Author Archives: Jennifer Carney

Jeff Bridges,
The Best of the 2014
TVD Interviews

That Jeff Bridges has mastered multiple artistic disciplines shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. That he’s so good at everything is what’s a little bit… mind-boggling.

The Academy Award-winning actor is also an inordinately gifted photographer, a highly acclaimed painter and a skilled and sensitive musician. His parents, Lloyd and Dorothy Bridges, ensured Jeff was surrounded by Hollywood magic-makers from the very beginning (his first film appearance was as an infant in one of his parents’ movies). Given that film is, arguably, the most holistic art form—involving most of the senses and, when done well, the appropriate emotions—Bridges’ tagalong Hollywood childhood gave him an eye and an ear for what resonates most with the heart. That sensitivity and exuberance informs all his artistic pursuits, not least of which is his music. 

While music has always been part of his life, it wasn’t until 2000 that he committed anything to wax with his acclaimed debut, Be Here Soon. His latest album, the country-tinged Live, is an in-the-moment recording of shows that Bridges and his band, The Abiders, gave this past summer. It includes songs from Be Here Soon and his eponymous follow-up record, along with select covers that have held meaning for him throughout his life. Like the man behind the music, the song choices are both heartfelt and whimsical, and the performances are solid, honest, and even playful. Throughout our conversation, Bridges waxes reverently about his musical collaborators, who are an assortment of long-time friends and music legends, and reflects on the enduring legacy of “The Dude.” And he’s hopeful that Live will make it onto vinyl, too.

I love your website, with your drawings and “hand-written” navigation. It makes it feel somehow more personal, and not like it was created by a publicist. Was that your intent?

Well, when I first started that five or six years ago now, I guess, I was pretty excited about this notion of having another outlet. It’s like another canvas; I like to paint and draw, and [the website] is like a combination of canvas and radio station and movies, all wrapped up in one. It was a lot of fun to do the drawings and stuff. I haven’t been keeping it up with it as much as I might. Websites seem to be more of a thing of the past; now it seems to be more of a Facebook thing. I’ll keep doing the website, though, I think.

It really does help tie together all of your creative endeavors.

Thank you! It’s also a chance for me to talk about No Kid Hungry and the situation we’ve got in America here with our kids not being fed. It’s a chance for me to get that message out, too.

Obviously, you have a lot of different interests and passions—that seems to be a theme throughout your entire life. Do you remember when you felt drawn to create music?

Gee, it might have been going back to my teenage years. My brother Beau, he’s about eight years older than I am… so when I was growing up, the kind of music I heard coming out of Beau’s bedroom was Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, James Brown, the Everly Brothers—all those guys. I fell in love with that music. My brother had a Danelectro electric guitar, and I just started playing and writing songs and stuff.

You had over a decade between your first album (Be Here Soon, 2000) and your second (Jeff Bridges, 2011) album. Now you and your band, The Abiders, have a new album, Live. Did a live album feel like the next logical step for you musically, or is Live more of an anthology project for you?

Describe the anthology project; that sounds kind of interesting. What is that? [Laughs]

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

The Joy Formidable’s
Ritzy Bryan, The Best of the 2014 TVD Interviews

One of the worst things you can do to a band on the rise is call them the “second coming” of anything, or to compare them to what’s come before. The offense is especially egregious when it’s an ambitious band that does everything in their power to exceed expectations—a band like The Joy Formidable

We have been big fans of TJF for a while now. One of the things we love best about the Welsh band is not their guitar-driven, genre-defying big pop sound, but their big hearts and their complete willingness to share in their success. It’s that sentiment is what makes the band’s latest singles project so compelling.

When I asked if there was anything else she would like to talk about, singer Ritzy Bryan immediately said, “It would be great if you could talk about the bands on our B-sides.” After countless months on the road, and prodigious songwriting for a brand new album, her primary concern was that we talk about the other great Welsh bands who took part in their new project, the Welsh Singles Club

The Welsh Singles Club features a new mash-up of The Joy Formidable’s grungy pop-rock sound with traditional instrumentations and all-Welsh lyrics on limited-edition 7″ vinyl. In the spirit of collaboration, these unique singles are split with a different Welsh band on the B-sides. The Singles Club kicked off in June with Aruthrol (which means “Formidable” in Welsh) backed with a B-side from psychedelic rockers Colorama. The series continues today with the release of Aruthrol B, featuring a hypnotic new TJF song, “Tynnu Sylw,” backed with B-side from drone-rockers, White Noise Sound.

The Welsh Singles Club is only the beginning of the end of the beginning for The Joy Formidable. Ritzy clued us in on a new album they’re finishing at their rural North Wales studio/retreat, the challenges of and passion for writing in her native tongue, and how The Joy Formidable is bringing it all back home in more ways than one. 

You’ve been described as having taken up the cause that Britpop and grunge abandoned over a decade ago. At the risk of over-simplifying for those who are just learning about you, do you feel like that’s true at all?

I don’t know. I always find it quite difficult when people feel that way about what we do. I think that there’s certainly the conviction of those sorts of eras running through the music…

But you don’t like being pigeon-holed, of course.

