We are obsessed with determining the worth of things based upon the length of time something has lasted. We obsess over anniversaries, over dates, over how many years it’s been since a band broke up, or how many years a band has been together. We are fact-guzzling, number crunchers.
But there’s something to be said for the lasting power of a band that spans nearly three decades. A lot changes in a day, let alone 10,950 of them. Thirty years as a band is nothing to take lightly; it’s something to be revered.
After thirty years together, indie rockers Yo La Tengo continue to go strong, having released their newest album, Fade, this past January and having toured extensively already this year with notable performances at both Bunbury Music Festival and Pitchfork Music Festival.
Andy Bothwell, the genius behind the Astronautalis moniker, is very adamant about that name being left on the stage. When he played Weapons of Mass Creation fest earlier this month, he made it very clear to tell the crowd that when they came over to talk to him after his set, his name’s Andy.
He’s a very laid back sort of man. Approachable. Which is borderline ridiculous because when he takes the stage he spits words faster than you can wrap your head around them. His lyricism is intelligent and crisp, it’s not in the least antiquated, though his subject matter is sometimes a bunch of dead men who we can attribute a lot of science’s great successes to, such as on last year’s This Is Our Science.
Bothwell grew up on a steady stream of music, so it’s no surprise it’s become his life’s work. It’s practically in his veins. He drank it in.
“My mother had me listening to a lot of folk and rock and roll,” Bothwell told us. “The Beatles and Van Morrison, that sort of thing. My father had me listening to a lot of soul, he was a big Rolling Stones fan but grew up in the south, so we listened to a lot of soul and Motown.
I have an older brother; he was hugely influential, he’s six years older than me. When I was young and everyone would listen to New Kids on the Block and M.C. Hammer, I was listening to The Clash, The Smiths, and Blur, a bunch of weird British rock and American indie rock, and ultimately he became a DJ later on—a house music and hip hop DJ—and he introduced me to all that, and that’s sort of where my connection to rap music started. I started listening to New York underground hip hop.”
In anticipation of this performance, I chatted with The Lighthouse and the Whaler’s frontman Michael LoPresti to talk about the Whalers near-constant touring, how it feels to represent our city, and the balancing act a band maintains between tour life and family life.
How does it feel to be coming home and playing Cleveland again?
It’s the best ending to a great tour for us. There’s nothing like coming back and playing for the people who care for us the most.
When you’re on tour, how does it feel to be a representative for our city?
It’s a big honor really, people ask us all the time what Cleveland is like and we make sure they know it’s the greatest city in America. Also rocking a CLE Clothing shirt tends to help too.
“…This must have been when I first moved to Chicago. I went home for some holiday and went digging through my parents records then I found Still Bill by Bill Withers. I was like “Use Me,” “Lean on Me”—great! I had just gone through it with a woman who wasn’t in the right place to really be with me (blah blah blah, I just got out of a break up so I wrote songs that ended up on The Company You Keep.)”
“I remember it was snowing, everyone in the house was asleep and all I could really see was the LED off the record player and “Let Me in Your Life” came on. I don’t know how it escaped me, but holy hell that song hit me like a ton of bricks.
I must have put the needle back 10 times that night—in all fairness it’s a short song. It was for sure a moment and the vinyl was a little warped so it was like my own version of the tune. That song still gives me chills.
PHOTOS: CARY WHITT | Divine Fits—Britt Daniel of Spoon, Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks, and multi-instrumentalist/touring member Alex Fischel—provided a near perfect hour-long set Saturday night on the Bunbury Rockstar stage. As the sun went down over Cincinnati, the band cruised through some new material, as well as its taut, infectious songs from last year’s brilliant debut, A Thing Called Divine Fits.
