Sunday, February 4, 2007, 07:25 PM ( 505 views ) - Show Reviews & Photos - Posted by AdministratorGoldfrapp’s following in Seattle is tremendous. The fans not only sold out the show, they came dressed up and ready to dance. Goldfrapp knows how to create and sustain a sexy mood and Alison Goldfrapp appears a bit like an indifferent dominatrix in the best way meant. Watching her up close - hearing as well as seeing, yes I said seeing - that voice come out - it’s all kinds of beauty and colour.
More artists should do as Goldfrapp chose to do that night - be the only band. No openers, no filler, none of that. Just what people came to see and hear. I got the feeling that the audience would have been insulted by any opening act, that they wanted Goldfrapp and they wanted no other. It’s electronic, it’s got a chanteuse, it’s a rock band . . . it’s many things.
Singer/Composer Alison Goldfrapp really was in superb, slender form, dressed in a black zip up cat suit and black heels tied to her small feet. I could say something silly about her tininess belying her large persona . . . but that’s kind of cliche. Though she is a sleek and precious picture for sure. Her voice filled the Showbox smoothly and the band kept up throbbing and loving beats. She did that thing she does of playing her portable theremin between her legs. Strict Machine, Number One and White Horse were favorites of mine and I found some space to dance. Which brings me back to the dancing. Most of the audience was dancing - many like it was a huge disco floor, though yeah some of us tapped our toes. This was a great thing to see and rare to see at any concert.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 07:06 PM ( 856 views ) - Interviews - Posted by Administrator
Did you have a musical family?
Both my parents are still singing (in the church choir) My dad’s a pretty proficient piano player and a pretty good guitar player as well.
What are the differences between your albums?
Some things are different but we always try to challenge ourselves and do new things. I hope that each of our records sounds new like something we’ve never done before but also like us.
Who designed the new cover? I love it.
Josh. He designs a lot of t shirts and stuff – he’s a great artist. Watercolours and drawings.
How was touring with Keane? Is that the largest band you’ve toured with?
Now they’re really big, but that tour wasn’t so crazy. We were still playing Berbati’s in Portland – Irving Plaza in NY. It’s not like it was Madison Square Garden. We’ve gone on mini tours opening for bands at that level. In terms of world domination I guess they’re bigger than any band . . .
That was the first tour I had heard about you guys.
It was a great tour to for us to have done because I think a lot of people saw us – it’s a different demographic entirely than we’re used to playing. It was not necessarily all the hipster kids – it was more different kinds of people. It’s cool, I like playing in front of different kinds of people not just straight up rock & roll fans – although I love obviously playing for those people too. They [Keane] have a different audience and it’s working out well for them.
What do you like about playing live music?
I like playing music, period. There’s that (we laugh). You’d be surprised being in a band. You practice a lot. You drive a lot. And you do a lot of peripheral stuff. But playing – the sound check you just saw – usually it’s not nearly that long, then you play the show is not even that long. Sound check is usually about an hour, if you’re lucky and the show is 45 minutes. So in a day of tour we drive like seven hours, we talk on the phone and do business and emails for many other hours and then you play music for an hour and 45 minutes if you’re lucky. By that break down we’re so happy to be playing , which is really what we’re supposed to be doing . . . so I like that and I love being in a room with a crowd and getting a vibe going in a room. Playing and singing, there’s nothing like it – or people wouldn’t starve to death and drive around in vans and go crazy. I do think it’s the hardest thing – it’s one of the hardest things people can do. People think, you’re in a rock band cause you can’t get a real job. But I think this is so much harder than any other real job – and I’ve had some hard jobs.
What other kind of jobs have you had?
I’ve worked in kitchens – really hard. I’ve worked as a teacher, which is maybe the only thing I would put next to this as as hard. I’ve been a landscaper . . . I gravitate towards these things for some reason.
Teaching and this work – I can see how you’d compare it.
It’s like a 24 hour – you have to be all there all the time or you can’t do it. You make no money. Teachers really don’t make any money. The joke is we don’t make any money – rock people- cause obviously some rock people make more money than God. No matter how good a teacher you are you’re not going to make any money. But you get rewards that most people don’t even know about (as a teacher).
What did you teach?
Music. A school in Jersey city – a Catholic school – two Catholic schools actually. The other teachers were Haitian nuns.
Were the kids well-behaved?
No, they were horribly behaved, but they were wonderful.
Music was probably one of their favorite subjects.
They liked me. But it was hard – I mean forty kids in a class in an inner city school.
I don’t believe I’ve ever said anything about that before in an interview – that’s an exclusive. In professions like acting, music and teaching you have to engage people.Except in teaching it’s for them and everything else is for you. Although there’s a gray area there too. Teachers, especially at the college level where they like to hear themselves talk, they like to be adored, they like to inspire awe and girls to have crushes on them and stuff. I am sure you could find a lot of teachers who have weird motivations - I claim to not be one of them.
You studied at Oberlin – is that where you got your music degree?
I don’t have a music degree. I was completely unqualified for my teaching job. For this type of job I feel qualified – for my teaching job, at least on paper anyway, I was completely unqualified. They didn’t have a music teacher at all at the school.
How was working with Haitian nuns?
They’re great - they were crazy. Wanna take about making no money, they really made no money. Nuns make no money.
Were they fun?
They were great.
I guess I wouldn’t go into the nunnery to make money.
I would advise against it.
What happened to the column on French Kicks’ site, What Would French Kicks Do?
Did you get tired of it?
What Did French Kicks Do? We just got lazy. For a while we were just lazy – we’d be in the car and somebody would be like, we really should do some of those. We should of done a lot more of them, but it’s the kind of thing that’s really fun for a while and then as soon as it starts to feel like a chore we’ll quickly be like, no sorry. In theory anyway there will be some enticing new content on there [the French Kicks’ web site]. It was fun to do that. I think our new idea is to have a gallery – a page where people send their art submissions in the and we critique the art submissions where we do a psychological evaluation based on the art.
I was afraid you were going to critique the art.
We’re going to do that, too. It’s like a critique of the art that gets into a more psychological profile. Whether we actually do it or not I can’t tell you. It’s in the works.
You’ve been touring continually since 2001.
Well not exactly. We’ve had sort of seasons of heavy touring. This is the first tour we’ve done in a really long time – a year.
Do you have a driver?
No, we drive. It’s something to do. It’s different when you’re driving – it’s a little better – you have to pay attention.
You’re not just staring out the window.
You kid yourself into thinking that you’re doing something worthwhile. Although sitting and staring out the window is great, too. I have no problem with that. I don’t mind it at all. It’s just that after a while, living on top of each other . . .
Who’s the first one to start picking a fight?
I pick fights all of the time. No, we’re a bunch of perfect gentlemen. We are, it’s true. A very gentlemanly band. Very nice to eachother.
No shut ups or we’re going to leave you in Fargo?
No. I mean you this about bands, I mean people get into real fights on tours all the time. Real bad fights, but we’ve been pretty good.
You played drums in the band earlier on – why stop?
Just for live purposes, it was a little limiting. We couldn’t play fast songs – we could do maybe one if we were lucky because I would be so out of breath.
They’d find you collapsed –
I used to literally see spots – almost be about to pass out after every show. I don’t have a problem with that necessarily – just I couldn’t do more than one fast song per show. I could only do so much intricate stuff. And also now I play keyboards here and there. It just basically opens up opportunities to do other stuff.
You don’t like to refer to influences – you think it’s misleading?
I just don’t like to mention them. There’s so many . . . the way we’re influenced by them is so different – it’s like little details as opposed to broader things. [He’s the same on films and literature, too] I think everything you see or read will listen to you in some way.
I’m intrigued by the title of the one about-
England? It’s the only one –
Do you get a lot of questions about it?
It’s about a time we were over there at the end of a long tour. We were out for five weeks in the States and then immediately went over there and it was sort of a kick some one when they’re down scenario. We were so exhausted and everything was fucked up. [The song] is obviously a tongue in cheek thing. It’s something that’s fun to complain about – we’re champion complainers.
How did you get involved with Poptones?
We did one record. Alan McGee – there’s this party that he puts on, it’s mostly in London with Radio 4. He was doing it in NY when the whole New York thing was happening, seeing what would stick. What stuck was the Hives.
Do you think that you are now able to get out of being labeled a New York band?
I hope so. I mean, here we are talking about it. But I hope so.
None of them sounded much like each other.
