP: One of the first things we did is go around the house and list every instrument we had. So if we didn’t already have it, or know how to play it, it wasn’t on the list. We also wrote down a bunch of time signatures, a few we later realised that we’d made up.
RB: We’d also have a hat with ‘yes’ and ‘no’ slips in. So we would end up asking, ‘will this song have a time signature change in it – yes or no’.
That’s interesting because many of your songs change quite noticeably in the middle.
RB: Of course, a few actually do sound like medleys of a few songs. With all the different musical permutations we had we found it easier to just completely shift in the middle of the song, and so make almost two songs.
Despite that though, many of your songs have quite a similar sonic feel. How would you describe the overall sound of the band?
RB: I’m not sure. What’s interesting is that from the original ‘hat pulling’ we had about 20 songs. Of course, because the rules produced random songs, some of them just weren’t good.
KP: So we ended up using songs that we thought sounded good, and if of course if a song isn’t working we can always throw away what we’ve written and go back to the original rules pulled from the hat.
RB: We should also acknowledge that we try to adhere to the rules we draw, but if we think that deviating somewhat from the instructions will produce a better result then we’ll do it; we’re not dogmatic about it.
Can you remember any of the rules you drew for specific songs? What did you draw for your song ‘Deadly Understudy’?
RB: I think it was something like ‘midtempo’, ‘melancholy’, ‘four minutes’, ‘4/4 time’, ‘organ’ and ‘drums’. We sort of cheated on the drums part because we used a drum machine; we make all the songs at home but only have one mic, which would make a drum kit sound pretty bad.
Something I’ve found interesting about Homo Duplex is that I find it difficult to separate the songs from the images you use as record covers. What kind of thought do you put into the artwork that goes with your music?
KP: Well our first EP came out in early spring, and the frosty photo sort of reflected the season in which we’d been working on the songs. The photo on the new EP is by a friend of ours, Francesca Tallone, which we’d seen before, but felt really suited the music of the new album; it’s warmer feeling, towards the end of summer. We definitely think about the seasons a lot when producing the music.
Men: We’re bummed out the EPs are only coming out digitally, because those photos would look really good on a 12 inch record cover.
About the releases, you put them out on bandcamp.com as free downloads. How do you feel about making music in an era when few people pay for music?
RB: Well for us, we recognise that we won’t be making a living, or any reasonable profit from it, and so it becomes kind of a pleasure to give it away and know that people are listening to your music. We wouldn’t presume to speak for bands who are trying to make money out of their music, and that must be incredible hard nowadays, but it’s not something that we’re trying to do anymore.
KP: And of course it’s definitely a way for small bands to get exposure. It does seem like the model for being a band is going to have to change, but as a small band it makes it much easier to get exposure.
RB: It’s a guarantee that no-one would have ever heard of us without bandcamp or twitter.
KP: It’ll be pretty interesting to see where bandcamp goes. I’ve only known about it for a year, and actually you could see its influence increase just within our scene as more and more bands started to use it.
RB: What was fascinating for us was that when we put the first EP up on bandcamp, we put it up as ‘pay what you want’, and about half the people paid somewhere between $3 and $5 for the three track EP. One person paid $10, and we were like ‘Why did you do that? Just take it!’ We actually made it completely free for the new EP in part because I always feel like a jerk clicking on zero when it’s pay what you can. I didn’t want to be the guy making people feel like a jerk!
Do you have any plans for future releases?
RB: Absolutely. We’ve done two EPs as digital downloads, and we think we’ll do one more in that format. After that we hope our fourth release will be a physical release of those three EPs with the new material that would have been the fourth EP.
Considering you make a lot of your music on computers, how do you play live?
RB: Well we’ve only played one show so far [two now, after their Pop Montreal show – Ed], and it went well. We try and do as much of it live as we can, but we use pre-programmed drum tracks to back us.
KP: We might one day down the road get a full band together to play a one off show together, who knows…
RB: I think it would definitely sound better sonically, and it’s more exciting to watch a real drummer live. Also, I probably shouldn’t say this as it’s one of the least cool things out there, but I’d quite like to have one of those electronic drum kits and have a drummer playing that, so we can get all the different kick drum sounds etc…
Finally, you’ve come here to play Pop Montreal. What do you think about the role these festivals play in the Canadian music scene?
KP: Well, especially in Canada, where it’s quite hard to tour, having a single event where you can go and meet other bands and have people hear your music is a great thing. It also helps if you need to play shows out of your own locality; you can tell the bar manager in Vancouver or wherever that you’ve played Pop Montréal and then they have something to reference you by and to relate to. It’s also really fun!