artist interview

March 28, 2016 2:20 pm

John Mark Nelson has just begun a tour, starting with shows at SXSW and followed by seven more weeks on the road. How does he do it? ATYPICAL SOUNDS intends to find out.

We had a nice chat with the Minneapolis-based musician in the delightfully air-conditioned St. David’s church in Austin to learn what keeps him going.


How’s your SXSW going so far?

JMN: It’s chaos. We got here yesterday. It’s going well, it just is what it is. And there’s nothing really in the world you can do to prepare.

I’ve been to music festivals before, but…

JMN: This is a special breed.

This is your second SXSW.

JMN: We came down two years ago. We skipped last year because we were kind of at a weird point in album releases where it didn’t really make sense to come all the way down here.

After this, you’re touring for another two months. How do you prepare for that?

JMN: I don’t think you can. So far, I’m doing well. You just throw everything you own into a couple of bags and hope for the best.

Is there anything you do to prepare mentally?

JMN: I’ve actually never done a tour of this length, so I don’t think there’s anything I could’ve done to prepare me. I feel like you have to take the whole trip, and not actually think about any of it, other than just that specific day. Like, “What do I have to do today?” and “How long is it until I sleep?” And then when I wake up, I think about the next day.

What is your average day on tour like?

JMN: It depends. SXSW is such a brutal beast. It’s like 9 or 10am to 2 or 3am every single day, out in the hot sun. So I think once we finish with SXSW, we’ll get into a little bit more of a semi-regular routine, where we have a 3 or 4 hour drive each day and nothing too crazy. And then we’ll play one show each night. Usually, we have three or four days on, and then a day off, so it’s not insane.

Has anything stood out to you about your most recent tour?

JMN: Two stories come to mind immediately; we did a little warm-up run right before this tour in Chicago. We got on the road from Minneapolis and one hour into the drive, I was driving, and the guy in the passenger seat yells “Pheasant!”, and two seconds later this giant pheasant explodes on the windshield. A lot of times, you see birds coming towards your car, but they always pull up at the last second, but this one did not make it. And just, bird explosion.

In terms of crazy audience stuff we had someone, a really intoxicated man, during one of our shows, trying to get me to take a nude inflatable blow-up doll.

And do what with it?

JMN: I don’t know, but I did not take the acknowledgement. He was really just holding it loud and proud. Big fellow, intoxicated, nude blow-up doll.

Is there anything you miss when you’re away from home?

JMN: I just really like being in Minnesota; it feels like home.

What’s there that’s important to you?

JMN: It’s hard to explain, really. But when you’re from the midwest, you kind of know what it is. It’s just that feeling of “This is where I’m from, this is where the people that I love are.” There’s always that element of home.

You released an album this past September. Are there any tracks you look forward to playing live, or any that got an especially good response?

JMN: It’s really fun as you create songs, to see how people react to them. Especially in a live setting when people haven’t heard them before. I feel like you can get a good gauge of a song based on the immediate reaction of people who have never heard it. And what they decide in the first minute or two really says a lot about the craft of the song. It’s been fun to watch people react. I think one that I really enjoy playing is called “That’s What You Do”, it’s the second to last track on the record, and we usually close our shows with it because it’s pretty high energy. It’s fun to see people dancing and clapping along, and I feel like if you can relax…I feel like when I go to a show I’m so analytical about it, and if a band can make me relax enough to have a good time, I feel like that’s due to the craft of their songwriting and their playing and I feel like if I see people doing that at a show of mine, I feel really grateful.

Have you found any new bands at SXSW that you like?

JMN: Tonight is actually our first showcase that we’re playing, and I got to hear the soundcheck of the girl who’s playing now, Aoife O’Donovan, she’s fantastic. I’d never heard of her before, but I think she’s from Brooklyn. So it’s really at events like this, where you’re loading in your gear and then sitting for 5-6 hours, where you really get to hear new bands. Usually, if I’m seeing stuff around the festival I’m deliberately going there to see people I want to check out or am already familiar with. But it’s when I’m playing with bands on the same bill that I get to discover new stuff.

Are there any bands in Minnesota you think deserve more recognition?

JMN: You know, the girl that plays keyboards in my band, her name’s Kara Laudon, and she’s a very very gifted songwriter, and she graciously takes time to play with me and tour with me, but she’s also a very gifted artist in her own right. She’s got a lot to give to the world, and I hope to see her make a big impact in the future.

You funded one of your last albums on Kickstarter. Did you expect that to work out so well?

JMN: I didn’t put a ton of thought into it, other than I had seen some other people do it. I thought it was worth trying, and then it raised way more money than I thought in a very short amount of time. It was fun. I don’t know if I’d ever do it again, but it was just a fun experience. It’s a very immediate and tangible acknowledgment when people care about what you do.

You’ve been releasing albums since 2011, but I feel like you’ve kind of maybe stayed under the radar a little bit. Do you enjoy being sort of mysterious? Because you’ve done a lot, you’ve recorded a lot.

JMN: It was not necessarily a deliberate effort to stay off the grid, so much as it was I was a really young guy when I started doing this and had no idea how to do it. I loved recording and songwriting, but I had no vision or plan for the career portion. So it really wasn’t until these last couple of records where I really started to think outwards. Getting the craft in and of itself is so rewarding and so fun that that was the reward.

Is it weird to have a team of people that you work for and with?

JMN: It’s weird, songwriting is so personal. It feels bizarre to have people invested in a monetary or fiscal business sense. It’s weird when you start to have really technical elements to what you do, like when you have a budget meeting for writing songs.

Does that take the enjoyment out of it at all?

JMN: It doesn’t, actually. I find it kind of energizing to think about my craft as any other business. When I wake up in the morning, some people drive to a job and sell things, and when I wake up in the morning I write songs. But it’s like a job, even though a lot of people probably don’t consider it a job.

What are you looking forward to for the rest of your SXSW?