They never did.
You have a new guitar player?
For about two months. He’s great – he’s an old friend, a D.C. guy.
What’s D.C. like?
It’s much more fun as a native than as a visitor. It’s a great to be fifteen or sixteen years old – I think that’s what it’s best for. It’s sort of halfway been a small town and a big town, in a great way for teenagers. There’s a really good music scene, especially when we were in high school. But then you can also sit outside in the park and get drunk, the kind of things you can do in smaller towns. It’s a great place to grow up.
You moved to NY for more opportunities?
I think for the same reasons most people move to NY. There’s more going on.
What kind of music did you play in your teenage years?
It was pretty terrible, high school music band music. We did a lot different stuff.
Do you get to get out see things while on tour?
Every once in a while we have a day off and can go walk around. Usually it’s just drive in for sound check, do the show. In our naiive early days we used to book our own tours and book all these days off everywhere to see the sights – it ends up being sort of depressing. If you don’t - first of all if you don’t have any money –but second of all if you don’t have a home base in a foreign town it just gets depressing to be there really quick. You don’t have anything to do. If you have a friend there, anything, where you can feel a little more at home then it’s fine. We learned very quickly that it’s better not to have too much time off.
Who are some of the bands you’d like to tour with?
It’s always fun to go on tour with the Walkmen, we grew up together. It’s like touring with your old gang from high school. Dios, the Joggers – a Portland band who I think are really great.
Are there any kinds of music you can’t stand?
Like whole types of music? No, I don’t think so. I think you can find good examples of pretty much anything. There’s got to be something redeeming about everything, or it wouldn’t be anything. Somebody had to like it. Somebody in that category had to like it, for a good reason, or it wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. It’s like populist theory.
French Kicks is a handsome band and I see that mentioned in every arcticle. Does that weird you out?
No. If you think about that sort of thing you’re doomed, so I try not to think about it. What we’re doing is try to be good at music. That’s the most important thing to us. That people are listening and like the songs. We work hard at it. I like to be listened to a lot more than looked at. In fact I hate being looked at, I do. I’m not a natural hey look at me kind of guy. But I love to play, I love to be on stage so I can play.
[Though I do point out it’s better to be thought attractive than unattractive] It’s too bad.
I think there’s been times, not so long ago, where [appearance] wasn’t so much a parameter by which people were judged so much. In the 70s I don’t think you had to be so attractive necessarily. Everybody has to be a pop star now, rockers have to be pop stars. Any kind of music has to be a pop record. It’s so boring. It used to be you could look shit but if it [the music] sounded good people would listen to it. People were paid attention to for the right reasons. Even beyond looking like shit because that’s your thing but because you just don’t care. Maybe I’m kidding myself. I like to think that that’s possible again. Not having looks be a criteria for being recorded in the first place.
Do you have to force yourself to write?
I think there have been times where we’ve done that, where we’ve said we’re going to write now. Sometimes good things happen. But mostly – the beginning of song has to be something that just happens very naturally and relaxed way for fun just so you want to entertain yourself. Feel it. It will sound like you felt like it, which is the best thing. It’s a mind game, for us anyway. You take the good things that happen by accident and then you make them into things that are listenable. And you have to be around the instruments so things can happen in the first place. Sometimes that will take a little bit of discipline.
It’s sort of a balancing act.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:46 PM ( 1312 views ) - Show Reviews - Posted by AdministratorWith a triple bill of Monsters Are Waiting, Stellastarr*, and Editors I needed to stake my place early right in front of the stage to get pictures. The show was sold out and I didn’t feel like the audience would have let me back up to the front if I had left for one moment, so in total I stood about three and a half hours. Festival-goers can snicker at what appears to be my lack of fortitude. And it was scorching in Chop Suey (don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely venue), leading to a mammoth thirst on my part. Those are the only down sides from the show. Well there is one other to come up later. Not one of these issues was the fault of the bands, who were all just brilliant.
After listening to Monsters Are Waiting I was curious to see them live. Their music has such a vim and drive to it I wondered if they would duplicate it live. In fact, the four-piece, often called sexy - well they are that - played marvelously together and charmed with tender and sensual vocals from Annalee, slinky bass playing and sparkling guitar playing by Andrew and Jonathan respectively, and drummer Eric’s responsive drumming (They seem to prefer being known by first names only.) Songs like Fascination and Ha Ha were particularly groovy live, and their set closer, the lusty Christine saw the band go quite mental - in the best way possible. I am in awe of bassist Andrew’s ability to play guitar, after he and Jonathan switched places, while nearly stretched out on the floor.
Meanwhile it got hotter and the woman next to me still wore a sweater - a sweater I ask you! When Stellastarr* came on I was really starting to hurt for water but was stubborn and I kept my place even when another photographer burst his way in and out of the crowd with impunity. For some reason crew from backstage periodically came out and mopped up water on the stage floor.
I’ve admired Stellastarr* since I saw them open for the Raveonettes in 2003. There’s something loveable about them and the other two bands of the evening and I just can’t place my finger on what it is. Perhaps it’s singer/guitarist’s Shawn Christensen’s tortured and disturbing presence, or Michael Jurin’s culinary guitar work, or the centered drumming by Arthur Kremer. Or it might be the bass playing, some of the most sophisticated bass playing you will ever hear, coming from the seriously foxy Amanda Tannen. It’s probably all these things. And each time I have seen Christensen I feel like he must fall apart every night. He seemed to break down in earnest. This was good stuff and made me flinch. After they finished the classic My Coco - a guy yelled, ‘Again!’. This got a smile from Tannen, who really seemed to play joyfully.
Editors headlined and even though I had been listening to their cd and really loving it I was a bit concerned about the hype around the band. By that point, after seeing shows by bands who would more than capably headline, I had decided they needed to be something special for me to stay in the front through their entire set. I was not disappointed - only more than a bit thirsty, which was when I realized that a pipe above the stage was leaking, and that was where the mystery water came from. It was slightly distracting let alone quite dangerous around the plugged in equipment. I was tempted several times to jump on stage to get some of the water. Guitarist Chris Urbanowicz’s (joking and very funny) comments such as ‘Don’t panic’ and ‘I’m going on’ were very apt.
At one point singer Tom Smith knocked out the speakers leaping around the stage - I had never seen this happen at Chop Suey before and I enjoyed the danger. Smith, trapped like an animal, seemed to want to climb the walls.
They are a beautiful band and I fell in love them from the start of their set. Songs such as Blood and All Sparks are pure wonders. I was deeply touched by Camera, and Fingers in the Factories was aggressive and salty. Several audience members were already familiar with the songs and that gave me hope that important music has made it. Smith’s resonant vocals recall more of Jim Morrison rather than Paul Banks. Ed Lay’s drumming stunned me. And Russell Leetch’s bass and Urbanowicz’s guitar playing joined in perfect sounds and grace.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:42 PM ( 5146 views ) - Interviews - Posted by AdministratorBritain’s White Rose Movement is one of the top British bands to have visited the States this decade. Two members of the five-piece, guitarist Jasper Milton and singer/guitarist Finn Vine, talked with me before their show in Seattle in early May.
Q: Do you like making videos of your songs? Is it fun?
Finn: In a way it is - in another way it’s always a bit of a risk -
(there’s an interruption as the band learns they will get to their next show date in Chicago)
Finn: Someone brings you a treatment and it’s really hard when you read the treatment and not to look at it and think this looks really corny or, . . . we really enjoyed doing the Alsation video (or I did personally).
Jasper: Yeah it seemed like there was more a structural idea of what was going on.
Q: How did you pick Paul Epworth as your producer?
Finn: He did sound for us at a club night that he was kind of affiliated with - that was three years before he started producing. He did sound for us and the gig went really, like, tits up and everything went wrong and he ended having a fighting match.
Jasper: Not with you.
Jasper: With the promoter.
Finn: He saw something in it [the show] and said he’d like to make a point of coming up to us afterwards. I thought that was really special.
Jasper: And then we didn’t see him for two years. We tried recording with a couple of producers and it wasn’t working out. We were in the studio with a producer and it was all going horribly wrong and we bumped into him - he was working downstairs with a band called Maximo Park. I hadn’t realized he had become a producer. I gave him a cd of what were doing and we did one track with him which was Love Is A Number and from then on in it just clicked really, just jelled.
Q: It’s a question you probably hate and difficult to answer - describe your sound - it has so many elements of music that I love, like disco and 80s music.