Well, yeah, we’re certainly unapologetic about being a guitar band. But in the same breath, I suppose we’re lots of things. We don’t like to feel the restrictions of being purely a guitar band, too. And definitely, I think there’s so much scope for guitar-driven music. There’s so much originality you can find in that genre. I think we still feel like we’re bringing something fresh. There’s a lot of “retrofication” these days, you know what I mean? [Laughs]

The one reason [guitar bands] have kind of been struggling has been is because of the sense of what people expect of us as a guitar band and what a guitar band can do. There’s obviously been so many great decades of great guitar music, and yeah we love those two genres you mentioned. But I think it’s really important that you push it to something new—something you find yourself—you make something original in your own voice as a band.

That’s why we dip in to lots of genres—lots of different sounds and inspirations. We like to push what it means to be in a guitar band, but keeping the aesthetic of that conviction and the unapologetic-ness of those eras as well.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

David Gray,
The Best of the 2014
TVD Interviews

Nobody expected White Ladder to be as big as it was. Its most iconic track, “Babylon,” became bigger even than David Gray himself. Overcoming that kind of success is nearly impossible, but Gray hasn’t relented. It’s been four years since his last album, Foundling, and nearly fifteen years since White Ladder spent over two years on the UK charts (and a year on the US charts), sold over seven million copies, and took the English singer-songwriter from obscurity to staggering fame. His tenth studio album, Mutineers, looks to bridge the gap for Gray between his popular successes and that which compelled him to write songs in the first place.

Mutineers contains Gray’s strongest songwriting of recent years, taken to another level by producer Andy Barlow (most recently of indie group Lamb), who wrenched Gray out of his comfort zone. At Gray’s explicit direction, Barlow deconstructed his songs, dismantling anything that sounded overwrought, and condensed Gray’s thoughts into powerful, driving, and spacious tracks. The result is that Mutineers is fresh-sounding, fascinating in its scope, and big in its sound. If you’ve been pining for substance in popular music, Mutineers is exactly that.

We spoke with David on the eve of his North American tour, hours before he appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman debuting the aptly titled, “Back in the World.” He was candid and eloquent in our interview, talking about the process of making the new record and what it’s like to be an independent artist again. “I feel like I’m entering a rich period of making music,” he said, “as fresh as any I’ve ever made.”

The title track really leapt out at me. There’s something very powerful about your chorus, and it made me think of it as a sort of “grown-up” adventure song. What is the significance of the lyrics in “Mutineers?”

I have no idea if that’s what it means. [Laughs] It was born in a strange way. My producer tore up an existing song I had called “Sugar Rush.” What I was left with was a small chord sequence, which is what you hear now. He looped that—he said, “Stick with this, Dave,” and I was looking rather vexed. There was no verse, no chords no melody—all I was left with were these fucking lyrics and a small chord sequence. [Laughs] I thought, “there’s something good about it… let’s see what we can do.”

So, what I did is I found the chorus/melody first. [Sings] “Babe… sure feels good…” That bit. And once I realized that, I thought… this really works! I found the guitar part that goes with it—that really high guitar part; that brought that to life. And that’s a very heartfelt little bit of singing there.

But then, the verses are more ambiguous. It’s enigmatic; the meaning of the song is unclear. The tendency to explain there—there’s no narrative structure because it has an irresistible energy. It’s sort of mantric with its constant repetition. It has a sort of… inevitability and an unstoppable feeling. I love that track, and playing it live… it’s obviously infectious, because the whole band get really into it and the audience [does], too. I don’t know if I’d describe it as an “adventure” song, but I’m glad you found it to be an adventure. I do get what you’re saying, but I’m sorry I can’t explain the song on those terms. It’s a mystery to me. I respond to its energy and I respond to its imagery. As far as a definitive explanation of it… I’m so sorry I can’t help explain it better.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Paul Rodgers,
The Best of the 2014
TVD Interviews

We are besieged by rock stars who can’t move beyond their hits. Thank goodness that Paul Rodgers is no such rock star. Sure, if you listen to classic rock radio you’ll hear his iconic vocals whenever Clear Channel decides to play the same handful of (utterly classic) Bad Company or Free hits. But this is a rocker whose recent career has been occupied by “passion projects” focused on those who inspired him. That coupled with a selective touring schedule has not only kept his voice in its arena rock form, but has also kept him from falling into the creative morass of the “oldies” circuit. 

His latest “passion project” is his first studio LP since 2000: The Royal Sessions. Recorded at Memphis’ iconic Royal Studios, The Royal Sessions is more than an homage to Stax Records artists like Otis Redding, Albert King, and Sam & Dave; for Rodgers, it is an honest and analog account of following inspiration despite all other plans.

Rodgers was in the midst of recording a long-awaited album of original songs when the opportunity to record at Royal Studios presented itself. The Royal Sessions’ authentic, reverent feel that is due in no small part to the roster of Memphis studio musician veterans, some of whom played on the very recordings that Rodgers honors on The Royal Sessions. (Did we mention it’s available on 200 gram vinyl, too?)