JMN: I’m excited for tonight, I think it’s going to be great. We’ve been here for almost two days and haven’t played yet, so I’m ready to play.

So what have you been doing?

JMN: We’re staying at a five or six bedroom Arabian horse ranch outside of Austin, so we’ve just been hanging out and cooking meals together, riding the train to the city.

Not riding horses?

JMN: Not riding horses, I don’t want to damage anything on a two-month tour. Just hanging out, walking around, seeing bands. I went to like five or six events today, so it’s a chance to network and encourage people around you. We have a bunch of Minneapolis friends around here, and I want to go and support them. It’s a good chance to participate in the bigger picture of music. SXSW is kind of a chance to participate in where music as a whole is going.

What about the rest of the year? You’re touring until April and then sleeping for a week?

JMN: We’re actually touring until the first week of May, so we’re three or four days into almost eight weeks on the road. I get home in May, I’ll be home a couple of weeks, and then I’m leaving for Sasquatch Music Festival in Washington state, which is going to be awesome. It’s Alabama Shakes, and Leon Bridges, and Sufjan Stevensetc. I’m currently in the process of working with a European agent, so I might be doing some solo stuff there in the fall. I’d like to get back into the studio this fall, as well. I have almost a whole record ready to go again. It’ll be the fifth, which is starting to sound excessive.

Which venue has the best green room?

JMN: I thought Brooklyn Bowl was pretty sweet. The Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis is pretty great; you can make your own tea and coffee, and there’s a record player and a selection of old vinyl. There’s nice couches and it’s not in a basement, which is nice.

Any last words before you go on tonight?

JMN: Pray for us on the road.

November 20, 2015 1:56 am

As always, it was a rainy night in Cleveland. This time however, I had something to look forward to. A Dan Deacon show at the Grog Shop in support of his latest album Gliss Riffer; a name Dan said auto-correct absolutely wants to slaughter.

Dan Deacon is a very professional musician but I am also positive he is a wizard of sorts. He was accompanied on stage by his long time friend and collaborator Jeremy Hyman who you may also have heard drumming for Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks.

The show started out with the Cleveland band Pleasure Leftists throwing in their surf-punk rockabilly two cents. Their singer had the healthiest vocal chords I’ve likely ever heard. Then WUME was another electronic duo with a lady drummer. It always amazes me to watch drummers keeping up with electronic music; the sheer mixture of the acoustic and electronic elements racks my brain every time. They had vocals sprinkled here and there throughout a very energetic set, and a pretty fun light show too.

Then comes the prize: as Dan Deacon’s lights started circling the ceiling and spotlighting the crowd, a song we all know came over the venue speakers and overwhelmed us all with a wringing sense of enthusiasm. What song you ask? None other than “Under the Sea” from the Little Mermaid, obviously.

Once the song ended Dan took stage and had us all laughing at his witty half-joke half-philosophies of tumblr. He started the show out with the song “When I Was Done Dying,” which is by far my favorite off of the new album. He commands the entire room with little effort. I was once again impressed by the collab while watching Jeremy Hyman’s punchy and tight drumming technique. This duo was the epitome of genuine and strong music.

Dan Deacon is the type of musician that can make you feel the most intense feelings through his electronic music, and it is completely authentic. I have a hard time tapping into those emotions after listening to other electronic musicians, but I feel like the drums helped accentuate that authenticity as well. Think the sincerity of Animal Collective’s albums Centipede Hz or Feels if you’re wondering what vibes I’m talking about.

Better yet, just go listen to this killer album! Also get yourself to one of his shows so you can be a part of the madness in one of his interactive dance circles during his song “Learning to Relax.” His performance is a must join, because you do NOT just watch him, you’re a part of the show yourself. The Beasts welcome him with open arms into all of our cities!

Check out our interview with Dan below!

How was the process of writing and recording your newest album?

The writing was pretty fun, it was the most fun I’ve had working on a project and I kind of look back on that process and need to get back into that mindset. It’s kind of like anything else you have to force yourself to get back into it, but that didn’t happen with this record. I was already in the zone; I would lay in bed and think about all the pieces. Right now my brain is very performance focused and I keep thinking about how to augment the show. I am trying to differentiate the show from the record. It was the first time I had worked on something on my own. I tried to you know, force myself to do as much of it on my own so I could learn how to do it again. I finally felt like I was comfortable with Abelton, It was a big learning experience. Normally when someone says it was a learning experience they mean it was a terrible nightmare, but this was a very positive enjoyable learning experience.

What does the album title Gliss Riffer mean?

Gliss Riffer is a music term short for glissando, a lot of music terms are in Italian for some reason. The slide when you run your hands up a piano.. that’s a glissando or the trombone which is the quintessential Gliss instrument. A lot of my music has these cascading melodies but I also just really like the word. I think it is a beautiful word that exists but is not really used. And Riffer is one who plays riffs.

I was going to see you open for Animal Collective, do you know them from Baltimore?

Oh yeah, but by the time I had moved there eleven years ago they had all relocated to other cities so I didn’t really know them from there. We played a lot of the same festivals, I met them and we had a lot of mutual friends. But when I actually first heard about them I thought they were a Brooklyn band because they all lived there.

Can you give us a little info on the player piano in your tiny desk set and your equipment? Which is your favorite?

I’ve been pretty obsessed with player pianos since college. When I heard about disklaviers which are computer controlled player pianos, I became pretty fascinated with them. The reason I went out to record and mix in Montana for Bromst was because they had one of these pianos. I learned a lot about its limitations. It’s an acoustic instrument, but it’s played via a computer, but it’s not an electronic instrument, it is a mechanical instrument. It has the limitations of mechanics and a physical limitation even though it’s not human. It’s a very unique instrument, they’re very temperamental.