Jasper: It’s got an element of 80s and some of the beats are quite disco but it’s also got some of the bands we love from the 90s like My Bloody Valentine and stuff like that going on in it. I think it’s quite diverse it’s not just sort of influenced by the 80s - I think it’s influenced by the 90s - it’s a 21st century record. It’s a mixture of a lot of different things. But yeah, like you said, it’s really hard to ask a band to describe its sound (Jasper laughs and I agree). Invariably we get 80s references and lazy journalists say we sound like A Flock of Seagulls but I don’t see the reference myself.
Finn: It’s just not true.
Q: Who writes the music and lyrics?
Finn: Me and Jasper write the lyrics and we usually write the beginning sparks of a song as well but more and more we’re doing stuff in a rehearse room situation and working on grooves and it can start from anything like a circular phrase or a riff -
Jasper: Or it can start from a bass line. . . every one’s writing music to a certain extent but me and Finn are the major song writers in the band.
Q: Reports are the entire band besides keyboardist Taxxi grew up together in Norfolk in what has been called a commune. Is this true?
Finn: It wasn’t really a commune. It was just like -
Jasper: it wasn’t really a commune by the time we were living there really. It did start out as a commune. It was a broken idea(l) of a commune. I don’t know, by the time it had hit the 80s a lot of the people who had moved out there in the 60s and 70s had fallen out and fences had gone up -
Finn: It wasn’t idealist in that way. It was just lots of young waifs and strays living there and getting blitzed and playing music and stuff, and doing bits of art and photography.
Jasper: I think as kids you had a free run, that was thing - the kids were kind out of control, which is great for kids - just do what you want -
Finn: there was no discipline.
Q: So you were able to take up music?
Jasper: Yeah, no sound restrictions or anything like that.
Q: What’s the story behind your song Deborah Carne?
Jasper: It was about something I read in the papers in England that happened a while back. It was basically a school kid - her boyfriend had a one night stand with another girl and she decided to get revenge [with her mates] and took her out and set her on fire. It was pretty nasty. Just one of those stories you read and you’re just absolutely fucking horrified, you know, that somehow children . . . barely teenagers could do that to each other. It kind of touched on that whole . . . way people seemed to have become, especially with computer games - separated from the reality of the harm that you can inflict on each other and they’re playing these games where they go around and blast each other and it’s not real. I suppose it’s kind of like -
Finn: the social repercussions of having a Prime Minister who’s up for going to war and is a real war monger and his policies -
Jasper: I guess to a certain extent if he’s at the top of the ladder . . . he’s setting the example at the top . . . and blasting away innocent people, then that kind of thing just goes down. I don’t know, I just found it a horrific scenario. It’s a touchy subject - writing about something that’s obviously personal and painful to that family.
Q: Finn, how did you start singing? It’s a very flexible voice.
Finn: I’ve always sung - not in a professional way or in a vocational way. I just always loved singing, even as a kid.
Jasper: I think there’s a whole bit to his voice that’s not even on this record yet that’s really good as well. Maybe you hear it on the secret track on the album. It’s called Luna Park.
Q: How about Pig Heil Jam?
Jasper: I can’t believe how many people have referred to that as a yelp.
Finn: I associate yelps with puppies. I don’t know how I feel about being called a puppy. Puppies are nice, soft and cuddly. And open to abuse.
Q: How’s America? Is this your first trip here?
Finn: Second. This is more extensive than the first one - we only did like four or five shows the first time we came over. We love it.
Jasper: It’s been great, we love it.
Finn: Especially at the moment because it’s not like we’re going everywhere in the States - it’s not that extensive - it’s quite leisurely, the pace we’re doing it. It’s more like a kind of holiday really. Going to lots of different places.
Jasper: Like a holiday but there’s some really long drives in between. It’s not all like a holiday but -
Finn: for me it is. It’s nice looking out the window and seeing different sights.
Jasper: Yeah it’s a beautiful country. It’s a fucked up beautiful country but . . . From day one we’ve always wanted to get out here. A lot of our heroes in music are from here and it’s great to be here. Coachella was amazing.
Finn: Amazing. Two to three thousand people, and they’re all packed into this tent - people who had turned up to see us and it was really encouraging.
Jasper: And that’s pretty much myspace really because we’ve got nothing out over here at all. People seemed to know our songs in the audience.
Q: What’s the strangest thing on your rider?
Finn: It’s pretty thin over here. We’re lucky if we get a bit of fruit. We usually get some piss water beer and that’s about it.
Jasper: There’s nothing unusual on our rider. We just try to get some vodka and red bull. Especially if you’ve had a long trip you need something to pep you up a bit. Nothing that exciting. We’re on a shoe-string [budget]. We haven’t got a record out here at the moment.
Q: When does the cd come out here?
Jasper: We’re negotiating with [American] labels cause we’re signed to an independent in England. Everything that we do, and all the gigs that we do are purely by word of mouth. [Through myspace] we’ve picked up a lot of American fans. We came out here and did SXSW and the Troubador in L.A., which was full. They told us no one dances at the Troubador, and then they all started dancing.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:37 PM ( 1091 views )Influences – musical or otherwise?
Kreskin! his e.s.p. powers! And we got the game with the mystery pendulum. I'm really into Sylvester (the mummy of a forty-five year old man found, half naked and half buried, by two cowboys in the wild west Arizona desert 1895) - I got the poster at Ye Olde Curiosity shop last time we played in Seattle. Also Miracle Mike, the chicken that lived a year without a head, he preened around the other birds and ate from an eye dropper. Marlin Perkins did such a great job with the whole Mutual of Omaha thing too. I read that some people like lemurs because they think they are mutant monkeys.
How do you describe your music?
Hopefully something like who I imagine Brian Eno to be on the back of another green world with cowboy boots - sitting under the moon next to someone he finds beautiful and funny, listening to a mix tape of Martin Denny, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Clash, and the song 'harborcoat' is on it just before Jesus and Mary Chain, Nick Cave and then Peggy Lee walks by and then there's this party and people are happy and lauging and comfortable enough to share bizarre ideas, and unicorns.
How did the band come together?
It was purely scientific. 4 parts water, 3 parts smoke and 2 parts mirrors. We are from all over the country (St. Louis, Kansas City, Missouri, California) and now we are all in Portland. We were just lucky to find each other as we careen through space headed for the beginning.
Is there something as a ‘shoegazer’ scene?
A shoegazer almost never gets seen, they are always looking down. Rim shot...and crash cymbol. I like Elvis. My favorite shoegazer band is the High Violets. There is a return to music with ethereal qualities - there are bands that use a lot of classic pedals and sounds but I think everyone adds their own dynamic or twist.
How/when did you start music?
Soon after being raised by lemurs - music started us. I think we were all gigantic music fans all our lives and decided to start becoming a part of the music rather listening exclusively. Once music started us, we were born, small, winged, and transparent.
How are things progressing on the new album?
Marvelously. It's definitely the album I feel being involved with is closest to my life's work thus far. So proud of it and we are only about 63% finished.
Spirit in the Sky – Why do a cover of this song (not saying you shouldn’t have)? It was something that happened in the practice space between songs, as things often do, the distortion sounds had not come to us and then curiosity killed the cat and Matt got ahold of Norman Greenbaum and began conversing about how to get that fuzzed out tone and the next thing you knew it was on our album.
Which ones of you were in the Bella Low?
That was a magical time. When you look back at the footage in the movie DIG! The Bella Low was opening those shows and just getting to be a part of that whole scene as it exploded, we were experimenting with sitar and film and... it's funny, last night at Courtney’s someone called me "bella low jsun!". Clint and Luke (other Bella Low) have an amazing band (The High Violets) now and someone has put up the bella low myspace.
What contemporary music do you like?
The Black Angels, The Get Hustle, Hypatia Lake, Wolf Parade, and just got the Kings of Leon Day Old Beglian Blues, Things on the radio I really like are Gorillaz and Interpol and The Strokes. Lately I know there's been a lot of Dolly Parton going around and I love to listen to Percy Faith plays music from South Pacific.
One of your influences listed on your myspace account is John Waters. What is it about him you like?
The way he allows things to be as twisted and cubist as he sees them. The camp is always good for a ha ha ah-ha.
How do you describe the Oregon music scene?
