PASSION PIT DIRTY PROJECTORS PAPERCUTS PINK MOUNTAINTOPS AU REVOIR SIMONE
Chris Kattan LET’S CALL IT A COMEBACK
HE DRINKS FOR A REASON
THE MOST UNDERAPPRECIATED ALBUM of ’09 p. 60
Vincent $4.99 US / 4.99 CAN JULY/AUG 09
BAND OF OTHERS
THE SCION xD UNITED BY INDIVIDUALITY Vehicles shown are actual owner and project cars, modified with non-Genuine Scion parts and accessories. Modification with these non-Genuine Scion parts or accessories will void the Scion warranty, may negatively impact vehicle performance & safety, and may not be street legal. Other trademarks and trade names appearing on the vehicles are those of their respective owners. ÂŠ 2009 Scion, a marque of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc. All rights reserved. Scion, the Scion logo, and xD are trademarks of Toyota Motor Corporation.
68 | ST. VINCENT
98 | TRAIN SURFING
Annie Clark hits the big time. By Isaac Lekach | Photos By Ray Lego
South Africa’s V.I.R.U.S. take it to the trains. Photos by Jamie-James Medina & Matt Salacuse
76 | CHRIS KATTAN
116 | DAVID CROSS
From Gay Hitler to Bollywood's biggest star. By Steve Basilone | Photos by Kevin Zacher
Everyone’s favorite drunk funnyman took some time to write a book. As for the Arrested Development movie… He’s in! By John Z. | Photos by Clay Patrick McBride
84 | FASHION The lovely ladies of Au Revoir Simone start the summer off right. Photos by Tom Hines
PASSION PIT DIRTY PROJECTORS PAPERCUTS PINK MOUNTAINTOPS AU REVOIR SIMONE
ChRIs KATTAN LET’S CALL IT A COMEBACK
HE DRINKS FOR A REASON
THE MOST UNDERAPPRECIATED ALBUM Of ’09 p. 60
J U LY/A U G 2 0 0 9 H E L L O
S t. V i n c e n t photogr aphed in N e w York Cit y B Y R AY L E G O
Style: RB 2140
Departments 10 | 12 | 14 | 18 |
EDITORS’ LETTER CONTRIBUTORS EVENTS WHEEL OF SUCK
THE LATEST 21 | 22 | 24 | 26 | 28 | 30 |
VASSSHUP! By Isaac Lekach TECHNICOLOR By Carmel Lobello MOLLUSK By Isaac Lekach DIGITALISM By Stephen Blackwell BOOKS By Amelia Kreminski CONFESSIONS By Doug Perkul
MUSIC 33 | 34 | 36 | 38 | 40 | 42 | 46 | 50 | 54 | 123 |
BLANK DOGS CROCODILES JAPANESE MOTORS HELADO NEGRO THE ANTLERS PAPERCUTS PINK MOUNTAINTOPS PASSION PIT DIRTY PROJECTORS REVIEWS
THE ANTLERS PHOTOG R APH ED BY CHRIS SHONTING, p. 40
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HE L L O MASTHEAD Editor Stephen Blackwell
Editor Alexander Moore
Managing Editor Creative Director Director of Photography Advertising Director Fashion Director
Isaac Lekach Joey Parlett Ray Lego Shanon Kelley Carmel Lobello
Publisher Contributing Writers
Copy Editor Interns
President Vice President of Operations Accounting Managers Death+Taxes Magazine 72 Spring Street, Ste. 304 New York, NY 10012 Ph: 212.274.8403 Fax: 212.925.3853
Doug Perkul Steve Basilone Tobias Carroll Danny Fasold Matt Fink Max Goldblatt Amber L. Herzog Amelia Kreminski Brian Merchant DJ Pangburn Kristopher Yodice Jennifer Sica John Z. Brian Appio Kareem Black Danny Clinch Zach Cordner Laura Crosta Tom Hines Jeremy Hogan Stacy Kranitz Clay Patrick McBride Siobhan Oâ€™Brien Drew Reynolds Matthew Salacuse Chris Shonting Elizabeth Weinberg Brad Wenner Norman Wong Kevin Zacher Angie Hughes Amelia Kreminski Ivan Forde Gray Hurlburt Alison Pesce Shanon Kelley P. 212.925.3853 E. email@example.com Jeffrey Geller Jonathan Abenhaim Sara Flexer, Michael Labinski Liquid Publishing 20855 NE 16th Ave, Ste. C16 Miami, FL 33179 Ph: 305.770.4488 Fax: 305.770.4489
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J U LY/A U G 2 0 0 9 H E L L O
HE L L O EDITORS' LETTER
Am I This Time? Remember the recession? Obama or no Obama, it was a long, hard winter. More than hard, actually—it certifiably sucked. And sure, unemployment may still be ticking up every month and the numbers still show a sustained general misery, but you know what?—summer’s here, and somehow everything just seems a little easier. Anyone else feeling us? Maybe we’ve just reached our depression threshold, maybe we’re naively optimistic, or maybe we’re just that shallow that a little sun and a couple beers on the roof is all we need to start dismissing the greatest global malaise of the past half-century. So be it. All the doom and gloom stopped riveting us, turned into ennui, and we
say, fuck it. David Byrne once sang, “Into the blue again, after the money’s gone.” We’ve never been quite sure what “the blue” meant, but they money is definitely gone, and it’s time to stop moping and move on to something else. So we couldn’t be happier to see a number of fresh faces in this issue, along with a number of familiar faces moving on to new chapters in their lives. Including Byrne himself—no one typifies the adventurous spirit of new creative beginnings better than he. Chris Kattan gets it—now is the perfect time for a comeback. He shows us here that he’s still got the stuff, in what is perhaps the funniest shoot we’ve ever done. David Cross found the time was ripe to reinvent himself as an author.
OUR BAD: Corrections From The Last Issue: In our feature on Harold Ramis we misspelled the names Thom Mount and Sean Daniels.
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And of course you’ll find the new vanguard of musical innovation represented in this issue as well. Dirty Projectors and Passion Pit seem to revel in the act of breaking ground and breaking precedents. And the incomparable Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, gets our award for best transmutation with her inventive sophomore record, Actor. Sure, maybe American cars are an endangered species and American banks are a question mark. We’re living in a time no one could have imagined a year ago—everything’s in flux, with many of us in free-fall. We suggest you follow David Byrne’s advice and enjoy the ride. It’s summer, after all. -The Editors
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HE L L O CONTRIBUTORS
Anthony Miller is a photographer based out of New York by way of Philly but he travels all over the place (Turkey, anyone?) for the likes of Elle, Allure and GQ, for all of which he is a regular contributor. His interests include Hulk Hogan, Chappelle's Show and Project Jenny, and Project Jan's "Chinatown Bus," a song that he considers his anthem. He also has a great story about shooting Britney Spears. Buy him a Grey Goose and soda and ask him about it sometime.
Elizabeth Weinberg is a Brooklyn-based photographer whose editorial clients include Rolling Stone, SPIN, Giant, NYLON, Alarm, and Mass Appeal. She's shot everything from ad campaigns to lookbooks to album artwork, and she can be found riding her bicycle or moped around New York.
Eric Hanson's first illustration gig was for Rolling Stone thirty years ago. His writing has appeared in McSweeney's, The Atlantic, Torpedo, the New York Tyrant and Smithsonian. He is also the author of A BOOK OF AGES (Harmony, 2008) which shows what various famous people did at each age from one to one hundred—rock stars, novelists, inventors, tycoons, politicians, bank robbers, poets, journalists, ballplayers, etc.
Matthew Salacuse and Jamie James Medina
As a youth John Z. spent his days crashing his Evel Knievel stunt cycle in his parents’ suburban New Jersey kitchen. In the years since, he has dedicated countless hours in front of his outdated computer working on a number of editorial endeavors. In his return to Death + Taxes, John Z. sat down for a vegetarian “man-date” with funnyman David Cross to shoot the breeze about Van Halen, a David Cross impostor and Mr. Show.
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Matthew Salacuse is a photographer. Together with his friend Jamie James Medina, he photographed the phenomenon of trainsurfing in South Africa. The resulting photo essay on page 98 complements an accompanying documentary film and a traveling museum exhibition. Matthew has been shooting for ten years in New York City for magazines and record labels. Jamie James has been doing the same, splitting his time between England and New York. They work as individual photographers and their work can be seen on their separate sites www.jjmedina.com and www.salacuse.com
Norman Wong recently graduated from University of Toronto for Semiotics Communication Theory and Visual Studies. After shooting B-roll footage in school for the still-untitled Broken Social Scene documentary, Norman worked in the commercial and music video industries for four years before switching his focus to pursue photography late last year. Norman continues to work very closely with Canadian artists like Broken Social Scene, Metric, Stars, and Holy Fuck, as well as Pink Mountaintops and Charles Spearin’s vvv, both of whom he photographed for this issue.
The Power to Perform.
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HE L L O EVENTS
3 5 10
PARTY DOWN! D+T celebrated the release of our first ever comedy issue (y’know …the one with Danny McBride on the cover) at The Delancey in NYC. Sean Bones, The Antlers, Greg Johnson and Kumail Nanjiani all performed.
On Friday, May 22, Death+Taxes teamed up with Urban Outfitters, Converse, Hornitos Tequila and Pabst Blue Ribbon and put together a prom-themed party called Tux With Chucks, complete with prom photos, performances by Japanese Motors, Crocodiles, and a stellar DJ set by Fingers On The Pulse.
1: Sean Bones performing. 2: The Antlers basking in the red light. 3: Greg Johnson makes funny with words.4: Kumail Nanjiani also makes funny with words.
5: Attendees dance the night away as DJs Fingers On The Pulse pump the jams. 6: Crocodiles performing at prom. 7: These prom attendees might look bored, but we promise—they had fun. 8: The guys of Japanese Motors having so much fun! 9: What up Chuck? 10: A fair amount of the partygoers understood what we meant by “formal attire.” 11: Alex Knost and Nolan Hall of Japanese Motors with D+T's Shanon Kelley. (Suits provided by Topman.)
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On Friday, May 22, 2009, 800 lucky Brooklynites got a do-over on prom night at the first annual Tux With Chucks prom
at Studio B. Music was provided by Crocodiles, Japanese Motors, and DJs Finger on the Pulse, while drinks came courtesy of PBR
and Hornitos Tequila. As you can tell from the photos, attendees got dressed up big time, while Converse, Urban Outfitters and
Death+Taxes provided the prom we all deserved in the first place: no chaperones, and no sneaking booze!
All photos by Anthony Miller For more photos go to www.flickr.com/photos/deathandtaxesmagazine
The Wheel of
Disclaimer: Sure, the Wheel was funnier before the global collapse, but we're keeping it, because, what the hell—we were here first.
Justice David Souter OUTLASTS BUSH BEFORE RetirING And now women will still have the right to choose for a long time coming.
D+T's guide to cultural highs and lows
Arlen Specter Changes Parties This guy goes both ways—not in the Tom Cruise way, of course.
Al Franken Still Holding On At this point, the Republican Party can’t even defeat comedians.
The End of American Auto Industry So when does Google start making jetpacks?
Stephen Hawking Dying We call dibs on the chair.
Obama’s “First One Hundred Days” Hype In brief, somebody got a puppy.
Swine Flu Let’s be fair to the pigs—you could really have only caught this shit from a Mexican.
Iranian Elections in June At least they didn’t elect the eighthundred-year-old guy who lives in that well.
Ben Bernanke says “no quick recovery.” Again. The free fall’s allegedly over, but still, this guy’s a killjoy. Strong beard, though.
McCarren Pool Shows in new location, albeit without a pool.
New Green Day Record We grew up on these guys; we love anything they put out. Except Warning—that one you can skip.
Party Down Best new show on TV. Yes, it’s on Starz, and, yes Fred Savage directed it. Get down with it.
Bank Stress Tests Looks like the world might not end after all.
They Don 't Suck: Slang Chickens If you consider the banjo a rock & roll instrument, then Los Angeles’ Slang Chickens is for you. According to lead singer and former Wires On Fire guitarist Evan Weiss, the band’s approach is simply “to have fun, not over think things, and write crazy pop songs.” Having heard the recently completed debut album I’d say mission accomplished. Look for the self-titled release this fall. –Isaac Lekach
J U LY/A U G 2 0 0 9 H E L L O
SHERYL CROW . MODEST MOUSE . JASON MRAZ . THE ALL-AMERICAN REJECTS KATY PERRY . MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD . FRANZ FERDINAND ISOBEL CAMPBELL & MARK LANEGAN . DE LA SOUL . RAPHAEL SAADIQ BRETT DENNEN . THE LONG WINTERS . SLY & ROBBIE & THE TAXI GANG WORLD PARTY . KELLER WILLIAMS . MSTRKRFT . ROY AYERS COMMON MARKET . UH HUH HER . ERIC HUTCHINSON . NO AGE MATT & KIM . DEAD CONFEDERATE . JANELLE MONAE . THE CAVE SINGERS AUDRYE SESSIONS . THE KNUX & MORE! S P E C TACULAR ST U F F
B O O K I S H S TUFF
FLEXION BY WISE FOOL NEW MEXICO: Strutting and dancing, suspended and flying, five acrobats on stilts stretch your perception of the human body.
THE OUTSIDERS, FOOD AND A FUNNY MAN: A rare appearance by S.E. Hinton, a chat with acclaimed chef Tom Douglas, David Cross (& friends!) with his first book, & more.
1 REEL FILM FESTIVAL: The nation’s largest short film festival, featuring the best shorts from around the world, curated by Seattle International Film Festival.
CONNECT, CREATE AND SUSTAIN: The Seattle-Moscow Poster Show, the Gage Drawing Jam, Flatstock, art by DJ Spooky & more.
TICKET INFORMATION & L I N E U P AVA I L A B L E AT
BAILING YOU OUT OF THE ENTERTAINMENT DOLDRUMS SINCE 1971.
HOUR FOR HOUR, IT’S CHEAPER THAN A JUKEBOX, AND 1000% MORE FUN! Discounted 3-day passes and single day-specific tickets on sale NOW at bumbershoot.org. Prices increase on August 22, so buy early for the best savings!
BECOME A BUMBERFAN BY SIGNING UP AT BUMBERSHOOT.ORG
It's FREE, and you'll receive Insider Discount opportunities, breaking Festival news and exclusive offers. Know before you go: All performance spaces have limited capacity. Festival tickets do not guarantee entry into every performance, including comedy venues or evening Mainstage shows. Free passes for comedy shows and evening Mainstage performances are available during Bumbershoot on a first-come, first-served basis. For complete details on venue access and how to obtain a free comedy and Mainstage pass, visit bumbershoot.org/festival-faq.htm.
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Z E N G A M I N G | E AT S | T h e B est N ew B oo k s | C O N F E S S I O N S | S u mme r S t y le
Vashaaaap! Oops, he did it again Given the lawsuits brought forth by Borat’s unsuspecting (and incredibly embarrassed) co-stars, it’s a marvel Brüno was ever completed. Learning from past experience, Cohen hired a cunning team of lawyers to somehow legitimize dummy production companies that kept him one dainty skip ahead of Johnny Law. Though he technically had proper clearance, the question remains: Who was actually dumb enough to get punked by Brüno? How about former presidential candidate Ron Paul? Or Hollywood ham Ben Affleck? Sure, the latter has SUCKER written all over his forehead, but then again his involvement is, at the time of this writing, just a rumor. For all we know, Affleck could very well be the Pam Anderson to Brüno’s Borat. –Isaac Lekach Brüno hits theaters July 10.
1: Skirt by Motel. Available at www.motelrocks.com and www.karmaloop.com $35 2: Colorized Ray-Ban Wayfarers. Available at Sunglass Hut and www.ray-ban.com $139.95 3: Chuck Taylor All-Star by Converse. All colors available everywhere $45 4: Nylon Tricot Triangle Bikini Tops by American Apparel. Available at American Apparel, so basically every third block in any direction in all of New York and Los Angeles, and online www.americanapparel.com $25 5- 10: Low Skinny 531 for girls, Skinny 511 for boys, by Levi’s. Available at www.levi.com $68
Summer Fashion Taking it Technicolor Styling and words by Carmel Lobello
omehow New York adopted a cruel cliché a while back that its inhabitants only wear black. If you live there, you know that couldn't be further from the truth. Some of your favorite brands like Ray-Ban and Levi’s have introduced new colorized versions of your favorite styles for the summer. Prove all naysayers wrong by wearing new bright yellow Wayfarers and shock blue Levi's with your favorite color of Chucks. Then throw on an American Apparel Tricot Bikini Top, and walk around the sidewalks like you're leading a gay pride parade. After all, summer comes just once a year.
J U L Y / A U G 2 0 0 9 THE L A T E S T P O L A R O I D s B Y R A Y L E G O
How'd you come up with the name Mollusk?
I chose the name because it represents a huge amount of mostly sea creatures. Hopefully so does the shop. Which store opened first? San Francisco
was the first Mollusk. We opened in 2005. The main reason I wanted to open the shop was to bring a wider variety of surfboards to Northern California. I really wanted to have a place that stocked all of the oddball stuff—stuff that was hard to get and underground. Is it tough competing with bigger surf shops?
I really don't like the idea of competing with other shops. I actually get a lot of joy from sending people to other surf shops for stuff that we don't have.
Mollusk The Surf Shop That’s More OG than OC By Isaac Lekach • Photo by Brad Wenner
hrough his two stores in California (San Francisco and Venice) and one in Brooklyn John McCambridge has been poking at the stereotypes of surf. Opting for a different approach from your average surf shop, his stores double as art galleries, housing high-end surfboards and apparel from renowned artists like Geoff McFetridge. McCambridge is a patron of the arts, but it’s his irreverence and penchant for counterculture that make Mollusk a place you’ll want to check out—even if you’ve never tried to hang ten.
J U L Y / A U G 2 0 0 9 THE L A T E S T
It’s typically surprising to people when they find out New York has a big surf scene. How'd you go about opening the Brooklyn Mollusk?
The Brooklyn store came about because my friend [photographer] Chris Gentile found a really cool inexpensive space and had the idea to open a Mollusk-like store. He came to me with the idea, and I was in. Do all the stores have gallery openings, or does that mostly happen in San Francisco? We
have art openings at
all three shops. The San Francisco location has the most dedicated gallery space so it tends to have more shows. We mostly show [art by] people who surf as well as make art, but not entirely. If we really like somebody’s work and they don't surf we're stoked to give them a show. We try not to be hemmed in by “surf art.” A lot of great artists design shirts for Mollusk. How did you start working with them?
The people who design T-shirts for Mollusk have been friends of ours for a long time— friends from surfing or the graphic design world or both. The T-shirts aren't just an afterthought. They are something I have always really been into. It seems like you're supporting the culture as a whole, including the art constituent.
I would say at the heart of it we are all about craftspeople and community, whether it be surfboard shapers, film makers, painters, photographers—not to mention the people who are in the community who do the random stuff like drive the coast making surfboard deliveries, or the old dudes who loiter around and talk surf.
Visit dt-mag.com for more on fashion.