Are all of your shows as interactive as the Tiny Desk one?
I do a lot of crowd interaction. When I started playing, I was a solo performer and I would try to always make the show as different from other shows as possible and I would always think what are the things that change night to night that I can incorporate into the performance. One was the venue, so I alternated playing on a weird spot in the room, leaving the venue or staying in the venue, utilizing space differently and then the audience. When you change the focus of the show to the audience, the audience goes from a crowd to an actual collective body. A bunch of people who go from ‘I identify’ to ‘we identify’. Also the moment that choice is entered into the equation people think about things differently. If you choose to participate that’s very different from choosing Not to but even choosing not to do that is a choice. I like how people can dip in and out of that, I feel like that simple shift from choosing to participate or not is something I am fascinated by.

Can you tell us who you’re about to go on tour with and are you’re excited?

It’s the Miley Cyrus tour that starts tomorrow. I try to have no expectations. I am excited but I don’t know what it will be like so I’m kind of trying to walk into it ready for anything.

Do you enjoy playing solo or in full bands?
I like to mix it up. This tour is with a long term collaborator, the drummer, Jeremy Hyman. I like playing solo, I like playing as a duo, as a trio or a large ensemble. It really depends on the show that I’m trying to put forth at the time, the logistics behind how to make it happen.

What is the first album that impacted you?

The first record that made me realize I wanted to be a composer I bought at a library dollar bin. It was a split between Stockhausen and Kagel and I didn’t know either of them and I hadn’t really heard twentieth century Avant Garde music before and it just blew me away. I just started trying to find out as much about music like that as possible. I’d say that record really resonated with me.

What has been your favorite show so far?

We played this festival in Portugal over the summer that was really a magical experience, it felt really great.

How great is it to tour the world?

It is a wonderful privilege and I am really happy to be able to do it.


November 2, 2015 12:02 am

It was a drizzly, damp evening. The Boot & Saddle is a cosey South Philly music venue that bring in a wide range of indie upstarts befitting its intimate setting. Carroll is a Minneapolis four-piece that creates gentle, lush sound collages tinged with swirls of mild psychedelia. The quaint stage a perfect platform to usher in their debut self-titled album and kick off a brief tour of the East Coast.

keys1Carroll are a young band and you can tell. They haven’t gotten all of the nerves out yet, there are some hesitancies, nervous fidgeting, minor nuances in their stage presence. To be fair, I’ve always found the smaller crowds make it tougher to get into your groove. Large crowds are so all-encompassing- insignificant little ants. Smaller audiences are a nerve-racker, brings you back to classroom stage-freight. There’s nothing covering up even the most trivial imperfection, missed note, belting out a line in the wrong key. None of this mattered though, Carrol’s sound mirage was spectacular.

Colorful interlocking guitars. Vibrant vocal harmonies. Swift, punchy drums that gave the music an energetic punch. Waves of deep, robust bass- filling out the hazey soundscape. They played through the highlights from their new album no particular order, and also threw in a few bonus concoctions. All in all a solid set. Each song had a new and unexpected transition, rewarding avid listeners with a fresh dynamic.

This promising new band is traveling across the country to rile up hype for an album they’d put countless hours into, and that passion and genuine love to entertain spews out.  Definitely catch them if they come through your city.

I got a chance to ask Carroll’s bassist, Charles McClung, a few questions prior to their show, discuss the origin of the name “Carroll”, transplanting from the outskirts of Minneapolis to Philly, and the nervous energy associated with a new album. Here’s what he had to say:

So we know the name Carroll is derived from the Iconic Minneapolis hot spot, what brought you to name your band after that?

We named the band after the avenue in St. Paul where Brian and Charlie started the band. In our own way, we made it a hot spot, although I doubt anyone else would consider it such.

I looked up name “Carroll” online, it’s a surname, Irish in origin, meaning “manly” or “champion”…so you guys believe you’re “manly champions”?!  

We would be very hesitant to call ourselves manly champions.

You guys are picking steam in Minneapolis and you’re summoned to record an album out here in Philly. What was that like?  

It’s funny you use the word “summoned”! We definitely learned a thing or two about the art of summoning from that experience; namely, summoning the psychedelic vibes from within!

How does that compare to the Northern Wilderness?

On a more serious note, it was definitely a rad experience to leave the Twin Cities to record in a totally different creative environment out here in Philadelphia. Some of us liked it enough to move out here, actually. Both cities are special places.

Recording tracks in a studio environment versus recording demos out in the woods are very different experiences. I think we have an affinity for both domains, though. Disparate inspirations come into play.

Apparently you guys recorded the album in 18 days–did you guys actually get to check out the city?  Or were you locked up in the studio the entire time?

You can fit a lot into 18 days, as it turns out! We were able to finish tracking and get a feel for the city as a whole during that recording session. Some days were more stressful than others, both in and out of the studio. From Max taking his sweet time dialing in guitar tones to Charles getting lost in South Philadelphia looking at murals… it was a fun time.

Are you looking forward to returning to Philly and playing the Boot & Saddle?  Philly’s a pretty fun crowd, right?!?

Yeah, Philadelphians are a hoot. We actually just peeped Here We Go Magic at Boot & Saddle earlier this week, and we’re excited to get back in there!

How was it working with Jon Low (who’s produced Kurt Vile, The War On Drugs, The National, and many more) you must have been absolutely floored.

Jon Low is a wizard. But he’s not the only one. See for evidence.

Releasing a record is a major milestone for any up-and-coming band. Are you more anxious or excited about rolling out your self-titled second record? It sounds amazing by the way- as if my opinion counted for anything.

Thank you so much! Your opinion totally counts, don’t sell yourself short! Although we are generally an anxious bunch, I think that it would be the wrong adjective to describe our view on our record. We’re proud of it and happy that it’s out in the world now.

October 28, 2015 12:14 pm

If you were lucky enough to be a part of CMJ this year, you may have caught a set by Melbourne quartet The Harpoons. Comprised of brothers Henry and Jack Madin, Martin King, and singer Bec Rigby, the band swiftly demands attention in live performances from Rigby’s powerful vocals and unique sound.

