Posts by: Roman Gokhman
December 6, 2013
Australian dance rock duo Jagwar Ma is getting a bit bored of the “Madchester” comparisons. The term was popularized in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s in England, where a wave of bands like the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses mixed rock with drum machines, funk and house music to make something new.
Yes, there are similarities with the music that Sydney singer-guitarist Gabriel “Gab” Winterfield and multi-instrumentalist Jono Ma make; there may be more parallels than with other acts.
But Winterfield had never even heard the term before the reviews started coming in.
“I was born in ’89 so I sure as hell didn’t see it,” he said recently, in a phone interview from a pub in London, where the duo has relocated. “The younger crowds, the NME kids, they don’t know it. They know of the bands, but it’s not what they would associate the music with.”
The band, which includes touring bassist Jack Freeman, has been making waves overseas with Howlin, a debut album that piqued the interest of Oasis’ Noel Gallagher and many others. But Jagwar Ma, which performs at The Independent on December 11, want to make a name for themselves that isn’t associated with a comparison to others.
“I’m always reminded of how much Tame Impala got slammed and told they sounded like Cream or something like that, and I think they’ve proven to the world that they’re something else,” Winterfield said.
Ma and Winterfield bonded over a shared love of experimental rhythms, psychedelia, surf rock and a bevy of varied influences. Howlin was recorded in rural France, where the two were able to escape their work and social commitments and concentrate on the music.
They grew out their beards and rarely had reason to leave their house. Ma, who Winterfield said has a love of cooking, even prepared many of the meals, such as Hunan chicken and duck confit.
Now that they are working on a follow-up album, they won’t need to relocate to a remote area to write and record.
November 19, 2013
The folks behind 2012’s Petty Fest are bringing the one-night artist celebration event back to San Francisco, this time to honor Bob Dylan, and raise money for musicians facing illness, disability or age-related health issues.
The star-studded cast this year will include Nicki Bluhm, Boots Riley, The Doobie Brothers’ Tom Johnston, Sly & The Family Stone’s Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini, Heartless Bastards’ Erika Wennerstrom, Kelley Stoltz and many others. The special event will feature various on-stage collaborations and interpretations of Bob Dylan’s songs. The Cabin Down Below Band will serve as the house band for the evening.
A similar show in New York last week raised $25,000 for Sweet Relief, the organization that helps musicians in need. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go directly into the organization’s fund.
Great American Music Hall
November 20, 2013
November 13, 2013
English songstress Jessie Ware may be the Teddy Roosevelt of divas – she sings softly but carries a big voice – but some would some be surprised to learn why she chooses to restrain her pipes.
“The funny thing is I’m not the most subtle person at all,” the 29-year-old said shortly before taking the stage at last summer’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco. “With the album (2013’s Devotion), I wanted it to be a subtle, restrained way of singing. I know I can sing really belty, but I don’t think everyone always wants to hear that. If you’re listening to an album, whether you would be on the tube or you’re driving; I don’t want people to turn (the volume on) me down.”
Ware, who returns to The City Monday for a show at The Fillmore, grew up idolizing Whitney Houston and others known for their pipes. Rather than channeling her vocal efforts that way in the studio, she chooses to showcase her voice more often when she is performing.
To enter for a chance to win tickets to see Jessie Ware at The Fillmore, email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Jessie Ware” in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the email. A winner will be selected at random and notified via email.
“I don’t ‘belt’ belt, but it’s definitely a bit more chutzpah, it’s a bit more oomphy,” she said. “I think I need to give it a bit more life, because people want to see you working, and I want to push at it more. I feel like I need to take it up a level live.”
Ware said she makes a point at each show work hard and entertain fans who paid to see her. In the past year she learned the joys of performing in flat shoes – she’s no longer afraid of falling over on stage because she’s wearing heels – and she wants those people to remember the fun they have at her shows.
She has also begun work on a follow-up album, which she expects to be released in 2014.