Zen Gaming The Kids Aren’t Alright By Stephen B lack well
t the end of Gears of War 2, Microsoft’s celebrated first-person shooter, you’re up against some hardy competition. The game’s final boss is a monster called a Brumak. It’s a greenish-gray creature with a scaly back and comically sharp teeth that’s about the size of a small building and would not look out of place in The Lord of the Rings trilogy or a Godzilla film. This particular Brumak mutates after lunging into a pool of green goo called emulsion, which, in what I suppose is a chemical reaction, expands the beast’s already enormous frame as mouthed tentacles burst from its side. You destroy it using a laser-missile tactic, the sexy “hammer of dawn.” The Brumak explodes. After it did, I clenched my fist then languidly raised my right arm above my head a la Rocky
Balboa. I had accomplished something. I guess. Therein lies the problem with gaming. Or, more accurately, adult gaming. Shoot something in the head, cut somebody’s limbs off—it’s all par for the course. And, over time, it can become remarkably unrewarding. Jenova Chen, the prescient co-founder of ThatGameCompany, saw it coming. “When games first came out, they weren’t made for kids, but then slowly the video game market got a lot of business from teenagers,” he says from his office in Sony’s California campus. “Companies had to figure out how to make games that kids wanted to play. The biggest thing a teenager wants is to feel empowered. But the game industry never caught up with the gamers getting older.” Chen was motivated to
J U L Y / A U G 2 0 0 9 THE L A T E S T
create games for someone like himself—a twenty-something professional that grew up on games but doesn’t necessarily get a rise out of, say, decapitating a warlock. The two titles that he’s produced for the PlayStation Network that reflect his vision are flOw and Flower. The game flOw was initially Chen’s MFA thesis while he was studying at USC. It first appeared as a Flash screensaver, where you control an oceanic microorganism, and are responsible for its evolution. It was predicated on “flow theory,” the idea that if humans are so totally involved with an activity, constraints like time, self-consciousness and even difficulty will disappear. It’s analogous to a zen-like state, albeit one not brought upon by the Eastern definition of meditation. (It’s a bit more like a runner’s high.)
When I asked Chen about the inspiration behind his games, he responded, “I want to touch upon nature and beauty, rather than destruction. I want to have something about creation.” He’s describing the game Flower, which was released earlier this year and has since become the most popular downloadable title on PSN. The game, in which you guide a swirl of flower petals through lush environments stirring plants to bloom and fields of hay to green over. Though Chen is leery of referring to himself as an environmentalist, he said of the game’s origins, “I grew up in a very polluted city [Shanghai], so I never realized there was a great nature out there. Then I traveled to America and saw all this green, the blue sky, and it created this strong impact on me. I wanted to recreate that feeling.” Emotional responses (aside from screaming, “Fuck yeah!” when you kill something) are typically few and far between in the world of gaming. Yet, Chen, like many of his colleagues, wishes to see the day when video games are as ubiquitous as films or music. Sure, everyone listens to music and sees movies, but all of us aren’t buffs. Today, you’re a gamer or you’re not. To that end, Chen and his team are trying to re-invent the gaming experience from shoot-‘em-up anarchy (his games are the anti-Grand Theft Auto) to calm focus. It’s part of his plan to get adults who feel gaming is too violent or provocative to start playing. To Chen, adults need more nourishment from their activities then living out some generic teenage fantasy. Or, as he put it, “If they don’t get something out of the game, why even bother making it?”
B oo k s
while riding the subway, and, possibly due to this experiment, the narrative unfolds with an episodic, racing momentum. Moreover, it delights in exploring different angles of sanity and insanity, examining them from varying perspectives like a Rubik’s Cube. Protagonist William Heller is at times both a chosen agent of fate on a mission to save the world from itself, and a goofy sixteen year old on a mission to lose his virginity. It’s dark, depressing, and hilarious. “I’ve had my sex,” Heller announces—the world has been saved. In Wray’s capable hands, both statements ring true. –AM
Just Try Not To Get Too Stupid This Summer
5 In his first-rate collection of short stories, nine in total, Wells Tower grapples with the age-old question, What is at the heart of man? He answers boldly through the vivid descriptions of his wayward protagonists, a parade of proud, bumbling idiots preying on themselves through their own frivolity and incompetence. The men of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned are boozers, fighters, cheaters and scoundrels of epic grade. And they’re quintessentially American (even the Viking). Cheating husbands bear cheating wives, hangovers are a constant, and jealousy and paranoia govern just about everything. Hey, Tower may not have crafted the most ideal of worlds, but it’s a helluva lot like the one we live in. -SB
Ah, summer. Time to get drunk every night and watch movies. Just don’t completely blow off the ol’ prefrontal cortex—you might need that thing one day. To keep you sharp, we’ve compiled a set of must-read fiction for the summer. Read ‘em whenever, it’s all good.
City of Thieves David Benioff Viking Adult While reading City of Thieves, I couldn’t help but find myself thinking, This would be a great movie! Of course, Benioff did begin his career as a screenplay writer, so a cinematic quality permeates his work. City of Thieves is a novel of historical fiction focusing on one week during the siege of Leningrad in 1941. The main character, Lev, a seventeen-yearold virgin whose father was a Jewish poet executed during the Red Terror, winds up in jail for looting a dead German paratrooper. He is imprisoned alongside a charming blondhaired, quick-witted, damnedsexy army deserter named
Kolya. The two are sentenced to death, but then a kooky general releases them to, of all things, find a dozen eggs for his daughter’s wedding. The novel follows them on their mission, as the duo engage cannibals, prostitutes, snipers, diabolic Nazis, and, of course, play chess. City of Thieves is a brisk read, historically accurate, and as humorous as it is gruesome. -SK 2
Lowboy John Wray Farrar, Straus and Giroux Ostensibly the story of a paranoid schizophrenic lost in the New York City subway, Lowboy is exactly what you’d expect it wouldn’t be: fun. Wray composed almost the entirety of Lowboy, his third novel,
J U L Y / A U G 2 0 0 9 THE L A T E S T
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned Wells Tower Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Shortcomings Adrian Tomine Drawn & Quarterly I was first introduced to the startlingly true-to-life stories of Adrian Tomine through his graphic series, Optic Nerve. Each story, no more than ten to twelve pages, offers a snapshot character study of an individual. I was
hooked, as Tomine is freakishly adept at showcasing the minds of twenty-something slackers. His latest short graphic novel, Shortcomings, is a three-chapter story that follows thirty-yearold movie house manager, Ben Tanaka, an Asian man who has a hankering for a white woman. This, of course, leads to complications with his Japanese girlfriend. The result is a slightly depressing, though often hilarious exploration of sexuality (Tanaka’s only friend is a Chinese lesbian) and racial stereotypes. Paired with Tomine’s skillfully rendered illustrations (which have graced the covers of several New Yorkers), it’s a satisfying read, and, like me, you’ll find it too quick to end. –SK
The Song Is You Arthur Phillips Random House Julian Donahue’s CD collection probably beats yours. He just can’t help himself—the longing he feels, the yearning in his soul— it can only be satisfied by one elusive mistress: music. In his fourth novel, The Song Is You, Arthur Phillips explores Julian’s story, the life of a middle-aged, successful New York advertising executive and music addict who stumbles into a grungy Brooklyn bar one night simply to relieve his tumescent bladder and finds all his musical lust embodied in the spicy rock of a rising Irish singer. What follows is a riveting, twisted tale of love affairs and obsession gone awry, an almost Lolita-esque romance that casts Julian as the weirdly endearing stalker and the musician as his coy and eager partner in crime. Phillips’s poetic imagery and intelligent, quick wit punctuate the bizarre love story, a shimmering literary composition fit for casual listeners and audio addicts alike. -AK
EATS Automotive The big car manufacturers have long been striving to increase fuel efficiency (not such a great job thus far) and design cars that consumers actually want to buy. In the not-so-distant future we’ll see the auto companies simply not be able to accomplish either task and their factories will be retrofitted to produce Dyson vacuum cleaners and Sham Wow products. Luxury Goods Who can afford these products when much of the country can barely (if at all) afford their mortgage payments? Is there a need for shoes that cost more than a decent state college education? With luxury goods companies in such dire straits, they will be forced to produce products for the rest of us. This, of course, will diminish their brand equity, but at least they will be able to keep their sexy, androgynous, black-clad employees on the payroll. Products to look for include: Depends by Prada (style and dryness at the same time), Rolex nose hair trimmers (precision meets the nasal cavity), and Hermes toilet paper (you love their scarves but could never afford to wipe your ass with them).
Confessions of an Aging Indie Rock Fan How I Help Make The World Go Round By Doug Perkul
s this magazine can only partially bankroll my palatial New Jersey estate (as well as smaller properties in the Hamptons, Dubai and Paris), Aging Indie Rock Fan must work for other large multinational conglomerates from time to time in order to support a lifestyle of custom sweatbands, platinum toothbrushes and other such necessities that life demands for a renowned prognosticator such as myself. You see, when companies are unaware of the next trend or product gap in the marketplace, they call upon yours truly to peek through the ether and provide them with the crucial trend info they require to realize revenue and ultimately a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Now this, my friend, is no easy task. This requires a hypersensitive sense of intuition and a great deal of research (both quantitative and qualitative, naturally). As such, you would guess right that this information, while not only highly coveted, would be quite secretive in nature. Correct again. I am, however, willing to provide you with a bit of insight into the future of products and let you know what is coming down the pipeline.
Electronics If you keep up with the business news you will have noticed that the entire flat-screen TV market is in the dumper. With no demand for their products many have decided to simply halt production. Stupid. Smart companies will realize that Americans cannot get enough of shitty TVs, and will begin producing reality programming about their attempt to sell their TVs in a hostile economic climate in which no one can afford their TVs. (Kind of like Glengarry Glen Ross meets a Best Buy commercial.) This will provide them with syndication revenue as well as brand exposure.
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Thoughts on food
By Max Goldblatt
With songs titled “Pizza Hut Taco Bell” and “Chicken and Meat” Brooklyn-based art-rappers Das Racist make it clear they are the corned beef and cabbage of hiphop. Or, rather, they are the Victor Vazquez and Himanshu Kumar of the food world. There are plenty of cultural references in your music, but why so much food? Himanshu Kumar: I'm just usually thinking about food... or partying with Bloodsport-era Jean-Claude Van Damme. Who’s your biggest musical influence, and your biggest culinary influence? Victor Vazquez: There's one MF Doom line that's like, “Get more cheese than Doritos, Cheetos and Fritos.” That inspired me. What’s you favorite type of cuisine? HK: Are "cheeseburgers" or "kabobs" considered cuisines? What won't you eat? VV: I kind of eat whatever, even if I think it's gross. Have you tried durian? VV: Yeah, it's gross. HK: The fuck is a durian, dog? What is the most effective weapon in a food fight? HK: Ever been hit in the grill with a samosa? It will bruise. When you want to impress a girl, do you take her out or do you cook for her? VV: When I want to impress a girl, I just look very intensely directly into her eyes. When at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, what do you order? HK: I like asking the cashier what they recommend and taking it from there. I always make a point to ask what a chalupa is because I keep forgetting.
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MUSIC PAPERCUTS | THE ANTLERS | DIRTY PROJECTORS | PASSION PIT | N.A.S.A. | PINK MOUNTAINTOPS | CROCODILES
Blank Dogs If we had to pick one word to describe some of this summer’s cooler musicians, it would be “reclusive.” As Black Moth Super Rainbow’s Tom Fec told us, “I don’t like people really paying attention to me on stage.” You want to see Fever Ray this summer? Buy yourself a ticket to Helsinki. Cover story St. Vincent is making herself more accessible this season, but damn if it didn’t take us two months to track her down for a photo shoot. Not that we’re complaining—we can appreciate a little swagger. And plus, music worth going out of your way to find is usually the music most worth your time. Perhaps no one embodies this better than Blank Dogs. When their songs started circulating on the Internet recently there was so little information attached to them that it was unclear whether it was a band or a solo artist. You want to check out their bio on Myspace? Blank. Photos? Nope—just a white rectangle. And as if to prove our point about the quality of hermetic artists, they listed one single show—which happened to be accompanying Sonic Youth. What we have been able to uncover—only after coordinating our own shoot, no less—is that Blank Dogs involves a guy named Mike. Last name? No clue. This year’s best-loved mystery is fast becoming our favorite new band of 2009.
PHOTO BY B RIAN APPIO
Just Like Honey By Shanon Kelley • Photo by Siobhan O'Brien
I first met Charles Rowell and Brandon Welchez, the Crocodiles, at this year’s SXSW, where they were on my short list of must-see new bands. Since then the band has caused quite a commotion. The numerous articles and blogs covering
Best minimalist psychedelic and noisepop albums of the last thirty years. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy, 1985 Arguably their masterpiece, Psychocandy, remains a body of work that shifted the course of indie music and created an entire movement called shoegaze. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Spacemen 3 – The Perfect Prescription, 1987 Although they never garnered mainstream attention, Spacemen 3 based their entire aesthetic on minimalistic droning guitars and soft-spoken lyrics. The Perfect Prescription is their most influential album. “Walking With Jesus” is basically the father of Spiritualized. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless, 1991 Incorporating a sheen of static as one of the primary instruments on the record, Loveless took noise to a whole other level. Spiritualized - Pure Phase, 1995 Jason Pierce carried the torch from Spacemen 3 to Spiritualized. The result is this fully realized masterpiece of space-pop. It diverts at times into crystal clear ballads like “Spread Your Wings,” and then into pure white noise, without ever getting too abrasive. A Place To Bury Strangers – S/T, 2007 When a band calls themselves “the loudest band in New York,” you know they’ve A) got some pretty big balls, and B) probably deliver. And indeed they do. This album is an amazing assault by guitar.
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Crocodiles often compare them to the Jesus and Mary Chain as well as Spacemen 3. They’re apt comparisons, considering Crocodiles play the loudest, hypnotically minimal psychedelia I’ve heard since the mid-nineties, the heyday of indie psych. But there’s more to the band than namedropping. Crocodiles have managed to turn something that could easily be perceived as redundant into a sound that is surprisingly refreshing and immediately alluring. Simply put, what they’ve brought to the table is style. Welchez and Rowell are San Diego natives who have been best friends for a decade. With their skinny jeans, Wayfarers and messy hair, the duo oozes Southern California charm. They also smoke a lot of pot, like to talk about their music, and blab about what good friends they are. The Crocodiles are some serious bros. Rowell explains, “We’ve always played music together, since we first met, since the band we were in together before Crocodiles. Once that dropped out and we realized that nobody could be as committed as he and I are, we just decided to do it ourselves. It took a couple years and bad music to decide that we’ve got to just get it together, just the two of us.” After a slight pause, Rowell looks over at Welchez and asks, “Cause you’re my best friend and I’m your best friend, right?” Right. The bands they were in before Crocodiles—the “bad music” Rowell mentioned—were decent groups to say the least, yet Welchez is even more dismissive of them. “We were in a really abrasive punk band together, then we were in a pop band
together. I think we were both learning things along the way.” Welchez is referring to Revelation Record’s screamo outfit, The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, and they’re shimmering follow up, The Prayers. Both groups were local heroes, and any San Diegan will tell you the bands were great but imploded as they were beginning to gain popularity. The Prayers, in particular, had all the making of a successful pop band, despite their most popular song being a cover of Madonna’s “Cherish.” (The cover was sincere, by the way. After our interview, I watched Welchez keep a group of friends up until five a.m. watching Madonna videos as he squealed, “Madonna is so fucking hot!”) You could say that Crocodiles’ success has been a long time coming, but Rowell sees it as a natural evolution. “Through our years of being together, um, platonically, we both just got into the same music together. We remember the time we first got into Bauhaus, or whatever, the Beatles, Pink Floyd…” They’re blasé to say the least. But standing out amongst the pack of lo-fi acts—No Age, Wavves, Sisters, and Jeff: The Brotherhood—just to name a few, is no walk in the park. Though these bands have cultivated a unifying sound and fanbase, singles, purposefully or not, are what they lack. “I Wanna Kill,” from Crocodiles' debut LP, Summer of Hate, is a tried-and-true summer anthem fit for mass consumption. But it hasn’t gone to their heads. “Oh we’re not big, trust me, we’re very, very small,” Howell demurs. “There’s still a long road ahead. This is just the beginning of a long road uphill.”
By John Z • Photo By Kareem Black
Not Your Average Ken Dolls By Danny Fasold • Photo by Drew Reynolds The Costa Mesa traffic whizzes pleasantly
by as I sit down to interview Japanese Motors, a local indie band with a soft spot for beach-y pop songs and fiftiesstyle ballads. Their music is sheathed in the kind of sooty cigarette ash you'd expect out of modern day garage rockers like The Strokes, and hell, singer/parttime professional surfer Alex Knost even sounds like Julian Casablancas, but only if Julian Casablancas was born-and-bred West Coast and listened to The Ventures instead of the Velvet Underground. The whole band is here—guitarist Nolan Hall, drummer Andrew Atkinson, and bassist Nicholas Soderberg—crowded around the coffee table inside their living quarters and looking frazzled. All sorts of gnarly props decorate their place, like the vintage Underwood typewriter on the table, or the countless surfboards in countless colors relaxing against the walls. The words "Gothic Dolphins, Not Bombs" are cryptically spray-painted across the refrigerator, and, my god, you'd think a bomb actually hit their rehearsal studio, what with all the pieces of rainbow foam speckled over the floor like confetti. Our interview passes without a hitch, and soon enough I'm outside watching the photo shoot. The guys are standing along a barbed wire fence, which gives the shot a kind of gritty feel—strange for a band that sings about partying and wearing your hair down, but a compliment to their dark side nonetheless. "Hopefully the next one will be more like how we actually sound," says Knost. I get the vibe that they're going for more grit and less sunshine. Their follow-up album, Teenage Drag, is currently in the works, and if the band’s comments are anything to go by, it will likely be more raw, raspier and meaner than its predecessor. But for 36
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now, there's the self-titled record. And the parties. And the surfboards. You guys have earned a reputation for throwing huge parties at your shows. How did the live music/party dynamic come to be? Alex Knost: There aren’t that many cool
venues in Costa Mesa, but there are a lot of really good bands. It’s hard for them to go to L.A., though, because most of them are dirt poor and don’t have cars. They just stay in their living rooms and make music all day. Nolan Hall: There are places to play here, but people aren’t always going to come out every weekend to come and see your show because they’re so poor. Andrew Atkinson: That’s where the partying thing came out of. It’s a DIY thing. Knost: It’s also easier to throw parties over here because it’s like all Mexican and Guatemalan households. Atkinson: They’re having their own parties and don’t want the man coming around. Nick Soderberg: There’s definitely an unspoken agreement. Atkinson: I remember going to see bands when I was, like, fifteen years old, catching a ride to some strange guy’s party and never knowing if I was talking to his girlfriend or drinking his beer. It’s this weird domain, you know? Because they were a lot brasher than I was at the time. Hall: And there are so many great musicians. You’ll have a group of the same eight or nine dudes who all rotate instruments and are in like nine different bands on the side, and they’ll play at every single party. It’s a cool social club. There seems to be a quintessential surfer vibe throughout the record, that feeling that you’re out on the beach having a good time. How does the surfer lifestyle play a part in your music? Atkinson: I know we
get a lot of surf music comparisons, but I think it’s more from listening to rockabilly
music. I like surf music in general, like The Ventures and Dick Dale and stuff, but I don’t really have a bunch of those records. I just think we play like them. Fender gear, you know? Hall: I think that’s mainly a marketing thing. Maybe it’s in the record subconsciously. I don’t know—you get stuck with these kinds of tags so easily. It’s not like it’s intentional. I bet having a member who’s a professional surfer doesn’t help the whole marketing slant either.Atkinson: Yeah, but it’s not like
I’m an extreme sports type surfer dude. I think that’s a hard thing for the music industry to swallow. Most good music is made is known for being made in cities. Surfer music isn’t really like a “cool” thing. It’s kind of like…you think of Ken dolls out on the beach brain dead from all the salt water [Laughs]. People don’t really think of it as a subculture anymore. Soderberg: The whole image of it seems to be that way. You know? Like, some bronze asshole from the eighties with some neon green wetsuit on. Atkinson: As opposed to an actual culture where you’ll see people doing something on their own. I think surfing kind of has a bad rep. If it’s any consolation, you guys don’t look like Ken dolls.Atkinson: I try [Laughs]. I thought I’d finish the interview off by asking each one of you to describe yourself, But the catch is you can only use one word. Atkinson: [Looks slyly at Nick] What’s your one word, Nick? Soderberg: Hungover! [Laughs] Atkinson: I’m gonna have to go with “sneaky.” Hall: I’ll take “sneaky” too. Atkinson: I don’t know what mine would
Soderberg: Just add dashes. That’ll be your
Ice Ice Baby By Isaac Lekach • Photo by Kareem Black
Roberto Carlos Lange is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Guillermo Scott Herren (Prefuse 73, Savath and Savalas). Now, with Awe Owe, his Latinflavored debut for Asthmatic Kitty, Lange’s own project is already turning heads—the oddly named Helado Negro. I sat with Lange in his home studio in Brooklyn, alongside a wall lined with vinyl records, and among an impressive amount of vintage instruments and audio cables strewn about to talk about the evolution of his career. His cat “Kitty Kitty” hopped around maniacally for no apparent reason. How did you come up with the name Helado Negro—is there even such a thing as “black ice cream”? It’s my girlfriend’s favorite
Wait, it’s an actual food? There is helado
negro. Like, mora—blackberry. So the physical thing exists. It isn’t exactly black. It’s purple. But it’s my girlfriend’s favorite. And “Negro” is my nickname. So just to clarify, blackberry flavored ice cream is called helado negro. Yeah, I think
so. Maybe, right? We can look it up.
