m u d m du
was saving me a
Dum Dum Girls photography bryan sheffield
— Maybe that
from becoming total mess — Plus:
THE RAPTURE HONUS HONUS M83 CHELSEA WOLFE SPANK ROCK HTRK DJ SHADOW THE DRUMS MODESELEKTOR MAYER HAWTHORNE WOODEN SHJIPS BARN OWL
NEW ON DOMINO THIS FALL WWW.DOMINORECORDCO.US
REAL ESTATE DAYS
CD/LP/digital. Out October 18, 2011. The new album. On Tour in October.
TWIN SISTER IN HEAVEN
CD/LP/digital. Out September 27, 2011. The debut album from Twin Sister. On Tour in October.
CASS MCCOMBS HUMOR RISK
CD/LP/digital. November 8, 2011. The follow-up to this year’s critically acclaimed Wit’s End.
Editor-in-Chief / Publisher Andrew Parks, Pop Mart Media email@example.com Art Director / Deputy Editor Aaron Richter (M.R.S.) firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Editor Arye Dworken email@example.com Staff Photographers Shawn Brackbill, Nick Helderman, Travis Huggett Contributing Writers Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, Mitch Strashnov Contributing Photographers Samantha Casolari, Jimmy Fontaine, Will Govus, Kyle Johnson, Jake Michaels, Caroline Mort, Bryan Sheffield, Chris Shonting, Damien Vignaux, Geordie Wood Advertising, Submissions & Other Inquiries Andrew Parks / self-titled 685 Metropolitan Ave. #1 Brooklyn, NY 11211 718-499-3983 firstname.lastname@example.org
Display through foreverâ€”weâ€™re digital, remember? Published by Pop Mart Media. All self-titled content is property of Pop Mart Media. Please do not use without permission. Copyright 2011, Pop Mart Media.
the 18 best comments on self-titledmag.com — Uh, Amber anyone?? — This has to be so badASE performed live, dang, BUS still progresses! — Fearlessly leaping from a vaunted position of underground hip hop legendry to pursue pretty jazz-pop? YES PLEASE. — Long live anticon. — A vast exploration into the dub genre beckons me! — <3 HTRK — More Fennesz beauty. — He should have named track 14 “not a Beatles cover.” — Looks like the drummer from PJ has his hand full of Stone Gossard’s, well... stones? — Too weird of a video for such a good song. — Finally someone with common sense. I’m glad you actually did your research, as opposed to those dolts at Pitchfork. — You guys are such nerds. — MTV buzz ballads, CLASSIC! — But...how did you like Fleet Foxes? — I actually live in Dawsonville, Georgia, there’s a Lost City for ya! — Cover is so fucking tight. U cannot hang. — Best interview I’ve ever read. — Holy hell this was so awesome, worth missing my fucking bus stop over. — I used to think Zomby was a cunt but really he is an alright guy.
Chris Shonting is a very tall photographer who splits his time between New York City and Los Angeles, and shot the Drums for this issue of self-titled. He enjoys babyjaguar conservation and can fight alligators with sticks. His favorite color is blue. Chris’s work can be found in Nylon, Paper Planes, XXL and Vice, among others publications, and he has produced images for commercial clients such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Puma, Nike, Supreme and WeSC. In his free time, Chris plays guitar poorly and goes to heavy metal shows. ST—007
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd has written for the New York Times, Spin, Vibe, Interview, MTV and other outlets, including the Fader, where she served as executive editor. She spent time with Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls for this issue’s cover story. Julianne’s favorite snack is Haribo Fruity-Frutti Gummi Candy, and her style icons are Iris Apfel and Zelda Kaplan. Julianne was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to a family of Mexican immigrants, but now lives in Brooklyn, with her boyfriend and too many small, easily misplaced electronics.
Photographer Jimmy Fontaine, who shot DJ Shadow for this issue, was born in San Diego and has lived in New York City for six and half years. He grew up shooting snowboarding and skateboarding in Southern California, which is how he got his start with a camera. Jimmy loves dogs and drinks a lot of coffee. He recently signed with the boutique New York photo agency Selected Talent and is part of the artist program at CHAPTER, with whom he is working on a book of live hardcore and punk images from the past 15 years.
Five Songs That Remind Me of Growing Up in the ’90s
350 WORDS OR LESS From the Editor: The first time I saw Dum Dum Girls play—an afternoon South by Southwest set—it was as if they’d stepped out of a casting call for a B movie about leather-clad girl gangs who spend their nights breaking hearts, bottles and faces. An impressive feat considering their frontwoman, Kristen “Dee Dee” Gundred, played her first show less than a year earlier with a makeshift band that included members of Blank Dogs, Crocodiles and Crystal Stilts. Dum Dum Girls started as Dee Dee’s murky solo project, only to sharpen its focus with each passing release, from the switchbladebrandishing guitarmy anthems of I Will Be to the full-on, fuzz-free pop songs of the group’s recent Only in Dreams LP. The latter is especially refreshing when you consider that Dum Dum Girls was once loosely linked to the “shitgaze” scene that celebrated hacksaw hooks and no-fi production. Refreshing but not surprising. As Dee Dee told us earlier this year, “As much as I ST—011
1. Hum, “Stars” 2. Letters to Cleo, “Here and Now” 3. The Replacements, “Unsatisfied” 4. Elastica, “Connection” 5. Hole, “Violet” — subscribe to MY expanded spotify playlist here love noise, I also like having songs come across the best way that they can.... I think people are ready for things to sound better.” We certainly are. Dee Dee has emerged as one of the underground’s more progressive voices, without losing sight of what it takes to write actual songs. Beyond that, we’ve always been fascinated by musicians with a strong sense of self. In Dee Dee’s case, she established a shadowy bad-ass reputation despite being soft-spoken and shy. Let’s just say there’s a reason why we tried to capture Kristen on our cover and tell the story of Dee Dee and all of the real-world problems that informed her new album. We hope you walk away knowing the stories behind the songs and love the music all the more because of it. On a side note, we’ve created a Tumblr devoted to the music in our magazine. Head there for a smattering of iPad-ready songs, including lots of bonus material in between issues.
Andrew Parks, Editor-in-Chief / Publisher
A Vice fan / Skylight One Hanson, Brooklyn / 09.15.11 Photography caroline mort
Chairlift / Greenpoint, Brooklyn / 09.15.11 Photography Aaron Richter STâ€”015
Twin Sisterâ€™s Andrea Estella / 3rd Ward, Brooklyn / 05.30.11 Photography shawn brackbill
1MM CANT / Glasslands Gallery, Brooklyn / 08.31.11 Photography travis huggett STâ€”019
Blood Orange / Williamsburg, Brooklyn / 09.02.11 Photography aaron richter
Male Bonding / OFF Festival, Katowice, Poland / 08.06.11 Photography nick helderman
luke Photography shawn brackbill
The Rapture’s singer on gospel music. Like funk and disco, gospel is not littered with great LPs. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but if you wanna enjoy this genre, you gotta dig. I actually like this, as it keeps out the people who don’t really love the music. A long time ago, I learned from being a DJ that if an album has one redeeming song among a bunch of clunkers that it is still a good record. This is called maturity in record collecting. If you limit yourself only to playing with music that is an airtight package, ST—023
you will miss out on the next level. Being a real hipster involves moving past what other people think and getting into what you really feel, not just reading Pitchfork or All Music Guide and thinking that is the be all, end all. Here is a list of five killer gospel “records”— record meaning one song. Enjoy! And by all means, make up your own mind, get dirty... —Luke Jenner
1. The Armstrong Brothers, “Can You Treat Him Like a Brother”
The Armstrong Brothers only made one record. It’s this seven-inch on Jewel Records—a real beauty. This one will run you about $30 on eBay. That’s right: $30 for one song. Welcome to gospel record collecting. Anything on the edge of funk/Northern soul territory comes with a price tag because, as we speak, some Japanese businessman is watching/living his life to outbid you on this while he lives with his parents and puts all his income toward having the greatest soul-guy collection known to man and you get married and have kids. Which, let me tell you, ain’t cheap.
2. Elvis Presley, “His Hand in Mine”
“That’s all I need to know,” croons the master. Elvis’ favorite music was gospel. If you worked for him in Vegas, you would have to put up with speed-fueled jam sessions where you drank endless beers and did whatever this crazy SOB wanted you to do. But his mama loved church, and he loved his mama—a little too much maybe. “His Hand in Mine” is a really good gateway into the under-utilized and super-uncool straight white gospel world, which is pretty dang good actually. See Hovie Lister and the Statesmen for proof. Go there with open arms; you won’t be disappointed. But please, for the love of God, don’t go there first.
the same song, actually. Remember, this was before Bob Dylan, so the whole sing-and-write thing hadn’t really flowered yet. On that note, a lot of gospel singers did write their own material, so stop complaining and move on already.
5. Claude Jeter, “All Things Are Possible”
So this is the inventor of the falsetto in black music; dig the awesomeness. Without him, no Curtis Mayfield, and what a loss that would be. This song was recorded not so great. I’m sure a lot of great songs went by the wayside because, like in punk rock, they didn’t capture the fervor that was produced by live concerts, ce la vie mon cour. Thank God someone had the presence of mind to put this on YouTube so you could get all stoked out on its glory. The Rapture’s latest album, In the Grace of Your Love, is available now through DFA Records.