November 4, 2013
It’s only been six months since English pop singer-songwriter Charli XCX released her first album, yet she’s already debuted a new song and video, and will soon complete her second record. It’s been a busy few years for 21-year-old Charlotte Aitchison. She’s been writing songs since she was 14, but since 2012 she’s penned one of the year’s biggest songs (“I Love It” for Swedish duo Icona Pop), opened for Coldplay, recorded her major label debut (April’s True Romance), and now has a new single with hit potential in “SuperLove,” which she told The Bay Bridged will be on her follow-up album that should be released next spring.
Nursing a cold, Aitchison, spoke to TBB prior to her show at Slim’s Friday night – part of a gauntlet that included a 14-hour drive from Washington, a DJ set at DNA Lounge and a redeye flight to New York.
The Bay Bridged: How did “I Love It” end up being an Icona Pop song?
Aitchison: I wrote that song in, like, half an hour. I knew from the minute I wrote it that I wasn’t really feeling it for my record. It wasn’t the album I was making.
TBB: Are you friends with those girls?
Aitchison: Yeah. I knew them before because I had done some recording in Sweden. They came to the studio, heard it and really liked it. They were cool, so I was really happy for them. They came down to the studio and sung the vocals and tweaked some production stuff.
TBB: How many of the songs on True Romance have been around since you first started writing music?
Aitchison: Only one, actually, when I was 15: This song called “Set Me Free.” I wrote that one after I’d watched the “Twilight” movie for the first time….It’s about me imaging life as a vampire, which is kind of lame, but the song was quite good. Everything else is from sessions when I was 16, 17, 18; even 19. That first record really is me growing up.
TBB: You recently recorded the video for “SuperLove” in Japan, and here’s a question from a fan on Twitter, Tim, who wanted to know if you had any unique stories to share about the filming.
Aitchison: The video shoot got shut down by the Japanese police. That was kind of scary. We were shooting with a…real biker gang, which is illegal in certain areas of Japan, especially in Tokyo. We were just outside of Tokyo because we wanted it to be cool (with authorities), but it’s illegal to ride with more than three people, and there were, like, 25 of them.
TBB: How did you find them?
Aitchison: We got in touch with this guy out there who had made a documentary about biker gangs, and we’d been speaking to him for two or three months.
TBB: You knew that it was something you wanted to incorporate into the video?
Aitchison: Yeah, definitely. And even on the day of the shoot, the (documentary film maker) said this might not happen (because) they do what they want. If … they’re not feeling it, they just won’t show up….Luckily they did show up. Twenty-five bikes roaring across this bridge. Their leader was missing a finger and he was this ex-gangster. But then the police came and shut the video shoot down, and the bikers had to scatter. It was pretty intense for me. It was the first time I’d rode a motorbike.
TBB: “SuperLove” is going to be on your next album. What else can you tell me about it?
October 21, 2013
Photo by Daniel Kielman. Review by Roman Gokhman and Anna Gazdowicz.
Every act had its own way of dealing with the biting wind and the dropping temperatures Sunday at the Treasure Island Music Festival’s indie rock day. Some bundled up, while Japandroids vocalist-guitarist Brian King stripped down to his shirt to connect with the crowd. Some, like Animal Collective, went all-out with their impressive – and impressively weird – stage setup; others, such as IO Echo, stuck theirs back in the van because they kept blowing over. Some, like James Blake, kept commenting on the cold, while others, like Palma Violets, pretended it was warm. The Britpop garage band opened with classic surf anthem “California Sun.”
A few of the acts stood out from the herd at this uneven Sunday. Those who survived the day and a set delayed by 20 minutes were treated to a solid mix of Beck tunes both new and old (including, of course, “Loser” – it wouldn’t be a Beck set without it). After Beck took the stage, opening with “Devil’s Haircut,” the feeling came back into countless frozen toes that happily danced along.
The crowd was treated to some signature Beck dance moves, as well as cover of “Tainted Love.”
Earlier in the day, a good portion of the crowd knew that Haim was the act with the hottest trajectory and crowded the small stage a good 40 minutes in advance. And the three sisters, performing with a male drummer, were even better than advertised in their first Bay Area appearance.
Performing with a different mindset than typical all-girl band, Haim came across very straightforward and in-your-face. The sisters were not afraid to throw in a guitar solo or demand that someone in the audience with British candy relinquish said candy to them.