Also, I don’t know how to pronounce the title of your record. The first word is awe—like
to be in awe of something. And the second word is owe. Like, I owe you. So they’re both English words! I had no idea.
It’s just two words that we know. They just look strange standing next to each other. I know you’ve been a part of lots of projects, but how did this one come together? The
main thing happened when I moved to New York from Atlanta. I started singing because it felt a lot easier to put down ideas. Also, the content to the music is related to living here.
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Did you ever consider singing in English? Not to sound generic, but music is music no matter what language it’s in. Ultimately, I think I sang in Spanish because that’s what was coming out of me—not so much with a goal in mind other than hoping that I liked the songs. Someone told me that Awe Owe is the record of the summer. How do you feel about that?
Summer is a good season. It’s like, bikinis, sunshine… What is your heritage? My family is from Ecuador. My mom moved to New York in the sixties and my dad grew up in Long Island and then they went to Miami and that’s where I was born. And are they musical at all? My dad used to throw parties every damn weekend. Friday and Saturday. People would just throw down. He’d buy three liters of Chivas whiskey. People would come over and play music. How old were you at that point? This was my whole life. I don’t think it has stopped. But I’d go to sleep at nine, maybe wake up at two, and they’d still be partying. Tell me about some of your other projects.
From 2003 up until now I’ve been doing a project called Epstein. It’s kind of how I got involved with Asthmatic Kitty, because they heard it online. Also, for the past four years I’ve been working with a visual artist named David Ellis. We’ve been doing these collaborative kinetic sculptures. The last piece we did was a twenty-five foot catfish, which was at the Huntington Museum in West Virginia. David skinned it with records and the innards have these actuators and electronics. I composed it. So when you walk in, there’s this giant catfish making all these rhythms out of his mouth.
Is the main difference between Epstein and Helado Negro that with Helado you’re singing? No, Epstein is more beat driven
and based on the hip-hop influences I grew up with when I wasn’t listening to my parents’ music.
And also, it sounds like Awe Owe was composed with organic instruments. No, I
love sampling. That’s the thing about it. It’s not really about orchestration, or what’s the root note, because I don’t know that stuff. I use a sampler and I’m like, Man, I could do so many things off this. But I look at a damn piece of sheet music and I’m like, Maybe I can draw a picture on this thing.
I know through Epstein you toured Japan and have enjoyed some success over there. I have one friend that ate horse there. Have you ever had that? No. I had whale. People
might not like me after saying that, but it’s true.
What’d it taste like? It wasn’t anything crazy, but you know what was a crazy thing—I’m trying to remember if I drank this or not. Maybe I did. Anyway, there is an alcohol that they serve and they fuckin’ put a snake in it. They close the lid and let the snake die and it ferments and the blood comes out of it. After a while it becomes this blood alcohol with a snake in it and you can drink it for stamina. Like an energy drink? Yeah, so dudes come
home and want to boogie down with their lady!
Ohh! Lastly, how long have you been cultivating the fro? [Laughs] Years. I just cut
eleven inches off and there’s still probably a good thirteen. I don’t know, maybe ten.
Pedal To The Metal By Shanon Kelley • Photo by Chris Shonting
On a sunny Sunday afternoon in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, I sat down with The Antlers in a public garden, and we talked about sound for nearly an hour. From their early folk lilt to the lauded shoegaze rock/ pop creation Hospice, The Antlers’ sonic identity has melted and solidified several times as their band matured. In person, The Antlers are three endearing, sweet guys who seem shocked that they’re in a band that finally works. But rather than ramble on about the Brooklyn-based trip, I’ll let them speak for themselves—though I think it’s safe to say The Antlers are at the beginning of what is sure to be a long ride. How did the Antlers come together? Peter Silberman: It started off as my solo thing—
that was a couple years ago. After putting out a couple records myself, I just started wanting to get a band together. Michael was the first person I started playing with, and we just clicked right away. There were some other people in the band, but they’ve since left. Darby was friends with one of them, and Darby came in playing both banjo and trumpet, but now he’s doing keyboards. So has the music you were creating on your own changed since you guys started collaborating? PS: Yeah, it’s completely
different now. It started off as a folk thing—just me and an acoustic guitar. But I got sick of that and got more into ambient music. As we were getting more
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comfortable playing with each other, and more collaborative, it turned into something totally different. It was more textured and had a bigger, epic sound.
to do it. PS: It’s given us a lot of freedom. I think it’s actually made us sound larger.
How do you pull it off live? PS: We’re not real
Our set up is definitely kind of complicated. [Laughs] ML: After our shows the tech nerds are swarming around like, What is that? There’s always someone poking their face in your pedal board. [Laughs]
sticklers about trying to recreate what’s on the record in a live setting note for note. So, in that way it’s easier. It’s been opened up a little more—the environment of the album, the atmosphere. Darby Cicci: I think what we’re trying to do is create a huge wash of sound—a lush, beautiful thing. What’s hard about it is everything each of us has to do is a lot more complicated and each of us has to cover a lot more ground, a lot more sound. What’s easy about that, though, is that there’s not a lot of conception, it’s just basically each of us trying to make a ton of sound. How long did it take you guys to write Hospice? PS: It was over the course of two
years that we recorded it. It was all written and recorded just when the band was still getting settled. Pretty much immediately when the record was done a couple people left, and it was just the three of us. And we switched instruments and started playing live shows, because we were getting ready for this tour. We lost our bass player, and we were deciding whether or not we wanted to replace him with someone. We weren’t sure before we did it if it was going to work, but then the first rehearsal at Darby’s apartment, we tried it out—and just instantly, we knew that was how we wanted
So you’re tricking everybody by making it sound more difficult than it really is? PS:
So you attract nerds and not chicks? ML: No, no, no—I didn’t say that. DC: Nerdy
chicks. [Laughs] No, just the tech nerds in the house come and—secretly or not so secretly—come and find themselves—it’s like a kid in a candy shop. They’re like, What is that? PS: Anytime anyone’s come up to me who’s a gear kind of person who’s like, What are you using? And I explain it to them, they’re always kind of disappointed, because it’s not like really nice equipment or anything, it’s like a lot of cheap things, all turned on. And they’re like, Oh, really that’s it? ML: Wait, that part’s off the record. [Laughs] PS: They’re not the most complicated songs to play, so there’s a lot of room to kind of mess around with things, but also keep it under control. It requires us listening to each other a lot or just being very tuned into what the other people are doing, because it goes in directions we don’t always anticipate. DC: Yeah, just start turning knobs at random. See what happens. A little bit of controlled chaos, I guess.
Darkness On The Edge Of Town By Tobias Carroll â€˘ Photos By Siobhan O'Brien
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hile Listening to the back catalog of Papercuts, an enduring folk-rock sound emerges, anchored by Jason Quever’s resonant voice with the support of a shifting cast of musicians. (Until recently, Quever was the only fixed member of the group.) Their talent, one might say, was rooted in finding an ornate approach to the everyday, of weaving rich melodies around narratives from daily life. Papercuts’ latest, You Can Have What You Want, doesn’t really do that. Its emotions are the grim undercurrents to those heard on 2007’s Can’t Go Back. Rather than lyrical images of rootlessness and frustration, we have despair and a totalitarian isolation. That said, this remains a Papercuts album, hauntingly catchy—albeit in a way that finds Quever exploring new territory, both musically and lyrically. Reached via email in the midst of the group’s European tour, Quever discussed the textured sound heard on You Can Have What You Want. “I didn't think so much about the word ‘drone,’” he writes, “but I did want to make something that was more mine, something a little more atmospheric, and less of what I thought of as rock instrumentation. I suppose I hoped to make a (somewhat mysterious) bed of chords in the background with melodies poking through. And the guitar as main rhythm instrument didn't seem as interesting as adding it on at the end for additional single-note melodies.” For such a nuanced, cerebral writer, it shouldn’t seem odd how Quever creates most of his songs. “Overall,” he writes, “I've probably written the most songs on bass. It feels like more of a blank canvas—I find it leaves my mind free to think of instrumentation I might not have tried before. This recent album was mostly bass and organ. I got really into blown-out organ sounds for a while.” At this point, you might consider Quever cosmically nerdy. Perhaps, but he’s not a total gearhead. He explained why this record broods more than his previous efforts: “I think it just seemed like I needed to make things fundamentally different in some way, to fit where I was at. My mood was very different this time around, I was in a much darker place, and I realized there was nothing wrong with the songs reflecting that. Can't Go Back was a conscious effort to go back to a simpler, obvious, less cynical, almost self-therapeutic place. You Can Have What You Want is more who I am: It's sad, paranoid, chaotic, murky.” Particularly striking is the album’s use of military imagery, which begins somewhat innocuously (there is, after all, a long history of soldier as lyrical point-of-view characters) before
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veering into the militaristic—specifically, the song “A Dictator’s Lament.” Quever’s roots for this, he explained, come from a different social institution: “It seems something happened that brought back some childhood trauma. In retrospect, I think maybe I was processing my anger at the public school system, and socialization in general. Not that I think it's all bad, but I had been walking around for all these years with a lot of resentment, and I think writing about coercion and authority helped me deal with that in a productive way. But also, I usually try to write with my own version of some sort of linear drama, and these sci-fi or Twilight Zone type of settings enabled me to do that in a way that wasn't about wallowing in songs about my own life, which wouldn't be interesting.” Quever’s shift into surrealism may also bring them closer aesthetically with some of the groups to which they’ve spent time on the road or collaborated with in the studio. Recent tourmates have included Grizzly Bear and Beach House—both of whom fall on the experimental side of pop. The latter’s Alex Scally also contributed string arrangements to You Can Have What You Want. “With Beach House,” Quever writes, “all I know is that they are one of my favorite bands, and Alex and I have common tastes, which makes working together really fun and easy. We got to know each other really well and talked for endless hours about music. I don't know what kind of musical dialogue it creates on our records, but knowing them makes me want to be better and write better melodies. I feel some sort of encouragement from their presence.” Beach House also provides a link to the touring version of Papercuts, a version of the band that has begun to resemble the version heard on the group’s albums. “I'm lucky right now to have people who played on the record as my touring band, and we all love hanging out and playing together, and I think they're all great players on top of that, it's almost a bonus, though. Graham Hill, who's also a Beach House drummer sometimes, played on the record and is Papercuts’ full time drummer/collaborator now. It makes shows so much fun now, having it sound like the record, and on top of that he's one of my favorite people. David Enos is one of my good friends, and has played with me for years, but he also drew the cover, and he's a big part of a lot of what I do because he's such a great artist/filmmaker in general and that influences me a lot. And with Alex being on the record, it was perfect, he just had an enthusiasm to help out and, of course, I love and respect what he does, so I felt really lucky he came out here.” In this case, it seems that it’s not solely Quever’s music from which he takes a therapeutic value; instead, it could be argued, the structure of the group seems designed for inspiration. One wonders where, musically and structurally, it will lead next.
Flower Power By Tobias Carroll • Photos by Norman Wong
hen evaluating the surprisingly sizable discography of Vancouver’s Stephen McBean, things to consider would most certainly include the tonal shifts, both musical and lyrical, heard across that discography, both from band to band and within the recorded outputs of some of those bands themselves. Or, to phrase things a little differently: Is Stephen McBean messing with us? In the late nineties, McBean and drummer Josh Wells played in a duo called Jerk With a Bomb, releasing three taut, atmospheric albums before essentially morphing into the fivepiece juggernaut known as Black Mountain, whose songbook is, in fact, keynoted by a song called “Druganaut.” Like his band mates, McBean maintains a separate musical space concurrent with Black Mountain—in this case, Pink Mountaintops, whose third album is called Outside Love, and whose music runs through an exhaustive emotional and musical terrain. Their debut, self-titled and sex-obsessed, appeared in the tail end of 2004. Two years later came Axis of Evol—and right about there might be the time to mention another aspect of Pink Mountaintops’ music: the band’s playful literacy when it comes to discreet references of rock classics. Nodding one’s head to Jimi Hendrix? Sure. But a title that tips its hat to both Hendrix and Sonic Youth—that’s both disorienting and welcoming, suggesting a space where punk innovation and pre-console guitar heroics are
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equally welcome. The album itself was a gospel-fueled counterpart to the seedier, debauched aesthetic of its predecessor. And Outside Love follows in that tradition, growing even more referential and bolder in its scope. Its leadoff track’s title? “Axis: Thrones of Love.” Its opening line? “How deep is your love.” And the album’s penultimate song has the doubletake-inducing sobriquet “The Gayest of Sunbeams.” “With lyrics, with the rock and roll form, there's three stories that happen—that's it, and everything else is a variation on it,” McBean says. “I love using Biblical references and rock & roll clichés and all that stuff, because, to me, they sound right and they sound good. I don't want to fight them.” Speaking from Vancouver, preparing the latest live incarnation of Pink Mountaintops for a North American tour, McBean talks intensely of his concept of rock music as an escape: “[P]artially, the reason I have this thing about the past is this world before the Internet and all that stuff. There was more space and time to everything. “If something's an obvious burn, there's a good chance I'll throw it away,” he says. “But if it reminds me of something, in a feeling, or something I’m into—I like it when records sound new but take me someplace I feel comforted by.” That search, he argues, applies equally to his own music: “[T]here’s only twelve notes, and there's only so many words that fit into the rock & roll dictionary, before
it doesn't work. There's certain elements I can trace through all of them. In Black Mountain, I can trace a bit of a history to when I was seventeen and into the Sabbath, into the Slayer. “When Jerk With a Bomb started, by that point, I was sick of riffs. I got into lyrics more, that kind of thing. But there was a point where, when Jerk With a Bomb became a three-piece, we had this bottom end that could spread out. Maybe someone who heard Jerk With a Bomb and Black Mountain would think it sounds nothing alike, but I can hear the evolution. Black Mountain, too—the people who play in it—Jeremy [Schmidt] and Matt [Camirand] and Josh and Amber [Webber], add to the sound and the chemistry. A lot of those songs would be way less rockin' or pretty with a different group of people.” As McBean puts it, Black Mountain’s situation, in which the members maintain distinctive projects outside of the band, allows for a stylistic and emotional balance. “Usually by the time either of the bands, whenever something's winding down from tours or whatever, you become totally ready for the other thing. I like the distance and the vague mystery about the Black Mountain stuff. But after a while it starts to get to me, and I feel like I'm in Rush or something.” (He chuckled at this.) “I'm ready to be the lonesome dude with the acoustic guitar. And after a while, I'll do that for a bit, and I'll think, god—shut up. You're driving me crazy.” The question arises, then: when McBean writes, is it generally clear where the song will end up? “Whenever Black Mountain's rehearsing for an album, if I'm writing in my room, usually I'll think immediately which [band]. When we were doing the last album, In the Future, [the song] ‘Stay Free’—I think I'd played it a bunch live at Pink Mountaintops solo shows. At the last second, I thought of it and thought, This should totally be a Black Mountain song. Especially nowadays, there's a lot of different elements—a lot of it has to do with lyrics, where it fits: if Amber's singing it, the words, the collective feel. With [Black Mountain] I'd feel like a fool to go up there and sing a song about some girl who dumped me ten years ago.”
s far as the history of Pink Mountaintops is concerned, the project’s origins were modest. “The thing with the first record: The thought of it and the name came before the music or anything existed,” McBean explained. “I thought, This would be funny. But obviously, you can't do that with every record—I'd feel like a clown up there. I'd say the new one definitely—it's going to that funny plan, the romance novel or whatever, where we play that up with the cover. “There's always something, when you're making records, you'll have a bunch of songs, and they could maybe be your favorite songs that you've written, but they don't—when you put them all together, it's a mess. There's three or four songs that spark the whole process once you have them. It's way easier to go back as new things come up and draw off the influences of the nucleus of the album.” The “romance novel” of which McBean speaks is Outside Love’s cover, which puts the album’s title atop a florid tome swathed in velvet. It’s an idea of romance carried to the point of stylization—the films Tears of the Black Tiger or Far From Heaven might come to mind—and yet, like those films, the emotions that
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the image conveys are ultimately sincere. And in this case, Outside Love takes its inspiration from a wedding. “My friends Cory [Gangnes] and Fiona [Ackerman], who both played in Pink Mountaintops, they got married,” McBean says. “They asked me to be their best man, and they asked [A Silver Mt. Zion’s] Sophie Trudeau to be the maid of honor. And they said, ‘You guys have to play a song at the wedding together.’ And we didn't even really know each other. It was in Montreal, the wedding, and I went out there—I brought an acoustic, she played her violin. We practiced in her living room and played a song at the ceremony, and it was really fun. We were like, We should do a record together. So she came out here and we laid a bunch of stuff down. “Montreal's a very beautiful, romantic, European-like city, you know? And doing a lot of the initial recording with Sophie, I'd never worked with someone playing strings before. It's such a romantic sound, you know? And the chemistry that you can put in a room—there's a very different chemistry if, say, me and Josh [Wells, Black Mountain drummer] are in a room doing some music together, then if you put a man and a woman in a room to be creative together.” Many of the names appearing on Outside Love’s credits will look familiar to longtime followers of McBean’s work, with a handful of additions: Trudeau, as well as New Pornographers/Immaculate Machine vocalist Kathryn Calder and Black Mountain tour mate Jesse Sykes. (Recalls McBean about their first meeting: “I was super-obsessed with the Sunn 0))) & Boris album, and I kept listening to the song that Jesse Sykes sings on it [“Sinking Belle”], over and over again. And we flew over to Europe, and were waiting for our tour to start in Spain at this hotel. We were in the breakfast room, and there were two other people in there, and—you know how you can spot a band from a mile away?”) The recording process, McBean notes, differed significantly from his previous experiences. “The hardest part was actually taking things out of it. On some of the songs, there was too much stuff. It was trying to look past, you know, my ego, or other people's egos, or people's feelings—having to think, This is the song. It's always a drag when you have to say, ‘Sorry I cut out your lick.’ I've never done that before.” Throughout Outside Love, there’s an idealistic elation at the edges. On the title track, Ashley Webber, Sykes, and Trudeau croon, “Someone told me of a dream/ Where outside love reigns supreme.” And following that comes the album’s standout moment, “And I Thank You,” which knowingly invokes both love song clichés and tropes of songs about songs: “Tonight, I’m in love with all the lovers / Just for tonight, we’ll forget all those sad songs.” It builds, rising on subtle pedal steel guitar, to an ecstatic group delivery of the title phrase, again and again a kind of celebration of the communal spirit seen at the best of weddings, of collaborations in remote cities, and, perhaps, made manifest in this album itself. And when McBean discusses his plans for the next Pink Mountaintops album, one gets a sense of where his heart, ultimately, is: “The next one, I really want to do a live, with the band, off-the-floor kind of record in Memphis. Something romantic like that.” The man who wrote “Sweet ‘69” and “New Drug Queens” is a not-so-secret romantic? Amen.