His love of the Memphis sound and the serendipitous way the album came about further inspired him to give back to the city that made the music that inspired his own music. To that end, all proceeds raised by sales of The Royal Sessions will be donated to the Stax Music Academy, which provides music education programs to children in inner-city Memphis. It’s a feel-good record all around. Rodgers certainly thinks so, and was thrilled to talk about its analog recording, his surprise at having a number one album in 2014, and the excitement that an artist feels when they’re onto something truly authentic. 

When did you know you had this VOICE?

Well, I felt I could be a singer at a very early age; I think I must have been about thirteen or fourteen. I started life playing the bass, and I used to just sing harmonies and things with my good friend Colin Bradley back in those days.

And then one day, for some reason they asked me to sing a Little Richard song—“Long Tall Sally” I think it was, or “Good Golly, Miss Molly” perhaps. And I felt then that I could sing this…that I could do this thing called “singing.” The other time, actually, which made me think about singing…we used to do a Solomon Burke song called “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.” [Starts singing the song.] I used to take the bass off and sing that one, and I used to get a real kick out of that. I think it was during those times that I sort of graduated from playing the bass and focusing just on singing. So, it goes back a long way.

You’re from northeast England. How did where you grew up shape your musical influences?

Well, I was born in Middlesbrough, which at that time was a very heavily industrialized area. There was shipbuilding, steelworks, and chemicals. It’s very much changed now, as a lot of the shipbuilding and steelworks have moved to other parts of the world; the chemical works are still there. But, when I was growing up, it was quite a gritty place. There were a lot of toxins floating about in the air, and the chemical works—we called them “the works”—was the place that you were expected to go once you left school. My school was about three or four stories high, and I used to look out from my classroom on the top floor and I could see all “the works” and the smoke belching out of it. I used to think, “Oh my God, is that where I’m going? Is that the only way?” [Laughs]

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

John Waters:
The TVD Interview

“A John Waters Christmas” just might be the most genuine event of the holiday season. Coming up on its tenth year, John Waters’ one-man stage show has become a twisted annual holiday tradition. Inspired both by his avowed love of the holiday and his legendary drive to push the boundaries of good taste through humor, “A John Waters Christmas” is—like its eponymous star—warped, provocative, and deeply funny. (If you don’t have tickets already, don’t hesitate for long; many East Coast dates are already sold out.)

For those not in the know, John Waters made a name for making transgressive films before anyone coined the term, and is happily dubbed the “Pope of Trash” to this day. Not surprisingly, then, “A John Waters Christmas” is a showcase of the legendary (perhaps more accurately, infamous) filmmaker/artist/provocateur’s sardonic commentary on Christmas detritus, from hokey TV specials to holiday kitsch. But “A John Waters Christmas” also doubles as a method of catharsis for his audience—to those in the path of “the steamroller known as Christmas” which is, let’s face it, all of us.

John was happy to share his thoughts with us on the ironic and un-ironic joys of the holiday, his fascination with vinyl, and what it takes to get on his Christmas card list. We’ve also included his oddball holiday playlist to make your days merry and bright, if not a little bit tawdry. 

As I was preparing for this interview, I recalled that my aunt let me watch Hairspray when I was probably about eight years old…

There’s nothing the matter with Hairspray. That’s okay to watch.

My parents were a little perplexed by that decision, but I think it started me on my appreciation for the bizarre and trashy. So, would you recommend that film to other kids?

Sure! I do! I get people now, all the time—and it’s really amazing on these tours—who’ll say to me, “God, my parents showed me Pink Flamingos!” When I was young, your parents had you arrested if you had Pink Flamingos. So, it has radically changed; it was probably their grandparents who saw [Pink Flamingos] the first time.

So, that’s changed and parents come now to my shows with their incorrigible children in a last-ditch effort to try to bond with them. [Laughs] I really respect that, but I always don’t know if it works or not because I never see them again! But I’m sort of touched by that they think, somehow, I might bring them together. It’s me or Columbine.

You’re one of those people whose desire to make fun of something is directly proportional to how much you love that thing—

But I’m never mean! I think that’s why I’ve lasted this long because I love everything I make fun of! I make fun of myself first! I mean, I started my career by calling my films “trash”—the local critics used to complain that I beat the critic to the typewriter.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Jeff Bridges,
The TVD Interview

That Jeff Bridges has mastered multiple artistic disciplines shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. That he’s so good at everything is what’s a little bit… mind-boggling.

The Academy Award-winning actor is also an inordinately gifted photographer, a highly acclaimed painter and a skilled and sensitive musician. His parents, Lloyd and Dorothy Bridges, ensured Jeff was surrounded by Hollywood magic-makers from the very beginning (his first film appearance was as an infant in one of his parents’ movies). Given that film is, arguably, the most holistic art form—involving most of the senses and, when done well, the appropriate emotions—Bridges’ tagalong Hollywood childhood gave him an eye and an ear for what resonates most with the heart. That sensitivity and exuberance informs all his artistic pursuits, not least of which is his music. 

