Posts by: Roman Gokhman
May 24, 2013
Prior to her band OONA’s show with Midi Matilda and Holychild last week, The Bay Bridged chatted with opener Oona Garthwaite.
The Bay Bridged: Your song “Metropolis” was just played on So You Think You Can Dance, and it wasn’t even your first one to make it on that show. How did all that come about?
Oona Garthwaite: First you have to know Dave Tweedie who is my better half, particularly in music. He and I started working together four years ago, and he was producing some singer-songwritery stuff. Then we did a song he was writing for that show. The choreographer picked up this song and just ran with it, and all of a sudden, it changed the whole project. It was very early on. That sort of informed the kind of music we were making. It definitely brought us a lot closer together than we would have been otherwise. We haven’t had anything on that show since then. (Tweedie) maintained friendships with the supervisor over there. We sent her the record we just put out a month ago (Flying at the Sun). They loved it and pitched it to their producers, and the producers liked that song…
TBB: It’s a catchy song.
Garthwaite: It’s funny you say that because it doesn’t really have a chorus. It’s like a verse and two bridges and another verse.
TBB: I’ve read how you grew up in a pretty musical family, and your father and his sister were in a band together.
Garthwaite: My dad’s a musician and his sister, Terry Garthwaite, were in a band called The Joy of Cooking. It was a big band in the Bill Graham era and the Winterland era of the San Francisco music scene. My dad was raised by the hippie movement in some ways; it’s like a deep part of my musical background.
TBB: How did you and Dave meet and how did OONA come about?
Garthwaite: His long-time cowriter was fixed up with a friend of mine. They were musicians, and she took me to a show because she knew I wanted to start working with other musicians. I was doing singer-songwriter stuff (at the time), and it was pretty downcast, and aggressive, defensive, and all that. Dave and I have written a lot of music together, a lot of different kinds of music together. He earns his living as a producer-writer. I’m very luck to work with him, but I’m also lucky to be one of his passion projects. All the orchestrations, everything you hear, he played on the record. I wrote lyrics, and we wrote a lot of melodies together.
TBB: Here’s a question courtesy of a fan, through Twitter. What is your favorite mythical creature?
Garthwaite: I like wicked witches in general. I think that they’re a great inspiration for little girls all over the world.
TBB: The Wizard of Oz kind?
Garthwaite: Sure, Wizard of Oz, Snow White. People have reasons for being cruel, and it helps you understand so you don’t take it so personally.
Interview: Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd discuss ‘The Terror,’ the evolution of their live show and much more
May 22, 2013
Photos by Paige K. Parsons
The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne and multi-instrumentalist/music arranger Steven Drozd won’t mince their words – their band’s new album, The Terror, is their darkest offering yet. “Dark” isn’t the right word for it, but they haven’t thought of an appropriate replacement yet, says Drozd, prior to the Lips’ set at BottleRock Napa Valley. The Lips have made alterations to their well-known stage show to fit the mood of the new album. Yet, at the same time, the gloom that hangs over the music is just one of many sides for the band. Yes, Coyne went through a separation during The Terror’s creation. Yes, Drozd had a brief relapse into a drug addiction. “There is a story there,” Drozd says. “I think that adds to people’s perception or makes it seem heavy or more important.”
Yet at the same time they were making the album, the Lips were writing a happy, uplifting song for a Hyundai commercial (used as a Super Bowl ad), and experiencing a wide array of emotions. “Most people that I know that are interesting artists – they’re not one-dimensional,” Coyne says. “They don’t walk around and see everything as being gray and black and make gray and black music. They’re weirdos, and they don’t know who they are. They’re expressive, and they’re doing things, and they’re experiencing a lot of things. That’s why they want to make music.”
Coyne and Drozd joined The Bay Bridged for a one-on-two interview that went passed the allotted time, and ranged in conversation from Drozd’s background as a drummer in his father’s polka band, to the Flaming Lips “selling out” and much more. It concluded only after the arrival of The Smiths’ bassist Andy Rourke, throwing this writer for a loop. Here’s a sampling.
The Bay Bridged: I assume you get asked all the time about your background in polka drumming. You got that from your father’s side?
Steven Drozd: My dad started playing music when he was, like, 13. He started playing clarinet. By the time he was 16 he picked up saxophone because he heard Bill Haley (and the Comets; the first successful rock group with white musicians) in 1957. He wanted to play rock and roll. So he was a professional musician, but he always played in this German and Czech polka group outside of Houston. It was the summer of 1980, so I was 10, going on 11. This polka group; their drummer was kind of this wild dude. They just couldn’t count on (him). He didn’t show up for a gig, so my dad called the house and told my stepmother to load up my drum set. He took me to the VFW hall where they were playing and I started playing with them.