The Passion Of The Pit By Isaac Lekach • Photos By Elizabeth Weinberg
Passion Pit’s singer Michael Angelakos is spending his birthday, which is also the release date of his band’s first full-length album Manners, doing a series of interviews with bandmate Ayad Al Adhamy in the Manhattan offices of their management. “Today is just one of those days that doesn’t end,” he sighs—which isn’t to say he’s unenthused. “I like talking about the album and I like being in a comfortable place, so this is fine,” he assures. That said, if he had his druthers he’d be relaxing somewhere having a nice meal, recovering from last night’s booze cruise in celebration of the new record. “That would make me very happy,” he says. But no such luck. Ever since earning a staggering amount of buzz for their debut EP, the band has been burning the proverbial candle at both ends touring and recording on a maddening loop. Nonetheless, he was a trooper for our interview. So if a mellow dinner is all Angelakos is asking for—I say let him have his cake and eat it, too.
wanted it to be a departure in the sense that we didn’t want to do what most “buzz” bands do, which is record an EP and basically take everything from the EP and record it in a big studio and add five fluff songs. So this was more of a collaborative effort.MA: Yeah and what was fun but challenging about the EP was trying to figure out how in god’s name we’re going to play it live. AAA: It took us four months of practice to figure it out. MA: And we pulled it off. That’s exactly what the record is for. To make sure we can make a really solid record but make sure that all the songs integrate really well to the live setting. I’ve never seen so many synthesizers on stage. I can’t imagine going about translating that to the stage. AAA: Have you seen us live? I saw you on WB’s Rockville. AAA: Ooooh no!
The Chunk Of Change EP got a lot of attention. Did you guys feel any urgency or pressure to put out the new record? Michael Angelakos: It had been done for a very long time and we’d been
playing the material for a very long time. So we were anxious to finish the new record and get it out because it was obviously representative of where we were at that time. It felt like we were being misrepresented. Ayad Al Adhamy: The first copies that you actually made were around April of 2007. At least that’s when I first heard the stuff. MA: The pressure was just that we wanted to make a record that accurately illustrated what we can do. And we
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[Laughs] Why? I thought it sounded great! MA: Thanks! Did you see
the interview I did though?
Yeah, it was awesome.MA: I was like, Man I’m fuckin’ sweating like
Chris Farley or something!
Let’s talk more about the record Manners. There are a lot of flourishes, strings, horns—even a children’s choir. MA: Yeah. This record was always going to be a very— AAA: Large... MA: Yeah,
large. Wait, what does that mean? This record was always going to be something that had to represent where we stood. We just love tons and tons of over-the-top production. We just really get off on that. So it was like, OK now we can afford strings. Now we can afford horns and a children’s choir and bells. That’s why the record is crazy and playful and imperfect. Imperfect? MA: Oh you know there are a lot of little screw-ups
throughout the album. Nothing bad and also not as cool as when a jazz player fucks up. AAA: There’s nothing too bad. It all makes sense. There’s one part I can remember where there are two notes that clash in “To Kingdom Come.” MA: I thought it was in “Swimming In The Flood.” See, this is what I’m talking about. Every record has its fair share of fuck-ups. AAA: I think why it works for us is because Michael writes all the songs and didn’t go to music school, but the rest of us did. That’s the key. You can’t be a good songwriter if you get taught it. MA: Everyone in the band has a specific role. The synergy is there because everyone knows what they’re good at. When it comes to the music, how do you decide who plays what? AAA: We’re all guitarists at heart. We learned music through
playing guitar. This is the first time Ian and I played keyboards in the band. Ian does a lot of the rhythm stuff, because that’s his style of guitar playing and I used to play shred metal so I like the lead lines. Have you guys heard The Langley Schools Music Project CD? MA:
Yeah. When I watched the video on your MySpace page of you guys working with the children’s choir it reminded me of that. Young kids singing cool songs and whatnot. MA: Those kids don’t have a music
program or any kind of emphasis on the arts in their school. This is an after-school program thing and this guy is a really inspiring person because he gets the kids excited about music. They’re not going to get inspired by typical chorale music—that’s just not what they’re growing up listening to. At least they’re singing and are involved with music. So the reason why they worked so well is because they know pop. There are so many cool moments in the video. I remember one kid bugging you for a limousine ride. I particularly liked the shot of you talking to the kid by the water cooler. I don’t know what you were
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talking about, but he seemed enthralled by you. MA: We were talking
about comics [Laughter]. And his dad wrote on our MySpace page, something like, Thanks for talking to my kid. My kid had a great time. Your music’s awesome! It was cool to see the parents getting involved. I was afraid they’d be like, What the fuck is this?!
Why is the record called Manners? MA: Well, you mind your
manners. It’s a way of living. You have to stick to a certain set of rules. Everyone is supposed to know their manners. But the idea for the record is that there’s this really happy, giddy, jubilant music and underneath is this darker more introspected and selfloathing sense of self. And I think the idea is that no matter how you’re feeling you go about your day pretending everything is fine, but really, of course, you’re not fine. Does that make sense? AAA: I’ve actually never heard that that’s the reason. We’ve never really had a discussion about that. I know you’ve gone on record saying the EP was a love letter to your then girlfriend. According to Wikipedia the two of you are no longer together. I was wondering if you had a new muse for this record. MA: I don’t know why that’s on a Wikipedia page. Why is my
personal life on there? I don’t know who the fuck I am. No, we’re not together anymore, but she’s a good friend of mine. AAA: This one is about a relationship with yourself. MA: I always write about other people. I had been going through so much personally and I had this plethora of interesting things happening to me that, I don’t know, they seemed to take over the record, and it’s the first time I’ve ever done that. Of your single “The Reeling,” Jarvis Cocker said, “This is basically ‘Dance’ by Justice, as played by born-again Christians…” would you care to comment? AAA: The fact he listened to it is amazing. I love Pulp. MA: Well, he listened to it because he was doing a weeklong
special with The Guardian. But honestly, I don’t give a fuck. I thought I was going to care. Anyway, that’s my least favorite song. AAA: You can probably bond with him over it. MA: Yeah we can talk about how much we don’t like that song. I don’t know how to pick singles. It’s not what I do. Speaking of—why’d you put “Sleepyhead” on the full length? AAA:
“Sleepyhead” and “Better Things” are bonus tracks. They weren’t technically on the EP. It was kind of in between Chunk Of Change and Manners. MA: We just wanted to make an album that sounded like Justice being played by born-again Christians.
Banner Year By John Z. â€˘ Photos by Matt Salacuse
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o say the Dirty Projectors are having a great year would be an understatement of epic proportions. The Brooklyn-based outfit recently returned from a successful tour of Europe that kicked off just days after a triumphant set at SXSW. The band debuted a number of songs from their new record, Bitte Orca, in Texas, including its eminently danceable lead single, “Stillness is the Move.” With “record of the year” talk swirling after the festival, the band continued to raise eyebrows with high-profile collaborations—one with rock god David Byrne on the hugely popular Dark Was The Night compilation, and the other with Iceland’s wayward queen of pop, Björk. Dirty Projectors and Björk collaborated not at a big-time event, but rather an intimate benefit performance at a New York City bookstore called Housing Works. They played a song Projectors’ front man David Longstreth wrote for Björk at her request. Strangely enough, he didn’t finish until a few weeks before the performance. “Ideas take a little time to incubate,” Longstreth said. “This is always the way stuff happens—kind of a coming together at the last minute.” During the summer months, the Dirty Projectors are hitting the road to open for TV On The Radio before embarking on their own tour to support their sixth record, which was recorded in both Brooklyn and Portland. Death+Taxes sat down with Longstreth—who is as bright and engaging as you would expect—at a Brooklyn café he frequents whenever he’s in town. You just got back from Europe—how was touring on the new material? It was totally awesome. It was really cool to play the
songs that are new at South by Southwest. Some of them we had just not even played yet, and it’s like—the songs are sort of at a point where it’s like, you don’t even know if they’re really music yet. And then you play it in front of people and people fucking loved it, so it felt so good.
You recorded some of the record in Brooklyn and some in Portland. Why did you decide to split it between here and there? It just
worked out that way. We recorded all the vocals and most of the guitars and stuff in Portland because I was kind of living there last summer, and then we finished it here, and actually did the drums here at the very beginning of the album. It’s just kind of being in various places at various times.
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How long was your writing process? And the ideas that came out on this record—were they ideas you had sitting around for some time, or was it all fresh? It’s pretty fresh. I guess I wrote a lot of the basic
skeletons of songs when we were on tour for Rise Above in the last year and a half, and a lot of them actually in a cluster last January. And then—yeah, it’s just about kind of letting another part or a counter-melody suggest itself. It takes a little time to incubate.
Why did you guys decide to release “Stillness is the Move” first? You don’t sing on it—the women in the band are showcased. I guess a
couple reasons. I like to constantly do new things. I like to circle a core through constantly different approaches, time and again. It’s also just sort of in keeping with the feeling of the album as a whole, which is way more just direct and kind of, like, saying what we have to say in the most direct terms possible, you know what I mean? And that song just always felt like the one. With a lot of the stuff that you’ve written for this record, are there some songs that didn’t make the cut, and are we going to see them down the road as B-sides or remixes? Totally. There are like three
or four songs that we recorded in this time period, and it was more a question of just this album should feel a certain way, and be a certain length. Some of the songs that we left off are some of my favorites. So I think that we’re going to put out an EP in a couple months or have them be B-sides to other singles.
Your band mate, Angel Deradoorian, released her record a month before the Dirty Projectors. You also worked on that record, right?
Yeah, I recorded it with her. Right after the first mixing session for Bitte Orca, I actually came back from Portland with all my shit, and I got the engineer that we were using for Bitte Orca to come out from Portland and we recorded it in about five days. Do you think it’s refreshing for members of the band to release music outside of the Dirty Projectors? I guess so. It’s sort of a different set
of things. I think that Angel is just kind of seeing a place for her own—you know, she hasn’t really, necessarily, written songs. This is her first sort of foray into it, so it’s pretty cool. I’m proud of her.
Prior to this record you released Rise Above, which was your take on Damaged by Black Flag. There’s a lot of passionate Black Flag fans out there. Were they offended by the way you interpreted Rollins and that record? We definitely got some really funny hate mail to
our MySpace account and things like that. Just people being like, What the fuck! Who do you think you are, you’re desecrating this music! To me, there’s an irony there, which just doesn’t seem very punk, to be codifying Black Flag as some sort of institution to be
“Yeah, yeah, we’re putting the album out on tape because I feel tapes are awesome. And if people are going for a jog or something I want them to be able to listen to it on their Walkman.” revered. So I always have to laugh when I get a reaction like that. But Rollins himself heard it, when we were playing in Austin one time. A friend of mine works at a record store there. I guess Rollins was maybe doing spoken word the next day, or something like that, and right as my friend was pressing play on Rise Above to pregame for the show or whatever, Rollins walks in. And he kind of looked up at the speakers and laughed.
she had been listening to Rise Above, and of course, I’ve loved her music for like a decade. I feel like it’s been super formative in my own stuff. And we have another mutual friend named Brandon Stousy who writes for Stereogum. He was kind of curating the Housing Works show and he had the idea of bringing us together.
When you were recording vocals, did you try to channel the inner Rollins by putting on those silky biker shorts? Yeah, just the shortest
these causes in various ways. It’s also just really cool that they’re artistically fulfilling as well. Super exciting.
He was pretty tough back then with the long hair, I mean, you gotta give it to him. The combination of the hair and the Umbros was so
Didn’t he at one point have the Janet Jackson-like headphone set thing strapped on when they played live? Did he? I hadn’t seen that.
I mean, I guess for me, it’s all about Ginn—Greg Ginn—in that band. He’s definitely just like the hesher visionary. [Laughs] I know Bitte Orca leaked online, but you’re also doing some crazy marketing by putting it out on tape, right? Yeah, yeah, we’re putting
the album out on tape because I feel tapes are awesome. And if people are going for a jog or something I want them to be able to listen to it on their Walkman. When’s the cassette going to drop? [Laughs] I think just the
same time as the rest of the album. And it’s going to come with a download code, same as the vinyl. But I just feel a cassette—tape compression on those things is so gorgeous and unique. Also a huge inspiration to the album was Dirt, by Alice in Chains. I had that on cassette when I was in middle school. So, yeah, I don’t know, it just felt appropriate.
Is there going to be a cas-single for “Stillness is the Move”? I know you laugh, but you probably had a couple back in the day. Of course,
man. Fat Boys “Wipeout” on cas-single. Yeah. I mean, I think that’s going to happen for “Stillness is The Move.”
The band has an exciting couple of months coming—tour with TV On The Radio, just got back from the UK, and you guys were involved in some pretty good projects in May. How did you guys get involved in the Housing Works thing? Well, I guess Björk and I had just been
corresponding a little bit. I met her in the UK—she came to one of our shows with Battles. But yeah, we had been corresponding,
How important do you feel it is for you and your band to reach out to others and give back? It’s neat. I’m really glad that we can help out
You also did a song, “Knotty Pine,” with David Byrne. What was that like? I mean the guy’s a genius. Were you a little bit nervous going in?
Not really. He’s a really approachable guy and also very open to a creative exchange of ideas. It was neat to write the song together. We were on tour most of the time, so I would just write a melody and send it to him, and he would turn it his own way and send it back. There were a couple rounds of that. I guess in between designing bike racks in the city he had time to get back to you, right? I know—it’s amazing. I don’t know how he does
everything he does.
So you’ve got the tour with TV On The Radio, and you guys are doing Central Park Summer Stage. That’s a pretty cool way to spend the summer—are you looking forward to it? I think it’s going to be an
awesome summer. It’ll also be cool to tour northern Canada. The Canadian Rockies, I’ve never seen. There’s that Byrds song about the Canadian Rockies that I’ll finally be able to feel [Laughs]. And also, yeah, those high prairie cities—I’m just super-psyched to see that part of the world. I’ve just never seen it.
Do you try to write some music? I do end up writing a lot of weird
little fragments in hotel rooms or wherever we’re staying, and I love to read on tour. Although there was one seven or eight week European tour we did at one point that was so long, and I had inadvertently brought just like the most apocalyptic literature on it—The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman, which is all about if every human disappeared from the world right now, how long it would take to go back to nature. I brought that, and this Jared Diamond book about the collapse of various civilizations. You know, just like the most depressing literature.
Was that a winter tour in Europe? Even worse, it was like late summer, through fall and into winter. That was bad, so I’m going to be careful to bring more inspiring shit this time.
Shortly after last New Year the Internet went ablaze with chatter about a new song called “Gifted.” While attention for its cameos outshined the song’s producers—Kanye West, Lykke Li and Santigold all performed—the name N.A.S.A spread quickly as one of the most exciting new bands of 2009 when it became clear that there was a lot more where “Gifted” came from. Turns out it wasn’t so much a band as a giant
collaboration by some of the coolest musicians and artists anywhere, with everybody orbiting around DJs Squeak E. Clean and Zegon. The pair had, by some miracle, convinced the most sought-after heavyweights from every corner of the musical universe, some of whom you’ll see on the following pages, to perform on their record. Filling out the visual component, they had enlisted Shepard Fairey and Marcel Dzama to create music videos for a couple of the songs. So when The Spirit of Apollo
finally came out in February, it smashed the galaxy open like a supernova— right? Not so much, actually. It was very good—as good as you’d hope it would be. But it never did send Squeak and Zegon to the moon as was so widely expected last winter. What happened to this Apollo mission? How did a record this good, with these artists, get lost in space? And will it ever find its rightful place in the universe?
N.A.S.A. PHOTO• LAUR A COSTA
DJ Squeak E. Clean grew up in Maryland and DJ Zegon grew up in Brazil. The former gained fame after collaborating with brother Spike Jonze to produce the Adidas commercial "Hello Tomorrow," featuring a score sung by Karen O. He later worked with her again when he produced the Yeah Yeah Yeahs sophomore album, Show Your Bones. The latter is a professional skateboarder turned musician who spun records across Brazil before touring with rap/rockers Planet Hemp in the mid-nineties. They met one balmy night at a party in São Paulo and decided to pursue a project designed to bring people together through music and art—amidst Brazilian funk and soul, N.A.S.A was born.
By Brian Frazer • Photos by Ray Lego
David Byrne PHOTO • JA MES DAY
David Byrne is a legend. Sure, his post-Talking Heads solo albums yielded some of the best songs he’s ever written, but he’s also grown into one of the only modern artists you can call a “renaissance man” with a straight face. He’s managed to dig into a dizzyingly wide spectrum of endeavors—art, theater, industrial design, film scoring, promoting bicycling, writing books—all while strengthening his vitality and relevance to youth music culture along the way. Byrne’s iconic status conferred serious credibility to his recent collaborations with young bands like Dirty Projectors (for the Dark Was The Night compilation) and N.A.S.A. The Spirit of Apollo features Byrne on its first two tracks—“The People Tree” and “Money,” a well-timed indictment of the pitfalls of a money-hungry society.
M AY/J U N e 2 0 0 9 • ( L ) P H O T O B Y K E V I N Z A C H E R • ( R ) B Y B R I A N A P P I O
Lykke Li PHOTO • SIOBH AN O'BR IEN
Since breaking out with last year’s dance-inducing album Youth Novels, Sweden’s darling Lykke Li hasn’t sat still. She’s circled the globe touring, performed on most of the late night talk shows and even found time to record on the N.A.S.A. track “Gifted,” which also features Santigold and 26
ZACH GALIFIANAKIS actor, stand-up COMEDIAN
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Kanye West. Of the collaboration, Lykke Li explains, “I came straight from a tour in England and thought I’d write some lyrics in the taxi from the airport. Which I did—the only thing is that I forgot the note in the car.”
Things To Make One Feel Better: Eat an ice cream sandwich in the shower. If that does not work, then: Travel to Little Rock, Arkansas and wait for something outrageous to happen and then look at the person next to you and say, "Only in New York." If that does not work, try: When you see someone reading People or Us Weely magazine try lighting it on fire. Get a GED for a lawn mower. Open a locksmith company and call it Sure Lock Homes. Let diarrhea just happen—where and whenever. Tell your parents that even though they have ruined your last six Christmases you still think they are wonderful.
DJ Squeak E. Clean then proposed getting some sushi and wine to calm the frazzled singer. “While eating and getting a little tipsy, some lyrics came to me.” And that, as they say, was that.
Ghostface KILLAH PHOTO • BR IAN A PPIO
Look at the dude. That’s a four-knuckle ring right there. And, as usual, Ghost has more bling on than Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. On the track “The Mayor” GFK spits those high-pitched, streamof-conscience lyrics so many of us New York City hooligans grew up on in the nineties. (All the blunts burned to Ironman and Cuban Links could have very well blown a hole in the ozone.) Even though The Spirit of Apollo is dedicated to the global community, it’s always a treat hearing Ghost tip his hat to NYC. And it sure beats that track he did with Jodeci.
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Santigold PHOTO • Elizabeth W einberg
When M.I.A. sings, “No one on the corner has swagger like us,” the “us” she’s referring to clearly includes Santigold. The Wesleyan double major has played in a punk band, produced a hip-hop record for Res, written songs for everyone from Gza and Lily Allen to Ashlee Simpson, and performed on countless collaborations—not to mention that her 2008 solo debut was one of the best-loved, genrebending records of the year. Who else can move fluidly between tours with M.I.A, Jay-Z and Kanye West to tours with Björk, Coldplay and Architecture in Helsinki? Santigold struts her swagger for N.A.S.A. on “Whatchadoin,” appropriately alongside M.I.A. And “Gifted” finds her at her genre-defying best, with her vocals bridging the gap between Kanye West and Lykke Li and adding a special sauce that makes the whole song gel.