3. The Louvin Brothers, “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself”
The Louvin Brothers are so freakin’ awesome. This song has one of the best vocal hooks ever. And yes, all gospel music is not made by black people; just ask Chuck Berry. Anyhow, these guys were head and shoulders above their contemporaries. You should really read the book about them. I can’t remember the title; just look on Amazon, and get a used copy. That’s where I get most of my music books. And remember, kids, if you don’t wanna spend a bunch of time reading about music, you might as well stay home and watch the big boys eat all the cake.
4. Clara Ward, “How I Got Over”
One of my favorite singers of all time. Mahalia [Jackson] did this song, but [Clara] does it better. Be prepared to hear endless extrapolations on ST—024
SHOT FOR SHOT
Words andrew parks Photography caroline mort
Ryan Kattner reflects on a decade of drinking whiskey.
have come a long way since high school,” says Ryan Kattner, best known as Honus Honus in the bands Man Man and Mister Heavenly. “One time I chased Crown Royal with some fruit punch Snapple and ended up dryheaving in line for the Taco Bell drive-thru.” These days he’s graduated to good ol’ American whiskey, from single malts to bourbons and ryes. “One of my first drummers got me into bourbon,” says Kattner. “We started with Basil Hayden’s, which unfortunately goes down like water. It also reminds me of the time I bought a bottle for myself on my birthday. I went through a breakup the same day, so I ended up drinking the entire bottle and running through an abandoned house naked. It was a bad scene.” self-titled pulls up a seat beside Kattner at Brooklyn’s Fette Sau, a spot that specializes in smoked meat and only the finest brown stuff.
“The first time I had this was in Oslo. It was the only bourbon they had at the bar. They might have had Jack Daniels, but I don’t consider that bourbon. It reminds me of bands like Mötley Crüe and rock stars dying. If I had to drink Jack Daniels all the time, I’d probably die, too. In fact, the only time I had Jack Daniels and it was good was when it was in a pecan pie my mom made. That seems like the best use for it, that or pouring it down the drain. The same rule applies to Southern Comfort.”
“The first time I drank moonshine was at a keg party on someone’s land in Alabama. I knew this girl, and she was just drinking Everclear straight, very casually. That shit’ll make you blind if you have enough of it. I feel like this is a PSA on underage drinking. Anyway, I drank it, and this stuff reminds me of it. It kind of smells like Bedford Avenue.”
“We were touring through Iowa City when I first found out about this. It’s a small-batch rye. For the longest time, you could only get it regionally. Iowa was kind of a mess. We got in a fight with a bunch of Juggalos in a parking lot. They were throwing cans of Faygo at our van, but then we realized we had a common ground, which is throwing things. So we spent the entire night throwing Faygo on other people’s vans from a highway overpass together. “I typically don’t like rye whiskey. It’s an acquired taste, but I could drink this one like water. I bought a bottle of it for my dad, actually. I got him into drinking bourbon. He was a beer and wine guy before that, so I was his enabler.”
“I got into this while I was visiting my dad in Texas. We had a really emotional conversation while drinking it, one like we’d never had before. We drink a lot of whiskey when I’m down there. Buffalo Trace is another one we like.”
Vintage Elvis decanter with old McCormick whiskey
“Does this have barbiturates in it? Wow, this actually tastes like peanut butter and bananas— like it’s two-thirds his sweat, one-third chlorine water; like death; like an estate sale. I’m going to die on a toilet after drinking this, aren’t I? It kinda reminds me of Crystal Skull vodka, which I always thought should be filled with tequila instead.” ST—026
RECORDING UNDER THE INFLUENCE Interview Mitch Strashnov Photography geordie wood
Anthony Gonzales explains what really inspired his sixth album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. 1. California
Moving here made a big difference. Sometimes I would drive my car in the desert and bring my laptop to clear my head. It’s a cliché, but that’s pretty much what happened on this new album. For a French guy, going to the desert is something exotic! It’s so beautiful and quiet— perfect even. You can drive an hour or two and you’re in a different world. This is home now.
This album is about how real our dreams can feel. There’s this sense of freedom in a dream; you’re kind of the king of your thoughts. I always found it super fascinating to go on adventures when you’re dreaming, especially when you start to understand the process of thinking and how to control it. It feels so real, but you can configure it in a way, like a game. Sometimes when I wake up suddenly, I feel weird to be back in reality.
3. Klaus Kinski
I always make music with a film playing in the background. On the track “Wait,” on the album’s second side, I was still singing in the older style of the M83 albums, and I couldn’t express myself like I wanted, so I popped in [Werner Herzog’s] Aguirre, the Wrath of God. I realized I needed to put more pressure on my vocals; watching Klaus Kinski go mad during the film [helped me discover] a new side to how I could sing.
4. My brother
The album’s concept is related to siblings: One side of the album is from the [perspective of the] little boy on the cover, and the other is from the little girl—two different points of view and two different dreams. My brother is one of the most important people in my life. He introduced me to the best movies and the best music; it’s fascinating that we’re not the same but we still are connected. When I need to talk to somebody, I go to him first. I would be devastated if I ever fought with him; he’s me but just a bit smarter.
5. Friends of my youth
My teenage years were the greatest years of my life. My friends were my family, and we would do everything together. We had our first experiences, like when you first discover sex, drugs, music and were fearless. We were proud and almost cocky— beautiful losers, so to speak—going to parties, watching weird films and just living that period of our lives. It was the first time I really felt alive because you cover so much ground, so much new stuff. I love the fact that your self-confidence was limitless. Youth is the most beautiful period of time for a human being. I feel like this album would have never been the same if I never met my friends. When I was a kid, I was all about playing soccer and being a good boy. Then I met those kids and became more curious about life, discovering all those beautiful things.
— read other installments of Recording under the influence with alias, Marisa Nadler, dale earnhardt jr. jr. and more. ST—028
Photography samantha casolari STâ€”029
The Cali singer cracks the code of her new album.
flare so massive that it reaches Earth and turns it into an uninhabitable ball of fire. Super volcano theory is also intriguing. I liked the idea of being there to see it. Apokalypsis, thematically, leans more on the ideas of revelation and realization, visions and idealism. Some of the more literal songs inspired by this part of my research didn’t make it onto the album but will likely end up on another release. I liked that the word “apokalypsis” in Greek has multiple meanings—revelations, apocalypse, the lifting of the veil. I wore a veil onstage for a long time; I still do sometimes. It’s to convey mourning and the hidden, and to help me focus on my performance. The album cover, with the eyes blanked out in white, is meant to represent a sense of epiphany and the positivity in realizing and accepting truths, whether they are beautiful or hideous. I’ve always been inspired by a mixture of reality and mysticism, and the strange and dark things that occur in nature and in daily life: the Dead Sea, Salvation Mountain, deep-sea creatures, the human condition.
The writing of Apokalypsis came together naturally around May 2010, while I was finishing up reading Atlas Shrugged on a train from Toulouse to Paris. That book was full of grand idealism and the culmination of things, and what comes after or what can come after. I’m also influenced by Norse mythology and imagery, Old English and Biblical language. I started off on King James. I love the harshness, the phrasing, the visions. At times, it’s absurd. I decided to dive into the Book of Revelation and let the wild imagery and words meld with other things I had been looking into at the time, like scientific end-times theories. My favorite theory is that the sun will eventually send out a solar ST—030
Photography jake Michaels Spank Rock’s latest, Everyone Is Boring and Everyone Is a Fucking Liar, is out now on Bad Blood.
HTRK Photography aaron richter
FREE ASSOCIATION “Ice Eyes Eis”
e’re looking for a pet shop. One that has kittens. And a snake. There has to be a snake; Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang are sure of it. Standish and Yan, who perform together as the art-rock duo HTRK (pronounced Hate Rock), are determined to make their self-titled photo shoot, which is currently hunched at a Chinese restaurant, a bit cuddly, a touch menacing and, yes, almost entirely perplexing—at least for anyone familiar with HTRK’s sleek, cold, carefully disturbed second album, Work (work, work) (Ghostly). Though when we fail to find nearby felines, Standish and Yang aren’t dispirited. Instead they rush into the meat department of a Brooklyn grocery store and pose with slabs of packaged pink flesh as a security guard lazily starts his oh-no-not-in-here approach. It’s certainly not the snuff-film stills one might expect after absorbing HTRK’s nightmarish IV drip of an album, but Standish and Yang are moving forward. They’ve finished the sentences of Work (work, work) following the suicide of their bassist and friend, Sean Stewart, and now appear to be turning a new corner. For self-titled here, Yang and Standish break down every dimly lit note of the album with details as discomforting as the duo’s beautifully damaged songs.
Nigel Yang: Memories of Sean are laid on thick and tacky for my own emotional satisfaction, so my eyes glaze over, and I’m ready for the rest of the record. Pleasure or displeasure of this track is dependent on how cheap your lust is, or how damaged your sexuality has become. This song may sound vacuous and cheesy, but mindlessness, isolation and boredom aren’t necessarily going to sound particularly interesting. I still think it’s sexy. It’s so sad—that this is what it’s come to. Jonnine Standish: Loneliness, isolation and television for company. Skype. Wrath. Latenight moisturizer bottles and side drawers. I’ll never meet a girl like you. Tacky hallucinogenic prostitution. Distant rooms in a techno club—Berlin. Slowed-down corporate jingles that become sad. Our signature tune in 2003, “Hate Rock Trio,” was based on the song “Eye of the Tiger” at a third of the original pace. Soft futurism. A hovercraft in the rain next to a Chinese take-out restaurant. Space babes. The three witches in Macbeth. A Shakespearean tragedy.