TBB: Did you have to learn any of the cultural stuff behind that?
Drozd: When I first started playing, I was about 7. It was like KISS and Aerosmith and all the stuff back in the 1970s a kid would want to play on drums. At the same time, my dad was like, “You’ve gotta learn the polka and the waltz beats, and the country 4/4 and the shuffle.” He would make me practice that stuff even if I didn’t want to. So when it came time, and they needed a drummer, they called me up, I went down there, and that was it.
TBB: I have a high school friend who’s in a family polka band.
Drozd: Like a few generations, right? An interesting thing is there’s a lot of families like that.
TBB: They dress up. They go to fairs, and they dance as well as play instruments. Did you see a lot of that?
Drozd: I did growing up, when I was a kid. I don’t anymore. Most of my family has either passed away or moved on. My dad still lives in LaGrange, Texas, but he’s kind of sick, so he doesn’t play anymore. Up until I was about 15 or 16, I thought it was really exciting, and I loved it. After a while, I got really sick of it. (laughs). You’ve got to figure every Friday and Saturday…it would be this thing where I was just this kid, 12, 13, 14 years old, hanging around with a bunch of 30, 40, 50-year-old drunks. After a couple of years, I didn’t want to do it anymore. So my dad and I kind of had a falling out about it. I wanted to go play my own music. He couldn’t understand writing your own music and trying to make it by yourself.
May 20, 2013
If the only time someone has seen San Francisco’s Midi Matilda was at last year’s Live 105 BFD, when the guitar and drums synth-pop duo struggled with gear malfunctions through the first half of a short set to a dwindling crowd, that person would have a very wrong estimation of what it was capable of.
Friday night at Rickshaw Stop, Skyler Kilborn and Logan Grime fully entertained a sold-out house, introduced several new songs and paid tribute, once again, to former manager Steve Brodsky, who passed away too soon, recently, after a brief fight with cancer.
Midi Matilda’s set began with a Grime tribal-esque drum solo on a stationary tom in the middle of the dance floor and quickly moved back onto the stage for the rest of the 50-minute-long set that included a cover of the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination.” The two played fast and furious.
The duo’s appearance – Kilborn’s early ‘80s new romancer outfit coupled with Grime’s never-ending movement and a mop of hair that had a mind of its own, resembling Animal from The Muppets – presented an interesting dynamic.
Halfway through, the set took on the air of a victory lap, of sorts.
“We’ve travelled a lot recently around the country, but this is home,” Grime declared.
May 13, 2013
The first annual BottleRock Napa Valley Festival brought over 50 bands to the Napa Valley Expo for four days of music over the weekend, and our Roman Gokhman was on the scene for all four days.
Below, check out his live-tweeting from the festivities, which included standout performances from The Flaming Lips, Sharon Van Etten, and Grouplove.
May 2, 2013
Judging by the size of the venues she has been playing, it would be fair to say Marina Diamandis has had a good year. Last summer the pop songstress, who goes by Marina and the Diamonds, sold out the 1,100-capacity Fillmore. Now she’s back, still promoting 2012’s Electra Heart album, and has sold out the twice-as-large Warfield. Her current tour was booked in larger venues throughout the U.S.
“Oh my God; I don’t think two years ago I would have thought I’d have been playing 1,000-capacity venues,” the 28-year-old Welsh singer-songwriter said. “It’s weird because I couldn’t play those numbers in my own country. It feels really good.”
The album follows several archetypal female characters to tell the stories of celebrity life, broken relationships and power struggles. Diamandis also brings some of these characters alive on stage – she loves props – and parts of the show will be altered this time around. But she wants to please her new fans as well.
“Prop-wise and stylistically, there’s going to be a bit of a change,” she said. “But the main bulk of the show will be the same because even though some of the songs are different, there will be people there who haven’t seen the show.”
April 15, 2013
Seminal ‘80s Santa Cruz rockers The Call disbanded in 2000 when frontman-bassist Michael Been decided to focus his energy on his son’s fledgling career. So in a roundabout way, Robert Levon Been is returning the gesture, when he briefly steps away from the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club for two shows this week to join his father’s bandmates and bring The Call back to life – or so it would seem.
But the younger Been, who performs with The Call Thursday at Slim’s and again in Los Angeles the following night, before BRMC’s sold-out show at the Fillmore on April 22, said this reunion is not about his father at all. It’s about the music and Michael Been’s bandmates – drummer Scott Musick, guitarist Tom Ferrier and keyboardist Jim Goodwin – who never wanted to stop.