Kanye West PHOTO • RAY LEGO
Kanye West has a massive ego. In case we forgot, or somehow neglected to recognize it, West reminds us on the song “Gifted.” “I’m gifted—Merry Christmas,” he affirms, just before the song soars into the chorus. But beyond arrogance, which at this point is almost comical, the producer-turned-rapper also has a great ear for production—or maybe just an affinity for dynamite duos. Last year, we caught him hobknobbing with the Justice camp at their NYC show. And prior to that he sampled Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” for his 2007’s massive single “Stronger.” So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to find West’s verbose rhymes on The Spirit of Apollo. Heck, West probably had his people call their people. “I could never be too big for my britches. Ya’ll motherfuckers know who this is,” he raps. Yes, Kanye—we sure do. Just don’t let it get to your head. Oh wait. Too late.
Tom Waits PHOTO • Danny Clinch
Tom Waits is a poet, songwriting machine, and, yes, kind of a god. He’s definitely in the top twenty of integral spirits of rock & roll. In fact, if you haven’t drowned your sorrows to Rain Dogs, what can be said of you? The menacing riff on N.A.S.A. track “Spacious Thoughts” sounds custom made for Waits, who snarls the chorus like an un-caged lion and, during his verse, howls the lyrics, “Strangling the monkey with the hands of a clock.” Whoa. Try covering that, Rod Stewart.
By Isaac Lekach â€˘ Photos By Ray Lego
Annie Clark takes center stage.
Annie Clark is seated in a popular Brooklyn restaurant called Marlow & Sons, which serves meat platters, cheese platters, oysters and curiously named adult beverages like “The Gay Monday.” It’s a pleasant little haunt, a local favorite—one which has endeared itself to the Brooklyn-via-Texas transplant better known as St. Vincent. Judging solely by her musical output, which is steeped in eerie, otherworldly instrumentation, one would expect Clark to be someone she is not—a recluse musician with an affinity for eccentric things like transcendental meditation, or the avantgarde films of Craig Baldwin. Though her new album Actor has a discernable cinematic quality—it was inspired by movies—it stems from earnest influences. Clark is anything but pretentious. Through the course of our conversation and even throughout the story’s photo shoot, she reveals herself to be a gentle and personable soul. When the photographer mistakenly thinks they’ve met previously, her first instinct is to agree—to re-connect. “Remember, I shot you with your last band?” “Oh yes, okay! Remind me where?” “In Florida, on the steps by those bulls. Remember?” "Hmm… I think so… bulls?” “You were all running past the bulls.” “You know what,” she offers, almost apologetically, “I don’t think I was there. But it’s okay, there were a lot of us in that band.” It’s true—Clark did begin her career in the pop circuit as one of many players touring with The Polyphonic Spree and then with Sufjan Stevens. But her creative vision and ambition quickly catapulted her into a different stratosphere, and with 2007’s Marry Me she grew into a celebrated artist in her own right. Actor has already yielded considerable praise and is just as elaborate as her debut, if not more. It begins with a haunting chorale and is filled with sweeping string and woodwind arrangements that ebb and flow, both seamlessly and frenetically. The record grew from her love of movies, and, as she explains, started as an experiment in which she would watch her favorite movies with the sound off and write her own scores to accompany them. Being a new exercise, the sound is a departure from Marry Me, but it retains the elements that make Annie Clark unique—her gentleness, soulfulness, and propensity for unusual sonic palates. Toward the end of Actor, Clark sings, “I’m just the same, but brand new,” which seems like an apt description for her second album. The one constant throughout Clark’s oeuvre is her virtuosic vocal performance. But beyond the ethereal voice, behind the pseudonym and layers of ornate instrumentation, is a former Berklee School of Music student—a young woman who kids and jokes and fields interviews from her favorite restaurant. As we discussed the intricacies of Actor, Clark ruminated about the roles we play in life—she offered romantic advice, encouraging me to become the strong, silent type—and even cast herself as the lead in a fantasy family, with Matt Berninger from The National
as her older brother and John Congleton from The Paper Chase beating out David Cross for the role of husband. Can you remember when you first got interested in music? The first
records I ever bought—well, I guess at that point it would have been tapes—were Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the soundtrack to the motion picture La Bamba.
Whoa. Yeah. I knew because of Ritchie Valens that I wanted to play music. Was it the sort of thing where you begged your parents for an instrument and dove right in? I subtly started dropping hints. I was
very crafty as a kid. I’d make my own guitars out of cardboard, play them in the background, hoping they’d catch the hint and then they finally did. Seven years later. So how old where you when you actually started playing? Twelve. And St. Vincent started how many years after that? Nine. No, eleven
Was St. Vincent your first foray into writing your own material? No.
I’ve been writing since I started playing.
I have your first release, the three-song EP. On the back there’s an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org—does that still exist?
I had to shut that down because it became a spam trap. No one was ever actually writing to me. So you didn’t get any love letters? No. And I don’t need a bigger
penis. It was just spam all the time.
Let’s talk about the new record. I started watching some of my favorite films on mute and scoring various scenes from them. Then I started taking a real interest in acting and casting and what it would be like to direct a film. So I started reading all these books on how to direct films and what makes a good drama and what makes a good story. Typically what makes a good story is the arc of human drama—what does the character want and how do they get it? A good story isn’t necessarily about a winner winning or nice people doing nice things to other nice people. It’s kind of about how life actually is. Winners losing. Or losers losing. Or losers winning. I wanted to make something that was more human and more accurate to the human condition. Did you write from the perspective of different characters? I think
the plot line may be a little different, but essentially you are writing about yourself and your own experience even if you change the details and fabricate this or leave out that.
J U L Y / A U G 2 0 0 9 M U S I C • S t y l i n g b y C a r m e l L o b e l l o • G r o o ming by D eborah A lti z io
â€œI wrestle with wanting things to be clean and controlled and orchestrated and wanting things to get really out of hand and bloody.â€?
Kevin Barnes said something similar with regards to Skeletal Lamping. Of course, he’s singing about transgender, transsexual characters, but he said that essentially, since he wrote the songs, they are all extensions of himself. I haven’t heard it yet, but I love Kevin. One of my favorite songs on Actor is “The Strangers.” There’s a lyric in the song that really resonated with me. “What do I share? What do I keep from all the strangers who sleep where I sleep?” I had just
moved to New York and was just settling in and was very aware of how we have to share our space—way more than living in Texas or living any place where four hundred square feet seems like a small amount. I think as much as you think you know someone or know your friends you’ll always be wrestling with this sense of alienation.
I thought the lyric was referring to a romantic relationship. I guess that’s just the way I am in a relationship. Questioning everything— like I smoked too much pot. [Laughs] There’s definitely that—how
truthful can you be with someone else? How truthful are you with yourself?
Hey, I’ll buy you a tuna sandwich if you play French horn on my record. It was that kind of interchange with everybody. So that’s how I ended up with those people. There are fewer players on this last record than it seems like. I worked mostly with McKenzie Smith from Midlake. I toured with Midlake a couple years ago and they’re just wonderful. I love Mckenzie’s drumming. Such a sexy little swagger. John Congleton, who I know from working on the Polyphonic Spree’s third record, is a dear. We’re going to get married. He doesn’t know it yet. I thought you were holding out for David Cross? Oh my god! Oh my god! Yeah, he is a babe …fingers crossed. He’s my number two. I really hope the Arrested Development connection pays off.* I hear they’re making a movie—maybe I can be George Michael’s love interest. Which do you prefer? Playing with full band or with all the gadgets?
In this case I think I’ll prefer playing with the full band because I spent so much time on the arrangements that I want to make sure they get the face time they deserve. I definitely enjoy playing solo but it’s different. You have to distill and take what’s essential about the song. I think what’s essential about these songs are the interludes of woodwinds.
“How truthful can you be with someone else? How truthful are you with yourself?” Personally, I try to be as forthcoming as possible. That’s probably why they run from me. [Laughs] Aww, I’m sorry about that. I know you cited Prince and old Disney films as influences for Actor. I definitely hear the Disney element, particularly within the arrangements for the wind instruments, but I can’t say I hear Prince.
Well, I love Prince, but that comment I made …isn’t actually all that accurate. So you like to mess with journalists? [Laughs] Yeah. I love Prince,
but I was more inspired by Stravinsky and Robert Fripp.
This record has more of an intense vibe than Marry Me. The song “Black Rainbow” in particular really builds in that way. I wrestle
with wanting things to be clean and controlled and orchestrated and wanting things to get really out of hand and bloody. I was inspired by the Bride Of Frankenstein horror film, but it seemed like a natural progression for where that song needed to go. The narrative is ostensibly about burning a house down, so the end is the flames.
How did you get connected with all the musicians who played on your records? A lot of the people I had play on the first record were
my friends from The Polyphonic Spree. I didn’t have any money to make the first record—I wasn’t signed or anything. It was like,
Anything you’d like to do before you leave for tour? Actually, I have
plans to see a couple of friends. My dance card is full.
I know you spent some time overseas with The National. How was that? Oh, they’re pros.
They’re such delightful people. I love that band.
Did the opportunity to work on the Dark Was The Night compilation they put together ever come up? Well, I did a thing for the Merge
compilation with Matt Berninger [The National’s singer]. We did a Crooked Fingers song, “Sleep All Summer.” Matt is just—I wish he was my older brother.
I wish he could talk to me every night as I went to sleep. I love his
voice. I’m going to ask him if he’ll be my older brother.
You’re assembling your own cast of potential lovers, brothers—the whole family! Well, that about wraps it up for me. Thank you. It was
super pleasant. I wish you luck in your endeavors. Maybe you can be the strong, silent type. The mysterious stranger. You mean in my romantic endeavors? Yeah.
Oh gosh. I don’t think I could be. You know the part in Almost Famous where the William Miller character goes on a rant about how he’s “dark and mysterious—the enemy!” and he’s reaching for this character that he’s clearly not because he’s cute and friendly?
Yeah. I’m not saying I’m cute and friendly, but I don’t think I can pull off being dark and mysterious. But I’ll try. [Laughs] Let me know how
*Editor's note: The title of St. Vincent's debut Marry Me is an Arrested Developement reference.
The Fresh Prince of
Chris Kattan is back By Steve Basilone â€˘ Photos by Kevin Zacher
f the many adjectives that come to mind when one hears the name Chris Kattan, subtle is generally not high on that list. From his eight-year stint on Saturday Night Live, Kattan proved to be a manic performer, fully committing himself to a bevy of crazed characters. Whether he was flinging his body around as a unibrowed missing link, bobbing his head and dry humping with his shiny suited partner, or parading about as an effeminate male stripper with a fruity name, Kattan demonstrated a knack for physical comedy akin to that of the Keystone Cops or even The Three Stooges. Wearing warm-up pants and a T-shirt, there was nothing particularly manic about Kattan when he strolled into a Sunset Boulevard deli to discuss his newest project, a meta-comedy mini-series for IFC called Bollywood Hero set to air in August. In fact, the only bit of physical comedy came in the form of an unfortunate incident in which Kattan accidentally spilled chicken matzoh ball soup onto my newly purchased digital recorder (the recorder was fine, and I’m told the soup was delicious). In the vein of comedies like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Extras, Bollywood follows the misadventures of comedic actor, Chris Kattan (or at least a facsimile thereof). Yearning to be a leading man and tired of being relegated to laughable roles like a condom huckster and an ALF-ish alien for a sci-fi show, Kattan jumps at the opportunity to go to Mumbai to star in a Bollywood movie called Peculiar Dancing Boy. It wouldn’t be a huge leap of faith to assume that the actual Kattan is not altogether different from what we see onscreen. After all, Kattan’s good friend Maya Rudolph plays his fictional best friend, and his actual father plays his father. Though the real Kattan doesn’t seem to be pining after leading Keanu Reeves-y roles, he does seem to have evolved beyond the frenetic ball of energy we’ve become accustomed to seeing in Mr. Peepers form. And while there is love and dancing and most of the things that you would expect to find in a traditional fish-out-of-water comedy, don’t start groaning yet. Bollywood Hero isn’t just “Mango’s Wild Ride Through India.” Instead, it proves to be a journey where life and art are muddled, just as a comic—both real and fictional— discovers that it’s not always about the laughs. What was the catalyst for Bollywood Hero? Our producers came to me about this idea about a guy who would leave Hollywood and pursue a business in Bollywood. But they were looking for someone who had a physical comedy capability of some sort. And they were also looking for someone who could involve their personal life a little bit. They didn’t really know much about my personal life, but I thought the idea was nice. So after a few years—we eventually came up with a solid story. Then we went and did the pitching and stuff like that. And the great thing about IFC was that they were really smart and had good taste.
Obviously. Not just for me, but you know they do—they have good
taste. IFC really let this be what it has become. And it’s really turned out to be something special. Along the way we just made the characters breathe. I’m really good at dialogue because I can take things from my personal life and experiences, but I’m not the best at creating a grounding for stuff. But they had the great groundwork, so I was able to just come and add some colors to the characters. Because I’m definitely not practical when it comes to plot issues, but I’m good at the funny.
In Bollywood Hero you play yourself—you play Chris Kattan. How much did other meta-based shows like Curb or Extras or even Entourage influence your development process? Those are great
shows and great examples of what really works when it comes to cool banter and good rapport. Chemistry is really important. I mean, there’s not a whole lot of monologue writers these days. What my friend, (actor/writer) Justin Theroux, did with Iron Man was cool. Even though it’s this huge budget film, there’s this cool overlapping banter that really works. And Curb and Extras has that element—it just feels free. It’s natural and grounded and human. In Bollywood Hero everyone has more levels.
Curb definitely has a heightened reality, where often there’s a lot of shouting. And that’s obviously a skewed perspective on what reality is… But it’s his reality. And this (Bollywood) is my reality. But we
never thought, What if this guy was a fish out of water in India? It wasn’t like that—there were no surface jokes. It was all about how would I react to a situation personally if I really were in a situation in India. It was never about silly shtick-y stuff like, Oh, I can’t work this phone, or traffic is crazy, or look at this sandwich, the meat is bigger then the bread! Those kind of silly jokes run out in about two minutes. This wasn’t about that—this was about what would really happen if you and I were in another country. So we never really thought, Is that a funny bit? Because funny came out of all these real moments and real reactions. That’s why it was such a great lesson for me too, in writing it, and they let me be a producer in it—which was fantastic, because they trusted my protection of the storytelling—but I learned so much about just letting the story be told. You have to be able to fall back on strong characters and you have to care for their journey, and then you can laugh. I’m educated through the Groundlings and SNL, so I never really thought about if I really cared about this person. I just wanted to get the laugh. Right, it’s two minutes in and out. Yeah, if you don’t get the laughs, get out. And that’s how I was trained. So it was nice to be something that was myself and not always funny. But, you know, it was still funny, and at times even funnier because it was real. So you really reveled in getting to explore something in a longer platform? Yeah, it was really refreshing. I learned to be more
confident and trust my instincts. I think being in another country
J U L Y / A U G 2 0 0 9 • S t y l i n g b y A N I T A P A T R I C K S O N • G r o o ming by J O A N N A P E N S I N G E R
“For once in my life, I guess I don’t need to be funny.” and doing our homework was so helpful. There’s a big element of romantic comedy in the show, so the actors and I were like, Let’s watch Adam’s Rib tonight, and tomorrow let’s watch Rushmore— let’s watch Manhattan and then tomorrow let’s watch Bringing Up Baby. And the other actors were really into it—we all just wanted to make it the best possible thing that we could. What was your relationship to India prior to shooting? I think that
was another reason the producers approached me, because I had already been in India. I was there with my ex-wife, and we went to Agra and Ratanpur and Jaipur and all those places. And we saw the Taj and went to Varanasi and it was really cool, but we were tourists, you know? It was beautiful, but you know we had a tour guide and everything. But with this experience, we were in Mumbai, and you could really see what India was about. You could see the poverty and the slums and the caste system. You’d walk out your door and see a kid with one arm or a six-year-old prostitute—seriously—and then in about a week you’d process that and kind of get over it and just understand that, well, that’s the rest of the world I guess. It was a far different experience then watching about it on TV here or going to a charity and talking about it. But, you know, then there’s the other side of Mumbai, which is the luxury of all these Bollywood stars. So… It was quite a dichotomy? Yeah, I’m just really lucky to have lived in that. It was such a great experience. You mentioned your training. Talk about how your stint on SNL and your schooling in the Groundlings prepared you for this. Well it’s
not that all of Bollywood is super funny. Because I come out, when I’m doing the editing, and feel like it needs to be funnier. But they tell me, “Yeah but Chris, people are loving it, it doesn’t need to be funny.” And I’m like, for once in my life, I guess I don’t need to be funny. And it’s weird because the whole story is kind of about that. You know, it’s about this guy who goes to Bollywood to be a leading man and in the end realizes that he doesn’t have to be funny. And that’s kind of what happened to me as well. Of course, now that’s all over, because I’m back in LA. I’m back for two weeks and I can’t stop getting on my Blackberry.
Maya Rudolph plays your best friend in this, but you also had some fun cameos. How did you attract the likes of Keanu Reeves? Well it’s
not a broad comedy, you know, it’s very rooted. And the cameos we got were not big and broad people. Maya did her part, and Keanu Reeves did a thing and Andy Samberg did a bit, but they did it because it sounded cool.
You mentioned your dad—he actually plays your dad on the show. How was that? He was one of the first Groundlings, so I owe a lot
of my continual neurotic pursuit of wanting to be funny to him. So I blame him and praise him for that. He was, of course, beside himself that he was working with Maya Rudolph and that Keanu Reeves was in the same two minutes with him. He’s a little overthe-top, which is expected and fine, you know, because he’s my father, but he’s hilarious and people love him in it.
So if this goes well, would this be the kind of world you would like to delve into more? Or even develop it into a series? I have no idea.
I hope a lot of people see it. I know that the people who do see it will love it. It’s nice to just be happy with the project, as opposed to having to sell something crappy. But who knows what’s next. Maybe I’ll go to China? Maybe they come here? I don’t know, maybe I go to China to try to break into Chinese movies? But is that too jokey? I mean, this whole thing was kind of just based on a joke but it developed into a nice little movie. So I don’t know how you could do the same idea again. As you move forward, what are you most excited about? Well, I like
that it looks really good! The DP was awesome.
Yeah, it looks great. IFC must have really put some money down.
Yeah, they put some money into it. But the DP we got is this guy named Tobey. He’s from Israel, and he was fucking awesome. That was one thing I wanted from the beginning. I mean we’re in India! You have a beautiful country with all these amazing colors as your backdrop. L.A. looks all right in the show, but there’s a lot of grey’s and stuff, and the whole thing really comes to life when we get to India. Which is kind of true of the story as well. There’s a lot of art imitating life kind of stuff in the show. For example, there’s this guy who owns Holloway Cleaners on Santa Monica, and there’s this Indian guy who works there. And years ago he was like, Chris you should do a Bollywood movie! And I was like, I have no idea what that is. And I kind of dismiss him as this snotty little Kattan, like, I’ve got to go to Teddy’s tonight, why are you talking to me about this. You know, and then cut to me in Mumbai and out of this elevator comes the same guy! This actually happened. Yeah that makes sense—it’s a small place. Yeah, and he’s like, Chris Kattan, what are you doing here? And I told him that I was there doing a Bollywood movie. And he was like, Oh my God, you remember how I was telling you you had to do one?! It was fucking crazy. That guy should get an associate producer credit. I know. All this
weird shit was happening.
It felt pre-ordained. Felt kind of destined. Yeah, for me at least. It
was special for me.
Bollywood Hero runs August 6th 7th and 8th on IFC
AU REVOIR HELLO SIMONE SUMMER Photos by Tom Hines â€˘ Styling by Michelle Lane
If Jean-Luc Goddard or Francois Truffaut had ever needed to cast a pop band in any of their movies, surely they would have cast Au Revoir Simone. From their name to their intimate songs to their impeccable taste in fashion, the band seems as if born into a European movie. Our advice: make their fantastic new record Still Night, Still Light, the soundtrack to your summer and take some style cues from the next twelve pages.