Since the band started up in 2012, this was my fourth time seeing them (the benefits of having one of the members share your hometown, I suppose), and thankfully little has changed. Using the same, road-tested formula of trading off vocal duties and sometimes instruments, the guys have grown even tighter as a band. Their spiky, new-wave tinged rock has all the elements you can’t help but like, with hardly any filler in-between. The songs are streamlined and to the point, aggressive without being silly, and provocative without trying. Even the set opener, the very atmospheric (and very Spoon-like) song called “Neopolitans,” served as an amuse-bouche to what was to come next.
The Boeckner-fronted “Baby Get Worse” grabbed ahold of the now-larger crowd and did not let go for the next 12 songs the band performed. Daniel soon followed with my favorite off the record, “Would That Not Be Nice,” a track as catchy as songs come, and one that complimented love-scorned numbers like “Civilian Stripes” and “My Love is Real.”
It’s easy to judge a festival by its headliners in the same way that you’d judge a book by its cover. That bold face, large-size print hits you in the face and begs all of your attention. Resist! We’re of the notion that the best part of festivals is inviting new bands to take up residence on your list of favorite aural fixations.
Here’s our top ten list of bands to see at Bunbury Music Festival this weekend. Some of these bands you’ve probably heard of, some are local favorites, and we admit, one is a verifiable cast of all-stars. Regardless, they’re all must-sees, and we anticipate these are the names you’ll be reading in bold face very soon. You might as well get ahead of the curve and hear them now, when you can get up close and intimate at their shows, right?
Beginning the Bunbury experience at 2pm on Friday is The Mitchells, a group of Cincinnati siblings that double as skilled songsmiths, whose alternative folk sound is grabbing a lot of attention from the local crowd.
North Carolina natives Delta Rae take the Main Stage at 4:15. This sextet, comprising siblings Ian, Eric and Brittany Holljes, as well as Elizabeth Hopkins, Mike McKee, and Grant Emerson, could win you over with their vocal harmonies alone. Factor in the percussive elements of their sound that recalls old Southern music, and you’re theirs—hook, line and sinker. Read More »
Most twenty-somethings who sling on guitars and pick up drumsticks are after two things: free beer and babes. We know all about that noise. We’ve seen our fair share of “bands” like that. The first time we heard Oberhofer at the House of Blues in Cleveland however, we knew that wasn’t what was going on here. This group of twenty-somethings–consisting of former music composition student Brad Oberhofer, Dylan Trevelen, and Ben Roth, two of his friends from high school, and New Yorkers Matt Scheiner and Pete Sustarsic—is something else.
Brad Oberhofer composes music that is near-orchestral, well thought-out indie rock. It has whimsical elements of vaudeville and all the beauty of classical, juxtaposed with heavy moments that simply rock out. It just comes natural to the Brooklyn transplant.
“I don’t really draw my inspiration from anything specific,” says Oberhofer. “It’s bits and pieces that come just from everyday life. Things that make me happy and things that make me sad, things that make me feel other things. I wouldn’t say there are any specific musical influences, though.”
We recently woke up Oberhofer to discuss his move cross country for school and some of the antics he’s pulled since taking the music world on his journey.
When you first moved from Tacoma to New York, was there a huge culture shock?
No, there really wasn’t, actually.
You just felt like you fit in?
I don’t think I was assessing whether or not I fit in, I think everyone fits in everywhere because you are the same person wherever you go. When I came to New York, I didn’t really feel different or feel like the environment accepted me or didn’t accept me, I just felt like I was in a new place with a lot of new things to do.
That’s a good way to look at it. I feel like a lot of people get confused when they go somewhere new and they change. It’s good to hear that you were still yourself.
I think a lot of people do change when they find themselves in new environments.
“When I first heard the Clash,” recalls Kingsley Flood’s frontman, Naseem Khuri, “I was six years old and terrified. My sister would put on their first album and I’d run to my bed thinking we were under attack. Maybe because it was the first seed, but those first songs were jarring enough to stick. Why are these guys bored with the USA? Why are they fighting the law? The urgency of those songs stayed with me and has never left.”
“Bob Dylan had the same effect on me—like millions of others. Here were people talking, singing, yelling about things that mattered. I was never really a dancer—I used my rock and roll for other purposes.”