Yang: I’m jamming with Sean from beyond the grave. Minor headfuck—major therapy. Things were just too tense to take this anywhere when he was around. These guitars are the sound of guilt and relief. Standish: Out-of-body despair. Out of focus. Different time zones. Indifference. Nodding in the right places. Blowing a dying erection. Electric saxophone lessons. Fast beats make me nauseous. Beauty wakes me up.
“Eat Yr Heart”
Yang: A total sketch, from 2006. Not sure how Sean would feel about this song being out there. It’s all him. [It] uses a MIDIbox Commodore 64 DIY synth module that was popular in Berlin at the time. Standish: All that work with no reward. Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea. Desire with no pay off. Pride. My insatiable ST—034
hunger for recognition. Move aside. It was never going to happen for us, was it? Media hype. Never-ending hits of meth. The last meal.
caps. Stage time. The smothering nature of contentment.
Yang: Our last jam. Standish: Metallic drug binge; enough to take down 10 men. Slow-motion tsunami. Oil spill. Smashing toxic waves of taboo. It’s done now, so where we gonna go? Feet that are swift to run into mischief. The underworld.
Yang: An impulsive live recording, and one of the last tracks written for the album. It’s loosely dedicated to the London queer anarchist scene, of which we have become very casually acquainted with. Sex on the mind, obviously. Standish: Giving your power over to someone or something. Total submission. After-hours sexual manipulation. Lechery. The whisper of taboo in the right ear. Doing it to yourself. Short sighted. A reason to get up in the morning. Anti-vitality, anti-widescreen, anti-charisma. The silver glow of night and skin. We see things in mono. Forcing the night to go your way. A lying tongue.
Yang: A heavy bedroom demo from years ago. Chris Brokaw from Codeine gave this song his approval, which made us remember how much we used to like Codeine. By coincidence, Codeine are discussed in a book I read whilst working on the album called Cold World: The Aesthetics of Dejection and the Politics of Militant Dysphoria. Standish: Teenage lust. Dennis Cooper’s novel, Guide. Fast metabolisms. A young friend who was 19 at the time of creating this song and all wide eyed, quite scatty and sexually into girls. She was in awe of me that I was in some kind of control of my life. I wanted to bottle the essence of this temporary state, capture this fleeting feeling before she turned. Does she want to die now before it’s all stable and straight? I’m trying to talk to her out of it.
Yang: Sean started seeing this girl, Ana. His new bass lines had this tenderness—a sense of poise and reflection and elegance that put Jonnine and I in a post-coital trance. Standish: Discouragement at the top. Highfive. Envy. A pet python that tries to swallow its beloved owner in bed. Prostitution and progress. Winners and go getters. Successful Facebook updates. YES!!!!!!!!!!!! Exclamation marks and all ST—037
“Work That Body”
Standish: Inventing a new sin because we are bored with the ones on offer. Working late. CC’d e-mails. Nutrients. Powerful Vital 5 Complex to help combat 5 of the 6 signs* of aging. J. G. Ballard’s novel, Super-Cannes. Corporate sleaze. Work that body. Careerism is an obscene fetish. Zip-up tight knee-length pencil skirt. Fluoro flickering office lights. Mint-green bruises on skin and swivel-chair covers. Servers. Ejaculation on my hand. Beats sound like anxiety attacks. Marching beats for that walk of conviction. Conference-call dial-ins. I really just want to sleep in with you and not get stressed out. Send me back to work. Stock photography.
Yang: That smell coming off skin—incredibly hot, a total spunk. Standish: Lights-off orgy in a morgue. Hands everywhere greed. Close and personal tube ride to work. Where am I even going? Bermuda. Me, Sean and Nigel. The blending and morphing of identity in a marriage. Me turning into him; him turning into me. Genesis and wife Lady Jaye. A single pandrogynous entity. The tiers we keep separate are starting to leak. The lost self and the new self.
Standish: Surrender. Sean’s corporate double life. Compartmentalization of our lives can be dangerous business. Industry coldness. The randomness of plain good and bad luck. The precision of karma. Someone taking your path and faking your passport. Some optimism after the blood transfusion. //
DJ Shadow Words Andrew Parks Photography Jimmy fontaine
THE SELF-TITLED INTERVIEW
It may be telling that the first record he ever purchased, three decades ago, was “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,” a single that drops Blondie, Chic and Queen amid block-party breaks throughout a seven-minute live mix. Each Shadow album since Endtroducing... has been both thrilling and baffling—whether it’s the divisive bits of Bay Area rap on The Outsider or the brash modern-rock bait of “Warning Call,” featuring vocals by Tom Vek, from Shadow’s long-awaited new LP, The Less You Know, the Better. “All of the music I’ve ever been drawn to has been really immediate and raw,” he explains. “At the same time, it’s usually well-arranged and conceived. That doesn’t mean hiring a 50-piece orchestra and all of that pretentious shit. It could be one person and a guitar and amazing in the same way.” Here Shadow helps us make sense of it all, from his painstaking creative process to the one record you won’t believe he owns (and loves).
sealed box of demos and cassettes sits in the corner of DJ Shadow’s tour bus. The 39-year-old producer has hit Calgary’s Recordland for an after-hours dig and hauled in everything from guy-with-a-guitar throwaways to Chili Peppers–biting also-rans. But for Shadow, the tapes are building blocks, the stuff sampledelic masterpieces like his 1996 hip-hop landmark, Endtroducing..., are made of. “It’s just a personal preference,” says Shadow, born Josh Davis, of his antiquated method for consuming music. “When I download music, I don’t feel compelled to judge it on any other basis than ‘Is this the greatest thing I’ve ever heard or not?’ When I listen to one of these tapes, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is a total left turn,’ or ‘Who were these guys?’ ”
self-titled: What was the timeline for recording The Less You Know, the Better? I started getting samples together in March of ’09, and I was working on it seriously up until May of last year. Then I toured from June until November. So I’d say I worked on it for about a solid year and a half. The songs began as instrumentals, so when did you realize some tracks needed vocals? I always start off with pretty stringent rules; it helps the music maintain some cohesiveness— except for The Outsider, where the rule was me wanting extremes. I really wanted that [vocal] texture on “Warning Call.” It was fine as a piece of music, and I tried a bunch of different options with vocals, but none of them worked out. Tom Vek had reached out about a remix, but I couldn’t do it because I was wrapped up with my own work. So I asked him if he could help out. It sounds like a Killers song—like a straight-up band playing. That’s definitely one of the things I’m working toward. In some cases, it’s a lot of fun to show your sampling prowess and have all of these fancy beat tricks, but in other cases, it’s nice where people can’t even tell [what’s a sample].
Is there any live playing like on the last record? Not really. Håkan Wirenstrand played keyboards on the Little Dragon track [“Scale It Back”]. That one stands out, too. It sounds like TLC. TLC? For real? Sure. Like classic ’90s R&B. That’s not a bad thing. TLC sold a lot of records. [Laughs] Well, that’s TLC, but yeah. I could sit here and say that I wanted the album to be instrumental, but I knew last year that I wanted to have a rap track that was almost a throwback— though I don’t like that term. You don’t want to suggest that the golden age of hip-hop is over? Exactly. But at the same time, I found myself missing some of the sentiments of ’90s rap. Posdnuous [of De La Soul] and I were talking about that—the phrase “maintain,” how rap lyrics used to be all about overcoming a daily struggle. [“Stay the Course”] is not a track I would have
necessarily made six years ago. I feel like it’s a bit of an alternative now that the underground hiphop scene in California has completely vanished, for all intents and purposes. Songs like “Redeemed” and “Sad and Lonely” sound like classic DJ Shadow. Are they the kind of thing you could write in your sleep at this point? I love those songs; those moments of beauty are where I feel like I’m doing something great. For example, even though I could hear that the samples would work together on “Redeemed,” it was the most extreme job I ever had to do in terms of beating them into submission. The drums come from a poorly recorded high school record, so they’re really off. I probably spent a week on that and a week on the vocal track. It was just pure science at that point. To see a song through that way—where I don’t hear any of the bending and twisting anymore— I’m really happy with it. The same thing goes with “Sad and Lonely.” I think it shows a more mature mind-set. Earlier in my career, I might ST—042
have insisted on fancier programming. Instead I tried to let the tracks take over on this record. I tried to be a steward and shepherd them along to a conclusion that felt tasteful and complete. Is it fair to say that this is a personal record for you? Parts of it seem vulnerable and introspective, despite the fact that you’re not using your own vocals or lyrics. I treat my albums as my firing-on-all-cylinders A-game. It’s like how I think good movies are often written and directed by the same person. And inevitably, there are some autobiographical elements in there; when one person is steering the entire ship, it’s very much part of them. With this one, I secluded myself so I could be free of distractions. I did about 70 percent of it [at a cottage in California] including all of the important concepts. At that point, I just had to fill in the gaps. On one of your very first singles—the “What Does Your Soul Look Like?” 12-inch—you made sure it ST—043
said “composed and produced by DJ Shadow.” Not just produced—composed. I like work that’s unapologetically audacious— everything from productions by people like Trevor Horn to albums that I name-drop all the time, like [De La Soul’s] 3 Feet High and Rising, [Public Enemy’s It Takes] a Nation of Millions and Dr. Dre’s production for N.W.A. None of that stuff is just tossed together. You never perceive mistakes or bad decisions. You just nod your head, and it builds inside of you. You mentioned setting rules before making your records. What was different this time around? Tracks like “Sad and Lonely” and “Redeemed”— that’s the place I try to get to first. At one point I wanted this album to just be one ID. So if you bought it on iTunes, you’d literally be getting a 60-minute song. Like your early single “Entropy,” only way longer? Exactly. I like the idea of forcing people to not skip through songs. That’s what I like about
cassettes. It’s pointless trying to zip around them because you’re always going too far in one direction. They forced you to weather the tracks you didn’t necessarily care for, and often those tracks became your favorites later. The really immediate stuff on the album, like “I Gotta Rokk,” are designed to be... Crowd pleasers? Right. I wrote them with a live setting in mind. The tracks that are slow burns, like “Sad and Lonely” or “Give Me Back the Nights,” if I can get them out of the way early in the process, it takes some of the pressure off because I know those are going to be the harder-fought tracks to make.