Ready For Your Love, the band’s newest single, features a melody that could only be inspired by a vacation in the Australian bush. Pair that with a music video recapping their recent Japanese tour, and you’ve got something special.

We spoke with Bec about her performing at CMJ 2015, discovering new music, and performing across the world.

 I saw your CMJ performance at Pianos and was blown away. Bec, how long have you been singing for? How did you and the band work out the unique sound you’ve all developed?

BR: Thanks a lot! We’ve all been singing pretty much our whole lives because we all come from musical families! We’ve been besties (and two of us are brothers!) for many years. We just kind of created this weird thing together from talking and playing and loving the same types of music.

There were a significant number of bands from Australia at this year’s CMJ. Were you able to catch any of their performances, or meet up with friends in bands who also traveled to New York from Australia for CMJ?

BR: Yes! Lots of our favourite bands played actually, so happy to see them all there. Friendships are one of our mega fave duo of legends – although Mish from Friendships fell off a roof really early in the week and broke her arm! She’s doing well now and her bandmate Nick did a KILLER job, he played his heart out, played for two. We also loved seeing Sui Zhen, who wears glorious shiny turtlenecks and sings about emotions and losing her internet connection. </3

Sadly we didn’t get to see many others – CMJ is a busy time!

Harpoons_2How did your CMJ go? Did anything stand out to you about your 4 performances?

BR: New York is amazing. They were all great. What stood out was how friendly pretty much everyone who came to see us was! We had super nice crowds.

How did you prepare for CMJ? Was it intimidating that you were booked for a series of dates at a music marathon on the other side of the world?

BR: For sure! We prepared by getting pretty stressed about it and practicing a lot, trying to make sure we were covered for the intense types of shows we’d be playing – 10 minute change over, 25 minute set – it can get pretty tight!

Who were your favorite bands from this year’s CMJ? Did you discover anyone new?

 BR: Yes! We saw this incredible trio of singers 90’s-style power pop singers with perfect synchronised dance moves at Pianos one night after we’d played, they were called Romance. If you ever get the chance, SEE THEM. Also blown away by GEORGIA at Rough Trade. She is so musical, watching her slam her songs on the drum kit and whip her hair around and say “WHOO” was mesmerising. Plus there was free packets of Pocky!

You performed in London immediately before coming to New York for CMJ. Do the crowds in the two cities differ at all?

 BR: We’ve played in Japan, UK and now USA and what was really cool for me is that we could see that people had the same connection to the music everywhere we went! It’s pretty inspiring playing a room full of people who haven’t seen you before and they seem to get where the music’s coming from, and get the emotions it’s trying to convey!

Were you able to try the pizza while in New York? How did it compare to the pizza in Australia?

 BR: I basically lived off $1 slices for a while there, and may I say the $1 slice is HIGHLY variable in quality. I had some best and some blurst ones. But the sheer joy of getting a slice bigger than your head for one measly dollar pretty much beats the disappointment of a bad one every time for me. NY pizza has stolen my heart.

I know you have a few more live performances scheduled for when you get back to Australia. Is there anything else fans can expect to be seeing from you in the future?

 BR: We have a lot of new music in the works actually, so fans can look forward to that coming out over the next year or so!

October 26, 2015 8:14 am

Brothertiger, known to friends as John Jagos, is setting out on a 20+ date tour. He will be performing with JR JR (formerly known as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.) for the remainder of their tour, and then setting off on his own to show the U.S. what he’s got. While preparing for this potentially-intimidating undertaking, Jagos took some time to get us prepared.

download (2)

You’re about to start a pretty long tour that will last until December. Does that seem overwhelming to you, or are you looking forward to it? What are you doing to prepare?

I’m a bit nervous, but I think I’m ready for it. I don’t think it’s overwhelming, but I think it’s a true testament to why I wanted to do music in the first place. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and now it’s finally here. So I have to do it, and I have to do it right. I’m bringing my friend Will to do sound for me, so I think a lot of the stress of having things sound right will be taken care of. I’ve also rehearsed the set about 300 times.

You’re opening for JR JR during some of your upcoming tour dates. Have you worked with them before? How did you get involved with them?

I’ve never worked with them before! But I’m so pumped to hop onto shows with them. My booking agent connected us and made it happen.

As a resident of NYC do you have any fond memories of Webster Hall, where you’ll be performing with JR JR?

I have seen plenty of my friends’ shows in Webster Studio, the basement venue, so it’s really awesome to play in the main room after all those shows!

Has anything happened to you during a performance that has particularly stood out to you?

When fans know almost all of your lyrics, I think that’s particularly memorable. I played a show in Brooklyn a few months ago and there was this group of people who were singing along to almost every song. I thought it was some weird echo going on with the room, but I noticed them singing out the corner of my eye. It was quite a thing to see. Very awesome.

What can you tell us about your LP coming out in December?

Well, it’s 47 minutes worth of what I think are the most honest songs I’ve made so far. It’s a big jump from the stuff I made in the past, but I think people will dig the direction I’m headed with it.

You’re a Brooklyn resident, but grew up in Toledo, OH. When did you move to the city? Did you experience any culture shock?

I moved to Brooklyn right after I graduated from school in 2012. I didn’t really experience that, mostly because I had interned in Brooklyn the summer before my junior year, so I knew what to expect.

How do you feel about the pizza in NYC versus the pizza in Ohio? Where is your favorite place to get pizza in NYC?

Ha. Pizza is pizza to me. There’s so much pizza in NYC that it’s hard to figure out what makes it so unique compared to anywhere else. The best pizza I’ve had in the city is the kind that has been hastily prepared, with lots of toppings thrown onto it in a careless way. Artisanal pizza has no life in it. It’s too perfect. There’s an awesome bar by my apartment called Pizza Party. It looks like a teenager’s bedroom in 1987. They’ve got amazing pizza.