While music has always been part of his life, it wasn’t until 2000 that he committed anything to wax with his acclaimed debut, Be Here Soon. His latest album, the country-tinged Live, is an in-the-moment recording of shows that Bridges and his band, The Abiders, gave this past summer. It includes songs from Be Here Soon and his eponymous follow-up record, along with select covers that have held meaning for him throughout his life. Like the man behind the music, the song choices are both heartfelt and whimsical, and the performances are solid, honest, and even playful. Throughout our conversation, Bridges waxes reverently about his musical collaborators, who are an assortment of long-time friends and music legends, and reflects on the enduring legacy of “The Dude.” And he’s hopeful that Live will make it onto vinyl, too.

I love your website, with your drawings and “hand-written” navigation. It makes it feel somehow more personal, and not like it was created by a publicist. Was that your intent?

Well, when I first started that five or six years ago now, I guess, I was pretty excited about this notion of having another outlet. It’s like another canvas; I like to paint and draw, and [the website] is like a combination of canvas and radio station and movies, all wrapped up in one. It was a lot of fun to do the drawings and stuff. I haven’t been keeping it up with it as much as I might. Websites seem to be more of a thing of the past; now it seems to be more of a Facebook thing. I’ll keep doing the website, though, I think.

It really does help tie together all of your creative endeavors.

Thank you! It’s also a chance for me to talk about No Kid Hungry and the situation we’ve got in America here with our kids not being fed. It’s a chance for me to get that message out, too.

Obviously, you have a lot of different interests and passions—that seems to be a theme throughout your entire life. Do you remember when you felt drawn to create music?

Gee, it might have been going back to my teenage years. My brother Beau, he’s about eight years older than I am… so when I was growing up, the kind of music I heard coming out of Beau’s bedroom was Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, James Brown, the Everly Brothers—all those guys. I fell in love with that music. My brother had a Danelectro electric guitar, and I just started playing and writing songs and stuff.

You had over a decade between your first album (Be Here Soon, 2000) and your second (Jeff Bridges, 2011) album. Now you and your band, The Abiders, have a new album, Live. Did a live album feel like the next logical step for you musically, or is Live more of an anthology project for you?

Describe the anthology project; that sounds kind of interesting. What is that? [Laughs]

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr,
The TVD Interview

The ‘80s nostalgia circuit is the stuff of Jim Kerr’s nightmares. The co-founder and frontman of Simple Minds has been on a creative tear, breathing new life into his band with a brand new album that’s already being hailed as one of the best of their nearly forty-year existence. Big Music, out digitally on November 4 in the US (and November 24 on vinyl), is the band’s sixteenth album and is already garnering heaps of praise and comparisons to their experimental, moody, synth rock roots.

The Glaswegian band has undergone many personnel changes over the years, reinventing themselves out of necessity, evolving creatively as all good bands should, and doing their best to escape from the orbit of their “breakthrough” hit, the iconic ‘80s anthem “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” While that song may have cemented Simple Minds’ place in popular culture, the band’s storied career spans sixteen albums—six of which were recorded before a single scene of The Breakfast Club was filmed. 

That the melancholic, new wave sound they helped pioneer is popular again is evident in Big Music collaborator Iain Cook of fellow Scottish alternative rockers, Chvrches. Thanks in part to this new blood, Jim Kerr feels that Big Music represents a musical career that’s coming full circle. Critics are already declaring it the worthy successor to their innovative classic albums; that’s no surprise, either, as Big Music taps into the collective talents of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call producers Steve Hillage, Steve Osborne, and Andy Wright.

Jim Kerr is ready to add another fascinating chapter to Simple Minds’ story. Big Music feels like the work of a band emerging from a commercial and creative lull. Jim had much to say about the album’s genesis, his excitement about a new outpouring of creativity, and the journey he’s been on to overcome a strange sort of success. 

Are you still reeling from winning the Q Inspiration Award on Wednesday?

I’m trying to be blasé, but I’m not really succeeding. Just done a victory lap around the neighborhood. [Laughs] It was a lovely afternoon. To get any attention, to get any credit at all… is nice. It was nice to get an “inspiration” award. I guess that sort of means that people not only like what you do, but it made them go and do what they do. And that’s cool.

And to hear the tribute that James Dean Bradfield [frontman of the Manic Street Preachers] gave you must have been an inspirational experience, too.

Yeah, it was! First of all, James has been a real champion of our cause for many years. He kind of squared the circle the other day because my kids, growing up, where huge fans of Manic Street Preachers, and couldn’t believe that James liked us—they couldn’t believe that anyone liked us! [Laughs] That was a cool thing in the eyes of my kids.

He did a great job the other day. I believe my guitar player, Charlie Burchill, and James were last seen about four o’clock in the morning somewhere and nobody has seen either of them since! [Laughs] And there’s about the same size, and one’s got a heavy Welsh accent and one’s got a heavy Scottish accent, so that’s going to be quite a scene. [Laughs]

Your new album is your sixteenth and your first in five years, which I think would surprise many Americans who may only know you for “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”…

Sure, yeah, but that was a great thing. But yeah, you’re right, there are people who know Simple Minds from day one and there’s people that know Simple Minds from those big MTV years. And that’s all they know. Certainly, that was a frustration, but we’re a lot more relaxed about stuff now. You meet someone—a taxi driver, say—and he’ll ask what you’re doing, and I’ll say I’m in a band, and he’ll want to know the name of the band, I’ll tell him and he’ll say, “Oh, I love that song!” [I’ll think], “what about the other two hundred and sixty?”