couldn’t take it. And on the other hand, there was a song that was as soft as you could get. People really missed that part of the album. The handful of hyphy tracks made everyone think the entire thing was like that. I agree. It was an easy dismissal: “I don’t like that [kind of music], so I’m not going to like the rest of the record.” There’s definitely some music [on The Outsider] that I could see people discovering somewhere down the road.
Do you view that record as being flawed, in the same way you have spoken about the UNKLE record in the past? The sequencing was flawed on that record; the The slow songs are crowd pleasers in their own way fact that I chose to front-load the hyphy stuff because people have come to expect melancholic made the album seem unbalanced. I endorse all music from you. Those tracks force you to stop of the songs on there, though. That’s one of the what you’re doing and really listen. nice things about putting out an album every five It’s a dynamic. I was actually telling a friend in years. It gives me a lot of time to consider what Chicago that I wanted to work “Sad and Lonely” I’m trying to say. One of the major differences in into my set and make people weep. Songs like how I think about music is that I don’t just scrap that are rare because DJs don’t want to risk something when it’s gone out of fashion, like how people standing still. I’m always really thankful people who used to listen to drum ’n’ bass say when those moments go over well and you feel they only like dubstep now. That’s a strange way like you’re actually reaching someone. of looking at things. Once something enters my I’ll occasionally do a signing after a show, DNA, it’s there permanently. and I’ve had a few people say they were in tears That’s why “Def Surrounds Us” was a good single half the time. I love stuff like that. It’s another leading up to this record. It refuses to align itself component of other work that I appreciate— with any one genre. when people nail certain emotions. I toyed with I suppose you could say the influences were that on The Outsider a bit. I really loved having parts that were really raw and not wimped out for equally crunk, tech-step, dubstep, whatever. But I’m not a dubstep guy. I don’t have the first clue the sake of my audience, who I thought maybe
“I’ve had a few people say they were in tears... I love that.” ST—044
“It was pure science at that point.”
about how to make a club record, so inevitably my stuff ends up sounding like a mutt. I think people also assume that you’re always looking back at the history of music through sampling, when you’re really trying to push things forward, not backward. I totally agree. I’ve noticed a lot of perceptions about what I like and don’t like. A purist aesthetic is so far from what’s really going on in my head. But that’s fine. You can’t go around dictating what people should think about you. What’s one record you really love that would surprise people? “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins. I’m dead serious. He could write fantastic relationship songs, [though] I detest his faux-Motown mode. You’re turning 40 soon. What do you miss about the early days of your career and your 20s? Honestly, I’m very content. I was talking to this promoter in Wales the other day about how when you’re 20, you think of women in their 30s and 40s and say, “Oh, she’s ancient!” But then you get to be 30 and 40, and it’s like, “Actually, no, they’re still beautiful.” It’s just a different perspective. The one thing I miss about being 23 is the feeling that there’s no off switch. I did anything people asked me to do back then. That’s why the Mo’ Wax guys really loved having me around. [Laughs] Because everything was always like, go, go, go. There was enough energy to fit everything in. “Oh, you need me in the studio for 18 hours a day? Fine, let’s do it.” While that’s appropriate for that age, there’s something to be said about having some balance in your life and a long view on things. I’m not in any rush or trying to be on top. I’m just trying to follow my life’s passion and have the best body of work that I can. You’ve said in the past that “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash” was the first record you ever bought and that it taught you the true meaning of hip-hop. What were some other records that helped shape your sound early on? A partial list of huge records for me: “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambataa & the Soulsonic Force, “Buffalo Gals” by Malcolm McClaren & the World’s Famous Supreme Team, “Beat Box” ST—047
by Art of Noise and “One for the Treble” by Davy DMX. On all of these, the programming and interplay between sparse lyrics and a plethora of sounds are paramount. A scratch comes in here, a trumpet there...an intricate drum fill followed by complicated synth lines. [It’s] a cut-and-paste sense of arrangement. What made you fall in love with vinyl? Did you become a rabid digger soon after grabbing that Grandmaster Flash record? No, no. For one thing, vinyl was the only format then. No self-respecting DJ was using cassettes; they just sat there. CDs weren’t around yet. I was always seeking new rap records for my collection, but I only had whatever money I was given on birthdays and holidays, and later with my paperroute money. It wasn’t until I started selling my baseball cards and comic books—around ’87— that I started focusing on original soul and funk records. They were plentiful and cheap on the West Coast. You’ve said, “Hip-hop lyrics steered me through life.” What’s a verse that applies to the current point in your career? “When you sell out to appeal to the masses, you have to go back and enroll in some classes”—Guru. I don’t anticipate ever feeling so all-knowing that I could justify leaving the classroom. There’s too much knowledge to glean from others. To stop learning is to perish creatively. Your earliest recordings were done on a four-track and recently reissued. How might your trajectory as a producer been different if you had grown up in this generation instead, where you can easily and cheaply create dense multitrack recordings in your bedroom? It’s impossible to know, but I’ve always felt that cutting my teeth on an imperfect and exacting machine toughened me up for my chosen instrument: the sampler. Sort of like longdistance runners in Kenya: When you don’t have fancy training facilities or sports drinks, you don’t know any better. All you know is that you have to run and run hard; there are no shortcuts. // — Check out a YouTube playlist of the songs mentioned in this story here.
“All you know is that you have to run and run hard.”
leader of the pack Words Julianne Escobedo Shepherd Photography Bryan Sheffield STâ€”049
How Dum Dum Girls’ fearless frontwoman turned a hellish year into her finest hour.
ee Dee Penny is looking for The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The Dum Dum Girls frontwoman lost her copy of the Milan Kundera classic halfway through reading it—on the subway, at a coffee shop...somewhere—so she’s crouched in the K section of the Strand, New York’s iconic bookseller. She thumbs past paperbacks, but the shop appears to be out of copies, and Dee Dee wonders why she’d never read Kundera before, despite having studied
modern literature and theory in college. “It was post-1850, all languages,” she says of her education. “I was always a total loner weirdo. I had books, not friends, you know?” As if to underscore her point, she makes her way back to Broadway and St. Marks Place and blends in at the seams. Dee Dee is ostensibly a rock star, insofar that mid-level rock stars still exist, but she’s keeping a much lower profile than the thousands of Manhattanites breaking out early from their jobs on this sunny Friday afternoon. As they buzz about, Dee Dee’s demeanor is still and contemplative. She moved to New York City just a few months ago, and so far, one of her most beloved activities is to embark upon long, aimless walks. “I’ve always loved New York,” she says, stepping out into the sun. “I came here for the first time in, like, 2003, and I would have stayed if I wasn’t totally broke. I probably romanticize it, like I do a lot of things, but I pick up on this vibe here. It always feels like shit is happening.” In some ways, it’s difficult to imagine Dee Dee anywhere but her native California: She was born in Hayward, grew up in the Bay, went to college in Santa Cruz and logged years in San Diego and Los Angeles. So much of the identity surrounding her sun-bleached guitarpop band, Dum Dum Girls, is intrinsically tied to the mythology of the state—not beach balls and bonfires, like the lyrics of many of her peers, but juvenile delinquency and bad-girl inclinations that summon the darkest epochs in West Coast history. The songs are bright, with sweet harmonies and magnetic chords, but Dum Dum Girls’ music reflects the cultural temperature of a state with skeletons: Haight Street, Laurel ST—050
Canyon, cults, hippies, the Doors. They are myths certainly imprinted on a lifelong Cali girl with a penchant for stories, and their specter looms over the Dum Dum Girls persona. On “Jail La La,” the first track off 2010’s I Will Be (Sub Pop), Dee Dee’s sweetheart harmonies perch on fuzz guitars as she sings about letting her baby know she’s been carted off to the clink. That album’s subsequent single, “Bhang Bhang I’m a Burnout,” is more philosophical—“In your head / Are you dead?”—but it’s mostly comprised of the singer gleefully declaring, “Bhang bhang, bhang bhang, bhang bhang / I’m a burnout!” The video’s images are superimposed with spraypaint effects, as Dee Dee spins in circles and holds hands with her bandmates: Jules, Bambi and Sandy. The flipside to such a utopia, the clip seems to say, is its inevitable end. The color saturation is psychedelic, but it’s also radioactive. In New York, walking languidly across the NYU campus, Dee Dee doesn’t once take off her oversize black sunglasses. “I’m a true California girl,” she says. “Not like a Valley girl... Maybe I’m not obviously California, but I basically grew up ST—051
in San Francisco, and I felt really comfortable and at home there.” However, Dee Dee was ready for a reboot, yearning for new surroundings after a difficult stretch at home. For the past year and a half, she has been coping with the death of her mother, who succumbed to brain cancer after being diagnosed with the illness for mere weeks. Dee Dee poured the experience into her music. Only in Dreams, Dum Dum Girls’ second album for Sub Pop, was written almost entirely during that period, over two stretches in 2010. “I’ve always been private,” she says, “and I’ve always written since I was a little girl. I don’t know; I used to not even talk really. So I guess I still have a lot to write about, even though now I talk to humans.”