It's so interesting all the bands that are in Portland now. I think it says something about the live-ability for artists. There are so many amazing local bands that are taking off , e.g. The Village Green, Talkdemonic and there are so many great national/international acts too e.g. Modest Mouse, the shins, Sleater-Kinney, Spoon, Pink Martini, and my favorite, The Dandy Warhols. It's a healthy mix right now.
What has touring been like? Where have you gone & where next? Touring has been full of high jinks and tomfoolery. We've gone through 37 states over the last 2 years from sea to shining sea. We love New York and Los Angeles. It’s also brought merriment to get off the beaten path sometimes too.
How was it opening for Richard Butler?
He was a true gentleman. When he sings Love My Way and Heaven it sent those first gala feelings down my spinal column. It was a dream. It always is.
If an animal embodied your band - not as mascot though - what would it be and why?
It would be child's play to say the duck-billed platypus. I would say the animal we would manifest ourselves as is the Aye-aye of Madagascar, threatened by the people it shares the island with because of its odd appearance. To the Malagasy people, the Aye-aye is magical, and is believed to bring death to the village it appears in. The reason I believe we are most like the Aye Aye is because the Aye-aye owes its "notoriety" much to its odd appearance, especially its long middle digit. This toe and claw is most important to the Aye-aye, as this is how it fishes tasty, fat grubs from rotting logs and branches. Much the same way The Upsidedown forages with a fine toothed comb for tasty musical morsels. And because it's Matt's favorite animal.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:36 PM ( 514 views )Seattle seems to have gone back to its roots, back to rock n’ roll, pure rock n’ roll harking to the 70s. Perhaps it’s a trend in other places because one of several transplant bands from Eastern Washington, Shim, have swiftly and deservedly garnered major local attention. It’s as if Seattle has longed for unpretentious, inclusive, natural rock, and while other excellent bands have been playing the area for years, it feels like Shim are hitting at just the right time.
Shim released their first full-length cd, In the Veins, last week with a party at Fremont’s High Dive. Shim’s an easy band to fall in love with live and on cd. Their songs, while being instantly likeable and fresh, are sexily masterful.
Tracks such as Satisfied and Man from the Desert are classic rock at its best.
Animal, a track I cannot get enough of live, is pure lust and wonder.
Onstage each member has presence and gift. Singer/guitarist Ragan Crowe is captivating and I’m going to use this word classic again to describe his iconic appeal. Drummer Jeremy Crowe is powerful and fit to kill. Guitarist/keyboardist/singer Mike Notter injects absolute soul into whatever role he’s taking on, and Micah Simler is a truly grand and stunning bassist.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:32 PM ( 595 views )Bumbershoot – A late recap
I used to collect those mini albums with bubble gum in them. Which I suppose is neither here nor there but I had one of Blondie's Parallel Lines and gum never tasted so good as it did while admiring that album cover and listening to any Blondie song. Live, they have wonderful energy and sound fantastic. My favorite moment: when they first came out with Call Me. This was my first time seeing Blondie, and I do absolutely recommend them.
I also caught the Rishi Rich Project, a group of acts brought together by producer Rishpal Singh Rekhi (aka Rishi) that included Jay Sean, Juggy D and Veronica Mehta. All were in excellent form - it was fantastic to see these artists. They are all top acts – each one could have easily put on a show alone. Veronica has this amazing voice that just should move any one. Girls in the audience went crazy, screaming for Juggy D and Jay Sean. It was a great moment to share.
However, my focus of Bumbershoot was to catch Seattle bands. Specifically I was on the lookout for Romance, Thee Emergency and Daylight Basement. Each of these bands played at the EMP Skychurch, a beautiful venue I wish was used more often for concerts.
First was Daylight Basement, led by Bre Loughlin. They have smooth, instantly likeable and tasty songs with - and this is not a dirty word at all - pop appeal. They are also a fun and beautiful band to watch. Whatever form Loughlin’s work takes next I will be sure to check it out. Daylight Basement will be on hiatus until 2007, which is coming up fast, and with this band Loughlin has created magic.
The following day was Romance, a band both lyrical and brooding. The entire band has a striking presence and though they created an ambience with their show that could be insular,
they somehow managed to pull me in. I think it’s their hypnotic quality that does it. I admire this band not only for their talent but for their stylistic clarity.
Thee Emergency was the last band I set out to cover. I believe they could play anywhere and convert fans. They sent shivers up and down my spine and they play blues as wonderfully as they do rock. Their stage presence is truly staggering and it’s hard to come by sexier music and a sexier band.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:30 PM ( 1264 views )
Shaz, where does you nickname come from?
Shaz: My name Shaz? When I was little I used to live in Essex and I used to go to clubs in Essex. There used to be girls called Sharon and their nickname was Shaz cause they’d go to the clubs in their high heels when they were like sixteen –
Chris – They were easy.
Shaz – Quite easy. They were called Sharons and their nicknames or short for that was Shaz.
Chris – You should see him in high heels. It’s a very Indian name as well.
Shaz – Is it?
Chris – Shabba.
On your website you mention a Jekyl & Hyde quality to your music.
Chris – I think it’s to be exploited more really. It’s something to do with our personalities of the group. There’s a definite split in the personalities – not one person – us all being similar in the ways we can all be extreme characters. The music has to follow suit with that. But really it’s in the same way that, not in the most gloriously same way, the Smiths would play around with happy tunes with melancholic vocals . . . there’s nothing wrong with dynamics changing within a song . . . the name really follows.
How did you find Fierce Panda?
Shaz -We stalked them for a little while.
Chris - We’ve always loved them and sort of dreamt of being with them- we were really lucky because it was, I think it was our second ever gig, it was a night called –
Shaz – Club Fandango –
Chris – Which is a night that Fierce Panda put on in London with a few bands that they are liking at the time and just as our second ever gig we got off at that– we played it and they liked it and we decided to work together.
Shaz- We did one release with them.
Chris- That was actually Suzie, which is out at the moment in England. The single - which we’ve re-recorded and re-released which goes with the album - at the time it was the first song that we got out there so it was a quite exciting time it went straight to radio. We owe a lot to Simon and the family at Fierce Panda. He’s a bit of a maverick, Simon Williams, he has a fuck the law kind of attitude, which is very unusual. It was nice to start off our journey with some one who cares about music.
Your cd has a wonderful balance of instruments’ sound.
Chris – the keys and the guitars fight a lot with each other, totally. When it comes to recording we’ve got a really set idea of the way we’d like it to sound. It’s quite difficult to actually do that. We’ve done it on this record. When we’ve done it on demos and things like that before it’s quite easy to get it wrong because it’s all on the same frequency – you’re bashing the ride cymbal and you get a guitar and keyboards in there and they’re all sort of similar frequencies but you can give it enough space for everything to jump out. . . . that’s down to John (Cornfield) our producer. He’s well into making bands getting their balls out and making it sound like it does live. He’s just great at capturing the acoustic sounds. We wanted it to sound like it was the next step but at the same time trying to be careful not to overproduce it. I think it’s quite easy to slap a whole lot of shit on top of it and ruin it.
Your music is kind of an edgy pop.
Chris - Eggy pop. Kind of stinky. Eggy, whiffy pop.
Is it a bad word? Do you embrace it?
We give it a nice big cuddle, like a hug for about an hour and then stick a knife in the back of it and then chuck it away and then give it another cuddle and apologize and try to heal it up again. We’re not afraid of being pop at all because pop means people dig it on a general level – not to say that we haven’t had years and years of making music that was a bit more – let’s put it this way, we just finished listening to music of bands that we were in when we were about fifteen, cause me and Pete and Shaz we’ve known each other for a long time at school and we’ve been in bands together before, and saying what the fuck were we thinking? When we made this band we said we were going to open the floodgates and concentrate more on the songwriting side of it.
Shaz – I think a lot people would just call pop anything with a hint of a melody. We’re not scared of melodies. They’re great. If that’s what constitutes pop then that’s what we’re doing.
You list Prince as a hero.
Chris – I’m obsessed. I always have been.
What in particular about him?
Chris – Oh my god, how long should we spend sharing our love for Prince music? I think for me, as a kid it was about buying an album that can tell a story. It was about the variety and the total, fucking looseness of his ideas and at the same time how he could capture it and snap it all together in the same family. It was amazing. I think it’s sexy and it’s filthy and dirty at the same time. I think the music itself is really intelligent but I think the fact that he was a total weirdo got me intrigued when I was a little kid. It was the first concert I ever went to – a Prince concert when I was ten and that just totally and utterly fucked me up for the rest of my life basically, because otherwise I could have been a successful businessman. I can’t now, because he’s fucked it all.