But you know what? That’s fine. Nobody owes you anything. If they like your one tune, that’s kind of cool as well.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Dave Davies:
The TVD Interview

At its essence, rock music is about little moments that become something big. Even if The Kinks were one-hit wonders, they’d still deserve a place in rock music history for THAT RIFF. You know it. The world knows it. A seventeen-year-old Dave Davies knew it when he slashed up his amp, attacked his guitar, and gave “You Really Got Me” the distorted power chords that changed rock music the instant it was committed to vinyl fifty years ago.

That The Kinks were responsible for some of the most influential music of their generation will never be in dispute. It was the fractious relationship between Dave Davies and his brother Ray that fueled the art and fury of the band, hurtling them into a superstardom that was always a thrilling hairsbreadth away from total implosion.

Despite being notoriously tormented by brother Ray, Dave Davies nevertheless enjoyed the massive success of The Kinks and lived the rock and roll lifestyle to prove it. His 1998 autobiography, KINK, was as much an exposé of his ongoing conflicts with his brother as it was an unflinchingly honest account of his dalliances in various lifestyles and substances. More than anything, however, KINK chronicled Davies’ journey as a stifled, deeply creative soul.

Happily, “stifled” is the last word that describes Dave Davies these days. He has had a prolific solo career; his latest album, Rippin’ Up Time, will be his second album in the last year when it’s released on November 24, and one of a dozen or so live and/or studio records over the last fifteen years.

Once widely known for being rebellious and incendiary, Dave Davies today exudes a sage-like tranquility. This is not merely an inevitability of time: a stroke in 2004 that nearly killed him sent him further down the path of reawakening that he began in the early ‘70s. Today, Davies is feeling humbled and wildly creative. The ever-present Kinks reunion rumors don’t seem to affect him as they once did. Right now, it’s all about the new. 

Rippin’ Up Time is a collection of true Dave Davies musical musings: reflections on the past, fretting about the future, and appreciating the present. Davies opened up to us about the album, his creative process, and how quickly the last fifty years have flown by.

A few years ago, Rolling Stone named you one of their “100 Greatest Guitarists.” Do you feel like you’ve gotten the credit due to you, overall, for your contributions to rock guitar?

Well… not really, no. [Laughs] But I’ve had a very successful career up to now, and I’m happy about the work I’ve been involved in—The Kinks and my own work. I’m still recording and still out playing. I’m happy for what I’ve got!

When I read your autobiography, I was particularly struck by how cathartic it felt to read. You’ve been much more prolific in the years since the book was released; was there a creative shift for you once KINK was out there?

I thought the book was very important for me personally, just to get a lot of things off my chest. It’s important to express ourselves and deal with the issues we keep squashed down inside us. I think it was a very transforming exercise doing that book, yeah. 

You released more solo albums after the publishing of KINK than before it. It seems as if it unleashed a backlog of creativity for you. Do you feel that’s the case?

Yeah! I think once I started [song]writing, it became easier each time. I felt the same way with my new album [Rippin’ Up Time]. I hadn’t written anything for a while, and last year I released an album called I Will Be Me and was writing this album virtually straight afterwards. Rippin’ Up Time was a very inspiring record to make and to write.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

The Joy Formidable’s
Ritzy Bryan,
The TVD Interview

One of the worst things you can do to a band on the rise is call them the “second coming” of anything, or to compare them to what’s come before. The offense is especially egregious when it’s an ambitious band that does everything in their power to exceed expectations—a band like The Joy Formidable

We have been big fans of TJF for a while now. One of the things we love best about the Welsh band is not their guitar-driven, genre-defying big pop sound, but their big hearts and their complete willingness to share in their success. It’s that sentiment is what makes the band’s latest singles project so compelling.

When I asked if there was anything else she would like to talk about, singer Ritzy Bryan immediately said, “It would be great if you could talk about the bands on our B-sides.” After countless months on the road, and prodigious songwriting for a brand new album, her primary concern was that we talk about the other great Welsh bands who took part in their new project, the Welsh Singles Club

The Welsh Singles Club features a new mash-up of The Joy Formidable’s grungy pop-rock sound with traditional instrumentations and all-Welsh lyrics on limited-edition 7″ vinyl. In the spirit of collaboration, these unique singles are split with a different Welsh band on the B-sides. The Singles Club kicked off in June with Aruthrol (which means “Formidable” in Welsh) backed with a B-side from psychedelic rockers Colorama. The series continues today with the release of Aruthrol B, featuring a hypnotic new TJF song, “Tynnu Sylw,” backed with B-side from drone-rockers, White Noise Sound.

The Welsh Singles Club is only the beginning of the end of the beginning for The Joy Formidable. Ritzy clued us in on a new album they’re finishing at their rural North Wales studio/retreat, the challenges of and passion for writing in her native tongue, and how The Joy Formidable is bringing it all back home in more ways than one. 

You’ve been described as having taken up the cause that Britpop and grunge abandoned over a decade ago. At the risk of over-simplifying for those who are just learning about you, do you feel like that’s true at all?