IT’S THE SONGS, STUPID
Dee Dee is petite and very pretty, intelligent and well spoken, but a little reserved. She began Dum Dum Girls in 2008 as a home-recording project, cutting takes on a four-track and a laptop while working on her main gig as the
singer and drummer in Grand Ole Party, a more straightforward San Diego rock band she formed with college friends under her given name, Kristen Gundred. After Grand Ole Party broke up, Dee Dee—cribbing her stage name from the Ramones bassist—debuted the first Dum Dum Girls songs live at Brooklyn’s Woodsist Fest in the summer of 2009, with a nascent lineup consisting of her husband, Brandon Welchez (of Crocodiles); Mike Sniper (of Blank Dogs); and Frankie Rose. Donning a fringed bat-wing dress, Dee Dee kept her black Ray-Bans on for the entire show, but she ferociously belted out her alto warbles and didn’t waver on a single note. Though Dum Dum Girls was somewhat of a mystery to the Brooklyn audience, Dee Dee was clearly the leader of the band, her finesse eclipsing her bandmates’ beefy guitar solos and beastly drumming. With a single show, she emerged as a new hero for the emerging scuzzedout garage-pop revival. Sniper was a fan of Dee Dee’s before he joined her onstage and eventually released Dum Dum Girls’ Yours Alone EP on his label,
Captured Tracks. “I [first] heard her music on MySpace,” he says. “She has a firm grasp of classic songwriting—verses, choruses, melody, and she can make a catchy hook. She also has an exceptional voice.” In the spring of 2010, Sub Pop snapped up her first album, repressing I Will Be (originally issued via HoZac Records) as Dee Dee assembled her current all-girl lineup, with Jules on gutar, Bambi on bass and Sandy on drums. “I was somewhat wary,” she says, “like, ‘Okay, I have a band, and I’ve never played a show, and I’m just gonna sign to this giant American indie label? Is that a dick move, or is that dangerous? Am I gonna get swallowed up?’ I had no idea. I was acquaintances with No Age, who had signed [to Sub Pop] the year before. And they have such a specifically admirable moral, a ‘What Would No Age Do’ kind of thing. I figured if they were happy, I would probably be happy as well.” The deal with Sub Pop led to other opportunities, including linking with Richard Goettehrer, a longtime producer and record executive who eventually became her manager ST—052
“I was always a loner w had books, not friends, y ST—053
weirdo. I you know?”
and assisted with post-production on I Will Be. “My first impression was the lo-fi sound, which I loved,” says Goettehrer. “But it was really the songs that drew me in and made me decide to work with Dee Dee. On the first album, I merely took her sounds and mixed them so that the important elements were clear and easy to understand. Dee Dee did all the hard work.” Goettehrer has impeccable pop credentials, such as co-writing “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “I Want Candy,” and serious business acumen, having launched Sire Records in the 1970s with Seymour Stein. He also helped debut both Blondie and the Go-Gos, and later would be instrumental in building up the Raveonettes (whose guitarist, Sune Rose Wagner, helped Goettehrer produce Only in Dreams). “None of them started out as icons; like Dee Dee, they were just trying to make music,” he says. “The public assigns icon status, which is meaningless. But artists like Dee Dee grow within themselves and succeed because of talent.”
ONE LIFE TO LIVE
One of the problems with wandering around New York is that no matter how long you’ve lived here, sometimes you can’t find where you’re going. Dee Dee has spent time in Berlin lately, where her husband is recording with Crocodiles, so self-titled is trying to show her Washington Mews, the historic cobblestone street near Washington Square Park that, we keep promising, is filled with “like, old German houses.” They are, in fact, 19th-century horse stables that now function in part as fancy homes for professors, but we don’t remember that or where they’re located exactly. But Dee Dee seems content just to walk around without a purpose, light wind in her hair. She bums a smoke, and if she hadn’t planned to meet up with her dad later for dinner on his first-ever trip to New York, we get the feeling she’d be cool with walking around until midnight, thinking about music. Only in Dreams contains some of her best melodies, but there’s a darkness to the album that feels deeper than the blithe rebellion of Dum Dum Girls’ earlier music. Dee Dee’s voice is as strong as it’s ever been, and waves of vibrato suggest she’s developed a tenacious confidence— or maybe it’s bravery, considering that the lyrics are so candid and direct. She made no effort to ST—054
hide the fact that Only in Dreams is an upbeat album about being miserable. Between pop songs about grieving for her mother are anguished tracks about being apart from Welchez, conflicting tour schedules ever a thorn. One line in “Heartbeat” could be a sort of thesis: “I don’t know / Where to go / To get away from this sorrow / Take it away.” Yet the song’s frug drums and “woah-oh” chorus sound like something you might play at a go-go dance contest. The album is complicated and compelling. Cut live with her entire band at Pink Duck, the studio owned by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Only in Dreams swaps the lo-fi aesthetic of Dee Dee’s earlier, simpler recordings for fullness and warmth. Shredding solos are captured through Silvertone amps, which match the guitars the Dum Dum Girls play. “I’ve always been the kind of person who prefers books over websites, film over digital, records over CDs,” says Dee Dee, “so for me it was important to be in the studio, a pretty classic way that you do records. You get something special when you do it like that—maybe a little bit of inaccuracy or messiness, charming human moments that if you were recording track by track you would probably get rid of.” For the first time, Dee Dee recorded Dum Dum Girls as a collaborative effort, sketching out the song skeletons and letting Jules, Bambi, and Sandi filling in the curlicues with their own impulses. Which also meant letting go of the reins a bit. “The last thing that I really gave up on— which wasn’t hard, but it was weird—was singing,” she says. “I’ve always done all the backups, but it’s so much better to have different tones and
personalities in the backup vocals, instead of it being almost some kind of hypnotic, weird robot. “I liked that it was more real, you know? The hardest thing about writing songs is having it be memorable and have some sort of significant meaning that you’ve distilled into this pop format that actually has substance.” The brevity can be gutting. On “Caught in One,” one of the sweetest and saddest songs on Only in Dreams, Dee Dee sings, “In your eyes I see you still love life / Oh, this has been a drag / Who knew it’d be so bad? / This year’s been a drag / Who knew it’d be so bad?” Without context, you might construe it as a breakup song. But there’s a vehemence to her voice, and a reservation. “I’m caught in one,” goes the chorus, heavily. “I just wanna have fun.”