I’ve heard that Brian Eno and M83 are two of your biggest influences. Which albums or songs affected you the most?

Eno – I got into him when I was in high school, when I heard a semi-new electronic album he made called Another Day on Earth. I really loved the production, so I dug deeper into his discography and found stuff like Music for Airports and Apollo. The first time I heard “Always Returning,” it really affected me, and it definitely changed my approach to music.

I found M83 in high school as well, after sifting through similar artists of other bands I had found on M83 is the band that really made me want to make electronic music. I just loved how much emotion was in the music, how important the overall human experience was for writing that material. Saturdays = Youth was and still is my favorite album of theirs.

Many of your releases are available on vinyl, as well as digital formats. What appeal do you see in releasing vinyl records?

I have been collecting vinyl since I was a teenager, so it’s still mind-blowing that my own material has been pressed onto wax. I see a huge resurgence in vinyl sales. CDs have no life to them. A vinyl record is a true physical piece of music. You can feel it in the grooves. I love how much customization you can have with vinyl as well. All the colors, the options, and the sleeve art are so important in conveying the message of an album.

What can we expect to see from you during your tour?

I guess you’ll have to come out and see for yourself! Expect to see a show I’m incredibly excited to play every single night!


Upcoming tour dates:

10/21/2015 – Atlanta, GA – Vinyl at Center Stage
10/23/2015 – Athens, GA – Caledonia Lounge
10/25/2015 – Birmingham, ALSaturn
10/26/2015 – Tallahassee, FL – Club Downunder
10/27/2015 – St. Petersburg, FL – The State Theatre
10/28/2015 – Fort Lauderdale, FL – Culture Room
10/30/2015 – Charlotte, NC – Neighborhood Theatre
10/31/2015 – Saxapahaw, NC – Haw River Ballroom
11/2/2015 – Charlottesville, VA – Jefferson Theater
11/3/2015 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
11/4/2015 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
11/5/2015 – Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
11/6/2015 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
11/7/2015 – Albany, NY – The Hollow
11/10/2015 – Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
11/11/2015 – Columbus, OH – A&R Music Bar
11/12/2015 – Indianapolis, IN – Deluxe at Old National Centre
11/13/2015 – Royal Oak, MI – Royal Oak Music Theater
11/14/2015 – Chicago, IL – Metro
11/16/2015 – Rock Island, IL – Rozz-Tox
11/17/2015 – Omaha, NE – The Slowdown
11/20/2015 – Denver, CO – Lost Lake Lounge
11/21/2015 – Fort Collins, CO – Downtown Artery
11/24/2015 – Boise, ID – Neurolux
12/3/2015 – San Francisco, CA – DNA Lounge
12/4/2015 – San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
12/5/2015 – Los Angeles, CA – The Lost Room

October 20, 2015 9:06 am

Last Wednesday night was pretty crazy when Oberhofer took the stage at Mercury Lounge for CMJ. As a New Yorker, he seemed to have a lot of friends and supporters at the show to see some of the craziness he does on stage. At one point during the show he hopped off stage mid-song, grabbed a trashcan, sat on a chair and started throwing some shit out. It was bizarre, yet I was fascinated by his odd charm.

oberhofer yessss

How’s CMJ been so far? Is this your first one?

It’s been going really well. I’ve done it for 3 years.

So what was going on with that whole trashcan situation?

I saw a lot of trash on the ground and I just went out and found a trashcan. I brought it in and I just put some trash in it in front of everyone so they saw that it was a trash can. I saw a lot of people put trash in the trash can so they just didn’t leave it on the floor. I don’t do it at every show, I just noticed the trash tonight. Not some kind of metaphorical reference.

How’s the reaction to your latest album Chronovision?

It’s been great, I haven’t heard anything negative. I’ve only heard positive stuff from hundreds and hundreds of people.

How is it different compared to your first album?

I produced most of it and the vibe is a little bit more sophisticated, the feelings are more sinister yet optimistic, fatalist.

What’s your favorite off the album?

Don’t have a favorite, but I like “Listen to Everyone” the most. The two bookends, the beginning and the end are my favorite parts from that.

I heard you had to write 106 demos to create this album.

I didn’t HAVE to, I just did. You have to write a lot of songs to figure out what you need on your album, to figure out what you’re going for and for your label to approve of it. When you sign a record deal, you can’t release anything unless your label approves it. That’s just how it works. That’s just cost of being in a record label. You don’t get to release anything you want. It needs quality control. So it took me a long time to release a record, come up with demos and songs that I really liked and the label also liked. I would not be able to ever release something under contract that was only one and all the others. If you want to sign to a record label, then you’re making public music and you’re making music to sell other people for a living under contract. So you have to be at least a little bit concerned as to whether or not other people will like it. But you don’t want to write music with that in mind, which I didn’t do. I just kept writing songs and 12 out of the 106 that I wrote ended up being okay by everyone’s standards. And I didn’t compromise at all, and I just wrote music the way I wanted to write it until 12 songs ended up feeling right.

How long was the whole process?

4 years.


Are you a fan of posting on social media?

I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan, but I use it because its a popular media and its a way to interact with people and a way to present your personality and your character. However if it didn’t exist, other people would pay more attention to other things that aren’t social media oriented. So I’m a fan of people interacting and people being passionate about artists and people paying attention to what artists do and listening to them. However, given the fact that social media is so heavily saturated you have to do hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of interviews for anyone to pay attention to anything, and it all just gets lost in a massive sea of social media. Everyone’s got hundreds and thousands of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter followers. It’s all there, its all in the open and everyone has a bunch and there’s not really much selectivity.

Do you always take care of the merchandise table?

I always go to the merch table so I can meet people, talk to them, and make sure they know that I’m available and let them know that I’m a real human who likes to interact with people and cares about other people.

