“At risk of doing that whole ‘cryptic songwriter’ thing, I’d like to keep ‘Bella Tell’ open to interpretation. I don’t want to ruin the story. Sometimes I write songs based on very clear stories that were told to me, or that are known folklore, but this one is based on my own specific experiences and I wouldn’t want them to taint the listeners’ personal experience of the song based on their own histories. If I were to choose keywords for the song, though, they’d be these: RUCKUS, GUILE, GRIT, and DEBAUCHERY”
“Something I think quite a lot about is intention. Living at a time when things are constantly thrown at us, constantly changing, buzzing, flashing, it can be very easy to lose sight of intention. What vinyl represents for me is intentional listening. It’s an opportunity to break out of mindless scrolling and pressing buttons.
It’s delicate. It’s about listening to an album for the pure experience of it, rather than simply cutting the silence. It’s more than the listening too, isn’t it? It’s a full sensory experience—the smell of the record, the artwork, the feeling of it in your hands as you gently place it onto the player.
“I was born right at the end of the golden era of vinyl recordings but I remember, at an early age, sitting in my father’s bedroom listening to his vinyl records for hours on end. There were various artists like Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Mike Oldfield, Stevie Wonder, Cat Stevens, and of course The Beatles.”
“A few years later The Beatles would become a huge influence in my life but by then I was more interested in painting the cover of Tubular Bells and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as photo realistic as possible, without much success. However, I do remember vinyl sounding extremely good, a different kind of depth and warmth compared to CD. Might be an afterthought, perhaps. I think that was the beginning of my lifelong interest in analog recording.
Me and my best friend used to record a rhythm track to one cassette tape and then play and sing to that recording while recording to another tape recorder. Then back to the first tape recorder with more instruments and so forth. When I was ten I bought a multitrack cassette tape recorder with four tracks. A huge improvement. I made countless demos on that one. Today I use a 24 track Studer tape machine.
“When I was little I used to steal my mom’s Walkman, so my parents bought me a toy cassette player. I used to record my own lyrics over tapes I found around the house, and I’m sure that somewhere in the detritus of my parents’ attic are tapes full of a five year old’s heartfelt songs about cats recorded over 1980s guitar solos.”
“Eventually my parents started giving me the tapes they didn’t want any more, and I loved having a collection of my own. I’d bring it to daycare to show it off alongside my tin of Pokémon cards, and was aghast when the teacher refused to play my Madonna cassette because she had deemed it inappropriate.
By the time I was 12 I had started to amass my own CD collection, but by then IPods had stepped onto the scene. I got an IPod shuffle for Christmas that year and loaded it up with all of my favorite tunes. My disappointment at not being able to easily select a song, let alone a whole album to listen to kept me going back to my CD player. I also liked being able to see the stack of CDs and cassettes on my dresser, a disorganized display of the evolution of my musical tastes.
“My friend Jeff and I were fourteen years old when we first started creating music from samples. This would be the beginning of a never-ending quest for sounds.”
“We would sample from anything, tapes, CDs, records, VHS—it didn’t matter. It helped that most of my friends and I could find stacks of vinyl in our attics or basements. There were a couple of used record stores on an avenue between our two houses. We dug exclusively in the dollar bins, buying records purely based on cover art.
I noticed that vinyl sounded different right away from looping break beats and riffs. I’d hear the space between each instrument, the dynamic range in the whole mix, the thumpy low end and scratchy highs.
“My first experience with records was rather schizophrenic. The music I first remember hearing that actually stayed with me was the Sound of Music soundtrack and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. You couldn’t get two more diametrically opposed albums if you tried.”
“I remember sneaking into my older brother’s room while he was out and playing Dark Side of the Moon (he had his own record player) and gazing in wonder at the mysterious cover art and the pyramid poster on the wall. The music had the same effect on me: mysterious, strange, compelling.
And yet an other day my mother could put the Sound of Music or The Best of Abba or Glen Campbell on the turntable and I’d be equally as enthralled and transported to another place.
“In 1966 I was a seventh grader at Southern California Military Academy. Recently uprooted from the mid-west, I was living the lonely existence of a latch-key kid in a two room house when someone turned me on to KGFJ AM1230, ‘The Voice of the Black Community.’ This was like a window into an unknown galaxy! James Brown! What is that? My life was transformed forever”
“It wasn’t long before I discovered the local black record store, a little hole-in-the-wall called Jesse’s Records on Gaffey Street in San Pedro. The owner was a tall skinny old black man with a big tumor on his neck. Who knows what he thought of this little white kid in military school khakis asking for 45s by The Meters, or Barbara Acklin, or Ike and Tina Turner?