On Heather: Top by Vena Cava, Pants by APC, Necklace by Karen Walker On Annie: Dress by Steven Alan, Shoes by APC, Sunglasses by Ray-Ban On Erika: Tank by 3.1 Phillip Lim, Pants by Sea, Necklace by Michelle Lane
All by APC
On Erika: Dress by Lover
On Annie: Blouse by Lover, Jeans by Levi's, Bag by APC On Erika: Jumpsuit by 3.1 Philip Lim, Sunglasses by Ray-Ban, Gold Bracelet by Zoe Chicco On Heather: Blazer by Steven Alan, Dress by 3.1 Phillip Lim, Hat by Suwha, Bangle by 3.1 Phillip Lim
On Annie: Scarf by Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Coat by APC, Dress by Steven Alan, Shoes by APC On Heather: Trenchcoat by Lover, Pants APC On Erika: Coat by APC, Pants by Sea
On Annie: Dress by 3.1 Phillip Lim
On Annie: Top by Lover, Jeans by Levi's On Erika: Sunglasses by Ray-Ban, Jumpsuit by 3.1 Phill-ip Lim On Heather: Blazer by Steven Alan, Straw Hat by Suwha
On Annie: Dress by 3.1 Phillip Lim On Erika: Dress by Lover
Happiness Project Charles Spearin & The Sound Of Music By Isaac Lekach • Photos By Norman Wong
he overhead fan in my bathroom emits a bass-y, monotonous drone whenever it’s turned on. The sound, which is produced by the electrical ballast found in light fixtures, never varies, and always whirs the same vrrrnn, without fail. Tonally, the sound registers as B natural, and I only know this because a musician friend of mine found the corresponding note on my piano. If not for him, I probably would have never made the connection that anything audible is musical. In fact, unless you were born with perfect pitch—the facility to identify musical notes without the aid of an instrument—chances are you would never make the connection, either. But every sound, from the one my fan makes to a car’s honk, has a musical equivalent—even the spoken word. Broken Social Scene’s Charles Spearin explores this on his album The Happiness Project. Spearin, who doesn’t have perfect pitch, recorded conversations with his family and neighbors, spent hours transcribing the musical notation, and with the assistance of a ten-piece band, crafted songs using the original recorded dialogue as a foundation. Each track on the album is named after its subject. Mrs. Morris bookends the record. Spearin’s own daughter Ondine even makes an appearance, in which her cries for butter are mimicked fluidly by a weeping violin. The remarkable thing about The Happiness Project is that all of its participants are given individual treatment. Everyone is honored by distinctive instrumentation and carefully arranged orchestration to compliment their sentiments and musicality. In the end, Spearin found that the sounds people make when speaking are uniquely melodic and ornately woven—almost as if by accident. How long did you spend figuring out the notes? A minute of
conversation takes about an hour.
Is that why you selected bits from the conversations? At first I was
J U LY/A U G 2 0 0 9
just trying to find moments that had the most interesting melody. The first interview I did was with Mr. Gowrie who lives across the street. Basically, I just figured it out on guitar and then I took away the voice and just listened back to the guitar to try and find the melody. I’m happy with the way it worked out, but then I found that it didn’t quite credit what he was saying enough. I wanted to take the meaning of what they were saying a little more seriously because people started saying such wonderful things and I didn’t want to disregard the meaning of what they were saying just to listen to the melody. Did you ask everyone the same questions? I didn’t have any set
questions when I talked to them. I just invited them over, set up a microphone and had a half an hour conversation about whatever.
How did the theme of happiness present itself? The theme wasn’t quite so specifically happiness. It was kind of what’s important in life. The subject of happiness was talked about specifically with a couple of people and then my friends started hearing it and calling it my happiness project. I do like the topic of happiness because it’s so universal and people don’t generally get their guard up when they’re talking about it. If you’re talking about religion or politics or something that might be important to people they tend to get defensive. Did you already have musical ideas, or did the tonality of the person’s voice generate the compositions? There were no preexisting
musical ideas. The point of it was to have the voice as the foundation. I’d listen to the voice and find the melody and it was kind of interesting to figure out what key the person was talking in. And once you’ve got the rhythm and the key you just had to find a chord progression that works with it.There were times with Mr. Gowrie and the end of Marissa for example where the voice doesn’t play such an important part in the music. But it is still the basis. Like when she says, “Send me home. Send me home” Those are just two notes. [Spearin begins singing] Da da da. Da da da. So I took
that rhythm and repeated it and used that as the basis. All the other melodies are written around it, but it still came from the voice first. There’s a part in “Mr. Gowrie” I really enjoy, where his voice sounds percussive, almost manipulated like a loop. He says, “Like I come
from a poor country,” but he stutters.
Oh you didn’t cut it up? No. It’s funny, it’s such an African sounding
rhythm that I was tempted to go sort of Tony Allen—I even tried a little bit but it sounded contrived and it didn’t suit what he was saying. It was amazing that the rhythm was so African sounding.
when I was thirteen. I wanted to play in a rock band but you start to understand notes and music and the physics of it a little more and it becomes fascinating that language even happens at all. Is the braille on the cover a tribute to your father? Sort of. It’s not
actually for my father. It’s mostly gibberish. It doesn’t say anything too interesting. Bird watchers have these lyrics they assign to different birds so they can remember the birdcall and identify the bird. For example, the white-throated sparrow says, “Dear sweet Canada Canada Canada Canada Canada.” That’s what I wrote in braille on the back. It’s mostly so people can pick it up and feel the bumps and imagine what it’s like to be blind.
I was wondering if there were other interviews that you didn’t use.
No those are all the interviews that I did. The interviews did go on for a long time and people did say other interesting things but I had to decide which was the best moment to use.
I thought it was the title of the record. On the front it says, “Geese,
It’s a pretty unique project. There have been a lot of studies about
Did you find that people stick to a specific key when they speak?
the transition from speaking to singing—that’s been studied quite a bit and there have been some musical references in the past. Steve Reich did a piece called Different Trains, which was basically a bunch of different Holocaust survivors talking—very short moments of them saying, “Different trains, every time,” and played the melody on different instruments. So that was done and there have been other examples of it too. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time. I did hear the Steve Reich thing and that put some wind in my sail. I’m not claiming to have come up with the idea entirely myself.
How did you originally come up with the idea? It’s hard to say
because I’ve had the idea for so long. I travel for a living. I play in Broken Social Scene all around the world and when you go to countries where you don’t speak the language, you notice the melody, I guess because you’re not distracted by understanding the words. So I would constantly be reminded of the melody of people’s voices. I’ve mentioned in other interviews that it’s possibly from my father being blind. And because he’s blind I’m forced to repeatedly imagine what the world would be like without seeing, relying mostly on your ears. One of the stories that I like to remember is that he describes blindness as being very immediate. When you have vision you see somebody come into a room and then walking up to you and then talking to you. But if you don’t have vision, all of a sudden the sound is right there. Sometimes it gets claustrophobic. So what he likes to do is sit in the backyard and listen to the sound of the wind in the trees. It really brings him back to that sense of spaciousness. You hear the sound in the distance and moving closer and going over. I would sit in the backyard with my dad as a teenager and just listen to the sounds. That was a very formative time for me, in terms of learning how to hear.
Were you already playing music then? It all kind of happened
around the time that I learned to play guitar. I learned to play guitar
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Geese, Geese.” And it’s shaped in a V. What is written on the back is just random bird calls.
Yeah I did actually. Mrs. Morris is in [the key of ] B. Every time she comes to an important point she says it in B. Mr. Gowrie is more C major. Vanessa was F. Everyone would, every once in a while, come out of the key, but generally speaking they’d stick to a specific key. Did you ever have to choose between a poignant thought or something perhaps less interesting that happened for the sake of the melody? Yeah I did, but I found that when people get to the point—
when they get to the most interesting part—their voice carries it a little bit more. For example, when Vanessa says, “I didn’t hear anything, but all of a sudden I felt my body moving inside.” She really changes to emphasize that point. So it was lucky that when people come to their thesis they usually emphasize it with a melodic flourish.
Were you concerned with how the record would be perceived?
When I started it I didn’t think of it as making a record. I was sort of just experimenting. I think that starting with Mrs. Morris and the saxophone all by themselves is kind of jarring but it gets to the point right away—the one song is sort of like the far reaches of jazz. But I wanted to make a record that was sort of accessible. It wasn’t even that I wanted to make a record that was accessible—I wanted to see if I could make music out of it that was accessible. How do you feel about it now? I feel really happy with it. It was an
experiment that went well.
Do you have something similar planned? Like a follow-up? I think so. I don’t know what form it’s going to be. I’m not going to talk to my neighbors again. I’ve had a lot of different ideas thrown around or suggestions. It is a great resource. I could keep doing it forever, but I have to be careful about the next one because I’m so satisfied with what I just did. I don’t want to do it as a bad sequel.
Photos by Jamie-James Medina & Matt Salacuse
Tupac is alive. He surfs on top of trains across South Africa’s largest slum. Wind whips across his face so that tears well up if he doesn’t squint. He’s climbing out of the window of the 7 a.m. train to school. The car is packed with other school kids in blue blazers carrying book-bags who whistle and shriek in delight as he attempts to become the Sanza Hanza [King-Surfer] of the day.
“Tupac,” as he calls himself, is really Lesego, a seventeen-year-old high school student from the slums of Soweto, a sprawling stretch of townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Tupac and his crew V.I.R.U.S. (Very Intelligent Riders Usually Survive) are trainsurfing, the quasi-suicidal act of climbing outside, on top, and even under the city’s public trains while they run fifty miles per hour. Like graffiti
and skateboarding in their infancy, trainsurfing has an irresistible combination of danger and criminality. Trainsurfing took hold in the early nineties out of a restless desire to embrace life—and death— after years of apartheid oppression. It has evolved into something of an underground sport. Tricks are often named after surfing pioneers like Batista (his name comes from the WWE wrestler, not the Cuban
military leader) whose signature move involves grabbing the train’s high tension electrical wires for a fraction of a second, causing spectacular sparks to fly from his palms. Trainsurfing often has fatal results. Zulu-boy was Tupac’s protégée. He was a quick study and wanted to outshine his teacher. “He started doing things more dangerous, more than I even scared of. He
tried to go over the pole,” Tupac says. “He started touching the cables with his bare hands.” This was Zulu-boy’s undoing. None of this seems to stop Tupac, Batista and the V.I.R.U.S. crew as they search for the ultimate ride and test their already weak grasp on mortality. - Matt Salacuse, South Africa 2007
A train passes through Avalon Cemetery, Africa's largest graveyard. When a Train Surfer dies, it's common for kids to surf to the funeral.
Baptista (in orange) hangs out of the train door before scaling the train's walls.
Baptista waits until the train leaves the station before he climbs out and scales the train's walls and roof.
Baptista performs a 20/20, a maneuver in which a surfer climbs out an open door, grabs hold of the roof, and walks hand-over -hand the length of the train.
Tupac practices his moves on the way to school.
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'Slenda' flashes his "Westside" hand gesture as he performs a 20/20.
Tabs photographed in his bedroom in Soweto, South Africa. None of his family knows that he surfs trains.
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A young surfer balances on top of the train. He must duck every five seconds to avoid the high tension wires that power the trains. If not, he risks being decapitated by the wires, which is the main cause of train-surfing fatalities.
Baptista and Tabs race to jump into the carriages before the train leaves the station. This move is called The Bullet.
AlexanderOlch NYC fashion designer turns filmmaker with The Windmill Movie
By Alex Moore • Photos by Tom Hines In the Woody Allen masterpiece Crimes And Misdemeanors, Allen plays an aspiring documentary filmmaker struggling to make a movie about a philosophy professor, whose sheer depth and insightfulness are supposed to carry the documentary. In a particularly touching monologue, Professor Levy says, “Human happiness does not seem to be included in the design of creation—it is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe. And yet most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying, and even try to find joy from simple things like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more.” Since Woody Allen wouldn’t be Woody without some irony, the life-affirming Professor Levy kills himself, abruptly cutting short all hopes of finishing the documentary. There are some striking parallels between Allen’s narrative and the situation Alexander Olch found himself in recently. Before he became one of the most widely celebrated new figures in the fashion world for his collection of men’s ties, Olch was an undergrad at Harvard, majoring in documentary film studies. On the first day of class with Professor Richard Rogers, Rogers took one look at Olch and said, “Collegiate, Seventy-Fourth Street,” pinpointing the exact high school and street in Manhattan where Olch grew up. He was right on both counts. Rogers was what you’d call a man of sheer depth and insightfulness. But it wasn’t until after Rogers grew sick and passed away in 2001, after mentor and student had become close friends, that Olch learned Rogers had spent the last twenty years struggling to make a documentary about his own life—the celebrated documentarian with his one secret project, footage of such naked honesty and cutting introspection that he could never figure out how to complete it. Olch started sorting through the footage at the behest of
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Rogers’ wife—who still lives in their loft on Lafayette Street in New York, where I met Olch on a recent spring day—with the aim of completing a short memorial piece for Olch’s friends. Thus began a filmic journey whose poetic appeal is nearly as touching as the film it yielded. It took years—long enough that the time Olch has spent with Rogers via film footage now exceeds their actual time as friends—and produced one of the most thoughtful, moving documentaries possibly ever. But it also reached across generations to grasp what was always out of reach, delivering on Professor Levy’s hope that future generations might understand more. Sitting in the late Rogers’ loft with Olch, talking about the Big Life Questions and his remarkable new film, it occured to me— this guy got way more out of college than I did. How long have you been working on The Windmill Movie? Dick passed away in 2001. By that winter there was a memorial service at Harvard where I spoke, which was the first time I met his wife Susan. Sometime later I ended up renting an apartment here on the block, where Dick had lived since the seventies. I slipped a note under Susan’s door just to say hope you’re well. She called me back and said that Dick’s editing computer was broken and she needed help from someone who knew how to use it. I came over to boot it up properly, and all this footage was in there—images from the Hamptons. She knew he was working on this movie, but she wasn’t sure how far along he got with it. She asked me to spend a few days going through it. It started out very simply. It was just going to be a memorial piece for the people who knew him. But the more I worked on it, the more it seemed like there was something more to it. And that started a journey through quite a few years of figuring out what the movie could be. But it was very organic—I never came into this thinking that I would spend this long on it, or that it would become a feature film. Did you watch other documentaries for clues on how to proceed?
Olch in the loft of his friend and mentor, the late Richard Rogers.
I could only find two films that I thought were related to this, which were Orson Welles’s F For Fake, and Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man. Those are the only two situations I could find where a filmmaker encountered a seriously large collection of footage that was shot with a certain intention, and then makes a film using that footage for a different end. In Orson Welles’s case, he purchased footage for a fairly standard documentary about this art forger and then re-jiggers it into a meditation on fakery and illusions. In the case of Herzog, you have a story about this guy who went through all these intense things. In my case, it was even more nuanced because you have a movie where the character is already reflecting about how he can’t
talked about? No, he was very protective and private about that. One day I came by here he was working on his computer and I asked him what he was shooting. He showed me a house on a beach in Wainscott. He said, “This is the only movie I ever abandoned.” He knew he was ill at that point, and he was saying, “I’m going back to this movie. I’m going to finish the one film I never finished.” And I asked what the house was and he said, “Oh that’s a friend’s house.” And I said, “Well what’s going on there?” And he just said, “That’s enough.”
figure out how to make the movie. So it’s a movie about this footage that’s about this guy who’s figuring out how to make a movie that’s about how he can’t figure out how to make the movie. So I was very drawn to the Russian Doll aspect of it. Both in structure and time it moves all over the place. I found that this was unchartered territory in many ways.
that there was still this wall that you never got past. This footage in the film definitely gets past that wall. To me, and maybe this was just my age and his age, but he certainly seemed like a much more confident, completely in charge, man-about-town in a way that is definitely different than the footage I started to watch. And certainly by now, I’ve spent more years getting to know him through footage than I did through life. In a way it’s hard to remember which memories come from which places.
There’s a part where you’re actually in the movie. Were you guys working together? He was the supervising producer on my thesis
film at Harvard, so we worked closely together. There was a summer where he was shooting in the Hamptons, and I was shooting my thesis film in New York and we would see each other. I came in here and did a camera test with a new camera I was going to use, and just shot him in a chair—he was sitting right there. [Points to a chair] It would have been amazing to have in the movie. I hunted through all his boxes and finally found it, but he had recorded over it.
Was the filming he was doing of his life something that you guys
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There is such affection in the film for your subject. What was your friendship like—were you close? We were very close. Yet within
I love the shot at the end of the film where your two feet are in the sand at the edge of the water, which is almost like a reversal of Dick’s toes getting cut off and the shots of his half-foot walking in the sand. Did you feel that in making the film, that you were giving him something or completing some part of him? Yeah, and on both
levels—that there was some kind of karmic satisfaction through the generations that this unfinished thing could be realized. The thing that he started gets finished through the hands of his student. It became very important for me to get it done. Because leaving it unfinished now would be doubly bad—his thing would
have been unfinished, my efforts would have been unfinished, and I felt it just had to get done. But through the years of making this— it was a quite complicated and difficult process to go through— and there were many stages where I was just going to walk away from it. A lot of people advised me to just move on. One of the issues is that, the first time you encounter girls on the beach, or a cocktail party, there’s the expectation that those specific people must be characters that will reappear. But it’s all really more the idea of it—the idea of these cocktail party people or the idea of girls on the beach. There was not a real creation of characters, because in fact the character was him. That’s part of the problem he was encountering.
Yorkers, we have similar creative sensibilities—although where we differ is that I come from an extremely supportive family, which is a very different experience from his. He was Richard Pendelton Rogers—his ancestor was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. His father grew up in one of the great mansions on 79th street—like, real American royalty if there was such a thing. And Dick was the end of that way of life—the end of the line. Dick, who was the end of this long line of wealth that gradually petered out to not so much wealth, was consumed by measuring up to the past. Being from a more typical immigrant background, I’m not concerned with the past or how it affects me. However, I could
Do you think he got what he was looking for in his filming? In the
appreciate that enough to get it. I did grow up in Manhattan, I went to Harvard—I was exposed to it enough that it wasn’t completely foreign to me. But my existence in that world was very much as an outsider. And I think that distance allowed me to work through a lot of this material without it really freaking me out.
beginning of the film he says, “There’s no center to the film” because the center of the film in some way had to be him. And he’s quite correct in his assessment. But he didn’t want to be in the film because it’s just too obnoxious, too arrogant to hear this guy in the Hamptons complaining about his life. But if you divorce him and his emotions from the place, you essentially just have B-roll. So my problem in making the film was how to put the center back in the film. It was a very organic process whereby I eventually came to the point where I was writing voiceover for it. And only after all those years had I gotten to know the footage and gotten to know Dick well enough that it feels real. And it was a cool way of questioning the notion of documentary film and fiction film, and playing with the question of what’s real in your life. So I think that in some ways he was getting exactly what he wanted when he shot, and in some ways not.
How did making this film affect the way you think about your family?
I’m definitely similar to Dick in some ways—we’re both New
Have you thought about how Dick would feel about your finished movie? I think he would dig it. As a teacher I think he would
be ecstatic about just pulling it off as a feat—he would have appreciated how ridiculously hard it was and how ironic a lot of the things I went through to finish the film were. I think he would like it, and I think he would agree with a lot of the decisions I made. And I think he would probably accept and agree that there was no way he was going to make this film, because it’s not a place he probably would have gone with himself. I think he would have made it funnier, and kept a humor in that would have insulated him from having to go deeper. But I wouldn’t have stuck with it if I felt I was somehow offending his spirit.