AND THEN SHE WOKE UP
In the overcast humidity of the late East Coast summer, birds are chirping, and Dee Dee takes a breath. “I really struggled with [my mother’s death], and I still do,” she says. “Everything that I was going through only found its way out in the songs, so it was therapeutic to a degree. But it was almost...not damaging, but just strange for me to be like, ‘Wow, I am really not dealing with anything except when I am writing a song about it.’ I don’t know if that seems very healthy.” Dee Dee used photographs of her mom for the covers of Yours Alone and I Will Be—portraits from the ’60s, when her mother, a California girl into the Doors and the Dead, had been a feminist living in Santa Barbara. In the past few years, Dee Dee and her mom, a public-school teacher,
“Is that a dick move, or is that dangerous? I had no idea.” ST—055
had grown much closer, a side effect of letting the dust leading to adulthood settle. “We had problems like everyone’s relationship with their parents,” says Dee Dee. “But I’ve grown up a lot in the last five years, and we were sort of at that classic point when you’re an adult. The fact that I got married, you know?” But in early 2010, Dee Dee’s family learned “out of nowhere” that the breast cancer her mother beat in the early 2000s had slowly metastasized and was now residing in her brain. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s very advanced, so my health will decline,’ ” says Dee Dee. “It was, ‘Something weird’s going on; we have no idea what it is. Oh, we have to have major brain surgery today.’ And then she woke up and never really recovered.” By the time Dum Dum Girls were ready to record Only in Dreams earlier this year, Dee Dee’s mom had passed, and the bulk of the songs were finished. Still coming to terms with her own grief, she found that the collaborative aspects of recording gave her a bit of relief. “I’m learning how to grieve, or something. I’m not very good at that sort of thing. So it was good to have other
people around because maybe it would have been overwhelming,” she says. “But at the same time, I definitely had distance between what we were recording and what it really meant. And the times where I really let it get to me, it was difficult. There was one song in particular I was having a lot of trouble with because it was making me upset. But there was a performance element to it. And maybe that was saving me from becoming a total mess.” On “Heartbeat,” Dee Dee sings, “I want to say goodbye / But you’ve been gone for a while / I do not pray / But tonight I am begging.” The song’s effect is visceral; the pain and loss is so intense through the sweet harmonies that it brings to mind the heartache of Dee Dee’s musical predecessors: the Crystals, the Supremes, Shangri-Las, whose life struggles often cast a shadow upon some of our brightest dance-party classics. (Try listening to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” without becoming even a little sad.) “I don’t really talk about [my emotions] that often in my normal life,” Dee Dee says, “but here I went and put [them] so obviously out there in my record.” ST—056
Still, Only in Dreams represents a chance to regroup. Dee Dee feels optimistic about her relocation with Welchez to Manhattan, where she’s hoping the new landscape will inspire her. A few months ago, they packed a van full of their belongings—mostly records and books, the haul of collectors—and drove it across the country to an apartment owned by her manager. The couple lives on the Upper East Side, probably best known to most American teenagers today as the province of Gossip Girl, but a place Dee Dee adores for a far less auspicious cultural history. “I basically moved to the neighborhood from the [Woody Allen] movie Manhattan,” she says, “which is kind of like my dream.” They have a roommate to keep Dee Dee company when Welchez is away touring or recording with his band. “I’m such a loner that I would probably never leave or talk to anybody if I was by myself,” she offers. Dee Dee has mostly been taking long walks, building Ikea bookshelves, people-watching and syncing with the East Coast’s heartbeat. “It’s significant to have a catalyst, a muse of some kind,” she says. “The songs I anticipate writing over the next few months, I think the move and New York itself will be the muse. That was a very small part of why I wanted to move, too. What’s the next change in my life going to be?” Before the next paradigm shift, though, she needs to find the Kundera. Also, a solid coffee shop. Welchez is in Berlin recording the next Crocodiles album, and for a while, Dee Dee was spending time at the café inside the Neue Gallerie—a space for 19th-century German and Austrian art, world-famous for once spending $135 million on Gustav Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. “That’s my jam in terms of painting,” she says. “It’s a little fancier than I would normally go to, but they just closed for renovations. I still haven’t found my spots yet.” With that, she heads for the subway. She moves in the curious pace of a new resident, gingerly assessing. //
From left: Jonny Pierce, Jacob Graham and Connor Hanwick
Words arye dworken Photography Chris shonting Producer Ann Lee Caceres Special thanks Lindsay Plotkin and Puffyâ€™s Tavern
s a child, Jonathan Pierce had a friend, and his name was Jesus. But wherever Jonathan went, Jesus was always there with him, and no matter how hard he tried, Jonathan could never find the distance he needed. Jonathan grew up near Orlando, Florida, in Kissimmee, where Mickey Mouse ears and STâ€”059
religion were in abundance, and his parents were preachers in the Pentecostal church. He was home-schooled, and as with every young boy, his adolescence was confusing, though even more so due to his Christian conscience. At night, Jonathan would listen to Morrissey. He found solace in music; first through the
Christian rock scene, then through the secular cassettes he’d sneak home and hide under his bed. Morrissey changed his life, or rather, what he expected of life. He began to entertain thoughts that maybe living under God in Kissimmee just wasn’t for him. Today, Jonathan Pierce, who now goes by Jonny, is 30 and sings in a band called the Drums with his childhood friend, Jacob Graham. They first met at Bible camp, bonding over their mutual love for the Christian synth-pop band Joy Electric. Graham’s older siblings were youth pastors, and his Pentecostal upbringing was similar to Pierce’s. They shared these roots. But recently, Pierce has been feeling a bit different. “I’ve seen the world / And there’s no heaven, and there’s no hell,” he sings at the start of the Drums’ second album, Portamento (Frenchkiss). Throughout his life, Pierce has struggled to make peace with his inclinations toward atheism, but the Drums frontman finally feels absolved. “And I believe, that when we die, we die,” he asserts alongside a bouncy bass line on the song “Book of Revelation.” Pierce has turned his back on Jesus, and he wants everyone to know.
THE DEAD END
“Having grown up in this small town, I thought I was all alone,” Pierce says as we meet for a Sunday brunch at Bowery Bar. He’s dressed in a black deutschland T-shirt with a sizable
hole under the armpit, shorts, and the awkward pairing of tall black socks with even blacker boots. He sits with Graham, timelessly preppy, in a yellow plaid button-down, his short sleeves rolled up. Connor Hanwick, the band’s third fulltime member, has stayed home. “I was the only person like me that there was,” Pierce continues. “But after meeting Jacob...a lot changed for me. We would spend hours on the phone together every night talking and venting. We understood each other.” The two boys recognized a familiar struggle with religious identity in each other and bonded over bands. “We knew nothing about music outside of the Christian pop scene,” Pierce reminisces. “We would actually find out about bands like the Smiths and My Bloody Valentine when a band like Joy Electric or Starflyer 59 would reference them in their liner notes.” It took courage for Graham, knowing his family would disapprove, to seek out the Smiths, but he eventually unearthed a cassette at a library tape sale. “As kids, we were told to be happy with God all the time,” Graham says. “But when we listened to the Smiths, we felt like it was okay to be miserable, that there was something cathartic and normal about being sad. And it was the first time we had been exposed to that.” With their parents’ permission, Pierce and
“People don’t like when guys are so expressive. It turns them off.” Graham began playing around with synthesizers and recorded religious music as qub3 (pronounced “cube”), then as Goat Explosion. You can still find clips on YouTube of the insecure singer yelping non-offensive love songs, in what, as Pierce remembers, was probably a church basement. The group stayed together long enough to tour with their heroes, Joy Electric, but Graham soon left the band. As he recalls, touring took its toll. In Graham’s absence, Pierce rolled Goat Explosion into the similarly minded Elkland. He moved to New York, and in a mid-’00s music climate clamoring for another Killers, Columbia Records signed Elkland to a six-album, 10-year deal. Pierce toured with Erasure. Columbia made big promises. But Elkland was a critical bust. Pierce called the label and told him he was done, fulfilling only a sixth of the band’s contract. “New York had became a real dead end for me,” Pierce says. Exhausted and uninspired, he called Graham, just like he used to when they were kids, and the two friends reunited in Kissimmee. Graham was working as a Disney World security guard. He’d stayed in Florida because, as he says it, he had nowhere else to go. “I was destined to make music on my own,” he assumed at the time, “and no one else would care.” They lived together in a one-bedroom apartment, worked their day jobs—Graham kept watch on the Magic Kingdom and Pierce managed a Y-3 store—and returned home at night to make music. The duo launched a MySpace page after settling on the Drums as a name (because “it sounded like a band with years of history,” notes Pierce). They uploaded a demo of
“Let’s Go Surfing” and, as they insist, expected nothing to come of it. But the song was heard. Stephen Bass of the influential UK label Moshi Moshi remembers his initial skepticism toward the Drums: “Another American guitar band with a good name and at least one good song.” Nevertheless, it piqued his interest. He wrote Pierce and Graham and kept in touch. “Then I heard ‘Down by the Water,’ ” says Bass. The charmingly haunting love song convinced Bass to release duo’s self-recorded Summertime! EP, and with “Down by the Water” as its aching cornerstone, it was the Drums’ breakout release.
