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ARTIST OF THE MONTH: GRACE JOYNER, CHARLESTON’S WOOZY FOLK SONGSTRESS
August 5, 2016 12:45 pm

Grace Joyner, the Ashville-via-Charleston electronic-folk songstress is our August Artist of the Month. Hers is a story of reckless abandon, picking yourself up when you’re down, and chasing the dream to the end of the earth (which so far is a distance that spans from the Carolina coast to the outskirts of Kentucky). Nonetheless, Joyner’s voyage wouldn’t have even been possible if it weren’t for the pack of boundlessly collaborative strays known as Hearts & Plugs.  We’re going to talk about them too, but first, let me lure you in with a little bit of old fashioned dialogue:

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 “Yoooo, Joe!”
“Oh, what’s up Zimmerman?”
“So…you know Johnnie?”
“Yeah man, me and Johnnie are real tight.”
“Dude, you should come out this Friday”
“Word, yeah”
“Let me text Dan”
“Dan?”
“Yeah, you know, Jenkin’s friend”
“Oh, he’s friends with Jordan too I think”

If you’re an aspiring musician you’ve been part of that ‘crew’ before. You know exactly what I’m talking about.  That group of friends that think they’re going to start a band, travel across the country in a minivan, and upend our entire social infrastructure. Maybe you meet in a basement, or perhaps a front porch.  There’s no formal membership, no secret handshake. While you’re far from new age cult status, certain vestiges of hippy culture might seep in occasionally. Countless students have formed similar cadres. Why? Because they want to live in the moment. Be a part of the bonfire jam sessions that catapult musical revolutions. Discover new forms of sonic expression and collectively explore the universe together to make sense of its stellar enormity.

The thing is, occasionally, one of these slacker collectives actually sees it through to the other side. Occasionally, hipsters mobilize. Word spreads and they start to pick up steam. They score gigs, sell out local venues, generate revenue, invest in better equipment, chip in for a recording studio, and before you know it, are a permanent fixture in the local music landscape.

Hearts & Plugs is one of these collectives.  Based in sun-scorched Charleston, South Carolina, Hearts & Plugs is a burgeoning music label built around an intimate nexus of friends that were probably jamming on someone’s porch not too long ago.  They’ve since amassed a steady following thanks to a robust roster of folk-centric indie pop acts oozing with creative juices.

Front and center of the operation is founder and director Dan McCurry. He brings with him a breadth of business savvy accumulated from past business experiences; both the ups and the downs. The label started out of necessity when his own band, Run Dan Run, needed a new home to record their sophomore album.  As such, they recorded Normal in 2011, Hearts & Plugs first official release. Hearts & Plugs’ in-house recording studio is operated by Wolfgang Zimmerman, who also plays the drums for Brave Baby. The sleek psych-pop outlet is also one of the label’s rising stars, having garnered critical praise for their sophomore release Electric Friends—think Arcade Fire in scope, sonically akin to Tame Impala, with a rugged southern twang. Other noteworthy members include alt-country rockers SUSTO, and doo-wop post-punkers Gold Light, and many more. Almost every act on the Hearts & Plugs team is a collaborative affair of interspersing band members.  At some point while contributing backing harmonies, Grace Joyner joined the mix.

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It didn’t take long for Grace Joyner’s woozy yet robust vocal palate to get noticed.  Her first solo recording came in the form of Young Fools—fleeting and vulnerable songs culled from emotional pangs of successes, failures, trials, tribulations, ambition, and regret.  Exemplified by tracks such as “Be Good” and “Young Thing”, the EP effectively captures Joyner’s essence, drawing comparisons to other strong female voices such as Kate Bush and Lana Del Rey.

Two years of relentless gigging and creative musing, Joyner was ready to record her debut full-length album.  Maybe Sometimes in C is a vibrantly colored folk symphony that showcases both Grace’s impressive vocals coated in an immersive synth backdrop.  Maybe Sometimes in C allowed Grace further opportunities to hit the road and expand her reach, recently touring through the Carolinas and Kentucky with Gold Light in support of their album Visions.

I got the chance to ask Grace Joyner a few questions about her recent creative pursuits, about living in Charleston and collaborating with Hearts & Plugs, and what’s next on the docket.  Check it out:

Q: You’re a Charleston gal, a city which–although certainly known for being a great travel destination—it’s also a city with a jam-packed music scene, does Charleston feel underrated to you at all?

