Category Archives: TVD Memphis

My Big Star Story
by John Fry

Word has made its way to our office today that legendary Ardent Studios founder and producer John Fry has passed away in Memphis. “The 69 year-old Fry died on Thursday afternoon at Methodist East hospital, where he was taken after suffering a cardiac arrest at his Germantown home,” the Commercial Appeal has reported.

Mr. Fry was an early and vigorous proponent of the website you’re reading at present and it’s with heavy hearts we remember him with his own recollections today, as published here on March 29, 2010.

One day in 1968, I walked into my office to find a young man still in his teens, seated in my chair, with his boots propped up on my desktop, smoking a cigarette. Once I relocated him, I learned that he was Chris Bell. I would soon meet Andy Hummel, as the two, along with Steve Rhea, were starting to join the after-hours recording crew at Ardent. I already knew Alex Chilton from his visits to Ardent for Box Tops overdub and mixing sessions. A bit later I would meet Jody Stephens as he joined Chris and Andy on drums when Steve left for college.

Of course, there would be no Big Star band until a few years later, but this day is as good as any to mark the start of a journey that Alex, Andy, Chris, Jody, and I would wind up taking together. That journey has been well described in several different formats. The life stories of the individuals involved would progress in ways that none of us could have envisioned.

For me, the experiences included getting to participate in the recording and release of music I loved then and still love now, the bitter feeling of total commercial failure in the Memphis ashes of 1975, an early morning phone call in 1978 with bad news, and the ultimate acceptance of the music by generations of fans and musicians, many unborn at the time it was recorded.

Recounting some recent events may express my feelings better than talking about the distant past. Fast forward to 2008. Jody Stephens shouts from his office across the hall from mine “Hey, we’ve got a show in London on August 28.” My response is, “I’m going.”

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TVD Recommends: Shangri-La Records 25th Anniversary Shindig at 1884 Lounge, 11/30

Shangri-La Records is one of Memphis’ most longest running and notable record stores. In the time since its inception at its location in Midtown Memphis, the store has been a cornerstone for local music and rare vinyl finds. It’s been covered by Rolling Stone for the respect and homage it gives to local music legends and shows no signs of slowing down.

Shangri-La will celebrate its 25th Anniversary on November 30 at Minglewood Hall’s 1884 Lounge. The concert will feature The Grifters and Ex-Cult.

The Grifters are a Memphis garage rock act with a history. In the ’90s, they released a string of releases via Doink, Simple Machines, and Sub Pop. Grifters deliver loose garage rock with pseudo-indifference that lets out-of-tune guitar and subtle off-timed rhythms share space with relentless melodies and catchy guitar licks.

They come out of seclusion on special occasions to play sets. This 25th Anniversary might be their last show for a while, so be sure to make it out.

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TVD Video Premiere
and Vinyl Giveaway: Switchblade Kid, “Veronica Sawyer”


Memphis rock outfit The Switchblade Kid is band building a reputation for modern monuments to punk, garage rock, and nostalgia bombs. Much like their music, the band’s aesthetic is full of grain and fuzz in the warmest of ways.

Last year they let loose their self-titled debut via Miss Molly Music. The album was not only notable for its sound, but its accompanying videos, which also carried a very familiar and warm aesthetic. In addition to gearing up to release a new album, the band is coming out with a DVD containing all the music videos to last year’s full-length. We were able to secure the premiere of “Veronica Sawyer” before it is released on the DVD later this month.

For All the Sad Bastards is a quick follow-up to the self-titled album and a collection of solo tracks band leader Harry Koniditsiotis recorded from 2002-2012. The album expands on the Switchblade Kid’s throwback sound, including slowed-down psuedo-country crooners and indie rock tracks with feelsy ’90s vibes. Any fan of guitar music from the era will find at least one thing to fall in love with.

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TVD Recommends:
Rock for Love 7

Hey, Memphians! The time has come again to rock out to some local yokels in addition to national notables in support of a great cause. The seventh iteration of Rock for Love is happening this weekend with a slew of talented musicians and fun things to do.

The extended weekend is as much a collection of great shows and fun things as it is a fundraiser for the Church Health Center and its endeavors to help the less fortunate. A portion of the proceeds for the Levitt Shell gig also go to funding the venue, so please go to ensure that the Shell will be there for Memphis for many years to come.

Also of note is a CD compilation of 20 exclusive/previously unreleased tracks of Memphis music available through the weekend’s event. The release includes John Paul Keith, Memphis Dawls, Dead SoldiersMark Stuart, and Snowglobe, and will come out via Unclaimed Recordings with help from Select-O-Hits and Audiographic Masterworks. Pick yours up and show support for local music and publishing!

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Vinyl Video: ilkae, “1121”

The late ’90s saw a significant shift in the way electronic music was made and received. Across the pond, Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, and many others all contributed to a growing interest for intellectual electronic-based composition, but Europe wasn’t alone in this endeavor.