See, I’d get on the bus in the morning with my portable radio, (a really cool one) pressed to my ear and hear all the new songs. Seemed like James Brown had a new single out every week; “Popcorn,” “Mother Popcorn,” “Let a Man Come In and do the Popcorn.”
WORDS AND PHOTOS: NATHAN PAYNE | Kazoo. The name conjures thoughts of childhood birthday parties and elementary school music classes. You wouldn’t associate it with the rumbling opener from The Avett Brothers storming the stage at Pier 6, but that’s exactly what happened. Earlier in the night, Baltimore native Cris Jacobs set the crowd on fire with a mind-blowing acoustic opening set and The Avett Brothers fanned the flames with kazoos, performing “The D Bag Rag” in a cloud of stage fog that complimented their blazing entrance.
From that point on the energy never slowed down. The Avett Brothers unique blend of eclectic rhythms and lyrics washed over the crowd and set the tone for a set list containing songs from their up can coming album, True Sadness, an upbeat renovation to their low and slow string-serenades. In the past, The Avett Brothers rounded out a slightly more docile form of folk rock music. As the years have progressed, their sound has become richer and more dynamic, and the music from their new album is no exception.
The initial songs flowed from one to the next, mixing both old and new tunes, showcasing their growth and complexity as a band. It’s as if someone hooked up a guitar amp to the wild wild west. They’ve added an electric element to old-fashioned storytelling music that has a dynamic like no other. The Avett Brothers’ sound is happy, sad, snarky, sweet, and always relatable.
“The record store that I had in my neighborhood in New York was a place called Slipped Disc. My first job was down the block in a redemption center of a beer distributor. I think I made $4.25 an hour and my job basically was to put empty cans and bottles into different containers and give people money. So for two years straight I think I either spent all my money on records or lost it playing cee-lo on the weekends.”
“Two guys ran the place. One was just a normal looking, angry old dude that would somehow always be restocking the CDs directly next to or exactly where you were looking. Granted, I had shady looking punk friends and they stole things. The other guy was a classic archetype of a record store guy.
He had long, black and flowing ’80s hair-band hair, rings on every finger, maybe one dangling earring but I may be making that up. He definitely wore leather pants and shirts made for pirates but he also had this thick, old New York accent, like Johnny Ramone and there was something really tough about him. I think I put off buying a Misfits record I wanted for at least a year because I was too intimidated to actually purchase it from him.
“The first albums I heard were from my father’s collection, among them the red vinyl The Lighter Side Of Lenny Bruce and the Nonesuch Vachel Lindsay album. I was mesmerized by The World Of Harry Partch, but it was a Kingston Trio record that had the most enduring impact. On it was a version of “Worried Man Blues” and, to this day, I can’t get the song out of my head. I suspect that I’ve been trying to rewrite it for the last forty years. Ten to fifteen years ago I had a long conversation with Greil Marcus midway up a flight of stairs at a Dutch festival about the lineage of that song back to Babylonian times.”
“As a teenager, my favorite pop group was Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass. The first record I bought was the single “In The Year 2525” by Zager & Evans. Then I bought “Lay Lady Lay” by Dylan and then Uncle Meat happened.
It was my first trip to a “real” record store, located in the local mall—the first in Cleveland and the biggest east of the Mississippi. My high school buddy had been an advocate of the Mothers and I went to buy Uncle Meat. Hot Rats was just out. I bought that, too. I considered briefly a John Sebastian record. Flipping through the bins was an intoxicating experience, looking at the sleeve art and reading the liner notes.
I got up the nerve to approach the guys at the cash register. They were elevated on a dais behind a monolithic counter. They were high priests. I was sweating bullets that they’d sneer at my purchases. That afternoon I listened to Hot Rats and was intrigued by the singer on “Willy The Pimp.” The next day I returned to buy everything I could find by him—Trout Mask Replica and Mirror Man. The latter is still my favorite Beefheart record. Trout Mask is a work of genius but not as likable.
“My grandparents in Estonia had a vinyl player and I used to listen to old Estonian folk music on vinyl while my grandpa was reading fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen, which had a great impact and influenced my love for music and tales. That is why I am singing on my third album about goblins, unicorns, dragons, and night angels.”
“My drummer Patrik Zosso and I also share a love for record stores. Wherever we are playing, if we see a store, we need to jump by. Nowadays, it seems to be a rare place where you can focus and celebrate the whole experience of “listening to music.”
We love to discover new and old vinyl, the smell of the records, and to allow the covers’ artwork take effect on us while listening to the music. We also love to discuss what we’ve listened to and saw afterwards while enjoying a cup of coffee. It is just different listening. Instead of just consuming music additionally, you can really dive into the ocean of music deeply.