Shaz – Now I just want to be a weirdo.
Chris – Yeah, I just want to be a weirdo. The most recent stuff I’m not too hip to. Prince to me sums up the pop star icon in the sense that to me, a true, amazing pop star should be someone you think is from some kind of other world, Michael Jackson included. His music seemed to be coming from some sort of bizarre land that we weren’t allowed to go near. And he’d do an album every year it was just amazing every time. I could go on and on.
What is that sound in one of the songs? A xylaphone (I am told it’s Shoot me Down).
It’s from a melotron, which is a thing the Beatles used a lot in the 60s. You can have the strings melotron and the vibraphone melotron and lots of different trumpet melatron . The melotron is a type of keyboard. We used two or three sounds off this melotron.
Any activities in Seattle?
Chris - We just had a Chinese that was very special, met Tim Burgess outside. He’s very friendly.
Shaz – We met a guy with a really good mustache.
Chris – He said he’s currently growing a mullet. We met a girl who tried to make me like I was chatting her up even though I was only asking if she worked in the cigarette shop and she said her boyfriend was coming back at any minute.
Shaz- The old classic.
Chris – I just said I’m only here to get a packet of cigarettes and that I wasn’t trying to chat her up and she said you’d better go now and be safe, be careful, these streets are dangerous. And as I left there and went next door to the venue I felt very safe. We haven’t really had a chance cause we’ve been stuck in this weird vessel.
Shaz – We’ve just come off a tour where when after playing a gig you kind of have to leave.
What was Top of the pops like?
Chris – It’s something that we always wanted to do. It’s quite a milestone. If people want to take the piss out of the fact that you’ve spent the last five years not working and just trying to be in a band then they always ask so when are you going to be on the Totp then? We were really quite excited about doing, but then when we actually got to do it was just like doing a tv show.
Shaz – That’s what it was.
Chris - It’s a lot more exciting doing gigs. We did love it though. We loved it because – who was playing on the other side of the ring to us who had all those fit backup singers who were winking and sort of fluttering their eyelids ?
Shaz – Atomic Kitten.
Chris – Fucking Stevie Wonder was in there wasn’t he? Kanye West.
Shaz - Yeah. We wandered around the corridors.
Chris – They stuff lots of makeup on you though, man. I saw that and I looked like an old birthday cake, without the candles. My face looked like I was just one big piece of old icing, which upset me. Other than that . . . I’m not letting them get anywhere near my face again, Shaz.
Shaz – I was quite happy with my eyelids.
Chris - You don’t get as many close ups though. My Grandma was happy I was on it though. You’re on totp and she realizes it’s not a total waste of time. Your records out there and people are buying it.
It’s validation for you.
Chris – yeah.
Shaz – In other people’s eyes.
Are you all from London?
Chris – Essex, which is the country.
Shaz – Just outside London.
Chris – You get on a train and you’re in central London in twenty minutes, but then you can hear cows. England’s like that, it’s all squashed together. Here everything’s so fucking massive. In London you can be standing in a cow field. Basically Essex has got a bit of a bad name for the slag factor in England. Essex has a bad name for being easy, like people from Essex are easy, boys and girls give out. The reputation around the country, people are like . . . I don’t know why that is. Why is that?
Shaz- Cause it’s true.
Chris – Is it? How do you know? You’ve never lived anywhere else.
Shaz – That’s true.
Chris – We live in East London now and that’s not so easy, is it?
Shaz – No.
Chris – We live right around the corner to each other so it’s kind of handy, like for practice. We can all play knock down ginger on each other every now and then.
Chris – Maybe it has a different name in America. It’s a game in England where you run up and tap on someone’s door and then run away. Then you find out it’s your best mate, around the corner, laughing. Do you do that thing when you put poo in a paper bag and light it and leave it at the door and they have the flaming poo.
I make jokes about that. Sometimes I think about doing that.
Chris – Do it. Why don’t you do it this year?
They might get see me.
Chris – Wear a balaclava.
Shaz – And run fucking fast. Just get in the car and drive off. Chuck it out of the car. Don’t even get out of the car.
Chris – Get a kid to run out and do it for you. Pay him.
Shaz – Pay him a dollar.
Chris – Here’s a tip: light it after you let go of it. There’s an idea if you ever get bored.
On those late nights.
Chris – Are you a night owl?
Chris – Are you creative?
Yeah. Are you night owls?
Together – yeah.
Chris – Basically people who are creative are night owls, aren’t they? They get haunted.
Shaz – By themselves.
Chris – Do you go to bed with someone?
Often with my cat.
Chris – Your old hairy lover.
Shaz – What colour is your cat?
Actually I have two cats. One’s a cream tortoise/tabby and one’s a calico.
Chris – I like that, cozy colours. What about a siamese cat?
Siamese cats are crazy.
Chris – If you were a cat what would you be, Shaz?
Shaz – I don’t get on with cats. I would rather have a dog than a cat. I like big cats. I wouldn’t mind a little lion.
Chris – Take it on the bus.
What cat would you be?
Chris – I’d be one of those hairless ones. Really ugly, skinny, no friends.
Shaz – Eyes looking in different directions.
Chris – No tail cause it got cut off when I was little.
Shaz – You had some kid bullying you.
Chris - A tuft of hair sticking out of my left ear.
Those are cute cats though.
Chris – Scars all over my back from when I got abused before I was even born, before I even came out. That would be me. Suffered as a result of my siblings. But I made it cause I got out and I got strong. I used my ugliness to my advantage. I scared the other cats away so I could eat. I became fat. A big fat bald wrinkly scarred cat.
Those cats are very authentic – that’s what they really look like, under that fur.
Chris – It’s true, man. Just like if we were still cavemen we’d be big hairy motherfuckers. We probably would be motherfuckers because they were incestuous in those days. That word is too widely used nowadays. No one actually has sex with their mums anymore.
I think some people probably do.
Chris - Do you reckon? In certain parts of the world.
Shaz - Essex.
Chris – Remember your mates would say but what if your mom was like Claudia Schiffer, you would do, wouldn’t you? I never had a sister but I always wanted one. I mean not for that reason.
Forum – single?
Shaz – No.
Chris – Yes. I am single but Shaz is as well, in his heart.
Have you ever been on a tour bus?
Chris - Our busses in England don’t look like this. They look like travelling strip clubs. They’re all full of ultramodern neon lights and mirrors everywhere, like you would expect an 80s strip club to be. This is more sort of a 60s brothel.
Shaz - Our bus before this had pink leather seats.
Chris – Can you imagine that, first thing in the morning when you wake up?
Like pepto bismol?
Chris - Like that. It’s kind of like going camping, forever. We’re on the move always now. But I still get that little feeling when I get in my bunk, it’s a bit like cosying down in your tent, listen to every one humming away in their beds, a hubbub of boyish chat.
Shaz – You even get the rain on the roof as you do in a tent.
Chris – The only thing you don’t have is the sound of nature, the animals.
You could get a tape of those sounds.
Chris – Yeah, that would be nice, depending on what mood you’re in.
You could put on a fierce storm at sea or a dolphin pack.
Shaz – I was thinking of cows and sheep.
Chris – Like English sounds. It would be nice to have a stereo tape with a babbling brook and then on the other side wind blowing through a weeping willow tree and the sound of a little kid playing by himself, with a bald cat. Slapping its back.
Shaz – It’s such a great idea.
Chris – Boy Kill Boy sound tapes. Storytelling.
We actually had a bear come into the city.
Chris – Really?
Shaz – Fucking hell, what did you do?
They killed it. It was looking for food.
Shaz – Why did they do that?
Chris - Why didn’t they get a cowboy to lassoo it? It’s like the whale in the Thames. Aimals and the big city they don’t mix do they? It’s a grave shame.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:24 PM ( 607 views )Q: I saw you guys open up from someone earlier this year – I can’t remember who it was-
Q: Yeah, that’s right. I came to see you guys.
Doyle: Oh wow. That would have been in March.
Q: Were they good to tour with?
Doyle: Yeah they were a friendly bunch of people, took an interest in what we were doing – which isn’t always the case with bands that you support. They borrowed a keyboard from us as well so they were indebted to us at an early stage, which was good. We did about six shows with them.
Q: Was that the first time you’d been to Seattle?