It is with that same urgency that Kingsley Flood draws a crowd, switching seamlessly between songs from their unique folk-infused rock that has a crowd dancing feverishly one moment and attentively listening the next. With Khuri manning an acoustic guitar and the mic stand, the rest of the band consists of Jenee Morgan (violin/ saxophone/ vocals), Chris Barrett (trumpet/ keys/ percussion/ vocals), George Hall (lead guitar/ vocals), Nick Balkin (bass/ vocals), and Travis Richter (percussion/ vocals).
We had the opportunity to talk to Khuri about the band’s latest album, Battles which was produced by Sam Kassirer, the band’s upcoming Newport Folk Festival performance, the importance of live music, and as is our way, a few thoughts on vinyl.
How did you meet the other members of the band?
Nick and I were random roommates through Craigslist and I knew he played guitar in a pop band. I needed a bassist for a gig I was playing one day, so asked him to pick up a bass for the first time. Having not played much in public, I have no idea why he agreed.
Everyone else we just met through a vibrant and eclectic Boston music scene; we’d see people in bands or clubs or dark alleys. We bribed them with promises of long face-melting solos.
When listening to music, are you drawn to the orchestration or the lyrics first?
Neither and both. I try hard to listen to songs as a whole, and only make the distinction when one of those things really stands out, like when there’s some amazing lyric that cuts through. A lot of Springsteen songs do that for me. I’ll jump when some lyric strikes hard.
Dirty Projectors is consistently pushing the experimental envelope. The band’s music doesn’t fit neatly into a box; it defies genre classifications while offering something that each ear can embrace—be that intelligent lyricism, thoughtful instrumentation, or simply the freedom their sounds convey.
The band has been around since the early 2000s with seven full-length albums, a few EPs, a collaboration with Bjork and a short film under their belt. The sole constant in the ever-mutating Dirty Projectors lineup has been creator David Longstreth. We had the opportunity to speak to the mastermind behind it all about everything from last year’s two albums and short film, to inspiration derived from Kanye West.
Let’s start off talking about last year. You released Swing Lo Magellan and the “About to Die” EP. How do you feel these two albums differ from 2009’s Bitte Orca?
Well, in a lot of ways, I think that Swing Lo Magellan was really about the songs, whereas Bitte Orca was more about a vibe. The lyrics were way more important to me on Swing Lo, and also on the “About to Die” EP to me then they were on Bitte Orca.
Bitte Orca is sort of built for the stage—it’s meant to be performed, whereas the songs that became Swing Lo Magellan or the “About to Die” EP are more inward-looking, and the challenge with those songs are to make them into these things that have a life on stage, to translate them into something you’d put in front of an audience. That’s one of the coolest parts about the last year is making those songs into something that would work on stage.
After a four-year hiatus in which the members of Chicago indie rock band The Hush Sound parted ways in order to embark on other musical endeavors, 2013 proves to be the time in which the band members find themselves back together again and bringing fans what they’ve been waiting for—new music and the hope of a new full-length.
We chatted with the radiant Greta Salpeter (vocals/piano) regarding the band’s endeavors, influences, and why the hiatus was necessary. We recommend you catch them Saturday night (6/8) at the Grog Shop.
When you first began toying around with music, who were some of the musicians that influenced you?
60’s folk stuff, Fleetwood Mac, Motown, Yo La Tengo, Bach, and Cat Power.
How did you learn to loosen up from a classically trained mindset?
I never had the discipline to be a dedicated classical student. I would learn 16 bars of a piece, then write my own song in the key of the song. It taught me how to use one theme as a springboard to new ideas, which was hugely important to my development as a songwriter.
How do you keep things fresh after nearly a decade together?
I try to approach things from a new angle. If I’m about to sing a song which feels very distant from my current standpoint lyrically, I’ll try to focus on another aspect—the playing, the vocal performance, someone in the crowd who seems to be responding.