October 18, 2013
Swedish indie rockers The Sounds’ previous album, 2011’s Something to Die For, was an exercise in electronic dance music. The band hates doing the same thing twice in a row, so rather than continue with the rock progression of 2009’s Crossing the Rubicon, they pursued a sound that bordered on techno, guitarist-keyboardist Jesper Anderberg said last week.
“I’m happy with a lot of stuff from the last album, but I think we were more interested in the whole production of it, more than the songwriting itself,” he said.
That’s what inspired Weekend, their fifth full-length album since 2002. The new wave quintet often compared to the likes of the Cars or Blondie, which includes vocalist Maja Ivarsson, guitarist Félix Rodríguez, bassist Johan Bengtsson and drummer Fredrik Blond, performs Monday at The Fillmore during a quick run of shows prior to the album’s release on Oct. 29.
To enter for a chance to win tickets to see The Sounds at The Fillmore on Monday, email email@example.com with “The Sounds” in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the email. A winner will be selected at random and notified via email.
“With this album, we concentrated more on the songwriting,” Anderberg said.
Thematically, Weekend is an album about staying up late on Friday and Saturday, and recovering on Sunday morning. It didn’t hurt that the down-tempo, almost remorseful-sounding title track, which declares the band “lives for the weekend,” was also their favorite of the bunch.
“(The album) has more party songs; up-tempo, groovy,” Anderberg said. “And then it has more of the other side – the Sunday songs that you listen to while you’re drinking coffee a little bit hungover.”
October 11, 2013
Following the somewhat surprising success of their debut album and extended tour, Brooklyn’s Holy Ghost! returned home and found themselves in an unfamiliar situation.
“I think Keith Richards called it post-tour depression – I read it in his book,” said Alex Frankel, half of the synthpop duo. “You come home from tour, and a lot of your friends…don’t text you anymore because you always texted back, ‘I’m away. Sorry I can’t come to the birthday party. I can’t come to the wedding.’ You missed your best friend’s wedding. You missed your parents’ birthday. You missed Thanksgiving.
“And then you come home, and there’s not the excitement of the shows. There’s no more press to do. There’s no more fun times to be had and early morning flights. There’s no drama. There’s just you and your house.”
Frankel and partner Nick Millhiser, now both in their 30s, found that their old lives didn’t exist anymore. That spurred the duo, who perform at the Treasure Island Music Festival next weekend, to get back to work and write a follow-up (Dynamics was released last month). Some of the themes and “darker sound” on the album stem from the restless energy the two felt about moving on.
“I remember feeling kind of lost, like, ‘what do I do now?’” Frankel said. “I was looking for the album to be some way to get some stuff out.”
October 3, 2013
They have yet to get stuck inside a giant stage prop – or be successful enough to own one – but Ireland’s Little Green Cars have definitely had their share of Spinal Tap-esque moments from their recent American travels.
Vocalist Faye O’Rourke, whose booming vocals are as powerful as a cannon and instantly make the Dublin quintet stand out from a pack of harmonizing folky pop acts, has had to get a mid-show steroid shot to battle a case of laryngitis and finish a gig.
Guitarist-vocalist Stevie Appleby, meanwhile, got into a bar tussle in Kentucky.
“I bumped into a man that wasn’t very pleasant,” Appleby said a couple of weeks prior to Little Green Cars’ show at the Great American Music Hall Tuesday. “He needed an ol’, you know, punch in the teeth. So I obliged him.”
For the curious, the Kentucky man threw the first punch, and it wasn’t at one of the band’s shows. Still, the strangeness seems to occur from time to time for Little Green Cars.
“Things just seem to happen,” Appleby laughed. “I don’t know why. It just follows us around.”
Little Green Cars, which includes bassist Donagh Seaver O’Leary, guitarist Adam O’Regan, drummer Dylan Lynch and touring keyboardist Kevin Horan (of The Thrills), have been busy lately. This is their fourth tour of America in the last 12 months, which makes sense, given that they first signed to U.S. indie Glassnote Records (home of Phoenix and Mumford and Sons).