Are you a vegetarian?

I’m a vegetarian- well, I eat fish. I’m a pescetarian. I don’t really classify myself, I don’t have rules so, I mostly don’t eat meat. For the most part.

For your health or ethical reasons?

Because of both, or for whatever reason. I haven’t eaten meat in a long time. I used to be able to eat white meat and now I just feel really bad eating it, and I can’t. I’ve just filtered it out of my life. I don’t need it, I don’t depend on it, it doesn’t really change the way I feel. And I’m really glad because it’s wasteful. I don’t need to support that industry. I’d rather support local farmers and people that make really healthy food and cook vegetables. I’d rather spend my money on that rather than spending money on crazy factory farm industry that just kills animals. If you go to farmers markets, it’s cheap as hell. It’s cheaper than non-organic food at the grocery store! I go to a farmers market every Sunday in New York and I get tons of vegetables and they’re so cheap I can’t believe it.

The Haunting Sounds Of Tiny Victories
October 6, 2015 11:03 am
Tiny Victories has a good reason to celebrate. The Brooklyn duo’s debut album Haunts was released in June, and was immediately met with positive responses from publications like Consequence of Sound, Interview Magazine, Death and Taxes, and In Your Speakers. 
ATYPICAL SOUNDS spoke with vocalist Greg Walters about the band’s unique sounds, and how he’s been keeping himself busy (and us excited) since the release.

What have you been up to since releasing Haunts last year? 

We did some touring to promote the album. Lately we’ve been taking a break from shows to work on new stuff. I’m also working on some solo material that goes in a different direction. The solo project is more acoustic and more laid-back. I’ve been playing a lot of acoustic guitar lately.

Are you happy with the feedback the album received after launch? 

Well, it could always be better. But we got a lot of feedback from people who said they really connected with the record, and that’s really gratifying to hear. I heard from a few people who said the album helped them through difficult personal stuff, which is kind of humbling and awesome for us to think about, because we both have music that’s done that for us. We got more radio play than we expected, which was exciting.


I know in the past you (Greg) worked as a foreign correspondent, and you (Cason) worked as a social worker. Both of those jobs can take a serious toll on you, both physically and mentally. How much of that made it into your writing? 

Yea, a lot of it did, indirectly at least. I think writing music personally tends to be a process of figuring out what’s been happening in my inner emotional life, and then kind of sketching that. The lyrics are often a flight of fancy based on the feeling that I’m going for, if that makes sense, rather than a history if literal events. So yes, experience is the material you start with.

Does the reward of working with music help to stave off any potential burnout vs having a standard job? 

Making music is awesome. If I never had to worry about money, I’d just make music for the rest of my life. Most musicians that I know cobble together some kind of make-shift, duct-taped lifestyle that lets them survive the unpredictability. Often the hardest part is creating the time and space that you need to actually get the music done.

I feel that one of the things that set you apart from other electronic bands is that the vocals in your songs have remained more or less untouched. How did you come upon that aesthetic? 

We experimented with a lot of different approaches, and this is where we ended least for now. Also, it kind of seemed like a lot of other bands are washing their vocals out with tons of delay and reverb. It’s cool, I dig that, but we just decided to go the other way.

After the release of your first album, Those of Us Still Alive, you toured with bands like Ra Ra Riot, White Denim, and Maps & Atlases. Did any of your experiences during those tours influence the writing for Haunts? 

Yeah. First of all, the dudes in Maps & Atlases and White Denim are probably the nicest guys in rock n’ roll. When you play with other bands, it kind of helps you frame your thinking about the music you want to make.

Do you have any specific memories of your time spent touring? What stands out to you about the experience? 

Lots of couches. One of the best parts about touring for me is getting to meet so many rad people that we wouldn’t have met otherwise. We made a lot of friends we wouldn’t have gotten to know any other way. Also, when you drive around in a tour van a lot, listening to music, you start to realize how many songs are basically about life on the road.

New York holds some of the best venues. Do you have a favorite? 

I like the old Glasslands. It was closed a little while back, but we played there a lot and I have good memories of the place.

So what’s coming up in the future of Tiny Victories? 

New material, though it’s hard to say when. We’re giving ourselves time. At some point, we’ll need to put pressure on ourselves again to actually finish a new album. I find that, no matter how much work I think it will take to finish a record, it turns out to be more work than I thought.

August 25, 2015 9:00 am

I stepped into the High Watt on Cannery Row and joined a substantial Nashville crowd gathered to see a band building up the room’s energy with blasting synths, a little saxophone, and even a flugle horn. The four piece band was a good fit with Garratt. strong melodies and powerful crescendos…but they also served a different purpose.

They showed what it normally takes to generate an exciting live show—four people all playing different instruments.

Then, they tore down their drums, synths and guitars and cleared the stage. What replaced them was a simple set up made for one musician. One keyboard, one looping station, one sampling pad. One foot trigger for bass drum kicks, some effects pedals and one guitar.

Then one man came out and did the job of four. All at the same time. And he did each of those jobs arguably better than most.

Jack Garratt’s songs tend to start off simple. One looped track run off his laptop either triggered by his sampling pad or created live on his keyboard. He’d then start playing the drum beat, typically with only his right hand and foot. Next comes voice. Delicate falsettos or deep rumbles and growls then grow into a crashing chorus, and in comes the left hand playing huge dubby bass lines on the keyboard. At one point during “The Love You’re Given” he managed to send a deafening rattle around the air vents that snaked across The High Watt’s ceiling.

If a status quo could be pinned to Garratt’s performance, it would be this. Soulful and energetic singing with a super dynamic range, live and powerful drum beats and massive bass lines played over a simple loop providing a skeleton for the other parts. But Garratt don’t stop there.