Though it was much more successful at flying under the radar, North America had its own hustling and bustling, heady electronica scene. Often reserved to message boards and underground labels, These artists helped define what intelligent electronic music outside of Europe sounds like.

One artist who contributed to the culture and has been prolific in the time since is ilkae. The Montreal-based electronic producer has now covered a lot of ground between the simple tag of “intelligent dance music” and a long list of genres and styles ranging in textures, atmospheres, and content.

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TVD Recommends: Motel Mirrors record release show at the Young Avenue Deli, 8/24

Two of Memphis’s best and brightest have recently come together to create project coated in warm sounds and a familiar aesthetic.

Motel Mirrors is a duo consisting of major local notables John Paul Keith and Amy LaVere. They’re set to release their debut self-titled 10″ on Saturday, August 24, with a show at Young Avenue Deli that any lover of retro sounds will be kicking themselves if they don’t attend.

The twosome’s sound was founded in inspiration from ’50s and ’60s duets like Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. Their music carries both Keith’s natural ease in writing sentiments bathed in rock’ n ‘roll past and LaVere’s undeniable voice and grace. Now on the other side of a full length album and with sense of comfort playing live, they’re releasing their sound with several originals and some carefully chosen covers.

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The Perfect Vessels discuss production of their newest EP, “Habitual Long-Distance Lovers”

Garage-pop quartet Perfect Vessels have been working the Memphis scene for years. They’ve built a sound of clean guitar and catchy choruses stitched together with plenty of grown-up relationship subject matter. As of late they have been working off of the physical release of their newest EP Habitual Long-Distance Lovers.

The four-song effort bolsters a matured take on the role relationships play in adult life through a sort of jangly garage rock, detailed with catchy riffs and choruses. Though the boys have sought studio shelter in the past, the music for the EP was crafted in much more comfortable place.

Guitarist Graham Burks explains, “Rather than going into a studio to re-do all of our work, we got a little more serious about the craft of our home recordings and decided to release those instead. Because these songs were recorded at home over the course of a year, we were able to grab takes whenever inspiration would strike. We were able to experiment more with the arrangements.”

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Hot off the Presses: Pond, Hobo Rocket

If you’re a fan of modern psychedelia, there’s a release you should check out. Australian outfit Pond are just about to release their fifth album Hobo Rocket through Modular on August 6.

After the past few years, Pond has become one of the most talked-about Australian acts. Members have been bounced back and forth with sister act Tame Impala, but Pond’s core sound has always focused on references to ’60s psychedelia with a 21st century education and lots of easy-to-follow melodies.

Hobo Rocket is the band’s first major recording in three years. (2012’s critically acclaimed Beard, Wives, Denim was recorded in 2010.) The release of singles “Xanman” and “Giant Tortoise” give insight into the pace the band has set for the upcoming full length.

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Festival Fast Talk
with Royal Thunder

Royal Thunder is a metal act often described with mentions of top-tier combos like Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath. Although they share similarities, Royal Thunder’s strengths exceed the simplicity of easy reference points. The band brings the thunder with musical epics boasting dynamic arrangements, impressive musicianship, and overarching themes as witnessed on their self-titled 2009 EP and 2012’s full length, CVI.

We got the chance to speak with Royal Thunder’s Josh Weaver and Evan Diprima shortly before their Bonnaroo set.

How long have you guys been here this weekend?

Josh Weaver: We just got here around 2 last night.

Evan Diprima: Late night.

Are y’all staying through the day?

JW: Yeah, we play at 8, so we’re just gonna stay. Tom Petty is playing after us, so we’re gonna check that out.

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Festival Fast Talk with Jason Galaz, founder of Muddy Roots Records

Growing up in Southern California, the most obvious answer to “music that defines you” certainly goes to good ole’ American folk, country, and blues…right? Seems to be true if you base your study on Jason Galaz.

Upon moving to Tennessee, Galaz created the Muddy Roots Festival—a live event dedicated to the blues, folk, honky tonk, punk rock, tattoos, cars, and pin-up girls. As if it wasn’t enough to expand the festival outside of Tennessee—and the States—to Waardamme, Belgium, Galaz also founded Muddy Roots Records, a label established to provide vinyl editions of the music that defines the sound of the festival itself. I got to talk to Jason a few weeks before this year’s Muddy Roots Festival.

What was the catalyst that created Muddy Roots Music Festival?

It was as simple as me wanting my favorite bands in town and then wanting them there all at once. I was, and always will be, evolving and looking for new music to carry me on. I felt the best music in the world wasn’t getting the support it needed. These bands are 10 times better than anything on the radio and mostly ended up on the side stage of other festivals. I wanted a place for the bands that didn’t fit in a genre.

How has the festival evolved over the years?

It doubles each year. We don’t want it getting too big, so we start other events to deter that. The music is meant to be intimate.

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Festival Fast Talk
with Luxury Liners

Over the years, it’s become a trend with 6-string aficionados to try their hand at the laptop-laden genre of digital music. These artists tend to embrace a romance with sound, often tied to a warm analog aesthetic.