I don’t know. I always find it quite difficult when people feel that way about what we do. I think that there’s certainly the conviction of those sorts of eras running through the music…

But you don’t like being pigeon-holed, of course.

Well, yeah, we’re certainly unapologetic about being a guitar band. But in the same breath, I suppose we’re lots of things. We don’t like to feel the restrictions of being purely a guitar band, too. And definitely, I think there’s so much scope for guitar-driven music. There’s so much originality you can find in that genre. I think we still feel like we’re bringing something fresh. There’s a lot of “retrofication” these days, you know what I mean? [Laughs]

The one reason [guitar bands] have kind of been struggling has been is because of the sense of what people expect of us as a guitar band and what a guitar band can do. There’s obviously been so many great decades of great guitar music, and yeah we love those two genres you mentioned. But I think it’s really important that you push it to something new—something you find yourself—you make something original in your own voice as a band.

That’s why we dip in to lots of genres—lots of different sounds and inspirations. We like to push what it means to be in a guitar band, but keeping the aesthetic of that conviction and the unapologetic-ness of those eras as well.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | 1 Comment

The Turtles’ Mark Volman, The TVD Interview

Back when pop music had real prestige, The Turtles were one of its finest practitioners. Their success was due in no small part to a DIY approach to music and their collective ear for a great song. The band first hit the charts with a version of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” in 1965. From there, they covered songs from bands like The Byrds and recorded tunes from songwriters like Warren Zevon and the mostly forgotten—yet incredibly prolific—Alan Gordon, who co-wrote their signature song, “Happy Together.”

Despite numerous personnel changes, Mark Volman never fully abandoned the idea of The Turtles. He and Turtles bandmate Howard Kaylan departed from the band for a time and joined Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, calling themselves Flo (Mark) & Eddie (Howard). They continued to tour and record as Flo & Eddie (separate from Zappa) through the ’80s until they regained control of The Turtles’ name. Today, Volman and Kaylan bill themselves “The Turtles Featuring Flo & Eddie” and gig around the world with fellow ’60s and ’70s pop acts on their popular Happy Together Tour.  

Volman has thrived in the music industry for the better part of fifty years. His incredibly varied career has included work as a backup singer, record producer, screenwriter, and college professor. When he’s not touring with The Turtles, Volman chairs the Entertainment Industry Studies Department at Belmont University in Nashville.

Volman most recently oversaw the creation of a Turtles box set containing newly remastered 45RPM vinyl singles (out now), a perfect tribute for one of the most beloved pop bands of the ’60s. Our conversation with him last week makes it clear why his students have voted him “Outstanding Professor” and why The Turtles’ music endures in 2014. 

I remember really liking “Happy Together” as a kid because it was this upbeat song in a minor key, and so it kind of stuck in my mind…

[Laughs] Well, I think that the effervescent minor key to major key was a big part of The Turtles. Ultimately, it shaped the sound of our songs. I think that “Happy Together” certainly is a good demonstration of that; “Elenore” was probably the one that was more famous by kind of the fact that we were lampooning ourselves. Again, I think in the beginning, we had no idea that it was going to end up doing what it  did!

Your big hits came in such a brief period of time, and they’re so well-crafted—almost like Rodgers and Hammerstein type story-songs. Is that what you set out to do when you got into music?

Well, we were experimenting with a lot of different [things], and we were fortunate. We came along when songwriting was still thought of as the most important thing. From our standpoint, we never really worried about what material we were doing, whether we were writing it or not; the most important thing was that we had a piece of music we felt we could stand behind. Because our live show played such an integral part of our survival in that era, we wanted to make sure that the music we were performing on record was something we could do on stage. I think sometimes you take for granted the fact that so much of the music that came out of Southern California—The Mamas & The Papas, The Beach Boys…there was a whole slew of artists who were making records, but not playing on their records.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Chris Hillman:
The TVD Interview

“Things are happening incredibly fast.

How strange would it be to have something like that written about your band, in the liner notes of a “greatest hits” album, less than a few months after your band came and went, and all before you turned twenty-five?

It seems impossible now to truly separate rock and roll and folk, but at one time they were two very distinct genres. And it seems impossible to think of folk rock without The Byrds, and yet there was a time when even Bob Dylan was a pariah for bridging the gap between folk and rock. Then when The Byrds brought folk rock to the pop charts, they changed the way everyone sounded—even The Beatles—and there was no looking back.

Chris Hillman was part of it all, trailblazing this new genre with the highly influential, yet relatively short-lived group. (The liner notes got that right.) He went on to pioneer the melding of country and rock with a later incarnation of The Byrds and, eventually, with country rock trailblazers the Flying Burrito Brothers. He never really looked back, and has had a long career as a solo artist and with various groups who brought diverse genres together.

Chris has almost always been enamored with old-time music, folk, and bluegrass; he took up the mandolin at an early age and continues to bring the songs he grew up with to life. His current summer tour—with long-time collaborator Herb Pedersen and, occasionally, an incarnation of his popular Desert Rose Band—brings together the music and the mandolin he’s always loved with a new voice he’s discovered from his storytelling “lectures” that he’s been presenting at universities nationwide over the last few years.