TAKE A WHIFF OF DAVID CROSS By John Z. • Photos by Clay Patrick McBride
David Cross is a renaissance man of pop culture. He can do it all—acting, stand-up comedy, writing—you name it. Hell, he even directed a Black Keys music video once. With a new movie and his first book coming out this summer, the Arrested Development star continues to show us why everyone wants to grab a piece of David Cross’s ass.
avid Cross might be self-absorbed, but he’s far from self-serving. Prior to our recent afternoon lunch on New York’s Lower East Side, Cross had to excuse himself for twenty minutes in order to walk his dog—a mutt he shares with his girlfriend, actress Amber Tamblyn. In another show of his willingness to put others’ needs in front of his own, Cross fields a mid-interview call about being summoned to court on Manhattan’s Centre Street the following day to begin the selection process for jury duty. I suggest that if I—a regular working slob—can get out of jury duty, a guy like Cross—an Emmy-award winning comedian, actor and writer, perhaps best known for his role as Tobias Fünke on the cult sitcom Arrested Development—should have no trouble postponing it for a later date. “I would just rather get it over with while I can,” said Cross, as his serious eyes peeked over the top of his black plastic-framed glasses. “They were like, Oh, when’s a good time? And I was like, I don’t know, the 27th of April? OK!” For Cross, taking care of his obligations to the New York State Court System now seems like a great idea—not because he’s looking for something to do in between projects, but because he knows the next few months are going to be way too busy to include sitting in a sweaty Manhattan courthouse. Not only does Cross have a new movie, Year One, releasing in June, but he’ll also be working in England on a pilot for Channel 4’s 2009 Comedy Showcase Season, entitled The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. According to the British Comedy Guide, the pilot is supposed to be about a U.S. executive who finds himself out of his league when he is sent to run the company’s UK division. Cross might have to hire a full-time dog walker for the next few months. As if he isn’t busy enough, Cross is also scheduled to perform during this summer’s Chicago Comedy Festival and will release
his first book I Drink for a Reason (Grand Central Publishing), which he originally began writing as short fiction. No sweat for a guy like Cross, who co-created Mr. Show with fellow funnyman, Bob Odenkirk, right? Wrong. Initially Cross thought he could bang out a few chapters in between whatever film or television project he was making at the time. In reality, Cross hit the wall hard, mostly because he tricked himself into thinking he could work on his days off. “Maybe for a cumulative thirty minutes you’re able to write, but your head’s not in the same place and it never works like that,” Cross said. “At the end of three months you’ve got four worthwhile pages—it just doesn’t work. Maybe other people can do it, but I just don’t.” After struggling with the book for more than six months, Cross almost scrapped it before re-evaluating where the editorial project was headed. Thanks to an understanding editor, Cross was granted an extension, and what he turned in is a two-hundred-and-fiftypage book that he describes as “all over the place.” It includes a collection of essays, fictional entries, and a few reprints of posts that appeared on BobandDavid.com, the official web site for Cross and Odenkirk. Only two of the original ideas he had for the book eventually made it to print, which Cross says is nothing like coming up with topics that he uses on stage for his stand-up routine. “You’re working in a vacuum, really, although you get to hone it and refine it, and—not put it out there until you’re ready with it,” he said. “Unlike stand-up, which is live, in the moment—a lot of it is based on the reaction from the audience and just all kind of various stimuli that are happening right then.” We had met a few times before—last time when he lent his comedic talents during Yo La Tengo’s Chanukah run at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey. Cross waxed poetic during our lunch about everything from his new projects to being a pillar of the indie-rock music scene.
J U L Y / A U G 2 0 0 9 • S t y l i n g by C ar m el L obello and J ill B rea m • G r o o ming by K u m i C raig
With the new book coming out, do you think there’s going to be a resurgence of the fake David Cross around New York— the imposter? Trying to pick up females using your name and likeness? I don’t know, I heard that was you who was doing
that. I heard that was you coming out.
What was interesting to me was the David Lee Roth imposter. Did you hear about that one? No. Well, you know, Van Halen did that reunion tour last year? There was an Associated Press report that David Lee Roth was pulled over for speeding in Canada, and that he was rushing himself to the hospital because he had an allergic reaction to peanuts, but they found out it was a fake David Lee Roth. The real Roth issued this statement saying it wasn’t him. Well, you
know about the fake Peter Criss?
Was he going around doing parades and stuff? He was doing
something—just getting dinners and drinks.
It’s sad because the fake Peter Criss is probably in better shape than the real Peter Criss. One of my favorite bands of all time—they fell really hard. Have you heard that CD of Paul Stanley stage banter? It’s genius. By just cutting together—
Oh, it’s incredible. What is it? He’s just saying the craziest shit like, “People, take a look at yourselves—you’re beautiful.” He’s one of the ultimate front men. I don’t know. He wasn’t really a front man, was he? I
mean, he sort of was, but he’s not like David Lee Roth. He’s the ultimate front man!
That’s true, David Lee Roth is the ultimate front man. So, what’s the status of the Arrested Development movie? I’ve heard conflicting stories—it’s off, it’s on, and it’s off again.
I never heard that it was off. It’s one of those things—the best I can tell you is what I know, which is there was a script deal. The script was supposed to be delivered in June, and everybody wants to make it, and…that’s it, that’s all I got. I’ll believe it when I’m on the set. Until then, I don’t really know anything about it. There’s a lot of demand—I’m sure people are gonna love it. I hope so. How did that pilot for British TV unfold? I was doing stand-
up. I was doing two weeks at The 100 Club in London, and after one of the shows, these two women came up to me. They gave me a card and they kind of told me this idea, and I was like, Oh yeah, cool. So, the show’s over, and it’s just a big mess, and people are coming up. And so these nice women were sort of in the mix and they handed me their card. Not all the time, but quite often, people are like, Hey, man, I’ve got a website—people hand you stuff. So I was like, Oh great, that sounds good, oh yeah, let’s talk about it! I put the card in my pocket and didn’t think about it for the rest of the night. Two days later, I’ve got nothing but time to think. I pull the card out of my pocket. It kind of really hit me hard. Like, Wait a minute. These people want to do a show with me, in England, a TV show—holy shit, that’s amazing!
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“Virtually every single thing I’ve been a part of, it was not my idea. Somebody else approached me. I’m not joking.” That’s cool. Yeah. Like virtually every single thing I’ve been a part of, it was not my idea. Somebody else’s idea, and they approached me. I’m not joking. [Laughs] Did you just think it was one of these far-fetched ideas, or did you think these people weren’t legit? I didn’t even think about it. It
didn’t sink in, what they were offering. I just sort of went, Oh yeah, thanks, oh yeah, sounds cool, oh yeah, I’d love to, that sounds great. You could’ve told me, Hey man, if you walk one block with me I’ll give you one ton of gold, and I would’ve been like, Oh yeah, sounds good, well, let me get back to you. You know, I just wasn’t thinking. At the very end of the show you’re amped up, and the last thing on your mind is like, Oh, I’d like to sit down and discuss some business. Well, you also shot the pilot [David’s Situation] for HBO, right? Why didn’t that go forward? That was a decision we all kind of were in agreement with. It was really fun to do and really satisfying to do it in front of a live audience. At the end of it we were all so—and by all I mean Bob and I, and everybody from HBO and the cast and the audience—everybody was like, Man, that was great! That was so cool! We had so much fun. And then Bob and I went to put it together and work with the editor, and slowly but surely it became apparent that we were never able to capture what the feeling was like in the studio. You just watch it on TV and it just didn’t come across. And the ideas were OK, but it wasn’t great, and we really did do like five completely different versions. We tried everything we could and at the end of the process we felt like, Look, this is good, but it’s not great. It’s OK. It’s funny. We were disappointed by how restricted we felt by the sitcom aspect, which is something we did purposefully, and embraced it, and wanted to do. And then we came to the conclusion, like, Fuck it, let’s just do the stuff that everybody was excited about. Basically, what we ended up arriving at was more of a Mr. Show type show. So we went back to HBO, and HBO was totally cool with saying goodbye to five hundred thousand dollars, or whatever it cost to make that thing, but we just haven’t heard from them about a sketch show. So it’s still kind of on the table? It’s on the table, yeah. You know, the biggest problem is, Bob lives in L.A., I live in New York, and, you know, he goes to direct a movie, that’s going to be nine
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months of his life, I go to work on a movie, that’s going to be two to three months of mine. It’s a lot of conflicting schedules. Yeah, it’s tough. Depending on how well your book does, is there going to be a follow up or something different further down the road? I’m not in any hurry to sit back down and do another one, but I’m sure eventually. Again, none of that stuff I wrote in the book I could really do on stage, because it would feel like a weird monologue that I wrote, which is what it is. So it’s a new venue for me to be funny.
So you’ve kind of slowed down on the stand-up front, right? Not as much? Well I’m definitely not going out on the road, but when I’m in town I drop in at friends’ shows. I was in L.A. for two months working—I was doing a bunch of shows up there. Just dropping in on friends’ shows. But I may go out in support of the book. Are you doing any more music videos? Anything that interests you that you would like to do? Not anything I have plans for, but I’m certainly up for it. I was approached by a couple different bands to do stuff, and then none of the treatments I submitted got picked. But yeah, essentially, I haven’t thought about it in awhile, but that’s something I would love to do more, just because I sit and get a little bit of a buzz on listening to a song over and over and over again, and close my eyes and see what comes to me. I’ve been really happy with a bunch of the treatments I’ve made for stuff. What bands are you listening to these days? You know what I’ve gotten more into? Bluegrass. A lot of it comes from taking the car [to my house] upstate, but, you know, I don’t know why, but for some reason I got on this bluegrass kick lately, and I’m really liking it. I just got the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the new Animal Collective and the new Bird and The Bee. I used to see you out a lot lately, but not so much anymore. Haven’t you been out to see any bands? Well, I’ve been working a lot, but I just saw Morrissey at Bowery Ballroom, and I can’t believe I actually hesitated when asked if I wanted to go. I was like, Eh, I don’t know, and it was fucking amazing. It was incredible. I know you grew up in Atlanta. Did you see a lot of shows at the Omni in Atlanta? Yes, I saw The Police there. ’83? The Synchronicity tour? Yeah, must have been. Wow, you’re an encyclopedia. Yeah, but my friends and I went because of the Go-Go’s. The Go-Go’s were opening up. We were more interested in the GoGo’s. Another time during the AC/DC [Back In Black] tour me and my friends went down there and pretended we were from The Atlanta Journal, and brought big tape recorders and literally wrote the word “Press” and put them in our hatbands. There’s a tape floating out there somewhere of us interviewing people about AC/DC, and it’s the best example of the inarticulate, drunk kind of pre- Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Like, Hey man, AC/DC numma’ one, mutha-fuckers! We gotta get that out there. It’s floating around somewhere.
Youth Without Youth Sonic Youth The Eternal Matador +++
Having sent hipster hearts a-twittering with rumors of their impending defection from major label purgatory to indie giant Matador, Sonic Youth seemed poised to make a homecoming statement with their sixteenth studio album, returning to the kingdom they helped create with a new revelation. To that extent, it’s somewhat disappointing that The Eternal is just another great Sonic Youth album, both continuing their recent drift toward pop efficiency and returning to the atonal guitar eruptions that defined their best work. Like fellow indie rock royal Stephen Malkmus, Sonic Youth are embracing the guitar grooves of a generation of obscure psych-rock bands, referencing Wipers on the rollicking “No Way” and working through multiple passages before unleashing rapturous waves of feedback on “Malibu Gas Station.” With Kim Gordon forming a blistering three-guitar attack with Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo, the band plays with spirit and intensity, whether lurching into no wave grunts on “Anti-Orgasm,” or offering tributes to their heroes on the straightforward “Leaky Lifeboat (for Gregory Corso)” and the snaking sing-along meditations of “Thunderclap for Bobby Pyn.” But for all the things The Eternal is, it will likely be remembered for what it isn’t, as it adds little to the Sonic Youth story aside from offering another dozen typically idiosyncratic entries into their already deep catalog. –Matt Fink
Key: Worst + Best +++++
Jarvis Cocker Further Complications Rough Trade
As Pulp fades into Britpop memory, front man Jarvis Cocker has been keeping busy. Further Complications, the sequel to his 2007 solo debut Jarvis, finds the moody, genre-hopping Cocker delving into rock with mixed results. Recorded at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studios, Complications revels in the grandiose, cinematic textures of late nineties Pulp, but the usual incisive wit and darkness of Cocker’s songwriting are substituted with banalities. “I will never get to touch you, so I wrote this song instead,” Cocker laments in a faux-gritty rock star voice on “Fuckingsong.” Where the attempts at rock fail and sound instead like Libertines outtakes, the slow burn of “Slush” and lush dance pop of “You’re In My Eyes (Discosong)” are reminders of the inventiveness and pleasures of Jarvis operating in his comfort zone. –Drew Fortune
A Camp Colonia Nettwerk
Apostle of Hustle Eats Darkness Arts and Crafts
Ear Pwr Super Animal Brothers III Carpark
A Camp is the solo project of Nina Persson of The Cardigans, and her latest album Colonia is so instantly pleasant and gentle it’s hard to dismiss outright. But while it is quite a competent album in a musical sense, Persson’s vocals distract. Album opener “The Crowning” is truly lovely pop, but the title conjures images of a baby emerging from the womb in a bloody, amniotic mess. And the baby suddenly grabs an acoustic and starts singing about bells ringing and birds singing. “Chinatown” rides in easy, hits its crescendo like a sparkler at night and fades out much the same way it came. And what would Nico sound like if she weren’t a smacked-out contralto? Probably something like Persson on the track “Bear on the Beach.” –DJ Pangburn
Like OK Computer, Eats Darkness is a record perfectly fitting its time. Just as Radiohead captured the uneasiness of a world staring at approaching technology, Apostle of Hustle plays sounds of a world falling apart and slowly piecing itself back together. Bandleader Andrew Whiteman (Broken Social Scene) throws all his disparate influences against the wall, combining the Cuban flavor of 2004 debut Folkloric Folk with the sonic chaos of BSS for a record that runs the gamut from paranoia to joy and revolution. Darkness is challenging and disorienting at times, with trip hop beats melting into sound bites of gunfire and disorder. But just when things look bleak, a bright hook and catchy tempo signal a shift into better times. And for all the record’s darker shadings, a feeling of hope prevails. –Drew Fortune
Ear Pwr will instantly appeal to fans of CSS and The Go! Team. It is synth pop for that hip crowd who enjoys their electronic music served up like the “Macarena” processed by 8-bit home computers manned by the fiveyear-old sons of Irish fiddlers (see “Sparkley Sweater”). Sounds interesting to a degree, but after about five minutes you'll find yourself clawing at the walls. The frenetic pace will wear you out so much you’ll be tired and hungry halfway through the album, but you won’t be able to buy any snacks ‘cause you spent your money on Super Animal Brothers III. Game over. Start again? Do yourself a favor and read a book instead. –DJ Pangburn
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DoublePlusGood Dancipation Proclamation SoHiTek
Maybe I’ve been reviewing too many self-serious “bedroom pop” projects from Brooklyn lately—but this pretension-free EP from Portland duo DoublePlusGood was a breath of synth-addled fresh air. Spirited, glitchy electro pop for anyone who wished The Postal Service were peppier and The Magnetic Fields less dour and both had a little more Top 40 flair. The songs are catchy and exuberant, though the monochromatic sonic palette does wear thin—there’s only so many winking retro keyboard grooves a man can take, after all. But the mood barely has time to expire: the brief running time packs in as much quirky, supercharged pop as is humanly possible. -Brian Merchant
Diamond Watch Wrists Ice Capped At Both Ends Warp Records
This is yet another Guillermo Scott Herren (of Prefuse 73) project—the second installment in what is to be a trilogy of albums with Zach Hill of Hella. A fusion of cut-up folk-y sampling and prog rock, Ice Capped at Both Ends hints at a new sort of musical terrain. Tyrondai Braxton, from label-mates Battles, takes on the vocal duties and propels the lyrics into hypnotically surrealist vistas, where the synths rise like a thousand bubbles of carbonated analog goodness. Things get even more interesting when the band suddenly hooks a left into the land of static and sound like a more stable version of lo-fi shoegaze legends Loveliescrushing—an angle that Diamond Watch Wrists might further pursue in the next installment. –DJ Pangburn
Mannequin Men Lose Your Illusion, Too Flameshovel
The last song on Lose Your Illusion, Too— album number three from the Chicago
garage-punk band Mannequin Men—is called “(Us And) All Our Friends Are So Messed Up,” and its title makes for a good summation of the band’s strengths. There’s a debauched edge and a sneer to Kevin Richard’s voice, but it’s never entirely clear how much of that sneer is a persona. (See also: the gleeful hedonism in certain lyrics.) Illusion is a catchier work than 2007’s Fresh Rot, and unlike Mannequin Men’s tinnitus-inducing live shows, some of the songs here, including the slow-burning “Exquisite Corpse,” are mighty easy on the ears. Standouts include “Neon Lights” and the catchy “Massage”, the latter of which may prompt a rash of inappropriate public singalongs. –Tobias Carroll
Black Moth Super Rainbow Eating Us Memphis Industries
BMSR are the 21st century Syd Barretts of electronic pop. No, they aren’t shaving their eyebrows just yet, but they are attuned to a special musical frequency that lay dormant since the early 1970s. Eating Us is a far superior offering to its predecessor in both songcraft and production value. Its palette of sound practically demands a row of speakers encircling the listener. Analog synths warble and fade, flutter and pop. The vocoded voices, which can tend towards the gimmicky when used willy-nilly, sound instead like like robotic angels on elephant tranquilizers. The grooves are thick and melt into one another like the red, white and blue of a bottle rocket popsicle in the mid-day sun. Find Black Moth Super Rainbow’s Eating Us, and ye shall know such sonic pleasures as to tame a wild flock of angry ostriches. Taste the rainbow! –DJ Pangburn
Dinosaur Jr. Farm Jagjaguwar Records
After years of bitterness, the reunion of the original Dinosaur Jr. lineup in 2007 was unexpected cause for celebration. Even more surprising was the fact that their comeback album, Beyond, sounded as fresh and vital as classics You’re Living All Over Me and Bug. Though the revitalized Dino Jr. have found a new home on Jagjaguwar, their new double LP Farm feels almost too familiar. All the ingredients are here—the big, meaty hooks, down-tempo, Crazy Horse sludge rock, and bouncy country pop accessibility—but the venture sounds more nostalgic than recharged. Some songs play off the familiarity well, however, and the absurdly infectious “Over It,” and driving “Pieces” can proudly stand alongside “Freak Scene” and “The Wagon” as instant classics. –Drew Fortune
Joan of Arc Flowers Polyvinyl
While Joan of Arc may have nailed the best song title of the year with “A Delicious Herbal Laxative,” the rest of the album fares no better than the average colonic. Flowers, to continue with Joan of Arc’s excretive motif, is a messy affair. “Explain Yourselves” is so exquisitely rendered that the preceding tracks disintegrate in its slow-motion wake, while the last few barely register. Like any of the most indulgent music, it lacks focus and a raison d’etre. This doesn’t mean the record is insincere, but rather that the songs never quite gel into something substantial. It is a carnival of disjointed ideas, worth a listen or two but not a celebration. –DJ Pangburn
Tortoise Beacons of Ancestorship Thrill Jockey
Between Millions Now Living Will Never Die, TNT, and Standards, Tortoise defined and perfected what we now call post rock, and so many view a new Tortoise album as a sort of cause célèbre. In this album, Tortoise went for a futurized, heavier, synth-driven sound uncharacteristic of their more beloved earlier work. And they end up sounding more like a lounge band on the Enterprise. The rhythms are more obtrusively in-your-face, the melodies are simpler, and what emerges is a sort of dumbed-down, trumped-up, shiny, bombastic breed of prog. Still, some impressive moments shine through, and it’s good to hear Tortoise pulsing with life and exercising some bravado. -Brian Merchant
God Help The Girl S/T Matador
“Me Voy” combines a sublime melody with gentle shoegaze fuzz. This, my friends, is summer. Dig it. –DJ Pangburn
Using two covers of his primary band as platform, Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch puts “rock opera” to the tune of “sixties girl group” with this bevy of sweet twee sounds. Beyond the candy coating is a singing cast of nine wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing misanthrope characters, trapped inside the “social coffin” (“I Just Want Your Jeans”) of stodgy gender roles. Their “if you can’t beat ‘em, drop acid” philosophy isn’t quite feminism at its finest, but the vocal harmonization is gold! Whether the rumored film supplement materializes in 2010 or not, GHTG is a mostly self-sustained, playful testament to bad girls everywhere. – Amber L. Herzog
Great Northern Remind Me Where The Light Is By Amelia Kreminski
Lovvers, Think Witchita Recordings
Remember when punk was fast and furious, long before haute couture made the genre hip? This highly charged, rousing record by Nottingham-based Lovvers does, and rattles out seven clamoring cuts in just over twelve minutes. Summoning the genre at its most raucous, Think spits out a nihilistic swank that will undeniably snap the bogus punk fashionista firmly back into place. With its frenzied riffs, breakbeat swiftness, distorted vocals and lo-fi/no-fi sonics, Think may sound novel in an era of overused digital compression (the entire record sounds like it was recorded in a dilapidated bathroom through a distortion pedal), but its catchy hooks never waver from an unambiguous intensity.-Kristopher Yodice
Japandroids Post-Nothing Unfamiliar
Post-Nothing is spare, raw and vital. Listening to this record, it’s almost impossible not to imagine the sweaty-browed, too-sincere singer/guitarist and drummer duo playing their young, lo-fi rocking hearts out in your friend’s dank basement—except Japandroids are way better than the bands that play in your friend’s basement. Sure, it’s often juvenile, with lyrics like “I don’t wanna worry about dying, I just wanna worry about sunshine girls,” but it’s transporting, too— the youthful, and yes, sometimes laughable, angst Japandroids are so adept at channeling make for some strong, grittily nostalgic stuff. If you’re not nineteen and spending your weekend nights watching clumsy, loud, hopeful bands, Japandroids will make you remember when you did—and why you loved every minute of it. –Brian Merchant
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Savath and Savalas La Llama Stones Throw
La Llama is honey-dipped Spanish psychedelia. It’s the froth on your midnight daydream—the hazy-lazy cousin of Arthur Verocai’s “Na Boca Do Sol.” It’s a record you might spin with a bottle of tequila in one hand and a joint in the other, watching birds fly about as the earth turns away from the sun. The not-so-bilingual will have no idea what’s going on lyrically, which is why you must listen to the songs as you might listen to Sigur Ros—painting your own portraits. Nearly every sound is gold-dusted, as if Guillermo Scott Herren and Co. took a bath in the lake of El Dorado, walked up the beach and said, “Shall we jam?” “Carajillo” is a sonic adventure in South American rhythms, while
Great Northern sounds like their name— like the soundtrack to an Aurora Borealis light show. Throughout their second album guitar plucks prickle with blue and purple chill, while ambient and tremulous vocals grace the album with warmer undertones. It rings with an interesting and mountainous sound, halfway between summer and winter, embodying a natural flux. The epic songs juxtapose organic drumbeats and acoustic guitars against a clean, studio-sounding backdrop. The result is not unpleasant, but becomes tiresome and somewhat melodramatic as the record wears on. The closing “33” ties the best qualities of the band together, however, with a sunset melody and dusky lyrics. Though the sound can be turbulent, it closes with a fair-weather night.