Doyle: Yeah, it was the first time I had been to the West Coast in fact. We came back to L.A. and San Francisco in August and this is our second time going fully down the West Coast.
Q: Is this your first headlining tour of the West Coast?
Doyle: Apart from those two dates in August. It’s good to be in Seattle. We didn’t have such great weather but I had a good time. We went to Pike Place Market – having a little walk around a few bars and restaurants.
Q: You’re a classically trained cellist – when did you start learning?
Doyle: Maybe six or seven. I’ve been doing music for a long time – different kinds. I ended up doing this kind of stuff. I also have a strong left hand. Worked well for the guitar, like I could pick up the guitar quite easily. I still play the cello, record with it now and again. It might be on the next album, hopefully, I don’t know. I enjoy playing it from time to time. I should play it more – I can still get a sound out of it and everything. Yeah, that’s my background.
I was actually going to ask if you were going to have the cello on any of the CDs?
Doyle: I do some other music with Felix in the band and we’ve done some soundtracks for documentaries and stuff like that. We use the cello on that because it’s a quite pleasing sound and atmospheric. We have some other string players – like on the song Look After Me on The Warning there’s a violin on that. There’s a really good string quartet that we know in London called the Elysian Quartet that have supported us on a couple of shows. They do from Modern classical stuff to Beethoven and have things written for them by UK composers. So we can always draft them in if we need some strings, which is useful.
Q: What kind of documentaries have you worked on?
Doyle: It was a documentary about the Last Lighthouse Keepers in the UK.
Basically all of the lighthouses were automated in 2002, I think. Up to that point there were about three people on every lighthouse and gradually they would stop working at a lighthouse that was about to be automated and keep running that. It was just a strange life that a lot of them led. Now there really aren’t any of them any more. They’re getting pretty old now and it was a chance to listen to some of their stories. It’s a really good documentary. Felix and I will also be working on another one next year with the BFI, which is the British Film Institute. We’re going to have access to their archive to choose a movie and rescore it or possibly score a silent movie. That won’t be towards the end of next year, but that’s going to be a really interesting project. We all do kind of bits and bobs on the side, apart from Hot Chip. It’s kind of good to have that breadth and have different projects that can give you a break from doing the album. That often can inform that process as well – you can also be a bit more experimental, like when we do remixes and things for other bands we can try out some things that you wouldn’t necessarily think of. It’s useful as a kind of study and just improving your technique, I suppose compositionally – like with technology.
The cello’s kind of a sorrowful instrument, isn’t it?
Doyle: It can be. It’s equivalent to the tenor voice, I suppose. It’s got a very wide range so you can go right down to the bottom there but you can still actually go surprisingly high as well. It seems to be a very expressive instrument – all string instruments are but the cello seems to be a lot of people’s favorite. I’m lucky that I learned it, I suppose.
Q: You do a lot of the remixing?
Doyle: We all do. Joe and Alexis do some and sometimes I might work with Alexis or Felix and I work together mostly. And Owen sometimes as well. It generally ends up doing two teams of remixes, which means we can get a lot more done. Which is great. We enjoy it – the only thing that’s bad about it does take up a bit of time, and we don’t have that much time to do our own music. So when you’re at home and not touring you sort of like you might prefer to get on with your own stuff rather than do a remix. Up to now it’s just been paying the rent basically, they bring in a bit of money and we’ve needed it. Now it’s got to the stage where we can pick and choose a little bit more, we don’t have to take everything is thrown at us. We’re being a bit more choosy about who we’re remixing. Sometimes it can take a day or something but sometimes it can take 2-3 days. It just depends on what you’re working with or how creative you’re feeling.
Q: Are there songs out you’d really love to do?
Doyle: Anything with a really good vocal. A lot of stuff we do that’s what lets it down. Somebody who hasn’t got a voice that’s worth listening to, basically. We did remixes for a lot of UK guitar bands for a while and they were just these kind of shouty, very unsubtle singing basically. So we’d take like one syllable or one word and – cause obviously they like you to have a bit of vocal in it but we try to get away with as little as possible if it’s bad.
Q: You’re from Leeds?
Doyle: Yeah. Joe, Alexis and Owen are kind of Southwest London. Felix actually grew up near the British Museum in the center of London. I’ve been down in London for the last four-five years. I’m enjoying it, it’s good. Now we’re all actually living a bit closer together. Felix lives just up the road. Felix and I have a studio in the building I live in – so we can do Hot Chip stuff there. It’s lucky for me, I just roll out of bed and into the studio to do some work.
Q: Do you feel a little different from the rest of them?
Doyle: Yeah, though do sort of mention my different roots now and again. But it’s never really a big deal. I’ve had a lot of friends in London for a long time so I know the city pretty well. I like going back and seeing my family. When I go back North I get back more of my accent, but when I’m down in London I don’t have that strong of an accent. I’ve been accepted.
Q: You’re all doing something on stage – no one’s lazy up there. How do you do it?
Doyle: We’re very busy. I personally don’t like to be just standing around. I feel uncomfortable if I’m not doing anything. A lot of the songs will have natural gaps in them and I’ll try to find something else to do. At the moment we’ve got some congas on stage so I’ll do some percussion. There’s always something to do because we’ve got quite a lot of instruments- more instruments than we can actually play at the same time. There’s four keyboards, two guitars – if someone’s playing a guitar then that means there’s an extra keyboard free – for instance on the first song on the album Careful, when we do that live I play both keyboards at the same time. Trying to multitask. It can probably be an error, maybe we should try to tone down the texture a bit in some cases, but it’s just too much fun. We can make these big sounds with these keyboards so that’s just what’s been happening. We have actually stripped it down a little bit because we’re playing with a live drummer now so that makes for a much fuller sound straightaway. We’ve had to pull a few things back and incorporate that more into the group. It’s starting to work really, really well. We don’t normally have a live drummer but we tour with Pat Mahoney from LCD Soundsystem. He’s done a few shows with us in the US and now he’s doing the whole tour with us.
Q: Putting things together and layering. How hard is it not to sound messy?
Doyle: Live we’ve just gotten a little bit better at playing. We’ve done so many shows. This year we did twenty-six festivals from May to August, a couple of tours in the middle of that. We’ve been on tour since September, so we did three weeks in Europe, three weeks in the UK and three weeks in the US as well. So pretty much three months on the road and hundreds of shows, so naturally you’ll get a lot tighter and the song structures are quite fluid. The instrumentation is quite fluid as well so there’s a lot of room to change and improve and figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s not something that is very consciously decided but it’s something that’s more like an evolution. There’s quite a lot of communication going on onstage. It didn’t used to be like that. When we first started out, especially with the stage setup that we had, when we were all in a line, we were basically all locked into what they were doing. Like watching five guys doing individual concerts but they happened to be on the same stage at the same time. Whereas now we’ve got more of a curve going on and we can look at each other a bit more. There’s a bit more of a group feel to what we’re doing and we’re not concentrating so hard on getting our parts right because we play it everyday and we can look around and listen to some other people. Like a proper band.
In terms of recording, it’s building things up by layers, constantly listening and figuring out what’s too prominent and what can be tucked underneath. I know that Joe and Alexis wanted the album to be something you could listen to repeatedly and discover new things in the mix you might not have noticed on the first listening. Like there are little things that will reveal themselves as you listen more, which is quite good. I don’t think you’d get that in a normal live recording of a band. If you look at some of those songs on the computer there’s so many different tracks and different little bits coming in.
It should be quite rewarding, hopefully, as a listening experience.
Q: How do you decide which sounds you’ll use. Like the xylophone, I am obsessed with xylophones.
Doyle: Oh really? It’s actually a glockenspiel that’s on the CD. But funnily enough we just played with Dennis Young, who’s the marimba player in Liquid Liquid, a seminal sort of experimental disco group – you know the White Lines by Grandmaster Flash, that’s a sample from one of their songs. You’d recognize a lot of their songs because they’re really heavily sampled for hip-hop. Young contacted us through myspace and said hey, you’re playing in New York, mind if I come and play with you? It was like, wow, this is unbelievable – he’s a real legend. He played about three songs with us on marimba. We’re a big fan of those kind of sounds although they can be overused sometimes – it’s difficult to not make them sound a bit twee. But sometimes it is just the right thing. Whenever we’re choosing sounds it’s just whatever’s best for the song. People always go on about how we use cheap keyboards or casios. It’s not necessarily just because it’s cheap that we like it, it’s just that happens to be a sound that is nice and maybe we spend 1,500 pounds on another keyboard and use that as well. But there’s nothing to say that one’s better or worse just because how much they cost or where you got it from. It’s just a case of looking at things very objectively and deciding what would work best for the song and what sounds best. I’m sure that’s how most people go about doing this kind of music. Or I hope it is. People shouldn’t fetishize certain sounds as being the ultimate thing, like when the 303 kind of acid sounds used to be really popular, I mean it’s a really great sound and we have a 303 but it’s become this kind of thing above and beyond itself. I don’t think that’s very good when that happens.