Our talk with Chris covered a lot of ground, but his core artistic philosophy is clear: create and create with meaning. The rest of our conversation touched on performing, whether or not to pursue a life in music, and how he would instruct a group of students about the value of vinyl.  

When I found out I was going to be speaking with you, I thought about my own experience with bluegrass music: I never appreciated it until I lived in the Ozarks for a while. I was curious—what was it about that music that moved you when you first heard it?

It’s funny; my parents loved music. They played their generation’s music, which was big band and Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin—that era of music. So, it was an alien art form for them. I started with folk music in 1959 and 1960, and I sort of gravitated more towards the mountain, rootsy sound. Old time music, and then bluegrass was a natural progression from that.

There was an energy to the music and a freeform improvisation in the soloing, so it was almost like hillbilly jazz to me. These guys would get up and sing these beautiful three-part harmonies and then play these great solos! Nothing was written up; they couldn’t read music or anything, but it just connected with me. I was probably one of three guys in my high school—and it was a small, little rural area with about six hundred, seven hundred kids in my high school—who liked that kind of music. But at that point in time, 1959 to 1960, folk music was making its mark in the music world through the Kingston Trio and all that. So, that’s a long answer to your question. I think it hit a nerve with me.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

TVD Recommends: Buster Poindexter at
the Birchmere, 8/8

Are you ready for Buster Poindexter’s post-modern cabaret? Who hasn’t watched an old movie and thought how cool it would be to experience an authentic night club show in this day and age? If you’re in the DC area this Friday night, David Johansen, as the inimitable Buster Poindexter, will be doing exactly that: playing music for a twenty-first century nightclub at the Birchmere. From the reviews we’ve been reading of his raucous New York shows, this second coming of Buster Poindexter is something you’ll want to say you’ve experienced.  

BUSTER IS BACK… but the fact of the matter is, Buster Poindexter never really went away. Johansen has been using the Buster character on and off for over thirty years, mashing up calypso, doo-wop, lounge, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, and jazz—a spectacular palette of colors in the eccentric musical rainbow that spill over in a Buster Poindexter show.

“It’s hard to compare it to anything else, because I don’t think anyone else is doing anything like this,” Johansen tells TVD. “It’s really hard to say, ‘Oh, it’s like Tony Bennett—only funny!’ Because it’s not. [Laughs] I don’t know how to explain it. It goes through so many changes in an hour-and-a-half that it’s hard to put a finger on what it is. But it’s just great music and laughs and it’s a good vibe.”

Read More »

Posted in TVD Washington, DC | Leave a comment

David Gray,
The TVD Interview

Nobody expected White Ladder to be as big as it was. Its most iconic track, “Babylon,” became bigger even than David Gray himself. Overcoming that kind of success is nearly impossible, but Gray hasn’t relented. It’s been four years since his last album, Foundling, and nearly fifteen years since White Ladder spent over two years on the UK charts (and a year on the US charts), sold over seven million copies, and took the English singer-songwriter from obscurity to staggering fame. His tenth studio album, Mutineers, looks to bridge the gap for Gray between his popular successes and that which compelled him to write songs in the first place.

Mutineers contains Gray’s strongest songwriting of recent years, taken to another level by producer Andy Barlow (most recently of indie group Lamb), who wrenched Gray out of his comfort zone. At Gray’s explicit direction, Barlow deconstructed his songs, dismantling anything that sounded overwrought, and condensed Gray’s thoughts into powerful, driving, and spacious tracks. The result is that Mutineers is fresh-sounding, fascinating in its scope, and big in its sound. If you’ve been pining for substance in popular music, Mutineers is exactly that.

We spoke with David on the eve of his North American tour, hours before he appeared on Late Show with David Letterman debuting the aptly titled, “Back in the World.” He was candid and eloquent in our interview, talking about the process of making the new record and what it’s like to be an independent artist again. “I feel like I’m entering a rich period of making music,” he said, “as fresh as any I’ve ever made.” 

The title track really leapt out at me. There’s something very powerful about your chorus, and it made me think of it as a sort of “grown-up” adventure song. What is the significance of the lyrics in “Mutineers?”

I have no idea if that’s what it means. [Laughs] It was born in a strange way. My producer tore up an existing song I had called “Sugar Rush.” What I was left with was a small chord sequence, which is what you hear now. He looped that—he said, “Stick with this, Dave,” and I was looking rather vexed. There was no verse, no chords no melody—all I was left with were these fucking lyrics and a small chord sequence. [Laughs] I thought, “there’s something good about it… let’s see what we can do.”

So, what I did is I found the chorus/melody first. [Sings] “Babe… sure feels good…” That bit. And once I realized that, I thought… this really works! I found the guitar part that goes with it—that really high guitar part; that brought that to life. And that’s a very heartfelt little bit of singing there.