One such artist who sat his guitar on its stand to pursue computer bloops and bleeps is Carter Tanton (formerly of Tulsa) with his latest project Luxury Liners.

In April of this year, Luxury Liners released They’re Flowers, a collection of beat-driven electro pop, full of big melodies and catchy choruses. Currently, Carter is halfway through a tour while laying the groundwork for his next release. We got the chance to speak with him shortly after his set at Bonnaroo a few weeks back.

Hey Carter, How are you?

Good, good.

How has 2013 been?

Good, so far—I released the record in April and now I’m on my first tour in support of it. I’ve also been able to do a remix for this great band out of Philadelphia called Night Lands and compose the soundtrack for an independent movie called Nervous Person.

Could you tell me about that? How did you get involved?

I’m friends with one of the movie’s producers. They were having problems with the film’s composer because he was slow on revisions, so I took over and the revisions seemed to be one thing I liked about the process. When I do my records its just me and my take. Sure, a label will discuss which songs to keep or remove from the album, but there’s no talk as far as rewriting the songs. I was into the whole process of having to collaborate with directors and producers. It took the isolation out of composition and was very rewarding.

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Festival Fast Talk
with Milo Greene

A common tag often given to colorful and engaging bands is “theatric.” While this is generally accurate on a case-by-case basis, few bands properly define the term more than Milo Greene.

The indie poppers from LA have a lengthy list of video work usually made in tandem with musical counterparts that are heavy on catchy melodies. I got to speak to Andrew Heringer and Graham Fink of Milo Greene briefly after their set at Bonnaroo.

Is this your first Bonnaroo?

Andrew Heringer: Yes.

How do you like it so far?

Graham Fink: It’s been great.

AH: We just played, and it was a really great experience.

Anyone you’re excited to see during Bonnaroo?

GF: Wu-Tang Clan and then Paul McCartney. Pretty radical one-two punch.

In the past, you guys have described your music as “cinematic pop.” What does this mean?

AH: I think it just means that we see a visual component to the music. We love movies. We like to think about scoring movies in the future, and when we’re writing we definitely think about a visual counterpoint to the sounds.

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Festival Fast Talk
with The Rubens

It’s not uncommon for bands to travel “across the pond” to seek a standing in the States, but what of the ponds outside US Borders?

The Rubens are an Australian rock ‘n’ roll group well established in the Oceania territory. They are just now tearing through the States with catchy pop rock aimed at your this-song-is-now-stuck-in-your head gland. We chatted with The Rubens’ lead singer Sam Margin just before their showcase at Bonnaroo.

How’s this weekend been?

We saw JEFF the Brotherhood, saw a bit of Bjork, which was fucking cool.

This isn’t the first time in the States, correct?

No, we recorded our album in New York about a year and a bit ago at this studio called Avatar. David Kahne produced it and did a really amazing job. After that, we’ve come back a few times to do shows, or play south SXSW.

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Festival Fast Talk
with Nicki Bluhm

Nicki Bluhm is a woman who is known to love, and known to love music—but more than just a simple story of music and a talented musician, Bluhm is soulful and slow-paced singer/ songwriter, well-versed in modern Americana.

Bluhm is often accompanied by her husband (famed songwriter in his own right) Tim Bluhm and backed by her band The Gramblers. Together, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers are two albums deep in a blossoming career. We caught her at Bonnaroo to discuss songwriting, festies, and singing in the car.

When did you get here?

We got here [Thursday] and we played the opening set, then we played a VIP party today, then we’ve got one more party set, and then we have to be heading out. [We’re] playing Little Rock tomorrow.

You have a very warm, almost nostalgic sound. It’s very natural. What inspires you the most?

Tim and I listen to a lot of vinyl. The whole band does. I’m a fan of a lot of music from the ’60s and ’70s. Tim’s big influences are the Beach Boys and the Byrds, and I think the music from those decades reaches all of us and inevitably fuses into the music that we make.

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Festival Fast Talk with JEFF the Brotherhood

When telling people you’re going to interview Jeff the Brotherhood, those who have already been around the guys usually have one of two things to say: One, that no one works harder, and two, that no band provides better company. So when the chance arose to talk to them at Bonnaroo, we quickly got on board to speak to the noisy pop duo.

As of the past year, the Nashvillian two-piece have been promoting their 7th record Hypnotic Nights with endless touring and festival gigging. We were able to speak to them about extended touring, their upcoming record, and a made-up men’s cologne someone out there will probably wish were a real thing.

How has this year been treating you guys?

Jamin Orrall: Wonderful.

Jake Orrall: Best year of my life.

Hypnotic Nights is your seventh record. Would you guys mind talking to me about the process of writing and recording it?

Jamin: It was very rushed. As all of our records are.

Jake: We tour so much we don’t have time to write songs, so we actually pulled a lot of songs I wrote when I was like 19. [Laughs] Yeah and you know just, wrote the other ones in like two weeks.

Jamin: Honestly, we kind of shat that record out.

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