Q: How surprised are you by the response you’ve received in the States? I wasn’t the only one you came just to see you as openers.
Doyle: It was crazy – I think Stereolab were quite surprised as well. We’re constantly surprised by people coming to our gigs. Or how they know about us. Because the album is selling alright but it’s not flying off the shelves in the US by any means. There are a lot of people who are sharing music and there’s a lot of our tracks on blogs and stuff in the US and also there’s been quite a lot of good reviews and articles in local and national press for us. We deliberately came over (to the States) in August even though it was only going to be a very short trip – If we hadn’t played in the US as much I think people might have forgotten about us a little bit – so it was important to do that. It just sort of helped maintain the interest. I think the live shows are a big part of that. People seem to particularly enjoy some of the live versions of the songs that we do, and they’re very vocal about them. A lot of our fans seem to be very willing to talk about us and to convert other people, which is great. But otherwise I have no idea why they seem to being picked up on. I mean the songs are poppy and they’re easy to listen to. There’s nothing too difficult, we’re not trying to do anything that’s too way out. Obviously there’s some very experimental aspects to the music but we’re not deliberately trying to create any barriers. We want everything to be accessible and danceable. I think people pick up on that and hopefully get excited about that.
Q: Your nickname is Al-Doit?
Doyle: Not really, no. It was just in a press release.
Q: Do people call you that?
Doyle: No, no one calls me that. I think there was just a point where people were trying to put in nicknames. Originally I suppose what it came from was that I was the last person to join the band. It wasn’t really clear what my role was going to be. There used to be a live drummer and then Felix started playing drum machines and we didn’t have a drummer. Then maybe I was going to play drums, because I was a drummer as well, and then people were saying we need someone to play some synth as well and it became, I’ll do it – in every situation. I think that’s sort of where it came from.
Q: They were called Hot Chip when you joined?
Doyle: Yeah, Hot Chip as a music making entity has been going since, like 97 probably, when Alexis and Joe as a duo self-released some stuff in the UK. And then they had an ep out on a very small label called Victory Garden records in the South of England in 99 or something like that. The switch to a more electronic bass kind of poppy sound was only just before Coming on Strong, which was when they started to get the band together. Since we’ve become a band it’s obviously become a different entity. Hot Chip, as people know Hot Chip, has only been going for just over three years.
Q: What’s your favorite song to play live?
Doyle: New songs, I suppose, is always going to be the obvious one. We’ve got new songs in the set – one is not really a new song for us because we’ve been playing it for about seven or eight months, but it’s not released yet. There’s one particular one which is quite pacy and fast and it’s a lot of fun – you’ll probably notice when we play a new song because we’re all a bit more animated. I enjoy playing Over and Over because the crowd reaction that is always amazing. We play it at the end and people always seem to really go for it in that song. We get to do our real, sort of rocking out Status Quo stuff on that song. We’ve also been enjoying playing a lot of new acoustic songs. We’ve been doing some radio sessions here in the US and Europe. For those sessions it’s just me, Joe and Alexis, just a guitar, one keyboard and some percussion – very stripped down versions of the songs.
Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:21 PM ( 1545 views )The Blakes are a band I saw for the first time a year ago and was thrilled by their energy, sound, and presence. As a trio comprised of Bob Husak [drums] and brothers Garnet Keim [guitar, vocals] and Snow Keim [bass, vocals], they a truly exciting band.
I recently had dinner with them at a local Greek restaurant, where we talked about touring through unique locations, how they have escaped some dangerous situations, and why they are doing things their way.
What’s it like visiting home now?
Garnet: We grew up this kind of small town, and every time we go back, it’s so small that your mom goes to the grocery store or to the video store and she gets “so when are the boys coming back”? It’s like everybody knows about you –
Snow: My therapist says it’s called being a celebrity.
Q: You grew up in Maine?
Snow: Kind of. I was born in Alaska – I moved to Maine when I was about, 10.
Garnet: I was raised in Maine and grew up on the West Coast, if you want to put it that way.
Q: Garnet, you’re the older brother?
Garnet: Yeah, I’m older than Snow.
Q: Was he an obnoxious little brother?
Garnet: Yeah, he used to beat me up. I’ve always been the weak one in the family. I’m the biggest and tallest but I’ve always been beat on by a lot of people.
Q: That’s sad.
Garnet: I know. Snow used to take me down - well he was a champion wrestler for a while. He was a wrestler – You did really well at wrestling, Snow.
Snow: I was going to pull the family out of poverty. I sprained my ankle at the European Wrestling –
Bob: It ended your career.
Q: And that was it?
Garnet: You [Snow] were good in history and you loved the chess club. And then he was really good at jujitsu.
Snow: I was trying to get a job as a bouncer.
Garnet: You were just a tough kid. You grew up tough. You never really had a lot.
Snow: Grew up on the streets of Maine.
Garnet: The mean streets of Maine.
Q: Garnet, I remember talking to one time –
Garnet: Oh god what did I say?
Q: You were talking about your artwork.
Garnet: Yeah, I did a comic for our band. We had a really bad show – in Walla Walla. We drove all the way to Walla Walla, it’s about a 6 and a half, 7-hour drive and we get there and there was no show. They didn’t bother to tell us. So we did a 13-hour day. I did a little comic book, about 15 pages. I illustrated it and wrote the whole story to kind of blackball the place. I called it the Glass Ceiling, cause it felt like we weren’t getting any bigger or any higher – we’re doing all this work and we just hit this flatline. But yeah, I do a lot of the artwork for the albums and stuff like that [along with Heather McElroy’s Yep Industries].
[At this point there is an interruption in conversation as a dish is served to a nearby table. The dish is some sort of meal on fire].
Bob: What happened?
Garnet: We should order that next time.
Snow: I want to do that.
Garnet: I don’t know what that was but it sounds exciting . . . Yeah, I do some artwork here and there.
Snow: When Garnet was in high school he wanted to move to San Francisco and take drugs and do art.
Garnet: Street art. And then die. Really misdirected. And then I decided that I wanted to be a chiropractor. I started going to the University of Maine at Farmington. I was a bio chem major. I did that for 3 years and I dropped out of that after I got a lead role in a play. That changed my life. I never looked back. We just kept working on our band and moved out here. That was that.
Snow: Most people don’t know this about Bob, but he was a championship runner in high school. One of the best on the island.
Bob: I was a pretty fast runner.
Snow: You raced the state champ and you beat him.
Bob: No, I raced the fastest kid in school. He gave me a 50 meter head start. I think it was a tie.
Snow: Oh, well that’s still pretty good.
Bob: When I was younger than that I was the fastest kid in my class, but I never really followed up on it.
[At this point another flaming dish arrives].
Q: So, Bob, you grew up around here – in the San Juans?
Bob: No, we had a cabin in the San Juans. I kind of grew up in Edmonds, then we moved to Spokane, then Whidbey Island. That’s where I went to high school.
Q: So Garnet and Snow, you moved here together and found Bob.
Garnet: We found Bob.
Snow: We found God, I mean Bob –
Garnet: He was the first person we met when we pulled in to Seattle.
Q: Oh no he wasn’t.
Garnet: Honestly. He was the first person we spoke to in Seattle. I’ll show you how it went. We came down from Vancouver and we were just driving around and we hit Denny and this guy started screaming at us.
Q: And that was Bob.
Garnet: No, that was the first person who spoke to us . . . We got to Queen Anne and I wanted some coffee. So we pulled over to this shop and got talking to this weird guy behind the counter about where was a good place to work or do you know of place we could stay . . . and we just started talking. We all had a common love for British music and British pop.
Snow: He started camping out at our apartment.
Bob: You guys had a tent in there for a while.
Snow: We were living in the hostel. We lived there for about 3 or 4 months.
Q: The one downtown?