Garratt is anything but static. His songs are active, with powerful moments of change and development. His voice is clean and timid at times, roaring and triumphant at others. On stage, he is vibrant, rarely standing still, even when all limbs are occupied. He’s a funny guy too, cracking jokes with the crowd (after performing a sensual rendition of “Let Me Love You” by Mario, he sang the soaring chorus again, but as a duet by Michael Jackson and Michael McDonald). He also expressed exuberance and humility at the mere opportunity to play. Currently on his first US tour, and this being only his second show, he was wowed by the size and excitement of the crowd. After all, he hasn’t even released a full album yet.

Recently, I was able to catch Jack on the phone and ask him a few questions.


So you’re here on your first North American Tour, playing solo shows and also opening for Mumford and Sons. How are you liking it so far?

Having a really good time! It’s about ten past nine [AM], I’m not hungover yet, we’ll see how the day goes. We did the first arena show with Mumford last night, so I’m in Edmonton right now. We just did this show at Rexall Place, so that was a lot of fun, kind of a big moment.  I’m having a great time, I’m working hard. I’m trying to enjoy every minute of it when I get the chance to enjoy it.

Was that your first arena show?

Yes. First of quite a few, actually. Then I’m doing some of Gentlemen of the Road Stopovers, which is the festival that [Mumford and Sons] curates.  So yeah, last night was the first show I’ve ever done in an arena, which was really good. It was incredible, it was such a real privilege to be able to play to a room of that size.


What made you choose to go the route of one-man band?

I never really did. There was never really a point where I chose to not have a band, or just do it on my own. The way it came about was I was writing these songs and producing this music that was just so different from anything I had written or produced before, and I needed a way to play it live. The setup I have now came from necessity. So it wasn’t me going “I want to be a modern one man band,” or trying to define myself by the live show, which has been getting a lot of attention lately (and I kind of didn’t mean for it to do that). I just, out of necessity, had to build a set up quite quickly so that I could go and play some shows that I already had booked. So a friend of mine and I put together this setup that I’m still using today. He gave me lots of advice on the equipment to use. So to answer your question, I never decided to not have a band. I just need to play music, and I might as well do it all on my own because it saves having to organize rehearsals with other people.

Have you considered putting a band together in the future?

I’ve thought about it… I’ve definitely, definitely thought about it. I don’t know though, really. As I said, it was never really a planned thing. I think if I ever used a band it would be for the same reason. Watching the Mumford boys play last night in front of something like thirteen or fourteen thousand people, I had a real moment where I was like “Fuck, it would be incredible to go up and do that with a band.” That would be amazing to get up there in six years’ time and play to a crowd of that size. But then the other part of me was like “Yeah, but you might not need one. Also if you do then great, if not, then also great.”  I love to perform with other musicians, but I’m having a lot of fun at the moment being able to explore the stage, explore the sounds on my own.

Seeing your live set, it became very clear there is a lot of programming involved to keep everything running. Do you do that all yourself?

Yes, I do. I produce a lot of my own music anyway, so I have all the stems that I need to bounce all the samples from. There are a couple of tracks I’ve had mixed by other people, that I need to get the stems from, mix them down and create my own samples. Another reason I do the live set on my own is because it has become quite significantly and uniquely complicated. I have my stage guy, the friend I mentioned earlier who helped me with my live setup. He’s there with me and knows my setup inside and out, and can put it all together and take it apart and fix things for me, he’s my guy [@HotRoadie on twitter]. But as soon as it would get to programming samples and then putting them onto the pad so that I know where they would be… no one else knows how to do that other than me because I change it for every new song. So it’s really complicated, but it’s only complicated for me. I’d rather have it be complicated for me, than for me and six other people.

I was really impressed by your humor and energy on stage. I think typically in your genre of music, the electro-R&B type stuff, that’s quite rare. Most guys like James Blake or Frank Ocean are fairly serious. I was wondering if that was a conscious choice to bring humor and energy to what is typically a more stoic music.

Well, I’ve always been a talker. I’ve always talked to (or probably most of the time, at) people, ever since I was a kid. I always just naturally found myself in a place where I wanted to be able to talk to the crowd. It took a bit of work, it wasn’t always successful. I wasn’t necessarily trying to be funny, just trying to make sure that the audience was having a good time, and making sure that the audience and I were on the same team, that everyone is in the moment together and everyone is enjoying themselves. That’s the only thing that I cared about.  And so, after a year of pretty relentless gigging, I’ve been able to narrow it down and… I don’t know, say the right kind of things I guess. It was definitely a conscious effort, making sure that the show was one people would walk away from going “Holy shit, I have no idea what just happened.” Because you’re right, there’s not a lot of people doing the music that I do, who also have the opportunity to treat the audience as another person in the room.

I’m also in the fortunate position where my stature isn’t big enough yet to make walking on stage irrelevant. As soon as you get to a certain crowd size, no matter what you say on stage, it kind of doesn’t matter because the person at the back isn’t going to understand a thing you say.

So that was going to be my next question – How did that play out with this arena show with Mumford and Sons?

Well yeah, so I just didn’t do it. I had half an hour, went up on stage, I had five songs, I played my five songs and I walked off stage again. I had a couple of moments, where I was able to give the Mumford boys a shout out and say thank you to them, but I have a different job there. Not only to warm up a crowd, but also impress them. That’s my job, make sure the crowd is ready for the next support act, but also that they are impressed with my performance and don’t feel like they’ve wasted money on the ticket they bought.

I’ve done a couple shows now with the Mumford boys, and they have a really, really good band relationship on stage in front of their crowd. The room is just so big, I don’t get how anyone can understand what they’re saying. It shows I still have a lot to learn, because I’m looking at them and they can do it fine.

I want to talk to you about your new single “Weathered.” It has a different sound than your previous stuff. It has this positive, triumphant feel as opposed to the more traditional sad, bluesy fare typical of R&B. Is that indicative of a direction you’re going in? 