In fact, Been is trying not to ask the biggest question: What would his father, who passed away from a heart attack in 2010 while working as a sound engineer at BRMC show, think?
“It’s not really about him anymore,” he said. “He created something else, and it feels like it’s about this music and the band; whatever incarnation that it’s in. (The band) stays alive; the music stays alive.”
The Call never exceeded cult status in its heyday, but the band had many admirers from critics and musicians such as Peter Gabriel and Simple Minds, who extolled the band for its passionate songwriting and live performances.
Michael Been and Musick, both originally from Oklahoma, met in 1979 in Santa Cruz and began writing music. Been, the primary songwriter, was influenced by the likes of Elvis, Chuck Berry, The Band and bluesman Muddy Waters. The Call received considerable airplay in the early years of MTV with songs like “Let The Day Begin” and “I Still Believe (Great Design).”
The younger Been was born in 1978, one year prior to The Call. He grew up on the road with his father’s band, where his earliest love was not music, but room service.
“Being a little kid, you know, people bring you food and they’ll go into your room and make your bed, and you don’t have to clean up – and swimming pools,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of money so that was like this weird other world that was so fun to just goof around in. Go up and down the elevators and jump to see if it starts going down.”
Rock and roll came later. Robert Been began playing bass, like his father, when he was 14. One night his father had him play bass on-stage. That would not be repeated.
Review, Photos & Video: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Diamond Rings @ Regency Ballroom, 4/12/13
April 15, 2013
Photos by Paige K. Parsons
Following Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s show at the Regency Ballroom Friday evening, no one could claim that that frontman-bassist Andy McCluskey was phoning it in.
The 53-year-old, drenched in sweat in an oversize shirt that he said fit snugly prior to the start of OMD’s current tour, worked the stage for the duration of the band’s nearly two-hour set.
He routinely demonstrated his unique dance moves, shook hands and made the capacity crowd feel he was interacting directly with them. The tour, in support of this year’s English Electric, featured a selection of songs from a majority of the band’s 12 albums, dating back to 1980.
After a brief hiccup – the bass drum was amplified much too loud and drowned out much of the vocals and synths on opening track “Metroland,” off English Electric – the technical issue was fixed by the second song, 1980’s self-titled debut’s “Messages.”
That set the trend for the night, with McCluskey, keyboardists Paul Humphreys and Martin Cooper and drummer Malcolm Holmes jumping from album to album, showing that while OMD may not have as many radio hits as other ‘80s artists, their songbook is full of catchy, danceable tunes.
OMD was probably preparing for Coachella when it dusted off “Tesla Girls,” off 1984’s Junk Culture, even though McCluskey dedicated the song to the San Francisco crowd.
“This song is especially for you,” he said. “We should know how to play it; we just haven’t played it in a couple of years.”
Following a couple of newer tunes and a comment about how dancing helps one stay fit, the singer told the crowd it was their turn to dance before launching into “History of Modern Part 1” – a track released in 2010 that easily fits into the mosaic of great ‘80s hits.
April 9, 2013
(Editor’s note: Did you read our in-depth profile of the upcoming BottleRock Napa Valley festival last week? Here’s some info that didn’t make it into that piece that’s important to know if you’re thinking about attending the fest.)
Tickets for BottleRock Napa Valley are selling briskly, said Gabe Meyers, festival co-founder. Music fans will be coming from as far away as Japan, Australia, Germany and Great Britain. Those who have not already booked a hotel room in the region will be in for a surprise.
“There is not enough hotel space for everybody that attends this festival; there’s absolutely not,” he said. “Not only are there only 5,000 hotel rooms in the county, but they’re expensive, and that’s just reality. They’ve already filled up a lot of those.”
Meyers recommends budget-minded music fans from out of the area stay in or near San Francisco and commute. He also suggests that Napa residents invite their friends to stay with them during the festival.
“You can stay in Sonoma or Novato, which is only 25 minutes away, and pay $100, as opposed to staying in Napa and paying four or five times that,” he said.
Parking will also be an issue. Official festival parking will be off-site, similar to how it is handled with the Treasure Island Music Festival. Shuttles will ferry commuters from lots to the festival grounds.
Parking costs will be determined on a sliding scale, Meyers said. To encourage car-sharing, those with one to three per car will pay $30 each day; four people will only pay $4; and five per car will get to park for free.
Public transportation agencies will increase the frequency of their routes, and the festival will run shuttles from colleges including Sacramento State, Sonoma State, Davis and Berkeley.
“Local attendees are being asked to take public transportation, bike, walk or skateboard,” Meyers said. “Given the time we have, we feel we can educate people about the reality. There’s very limited parking in downtown Napa. There’s no getting around that.”