Wilco Ashes of American Flags Nonesuch
Ashes of American Flags, the new documentary by Christopher Green and Fugazi’s Brendan Canty, finds Wilco operating as a well-oiled machine, miles apart from the band on the verge of a nervous breakdown captured in the 2002 documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. Ashes follows the band on the Southern leg of their 2008 tour, and lacks any fly-on-the wall backstage voyeurism of band arguments or sex and drugs—instead, the film focuses on the music. It’s a bit too heavy on Sky Blue Sky material, but the thirteen performances in the film are flawless, accentuated by the backdrop of Nashville’s Ryman Theatre and other legendary American venues. The film is beautifully shot and languidly paced, creating a kind of love letter to the band, made by and for their fans. –Drew Fortune
Weinland Breaks in the Sun Badman Recording Co.
John Adam Weinland Shearer, leader of the group Weinland, is a subtly disarming songwriter. Breaks In the Sun, Weinland’s second album, is surprisingly compelling, and it’s difficult to quantify the ways in which it ingratiates itself with the listener. It falls on the quieter side of a post-Zuma continuum: discreet, precise music, abetted and abutted by minimal vocal harmonies. On “Please
Placebo Battle For The Sun Vagrant
“Pure Morning” off Placebo’s second album, 1998’s Without You I’m Nothing, was among the strongest rock singles of the nineties. It gave birth to their career and made singer Brian Molko the most provocative presence since the glam days when David Bowie was king (queen, too). Since then, the industrial band released three records—not one bore a song that matched the success of “Pure Morning.” Now with Battle For The Sun, they return with hopes to rekindle their waning flame. “Bright Lights” and “Speak In Tongues” (neither released as singles) are some of the best songs Placebo have ever written. It is curious, however, that Battle For The Sun sounds like it was recorded in the late nineties. Guess Molko and Co. don’t give a shit what Grizzly Bear is up to. –Isaac Lekach
Forgive Me,” Shearer’s lyrics are delivered in an initially apologetic tone, but the sentiment becomes grim by turns, eventually turning funereal—even as the drumbeat keeps a mockingly jaunty rhythm going. It’s smart, unexpectedly vitriolic music, delivered neatly—an approach that’s hard to argue with. –Tobias Carroll
Tom Brosseau Posthumous Success Fat Cat
Pure of heart and a little kitschy, Brosseau pours it on like George McFly with an acoustic guitar—he’s a grounded romantic. Pursuing this supposed duality are two shades of “My Favorite Color Blue”: it opens the album and closes it, too. Ineffective, as the song lacks distinction. Adversely, ballads “Been True” and “Love to New Heights” are coo-worthy in Brosseau’s reassuring vibrato. This paper tiger can aim for Daniel Johnston eccentricity all he wants—the clean bill of
mental health and slushy Appalachian folk persevere. –Amber L. Herzog
Patrick Wolf The Bachelor Bloody Chamber Music
Bummed out? Burnt out? Let Oscarwinner Tilda Swinton light a fire under your degenerate derriere. English singersongwriter Patrick Wolf worked with the actress on his new album The Bachelor, and some of the angst-ridden disc’s most exemplary songs showcase her vocals. But the other tunes aren’t bad either—majestic and dramatic, “Oblivion,” “Damaris” and “Blackdown” skimp on the electroclash and bridle an old-world feel, employing sitars and fiddles. “Battle,” a cry of the misunderstood underground youth, evokes visions of the Foot Clan from the Ninja Turtles movies, and is a culmination of the “us versus them” slant. All in all, the album is a fleet of liberal hellions avenging homophobia and inequality—start
squirming, Miss Cali. - Amber L. Herzog
The Sounds Crossing the Rubicon Original Signal
Are you looking for some totally boss tunes to crank on your Walkman while you’re rollerblading around the neighborhood? If so, Swedish quintet The Sounds has the mix tape for you, baby. Eighties synth pop is what they do best, and their third album is no exception. “Dorchester Hotel” showcases the shimmering, fierce vocals of Maja Ivarrson, while the rhythmic drive of “Beatbox” clicks and thumps like a drum machine orchestra, and “Home Is Where the Heart Is” winds the album up with the group’s signature sundappled, melodic vibrancy. Sure, the record may inspire you to do some crazy things— moonwalk, get a perm—but as they said in the eighties, it’s pretty bitchin’. - Amelia Kreminski
second full-length, We Be XUXA, through twelve tracks of unpolished, often catchy, punk. Despite songs spanning the two-minute mark there are a few bumps along the way, most notably the curious “Turkey Sandwich.” Highlights, “I Got A Lot (New New New),” and “Totion,” a rousing staccato, finds singers Jennifer Clavin and Jenna Thornhill trading off their raspy vocal assault, perhaps even gristly enough to give Brody Dalle a run for her money. -Kristopher Yodice
Royal City S/T Asthmatic Kitty Mike Bones A Fool for Everyone Social Registry
There’s some middling singer/songwriter backed-by-a-bar stuff here. It’s not unpleasant—unless you listen too closely to Bones’ voice, which is off-key most of the time—and plenty of solid arrangements prop up the unexceptional lyrics and stretched vocal melodies. The album boasts a couple driving rock rhythms, some bluesy guitar leads, a few lyrics about being misunderstood, and one album cover displaying a shirtless, disaffected Bones. He is the textbook definition of rock and roll, but that’s about it. He’s undoubtedly got a talent for composition and instrumentation—maybe next time he’ll lighten up on the rock star stuff, pull on a shirt, and write a masterpiece.-Brian Merchant
Before front man Aaron Riches departed the shores of Ontario for the study of theology, Royal City made three gloriously jarring albums, juxtaposing visceral imagery (dogs, meat, and maggots all turn up) with breathtaking hooks and transcendent moments. Royal City brings together unreleased work and alternate takes on songs heard elsewhere (notably a hushed version of Little Heart’s Ease’s “Can’t You Hear Me Calling”). Riches’ concerns are tangible here, both spiritual (“The Nations Will Sing”) and physical (“A Belly Was Made for Wine”). And, as with much of the work affiliated with Riches (or, for that matter, guitarist Jim Guthrie), it’s memorably, searingly, bittersweet: taut folk-rock with yearning at its heart. –Tobias Carroll
could be called “singles,” and the story line is so complex and specific throughout, listening to the tracks separately would be like reading random chapters of a book. Notoriously prone to grandiose and flowery libretto, Colin Meloy does not disappoint diehard Decemberists fans with the dusty, Shakespearean word choice featured in the tunes. Nor does he falter musically, as the metal-infused folk and layered harmonies offer impressive and unique sonic themes. “Isn’t it a Lovely Night,” stands out with fluttering, pixie melodies and the sweet violin vocals of Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark, while the finale, “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)” softly falls in bittersweet, warmly nostalgic chords. But the chorus of children on “The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)" borders on creepy, and an hour of bizarre, medieval rock opera can get a little too over-the-top. This is an album of The Decemberists showing their style to the max, and yes, it can be overbearing, but it also reminds us why we like them. - Amelia Kreminski
Eels Hombre Lobo Vagrant
Mika Miko We Be XUXA PPR & KRS
Twenty seconds into the Ramonesesque opener “Blues Not Speed,” you instantly have an idea of what’s in store. The blistering rhythms and raunchy guitars (recalling The Vandals, The Adolescents and Bikini Kill), the irreverently simple melodies and no-frills songwriting careens this heedless
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The Decemberists The Hazards of Love Capitol
The story begins with an epic electric hum and a young girl’s impregnation, and follows through seventeen songs of fairy tale lyrics, winding folk strums and jarring metallic guitar choruses. It’s hard to say whether or not this is a good thing. Certainly, The Hazards of Love is something to be listened to in uninterrupted entirety—not many of the songs
Though a few tracks on Hombre Lobo stray too far into the same tired, mellow rock predictability, for the most part, Eels keep it original with plenty of scruffiness around the edges. “Fresh Blood” and “Tremendous Dynamite” showcase attractively tousled shouts and gritty, unshaven vocal lines. “All The Beautiful Things” blooms like a bouncy spring tulip amongst the cigarette-smoke haze of the rest of the album, whimsical and floating in its melodies and lyrics, boasting endearing lines like, “Every day I wake up and wonder why I’m alone when I know I’m a lovely guy.” Amusingly, the same delicate song begins with a gruff Everett mumbling, “One, two ...ehh, I’m not gonna count it off.” Yep, that’s the Eels we know and love. - Amelia Kreminski
PAST/FUTURES RECORDS Spring 2009
Other Girls, Perfect Cities Audio Eagle
This Cleveland quartet’s first full length is as good as it gets. Other Girls may draw on other tenderhearted indie peers such as Band Of Horses or The Walkmen, but on their charming first effort, Perfect Cities, the foursome takes full ownership. Perfect Cities is a perfectly assembled, tuneful manifesto with heartsick but heartening lyrics that emphasize the vulnerability of just being alive. “Facility” highlights the band’s power-pop chops, while “Last Day,” a fuzzy piano aria, closes the album on an ethereal note. Soaring, spirited and terrific, Perfect Cities deserves repeated plays. - Kristopher Yodice
THE CHE ARTHUR THREE - Like Revenge 180 Gram LP / 256k MP3
Third album from ex-Atombombpocketknife guitarist and touring sound engineer for Minus The Bear, Pelican, Shellac, etc. First as a band with drummer Steve Van Horn (ex-The Reputation) and bassist Pete Croke (Tight Phantomz, Sleepout). We hate to compare it to anything really, but if we had to, we’d say to think Chavez meets Crazy Horse and they have some drinks with Neurosis while listening to early Sunny Day Real Estate. 180 Gram LP includes a 256k MP3 download of the full album. ON TOUR IN JUNE!
Double Dagger More Thrill Jockey
Double Dagger boasts the most traditionally punk aesthetic of all the emerging DIY duos and trios that comprise the burgeoning lo-fi noise rock movement. One dose of the angstridden vocal proclamations and octave-heavy walking bass lines in any given song proves that right off the bat. So if No Age innovates with artful noise, Times New Viking are scuzzed out pop freaks, and Japandroids wax nostalgic with distant, distorted melody, then Double Dagger just sort of rocks. Which is cool—these songs are impassioned and tuneful—but they’re going to need more than some cool tunes if they hope to stand out in the fast-crowding lo-fi scene. - Brian Merchant
THE STRANGE ATTRACTORS - Sleep And You Will See Special Colored LP / 256k MP3
Austin band features former and current Riverboat Gamblers members. Their second album, SAYWS is a set of exploratory yet smartly crafted modern psychedelic pop with a spectrum of tones and layers they’d only begun to delve into on their self-released debut. We’re reminded what might have happened if Spacemen 3 had been weaned on loud Texas garage rock. Includes a 256k MP3 download of the full album. ON TOUR IN JULY!
INFO, TOUR DATES and ORDERING www.pastfuturesrecords.com
AUSTIN, TX | CHICAGO, IL
Wii Punch Out!! HOLY NOSTALGIA!
Nintendo | Wii
Morality Is Overrated R e v i e w by S t e p h e n B l a c k w e l l
hroughout Sony’s open-game epic, inFamous, you will reach into a mixed bag of devastating maneuvers to accomplish your missions and alter the landscape of your world. Whether it’s for the good or bad of the community is entirely up to you. Open gaming has received a lot of fanfare in the console world. Huge worlds for players to navigate and shape as they see fit have found homes on next-gen consoles, most notably Bethesda’s Oblivion and Microsoft’s Crackdown. As gaming machines become more powerful, what to do with all that power sits substantially at the forefront of developer’s minds. In a lot of ways, it seems like that’s what inspired inFamous. Visually, inFamous is a treat. Despite the destroyed environment, here called Empire City, it’s as stunning as games come. Playability leaves little to be desired as well, though the speed of the 360 camera takes an hour or two getting used to. The plot is what plots in games of inFamous’s nature tend to be: The game opens with a destructive ball of electricity leveling a city, otherwise killing and maiming its inhabitants but empowering Cole, the protagonist you control who, to the best of my knowledge, is the only video game hero in history wearing a messenger bag. From there, you take up a sequence
Sony Playstation 3 | SCEA | Suckerpunch
of missions that usually involves fighting Reapers, the junkies turned gangbangers who control the sadistic and misbegotten streets of Empire City. (The city has been turned into a Baghdad-like drop zone after the game’s opening event.) Mission after mission, Cole’s power doubles and triples until you’ll use electricity way beyond anything you’ve seen the bad guys use in a Star Wars movie. And as the plot progresses, you’ll choose: Do I do good, or do I do evil? Chances are you’ll go the path of Google: You don’t want to be evil, but you just can’t help it. Why is it impossible to not be a bad guy in games like this? Who knows. If there was no judicial system, including cops, and I could shoot electricity out of my hands, would I destroy buildings and kill people? Maybe once or twice. But the virtual world of gaming makes you a killer. Does it help the plot? Not really. After going on outrageous killing sprees inFamous, people will yell at you and stuff like that, but there’s no Hamlet-esque selftorture. And that’s the part where people say, “It’s only a video game.” What’s the point of madness without melancholy? It’s a big problem in taking video game’s dark paths. inFamous will give you plenty of power to wield in the most destructive ways imaginable, but it can’t make you feel anything while you’re doing it.
Man, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!. How many hours did I spend playing that one? As a six year old in 1987, with a Nintendo in the household, you can imagine the time I spent glued to the screen, bobbing and weaving, floating like a butterfly, stinging like a little pixelized bee. Tyson, at the time, was larger than life. And this wasn’t the exotic-dancer-raping, Robyn Givens-divorcing, Evander Holyfieldeating maniac we’ve come to terms with today. This was the guy who beat the shit out of everyone and had the high voice and sometimes showed up at Wrestlemania and hung out with Hulk Hogan. He was cool! And the character in the game was a little white kid from the Bronx. I was a little white kid from the Bronx. Now, I’ve only been to therapy once or twice, but I believe our psychologists have named this transference. The recently released Wii version of the game is understandably Tyson-less, but still a ton of fun, and it packs a big wallop of nostalgia. All the guys from the eighties are in there: Glass Joe, King Hippo, Von Kaiser, Piston Honda—a lot of nationalities represented in curiously non-PC ways for 2009, but the game’s borderline xenophobia is harmless. Of course, being the Wii, you won’t just sit there mashing A & B. This one has enough motion-control action to make your butt a little sweaty (maybe that’s why Nintendo encourages you to open the windows when you turn the Wii on). All in, a great game that can make you feel like a kid. Now if they’d only start playing videos on MTV again, I’d be set. -SB
The Bearded Out Game Match the beard to the band
MaTCH the PICTURES with their corresponding numbers. 1. Akron/Family 7. Les Savy Fav 2.Band Of Horses 8. Passion Pit 3. Benji Hughes 9. Phosphorescent 4. Bonnie "Prince" Billy 10. Pink Mountaintops 5. Eels 11. Silversun Pickups 6. Iron & Wine 12. TV On The Radio
A man’s worth can be measured in many ways—his facial hair being perhaps the most telling. Oh, you have a goatee, you say? Well then, sir, you are an asshole. Recently, we picked up on a trend among our favorite bands: The Beard. Trimmed, rabbinical, scraggly—summer is here, gentlemen, and we don’t give a shit what style you’re rocking—get rid of it. Whether you’re a road warrior or you just don’t give a fuck, the time has come to say adieu. Grow your face pubes next fall. Consider this Beard-O-Gram a send-off. Match the beard to the band and promise us you’ll shave diligently until it gets chilly outside.
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Answers from top left to bottom right: Les Savy Fav • Passion Pit • TVOTR • Pink Mountiantops • Eels • Iron & Wine • Bonnie "Prince" Billy • Band of Horses • Phosphorescent • Silversun Pickups • Akron/Family • Benji Hughes
presents PA SS IO N PIT PASS PIT DI RT YION PR OJ EC TO RS DIRT Y PROJ ECTO RS PA PE RC UT S S PINPAPE K MORCUT UN TA IN TO PS PINK MOU NTAI NTOP S AU RE VO IR SIM ON E AU REVO IR SIMO NE
ChRIs KATTAN T’S CA LL IT ChRIs LE KAT A COTAN ME BA CK LET’S CALL IT A COME BACK
HE DR INK S FO R A DAvID CRo ss RE AS ON HE DRINK S FOR A REAS ON
TH E MO ST UNDERAPPRECIAT THE ALMOS BU MT Of ’0 9 p. 60 ED UNDERAPPRECIATED
ALBU M Of ’09
incceenntt VVin KIN KIND D oFoFB LBULEU E
Behind The Scenes Making the cover of Death+Taxes
Ever wondered what goes into making a magazine? Since we don’t have our own reality show, you’re probably still waiting for an answer. Wonder no more. We’ve partnered up with VTech to bring you exclusive behind-the-scenes footage. Simply log
Discover the legend of the Zodiac race at onitsukatiger.com
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