That was just necessary for the song. I’ve always made sure that my songs are as right as they can be, for the song. The sound of it, the tone of it, the texture of it. There would be no point in putting the production of “Weathered” on a song like “Chemical” for example. Even if you strip away all of the production and everything from both those songs and lay them bare, they are two completely different entities, and they need to be treated and respected as such. It just so happens that “Weathered” has taken this much more positive attitude, even though the song itself is about such an abysmal subject; it’s about such a depressing thing. But then again the song itself is hopeful, it is uplifting. It’s a positive song, so therefore the production had to swell with it, it had to move with it. The song was breathing. But it’s not a direction I’m going in, it’s just that one song needed that kind of sound.

As I go on creating all the other songs to put together this record, every song will be treated individually, and will have its own place and sound and style and moment. And if some of them sound the same, then some of them sound the same But so far, almost all of them have sounded different. It’s all about the song. All about what it asks for.

So you mentioned a record. Is this the first full length Jack Garratt album? What’s going on with that?

 Yes… where am I with that? [laughs] It is going to be part of a bigger thing. I am absolutely moving forward and working toward a larger project. At the moment, I’m still in a place where everything has happened quite quickly, in terms of the sudden increase of attention I’ve been getting.  Because of that I’ve made sure I’m not going to rush anything. The worst thing that I could do is have things happen quicker than I expected, and then rush a product to meet the demand. Because that’s not fair to the people who want the thing I’m going to give them. So instead, everyone’s going to have to be a bit patient, including myself. I’m just enjoying fleshing out these ideas that I’m having at the moment. You see, “Weathered” itself is quite an old song, with the production and the idea behind it being very, very new. It was only really finished about a week before it was released to other people.

But it’s coming! I promise! I’m just having a lot of fun fleshing everything out myself.

Jack Garratt sings like Sam Smith but with more grit and energy. He produces with the pop ear of Calvin Harris and the creativity of Dan Deacon. He plays piano tastefully, shreds on guitar, and composes interesting beats. And he does it ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Not to mention he’s a pretty cool guy.

Pay attention to this one. Or don’t. Either way you’re going to hear more from him.


Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 2.55.27 PM

July 14, 2015 11:00 am

Journalism is a Joy Division for this decade. The four piece rock outfit is particularly interesting because they manage to meld pop, garage rock, shoegaze and post punk influences. I got to hang out with singer Kegan and drummer Brendan and talk to them about their music and the state of things right now.

While Journalism certainly has a solid pop outline, their sound has depth and subtlety. The song “Passenger” has a powerful and infectious bassline that substantiates its pop instrumentation and dancey melodies, while a song like “I See Everything” is slightly heavier and showcases their post-punk influence.

Journalism photo

Coming off a kick ass performance opening for Wild Nothing at Music Hall of Williamsburg, the band is also currently working on an album at Spaceman Sound (“Their shit sounds so amazing” Kegan says) and getting ready for their set at Brooklyn’s Gigawatts Festival on 7/24. Tickets are available here. On living in Brooklyn, Kegan says that “the best part about living in Brooklyn right now is everyone is making music. There’s so much of it that you can be very choosy and sometimes you really like the music your friends are making. We are going to be working with some of our friends soon”.

“I wish their was less irony in music; if you like something you should just like it without the pretext.” Brendan remarks. “I would love to open for people who really love guitar music, we should open for Third Eye Blind” Kegan jokes. This attitude is very apparent in their music. Clearly the boys of Journalism know what they like but they aren’t going to stick to their one niche. They are influenced by what they like and what they want to sound like with nothing artificial or ironic about it. You can check the band out on BandCamp, Instagram and Facebook.

Written by Alessandra Licul

May 12, 2015 4:16 pm

“Sunday Night”  by MAY is cinematic; a walk down a rainy street in a forgotten city, her voice is simultaneously inviting and bewitching which is the perfect ambience for her haunting, yet bright music. I sat down with the Australian singer-songwriter to discuss herself, her music, and her time in the unforgotten city of New York.

MAY’s clearly defined aesthetic is drawn from time-honored inspirations such as Leonard Cohen, Cole Porter and George Gershwin. The influence of the classic greats is apparent in her use of a full string ensemble and the deep jazzy timbre of her voice. “Taking Champagne” could essentially be a 21st century parlour song.

“I’m a big fan of film noir and I love all things black and white. My style is monochromatic and I’m always wearing shades of black.” When asked what her dream gig would be, MAY replies with “I would love to do a tour of cathedrals for the visuals and for the acoustics. I want beautiful churches with an amazing orchestra and a never ending budget so I could have beautiful lighting and scenery”.  This setting would coincidentally be the perfect platform for her style.


What is particularly astounding about MAY’s music is how she is able to transport these influences beyond imitation to a contemporary scene. She does this through her beautiful voice and poetic yet accessible lyrics.

Like most artists who use their own life as a canvas for their perspective, MAY’s lyrics have a strong narrative and is drawn from personal experience, yet they speak to universal themes about love and loneliness. This gives her songs a very timeless and empathetic quality.

“I do write for myself initially but the way in which I write has an element of mystery,” the songwriter explains. “This is what I hear- audiences can make the songs their own because of that and that makes it a bit more personal.”

This is MAY’s second time in New York City and she sees, “a lot more of a buzz from the last time”. Her schedule is hectic, but rewarding. “I’m very busy which is great. I’ve been really overwhelmed by the positive reception from ‘Sunday Night’ and I can’t wait for everyone to hear what’s next.” MAY has a new single coming out in a few weeks which she now just taking the time to perfect. In anticipation, I asked her to describe what to expect from the upcoming single. “It’s very volatile and its very heartfelt and quite edgy. It’s like “Sunday Night” but on crack. Retains that classic vibe but grittier.”

MAY graced the stage at Rockwood Music Hall last month and will hopefully be coming soon to a theater near you. You can listen to her music here on her Soundcloud page.

Written by Alessandra Licul