ABOVE ALL ELSE
Pierce and Graham are both handsome. As is Hanwick. Pierce has flaxen blonde bangs that curtain his penetrating, deep-set eyes. At times, he looks like he could be a poster on a wall. Graham, unlike Pierce’s hardened visage, has a doe-eyed gaze and clean-shaven baby face, and appears to be in a perpetual state of sincerity. Even the group’s recently resigned guitarist, Adam Kessler, (as well as the couple of guys who now round out the Drums’ live band) fit the group’s boyishly cute look to a tee. Applauded by some, it’s a look that, paired with Pierce’s charming brand of sissy earnestness, has also generated unease, where concerns of insincerity meet, as Pierce notes, trepidation about homosexuality. “We’ve heard people accuse us of being manufactured, like we were a boy band,” says Pierce. “But we just style ourselves. Connor heard this rumor that we were having sex with ST—062
one another. Care about how you look, and be emotional, and there are snap judgments. ‘Of course they’re gay!’ ” Pierce pauses. “You know what?” he continues. “That’s why Adam left the band. He had a problem with the rumors. But I don’t care. We think it’s actually kind of cool.... People don’t like it when guys are so expressive. It turns them off. ‘Why aren’t these guys tougher? What are they crying about?’ ” In a sense, Portamento—a record of catharsis and therapy for Pierce, particularly taken alongside the group’s admittedly posturing selftitled debut—could work to dispel skepticism. “I couldn’t write a record like the first one,” says Pierce. He reveals that much of the first album’s lyrics were fictionalized—words that would simply make a good song, rather than the heartbreaking confessions they appeared to be. No, there was no best friend that died, no desire to go surfing, nor was there really a me and the moon. But Portamento, he insists, is different, more genuine. “It’s a lot more exciting personally relating to the songs that I’ll be forced to sing for the next few years,” says Pierce, “where I’m able to say that a third of my life may have been nonsense, but if I live to be 90, at least two-thirds will be meaningful on my terms.” He’s referring, of course, to his upbringing and his newfound comfort in disbelief. It’s a subject that, as we speak, doesn’t appear to sit entirely well with Graham, who offers up apologetic looks as his friend rails on the religion he was fed as a child. “I can relate to Jonny’s lyrics in a lot of ways, even though I’m not reacting to where we came from in the same way,” says Graham, who seems more accepting of his Pentecostal roots yet doesn’t object to the atheism inherent in songs like “Book of Revelation,” “Searching for Heaven” and “Days.” “We had very different childhoods. My parents weren’t as extreme. In Christianity, you’re supposed to love God above all else. And growing up, I never felt that that they were sacrificing their love of us for God.” The album itself—built upon Pierce and Graham’s love for band like the Smiths, New Order, Orange Juice and, their biggest influence, Wake—is a portrait of grown men experiencing doubt, sadness and lust. Its bouncy standout, “What You Were,” is about Kessler’s departure from the band, recorded the day after he split, ST—063
in which Pierce gets the final word. “I always knew what you were,” he laments, as an angelic harmony softens the blow. (It should be noted that, by all appearances, the song reads primarily as a love song about the ruins of a relationship, with Pierce repeating “I gave you my heart.”) The Britpop-inflected “I Don’t Know How to Love” examines the confusion of friendship and the distance between emotions. Portamento’s darkest track, “If He Likes It Let Him Do It,” is, as Graham feels the need to clarify, not about rape, which some have assumed, and Pierce is ambiguous about its meaning, clarifying only that it is about sexuality. We posit that the song’s narrator could be struggling with homosexuality. “Yeah, it could be a reference to gay sex,” Pierce says matter-of-factly. “Whatever you want it be.”
DON’T LOOK BACK
A few days after our brunch together, we call Pierce for a quick chat. He’s walking around downtown Manhattan because he says he feels restless staying home all day. We tell him that we’ve been looking at Portamento’s haunting album art, particularly the boy on the cover with glowing red eyes who is standing under a cross. Without the red eyes, the picture is sweet, nostalgic and warm—someone’s son biting into a cookie while his grandmother smiles in approval. But with the red eyes, the snapshot takes on devilish implications. This is a bad kid with bad intentions, his back turned to the religious icon hanging on the wall. “That’s me on the cover,” Pierce reveals. “I dug up that photograph when I was going through some old stuff. I don’t have a lot of photos from my childhood, but when I saw this one, I saw the album cover.” And the woman standing next to him? He doesn’t know who she is. She could be a great aunt. She could even be dead now. Since parting ways with God, Pierce has also stopped speaking with his parents, so he may never know. The photo comes from an album Pierce’s mom made for him, years ago. He still has it with him in his New York apartment, though he doesn’t like looking through it. “It’s taken me thirty years to get to where I am right now,” he says with a laugh. “And this isn’t the time to look back.” //
“We felt like it was okay to be miserable.” ST—064
THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES
Photography damien vignaux STâ€”065
Back in the mid-’80s, the “Blue Monday” video was on every music channel available day and night—a legendary video for a brilliant track.
THE ACID-HOUSE RECORD THAT’S STOOD THE TEST OF TIME
Pierre’s Pfantasy Club, “Got the Bug” (Trax, 1987) For us, having grown up in East Berlin, this track is a memory of nights of listening to British Allied radio and its perpetual mixes of acid house and hip-hop. Are there still shows like this on the radio anywhere?
THE RECORD OUR KIDS LIKE
he German duo of Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary makes music as manic as its record collection, and the group’s latest, Monkeytown, sees Modeselektor squeezing an array of guests (Busdriver, Apparat, AntiPop Consortium, Thom Yorke) and seemingly divergent sounds (bubble-gun electro beats, histrionic techno hooks, heady hip-hop, moody pop melodies) into one airtight package. Here, Bronsert and Szary break down the LPs and 12-inch singles that have marked their lives.
THE RECORD THAT RECALLS GROWING UP IN BERLIN
Sueño Latino, “Sueño Latino” (Derrick May Remixes) (Buzz/Creative Label, 1992) [Bronsert bought this record on one of his first visits to legendary Berlin record store Hard Wax.] Back then, we didn’t even know the Manuel Göttsching track it samples [“E2-E4”]. No matter if you take the original version or the Derrick May version, this track is magic!
THE RECORD THAT BLEW OUR MINDS AT AN EARLY AGE
New Order, “Blue Monday” (Factory, 1983)
Moderat, “Rusty Nails” (BPitch Control, 2009) When our kids were about a year old, we started collaborating with Apparat on the Moderat album. We often worked at home on ideas, and when we played the first versions of “Rusty Nails,” our kids wanted to hear that voice of Sascha [Ring, Apparat’s birth name] again and again.
THE RECORD WE BOUGHT BECAUSE OF ITS COVER (AND LIKED)
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, “Round and Round” (4AD, 2010) It’s a pink cover with a dog kissing a human. There has been a T-shirt with the design as well.
THE RECORD WE CAN BOTH AGREE TO LISTEN TO WHILE ON TOUR
Zomby, Dedication (4AD, 2011) This album is 35 minutes. It was the soundtrack of our trip from Washington, D.C., to West Virginia, and we listened to it about four times in a row. It all came together—this album, [West Virginia] Route 66, gas stations, mountains...
THE RECORD THAT BEST REPRESENTS GERMAN HIP-HOP
Westberlin Maskulin, Hoes Flows Moneytoes (Royal Bunker, 1997) This tape got on the market in 1997 and split the German hip-hop scene into two camps—the West Berlin camp and the rest of Germany camp. Both camps hated each other. The lyrics are full of Berlin humor and disses. ST—066
THE RECORD THAT FOLLOWS THE SAME “CREATE, DISTORT, RECYCLE” ETHOS AS OUR OWN
Errorsmith, Near Disco Dawn (Errorsmith, 2004) This album is a mingle-mangle of live recordings that has the best bass drum in the world!
A RECENT RECORD THAT MADE US RETHINK THE MEANING OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC
PVT, “Church with No Magic” (Warp, 2010) When it was played on the radio one nice summer afternoon, [Gernot] just sat outside in the sun and really listened to the song, despite the radio’s mono sound.
A RECORD WE HEARD AT A CLUB RECENTLY AND ABSOLUTELY HAD TO OWN
Badawi vs. Kode9, “Den of Drumz (Kode9 Remix)” (ROIR, 2008) This single only makes sense in a club. Gernot always goes crazy when the hi-hat comes in.
THE RECORD PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED WE OWN
Squarepusher, “Venus No. 17” (Warp, 2004) The track is pure craziness! Turn the pitch down to -8 percent; you will get much more bass.
THE RECORD THAT HASN’T LEFT OUR CRATE FOR YEARS
Donna Summer, “I Feel Love” (Casablanca, 1977) It might be borderline cheesy, but mixed with Leo Annibaldi’s “Acid Pop” single [ACV, 1992], it’s the best ever. It always works. And [co-producer] Giorgio Moroder was just a genius.
A DANCE RECORD THAT TAKES ITSELF AS SERIOUSLY AS WE TAKE OUR OWN MUSIC
Bodenständig 2000, Maxi German Rave Blast Hits 3 (Rephlex, 1999) löten statt töten. You can’t translate that into English without losing its humor. Look the words up in the dictionary. It only rhymes in German. // ST—067
detritus 3. Tubeway Army (Beggars Banquet, 1978) Gary Numan’s supercharged youth origins. Much more punk rock than his solo efforts—raw, loud, and catchy as hell. 4. Santogold (Downtown, 2008) Just weird enough to be interesting but still a hookdriven indie-pop record. Such a wide variety of rhythms and styles, this album appeals to nearly every possible audience. Great songwriting. Great music. Great production. 5. The Beatles (Apple, 1968) Not my favorite Beatles album, but the Beatles are like sex: Even when it’s not the best, it’s still great. Most of the songs are solo efforts, and Ringo even quit the band for a while during its recording.
Photography will govus
Mayer Hawthorne’s top 10 favorite self-titled albums 1. Prince (Warner Bros., 1979) My favorite Prince album is Dirty Mind, but this is No. 2. It’s still organic and warm like his previous record, For You, but more bangin’. He’s also riding a unicorn on the back cover. ST—069
2. The Cars (Elektra, 1978) Amazing from start to finish— Ric Ocasek’s brilliant blend of pop and new wave at its peak. Throw on “Just What I Needed” in a club today, and teens will think it’s brand new.
6. Weezer (DGC, 1994) Produced by none other than Ric Ocasek, Weezer’s eponymous debut pulled the sweater strings of every teen on earth. Even hardcore rap thugs sing along with “Say It Ain’t So.” The nerdy angst of Steely Dan mixed with power-chord indie rock. Classic. 7. Run-D.M.C. (Profile/Arista, 1984) The debut of the most influential rap group ever.