Snow: Yeah, the Green Tortoise.
Garnet: We were playing on the streets, busking, just to live. We didn’t know anybody. We made about $70 a day on Saturday and Sunday – near Tully’s. We would buy McDonald’s burgers. We ended up getting jobs at Tully’s – I worked with Bob there and Snow worked in Magnolia.
Snow: We did that (busked) because we couldn’t play in the bars – we were under 21.
Bob: Things were pretty bad in Seattle in the late 90s.
Snow: The Sit N’ Spin had just closed -
Bob: - and RCKNDY
Garnet: There had been a Mayor’s Ordinance.
Snow: DV8 wasn’t there, was it?
Garnet: Everything was done.
Bob: One time I went to Swing Night at DV8.
Garnet: Remember that swing craze in the late 90s?
Bob: The worst thing about it was they were doing this class before you actually danced, and they had people there who were really good. I partnered up with this girl who was really good and – she was really mean.
Snow: Did she think you had lead feet?
Bob: No, but I didn’t know how to lift her up.
Snow: Those girls don’t mess around. If you’re a mover and a shaker you can get a date, otherwise . . .
Bob: I never got into it. After that I never went swing dancing.
Garnet: You probably didn’t miss that much, honestly. I always like the Squirrel Nut Zippers. I never felt like they were a swing band. I always thought that was a man singing, but it turns it was a woman. I always thought the woman was a cross-dresser. It was weird. I remember I was working out in a weight room and hearing the song Put A Lid On It –
Snow: This is getting very homoerotic. Thinking about a man dressed up like a woman and you’re really into it . . .
Garnet: I was doing curls. Snow, you’re disturbing the guests. You’re screaming - you’re probably drunk.
Q: So, memorable shows, good or bad?
Garnet: Well, probably the worst was Frostburg.
Bob: [Agrees] Frostburg.
Garnet: Getting whipped in the basement with a belt. That was awesome.
Garnet: Our whole band got held down and beaten.
Bob: I never got whipped.
Garnet: He ran away.
Bob: They kept trying to talk to me.
Snow: Okay, Frostburg is some weird mountain town in western Maryland.
Garnet: Close West Virginia.
Bob: All these weird toothless locals. There’s a college there that’s kind of nice, but –
Garnet: And it’s cold there all the time.
Snow: [We played at] the Regal Beagle.
Bob: And we played to all these toothless locals. They were crazy.
Snow: They were nice, but crazy.
Garnet: To make a long story short, we had an afterparty at a house, in the basement, and they start hauling out moonshine that they’d actually made. It was 100 proof.
Garnet: The girls at the party get bent over, quickly - they’re all kind of punks and the guys have these spiked belts. And the girls start to whip them.
Snow: Squealing like pigs.
Garnet: And then the guys start beating the guys and then they’re like, wait, we haven’t beaten the band yet.
Bob: They started chanting, get the Blakes, get the Blakes.
Snow: I was in the corner trying to mack on some toothless girl I thought was cute. I didn’t get hit.
[They did get Garnet]
Garnet: I had my arms held behind my back.
Bob: This one guy, all night, was saying, ‘Bob, come here’. And then I’d avoid him and he’d forget about it. Then he’d remember.
Garnet: Cause they were so drunk.
Bob: No, no, come here Bob.
Garnet: I don’t know if that was the best or the worst, but that was an intense one. I mean, we’ve had guns pulled on us.
Snow: In Georgia we went to where they shot Deliverance. We got to tour the slave graves.
Bob: Marked with just flat stones.
Snow: There was a regular cemetery and then there was the slave cemetery.
Garnet: It was really weird to see that. These graves were marked but just with these flat stones.
Snow: You don’t see it in Atlanta. It was in these places where only our band, for some reason, has gone. Really out of the way type venues. The band that was opening for us, their hair was down to here, and they weren’t wearing shoes. They were barefoot.
Snow: One girlfriend came between their whole band -
Bob: She’s reading a book the entire time -
Snow: . . .read a book through the entire show. He covered You Spin Me Round. . .
He got down on the table and started shaking his hair. And it was our band, his girlfriend, and about two other people, going yeah.
Bob: Right before the show he was like, we wanna welcome the Blakes to Georgia – this is where the players play.
Snow: That was the first tour.
Garnet: That pretty much sums up our touring.
Snow: We had about 200 nights of that.
Bob: We just got an email from the Downtown Lounge in Tennessee – he was like, we’re still rockin’ your demo.
Garnet: One of the only two cities in America that has sidewalks that are on a second story.
Bob: They have the regular sidewalk and then another sidewalk that’s above the street. They have shops up there but now it’s a ghost town.
Snow: We had so many experiences like that when we first started touring. It’s not like just doing the club circuit.
Bob: We were pioneers.
Garnet: We starved out there. We ate potted meat. People still remember us from Project Rathole, though.
Bob: It wasn’t even a club. It was this judge [in Texas] – he was a crooked judge. He got disbarred.
Garnet: But he had this nice property.
Snow: And two wolves. Remember the wolves?
Bob: There were these two wolves that were sitting around the swimming pool and every time you’d go to use the bathroom these wolves would come up to you. And they were huge.
Snow: Real wolves.
Bob: He’d made this venue and called it Project Rathole. And all these crusty punk kids would show up.
Snow: There’s not one independently owned store in the whole area. It’s all commercial chains. Those [kids] were so extreme with their punk ideals because there just wasn’t any normality. It was all new businesses.
Snow: One kid was so carried away during a song, he cut himself with a razor blade across his chest.
Bob: Yeah, he almost died.
Snow: That’s the kind of stuff you just don’t see. After playing all those places, coming back to Seattle, we felt like – let’s play somewhere where the whole band feels comfortable, where we all like. The city [Seattle] is just a really great place to live. We love it up here.
Bob: You don’t know how nice this city is until you’ve been everywhere else.
Snow: You’ve got KEXP – independent radio.
Q: What’s happening with the new cd?
Garnet: We’ve done a bunch of showcases for major labels, but we’re not going to go that route. Our goal is to keep producing at least a record a year. We definitely have the songs. I just can’t wait to get this one out so we can do the next one. We get tired of material so fast.
Snow: Every one was like, wait to get a label. And we thought about doing that. It didn’t feel right. What does it matter if we put out our record now, to our friends and Seattle? If a label wants to come and help out, fine. But we’re not going to sit around and wait.
Garnet: Anytime you sign with a major you’re put on hold for basically a year. The downside is that [doing it on our own] it turns you into a little business mogul. I think there’s a lot more that bands are finding out about this whole thing of doing it for yourself. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and not only that it puts you in a very compromising position.
Snow: You don’t want to look at yourself as a product. You have to sell yourself.
Garnet: It’s weird. There are no guarantees.
Snow: You don’t have any strings attached.
Garnet: This is the first record we’re really trying to do it right [with] out of the four records we’ve done.
Snow: We hoard our records the way the Gollum hoards his ring. We never released anything officially.
Garnet: We’ve been going to the post office a lot.
Snow: We’re getting fans in the post office. [They’ll say stuff] ‘These don’t look like demos, these look like press kits. A long time ago there was a little band called Soundgarden. And I was mailing their press kits, too’.
Q: They talk about stuff?
Garnet: Yeah, he told us the whole story.
Snow: [The guy at his post office says] ‘It’s all about numbers. Send enough out and there’s someone out there that loves your band and just doesn’t know it yet’.
We call him post office Buddha.
Q: Why the Blakes?
Garnet: I got it in a dream. We had two different names we were using when in L.A. One was Blu and we decide to do this one - Johnny Rockstar.
Snow: What about Call us Girls?
Garnet: We even had a theme song for that one. I had a dream that we had a band called the Blakes.
Snow: It was the Blakes or Pink Junior. The Blakes may morph into Pink Junior at some point.
Q: So no association with anything Blake?
Garnet: When Robert Blake shot his wife the helicopters were circling our studio. He lived a mile down from where we recorded our first record. It could have had something to do with of that.
Snow: Garnet was so traumatized.
Bob: We were recording that album right next to where they were shooting Passions – that daytime soap where they were all witches and weird stuff.
Q: Did you see the actors a lot?
Snow: All the time. We’d go to the pisser and see those actors.
Q: Did they look strange?
Snow: They were beautiful. I didn’t realize how beautiful actors were until you got up close.
Garnet: They looked like they were from outer space – a galaxy from far, far away.