But then, the verses are more ambiguous. It’s enigmatic; the meaning of the song is unclear. The tendency to explain there—there’s no narrative structure because it has an irresistible energy. It’s sort of mantric with its constant repetition. It has a sort of… inevitability and an unstoppable feeling. I love that track, and playing it live… it’s obviously infectious, because the whole band get really into it and the audience [does], too. I don’t know if I’d describe it as an “adventure” song, but I’m glad you found it to be an adventure. I do get what you’re saying, but I’m sorry I can’t explain the song on those terms. It’s a mystery to me. I respond to its energy and I respond to its imagery. As far as a definitive explanation of it… I’m so sorry I can’t help explain it better.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

John Waite,
The TVD Interview

Ditch what you think of “best of” albums right now. What if it weren’t just a re-packaging of greatest hits, and was instead a sonic patois of who you were, and where you’d been your whole life, and how you see your entire career right now? Would you think about the album differently? Would you feel vulnerable? Would you feel it represented you at your best? 

In the tradition of the Finn Brothers and countless others, John Waite is the consummate overlooked legendary songwriter. Waite rose to fame as bassist and lead vocalist for The Babys, but it was his solo career that brought him platinum success in the US with “Missing You” and “Tears.” The British musician’s intimate familiarity with massive stardom has afforded him the luxury of exploring his talent and relinquishing obligations when it comes to his retrospective, BEST, released in May of this year. Waite dismantled his songs and reassembled them into new recordings, adding live and acoustic cuts to the mix as well. You won’t even find his biggest hit in its original form; instead it’s his 2007 duet with Allison Krauss that made the cut.

Waite’s career since has been anything but ordinary, writing eclectic and existential tunes without excuses. And although Waite has closed a chapter in one sense with BEST, he’s potentially writing a new novel in another.

“The question is,” he asked us, “do I want to make music for me, or am I trying to say something?” 

I’ve always had this admiration for those who play the bass over guitar. There’s something very Zen about it—that it’s as much about what you don’t play as what you do play. As a songwriter, what was it that drew you to the instrument?

That’s a great question. The first bass player I heard that made an impression on me was Paul McCartney. In the middle of “I Saw Her Standing There”… [sings] “I’ll never dance with another…” and he hits this note on “dance”—he plays this one passing note—and I’d never heard anything like that in my life before, and I don’t think anybody in contemporary music, outside of jazz, had done that before. I started looking at the bass more than I was looking at guitars. My brother played guitar in the house all the time, and my cousin was a banjo player. Both of them were brilliant musicians, really. Both guitar players, but the bass was, like you said, kind of Zen. It was four strings; it was ultra-simplistic. You could suggest things and you could finish the chord with your voice.

Paul McCartney would do that, he would sing this simplistic kind of melody against the root note and it made The Beatles what they were, really. People tend to forget that there’s a huge amount of celtic kind of folk harmonic influences in The Beatles’ harmonies and some of their melodies. A lot of it is derived from the bass. But from that point on, I liked the fact that nobody played bass, and you could sing and not get lost in the chords. It was simpler to handle and you could sing at the same time, more or less. Whereas people like Jimi Hendrix made it so there was no point in even picking up the guitar; between him and Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, they completely reinvented the electric guitar.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Ian Anderson,
The TVD Interview

“That’s vinyl. That’s what it’s all about—trying to get the best of a bad job.”

It’s a fine thing to draw the rancor of one of rock music’s innovators. I mean that sincerely. While it is difficult to know if Ian Anderson was simply being cantankerous or if he truly feels that vinyl is the purview of right-wing political extremists… it doesn’t much matter. And it is unlikely that his fans will notice or care. It’s never been about opinion with Anderson—it’s always been about the music first and foremost. Vinyl as a format is as much about knowing your limitations as it is about enjoying them. Anderson enjoys neither limitations nor conventions, which should come as no surprise to…well, everyone. 

Ian Anderson’s agnosticism towards vinyl is consistent for a musician who thought nothing of treating rock music as bizarre pantomime/symphony. Nobody thought of playing the flute with the gusto of electric guitar until Ian Anderson came along; never formally trained, Anderson was just as ragged and brilliant with the flute as any of his contemporary “guitar gods” were with their instruments. With Jethro Tull, Anderson did everything he could to exorcise the fey from the flute, making it something fairly menacing and, even, metal. (Don’t let any Metallica fans know I said that.) He continues the tradition in 2014 with his latest opus, Homo Erraticus.

To his well-deserved credit, Ian Anderson has done little in past years to rest on his laurels. His feelings about the world in which we live and the people who inhabit it are evident in this TVD interview as they are in his new album, Homo Erraticus—the “wandering man”—a pre-and-post-apocalyptic musical tome that, like its creator, dwells somewhat obsessively on the present (and ongoing) conundrums of immigration, climate change, and mindless conflict.

Yet it’s the past that is the vehicle for the story. The sound of Homo Erraticus is almost startlingly Tull in its instrumentation and in its Biblical overtones. “It’s not Thick as a Brick 3,” Anderson proclaims. Yet the concept album marks the third coming of the character of Gerald Bostock, who first appeared in Jethro Tull’s 1972 opus, Thick as a Brick and, in 2012, Thick as a Brick 2. Today, Bostock has a blog and a Facebook account and a Twitter handle, so it could be said that Anderson’s characters and stories—while rooted in the past—have not resisted the future.

Anderson is about to embark on a yet another world tour in Europe this summer and the US in the fall. We were lucky to chat with him as he was preparing to bring his music, both new and old, to audiences worldwide. 

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text