Top five songs that make the “Be My Baby” beat sound cooler than the “Amen” break 1. “Just Like Honey,” The Jesus and Mary Chain 2. “An Ugly Death,” Jay Reatard 3. “What’s a Girl to Do?” Bat for Lashes 4. “A Question of Lust,” Depeche Mode 5. “No Dancing,” Elvis Costello
Songs like “Rock Box” and “Sucker MCs” defined the genre. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted to rap and dress like Run and Daryl. It’s like that, and that’s the way it is.
9. Black Star (Rawkus, 1998) When Mos Def and Talib Kweli dropped their first and only record together, everybody else had to shut the fuck up 8. Metallica (Elektra, 1991) for a while. Hood thugs and Also known as the Black Album, suburban hippies bumped this this was the point where record and partied together. Metallica successfully reached every person in the world. 10. Rage Against the Machine The album spent five years in (Epic, 1992) the Billboard 200 chart. Five Rage took the politically years. “Enter Sandman,” “Sad charged rebellion of Public But True,” “The Unforgiven,” Enemy and fused it with the “Wherever I May Roam,” and raw energy of Led Zeppelin to “Nothing Else Matters” are all create the most powerful album more than five minutes long. of all time. The soundtrack for angry teens everywhere, this record could make Mother Theresa smash Gandhi in the head with a brick.
Top five cover songs Nirvana once completely butchered live 1. “My Best Friend’s Girl” (The Cars) 2. “My Sharona” (The Knack) 3. “Do You Love Me” (Kiss) 4. “Bad Moon Rising” (Credence Clearwater Revival) 5. “Heartbreaker” (Led Zeppelin)
Alias on Jodeci’s Diary of a Mad Band (Uptown/ MCA, 1993) Jodeci’s second album has had more of an impact on my production style than I ever really noticed until recently. It’s an album I used to listen to on the regular when it was first released in late 1993 and, within the last two or three years, I have been playing pretty regularly. Devante Swing is the producer/beatmaker for the group, and he straight up kills the production on this album—so many layers going on, so many intricate percussive tricks, beautiful melodies mixed with dusty samples. So dope! Diary of a Mad Band also has the first recorded appearances from both Missy Elliott and Timbaland. Makes me wonder how much of an influence this album had on their initial musical shaping. Super fresh. ST—070
Chris Taylor of CANT and Grizzly Bear on D’Angelo’s Voodoo (Virgin, 2000) I’ve been listening to soul, funk and R&B since I was 11, and this was the first record that sounded of my generation. I liked [D’angelo’s debut] when it came out, but Voodoo is on a whole other level. It still sounds 100 percent current, too. There’s just a sparseness to it, a casual kind of openness that’s so sexy, inviting and warm. It sounds really good when you turn it up loud and sounds just as good quiet. There are so many effortlessly beautiful moments on that record. It’s an ideal sort of model for me, as far as all the qualities I think a good record should have. Every time I go into the studio, it’s constantly a point of reference in terms of the production. It’s really sparse, with room to breathe. ST—071
Top five reasons Rick Rubin gets away with that squirrel-shelter beard of his 1. Dude co-founded Def Jam while he was attending NYU and touring with the likes of Hüsker Dü, the Butthole Surfers and the Meat Puppets.
2. Ever listen to hip-hop?
3. He apparently produced a lot of Andrew Dice Clay albums. 4. He made a label-less Johnny Cash cool again by asking the country icon to cover Leonard Cohen, film a video with Kate Moss, and work with the words of Tom Waits and Glenn Danzig.
Top five singles that make us miss backpack rap 1. “Definition,” Blackstar 2. “Heavenly Divine,” Jedi Mind Tricks 3. “You Never Knew,” Hieroglyphics 4. “Blue Flowers,” Dr. Octagon 5. “Agent Orange,” Cage
West Texas scenery—lots of scrub brush, cliffs, rivers and buttes. My Name Is Nobody is the story of an aging gunslinger (James Beauregard) trying to retire, but the West is reluctant to let him go. A young admirer wants to see James end his career in glorious fashion by taking on 150 bandits at the same time. Music by Ennio Morricone helps set the mood. The scenery is expansive and colorful. This movie may be a spoof, but it’s also a beautiful film.
Photography kyle johnson
Wooden Shjips bassist Dusty Jermier’s guide to Westerns In High Plains Drifter, a stranger drifts into a small town for a drink and a shave, and within minutes, three men are dead and a woman is raped. The story is familiar: An outsider teaches a community to defend themselves. The mystery has to do with discovering why the townspeople put up with him. Filming was done around Mono Lake, an otherworldly place of beauty just east of Yosemite in California. This is where you would go if you wanted to
explore a martian landscape, wandering around pumice and obsidian. Barbarosa features Willie Nelson as an aging outlaw (Barbarosa) and Gary Busey as a farm boy (Karl Westover) fumbling through the bushes and brambles. While Barbarosa seems ornery about having Karl around, a friendship develops as Karl learns how to live with being the target of vengeance. Another reason to watch is the
Kung Fu is a television series starring David Carradine as a Shaolin priest (Caine) who uses his training to handle racism, greed and other Western themes. You will be disappointed if you watch Kung Fu hoping to see Bruce Lee; he’s not in it, nor are the fight scenes like Enter the Dragon. What you will see is how and why Caine is helping people in a land where he is an outsider. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is about two outlaws in a modernizing West. They are conflicted about whether they want to settle down, keep things the way they’ve always been, or move on. Burt Bacharach’s soundtrack helps make these two characters seem endearing even though they are criminals. With scenery from Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Mexico, the images of wide-open nature evoke feelings of wideopen possibilities and freedom. Wooden Shjips’ latest LP, West, is available now via Thrill Jockey. ST—072
Photography Caroline Mort
Barn Owl’s top five rad minimalist records that have nothing to do with Steve Reich or Philip Glass 1. Pauline Oliveros/Stuart Dempster/Panaiotis, Deep Listening (New Albion, 1989) A deep record of bellowing low end and cosmic accordion gestures that ebb and flow like an ominous tide. Oliveros’ ideas of sonic awareness have influenced how we approach composition and improvisation. It’s amazing how simple
instrumentation canw suggest a sense of something so vast. 2. Jon Gibson, Two Solo Pieces (Chatham Square Productions, 1977) While Gibson worked with other well-known minimalists and released little solo work, this record is a significant achievement. We see it, with
its rich tones and glorious moments of harmony, as a precursor to the post-New Age American tape scene that’s currently thriving. 3. Tony Conrad, Four Violins (1964) (Table of the Elements, 1997) An Amoeba find in San Francisco, this was one of our first minimalist revelations. Four overdubbed violins create an atmosphere both abrasive and ecstatic.
Top five Canadians that justify their country’s existence 1. Rush 2. Neil Young 3. Richie Hawtin 4. Rufus Wainwright 5. Snow ST—073
Gauntlet Hair’s top five YouTube clips that cement the greatness of the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger 1. Commando begins with a sexually charged montage of Arnold and his daughter (Alyssa Milano) doing their everyday routine: you know, sharing ice cream, teaching each other karate, petting deer, making breakfast while glancing across the table with heavy bedroom eyes. This clip is a nice compilation.
2. In Terminator 2, he says about 50 words throughout the movie, which is perfect because he can’t really speak English. This clip is a deleted scene: John Connor tries to teach the Terminator how to be more “human,” and fails.
3. Hercules in New York 4. Yoshi Wada, Lament for the Rise and Fall of the Elephantine Crocodile (India Navigation, 1982) Two wonderful pieces focusing on solo voice and bagpipe. Instead of artificial reverb, Wada sang in an empty swimming pool to create an awesome sense of space. 5. Henry Flynt, You Are My Everlovin’/Celestial Power (Edition Hundertmark, 1986) This record makes an important connection between two distinctly American traditions— folk and minimalism. But it’s not all Americana porch fiddle; buzzing tanpura drones lay the foundation, creating a link with Raga traditions, as well. This multicultural, transcendental music fuses separate worlds to create a unique sound. The cosmic sound of the future; no synths involved.
doesn’t make any sense, and they had to dub over all his lines. This amazing compilation contains the original audio!
4. Arnold and Danny DeVito are “scientists” in Junior. They run tests to impregnate monkeys,
which end up working; the next step is to try it on a human. The only person dumb enough to do it is Arnie. This clip is fantastic. If you’ve ever wondered what he looked like as an infant, well, you’re about to find out.
5. In Total Recall, Arnold is Quaid, who tries to take a virtual vacation and ends up triggering memories of his past life as a secret agent. This is a clip of Quaid meeting this beautiful martian hooker...and turning her down, like a moron.
James Hoare of Veronica Falls on the Rain Parade’s Emergency Third Rail Power Trip (Enigma/Zippo, 1983) The Rain Parade were the only true Paisley Underground band. Formed at the start of the decade, they released their seminal debut in 1983. The record is hard to place, sounding like a genuine ’60s psychedelic masterpiece while paving the way for the dreamier records of the next decade. Thirty years later, it comes out sounding fresher still—revivalist and modern, with classic songwriting throughout and guitars lingering above the tracks, often with slight Indian undertones. (The Stones would be proud.) ST—074
artist and musician Christina Vantzou created the drawing below while listening to Girlsâ€™ new album, father, son, holy ghost. Vantzouâ€™s solo debut, No. 1, is due out Oct. 24 through Kranky.