A: The Charleston music scene has been rapidly growing in the last couple years thanks to Dan and Hearts & Plugs, along with some amazing venues, such as The Royal American. Throughout that growing process, I believe it has been getting the recognition it deserves. There are a lot of amazing musicians there, and we have all been working together to get Charleston on the map for music. I really think it is starting to get there.

Q: Speaking of, it would be hard to find a group of musicians more passionate about and gunning harder for a music scene than Hearts and Plugs.  How’s it been working with them?

A: It has been truly inspiring to see Hearts & plugs develop into what it is now. It is such an example of what a good idea can become if you combine it with hard work. Dan is an amazing visionary and I am very thankful to be a part of what him & Megan are doing.

Q: I’m try to pin down the Charleston music vibe—there are lots of artists, lots of musicians, so it’s impossible to boil it down completely—but what’s separating Charleston from another large music scene in the vicinity, like say, Asheville or Carrboro?  

A: Something about the Charleston music scene that I think is very special is the sense of community. We really are a family. We all collaborate all the time and are constantly supporting one another. Some of us have known each other for nearly a decade. We have maintained such a comfortable creative space, and I think that is what sets us apart.

Q: Speaking of Asheville, you were recently on the road with you were recently on the road with Gold Light, they seem like a fun crowd—and it looks like you hit up some cool places—how was that tour overall?

A: The tour was magical. Joe, from Gold Light, contacted me a couple months ago with the idea of collaborating and doing a short run together. I don’t think either of us were expecting it to go so smoothly and seem so natural. The band we had with us were such a great group of people and at almost every spot we hit we had these serendipitous moments. Everything fell into place on that tour, and we are about to start working on another one with the same group. Hopefully the details will be worked out in the next couple weeks.

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Q: I didn’t realize the album cover for Maybe Something in C was a cropped photo of you in a bathtub filled with some kind of dark blue liquid–what was the story behind that photo?  Who took it?

A: So that was an idea I had, and we just kind of went with it to be honest. My roommate Keex took the photo in my bathroom. We used a blue bath bomb to get the coloring. I just thought the image was interesting. My bathroom has this mundane vibe to it, and I thought adding a romantic contrast would turn out well.

Q: So is Maybe Sometimes in C, actually in the key of C?  Or are you riffing off of a completely different reference and I’m just completely missing it?

A: No you are pretty much on point. There was a running joke with my producer, Wolfgang Zimmerman, about how often songs are in C. It is easy for me to write in that key, so he was always teasing me about changing it up. Of course they are not all in C, but it is a reference to that. Also there is a line in the first track, “I’m not crazy, or maybe sometimes…” It has to do with recognizing value even when there are faults.

Q: I saw an Instagram pic of Hug O’ War, were you a big Shel Silverstein fan growing up?  Has his poetry snuck itself into your lyrics at all?

A: I LOVE Shel Silverstein. Hmm…that is a good question though. I think I resonate with a lot of themes he plays around with, but I can’t pinpoint any direct lyric references. My favorite poem of his is “The Perfect High.”

Q: There’s another pic of The Velvet Underground performed by ET Anderson & Grace Joyner?  Seriously?  That’s the coolest thing ever!  

A: That was an awesome night. ET Anderson let me join in for a Velvet Underground cover set for an event as Nico. I was honored. It was so fun.

Q: I saw you also posted a Tina meme, are you a big fan of Bob’s burgers?  Is there a particular burger joint in Charleston we should be aware of?

A: Wow I am so impressed. You have done so much research. I am a fan of Bob’s Burgers, but to be honest I don’t eat a lot of burgers… I will say Moe’s Crosstown has amazing brunch & I hear they have great burgers so that is what I am going to go with for this question.

Q: I’m a North Carolina guy myself–I was glad to see your allegiance to the Carolina Panthers, did you enjoy watching them kick ass last year?  Are you excited for the season to kick off again?

A: My family is from North Carolina so I grew up a fan of the Panthers. Watching them kick ass last season was so fun. Cam is such a babe. I am sure we will kill it this season.

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Q: Last one—this is all you—what’s up next for Grace Joyner?  Any new projects on the horizon?  Cool collaborations?  Hitting up the recording studio anytime soon?  When’s your next show?  When are people not from below the Mason Dixon line going to see Grace Joyner live?

A: We have a little run in Columbia & Charleston the weekend of 8.19-8.20. Then we have some other Carolina shows coming up in the next couple months. Currently about to start planning another tour with Gold Light for the Fall & we are working on extending our reach! I haven’t had a whole lot of writing inspiration until recently. So many ideas are rolling around in my head & I am just about ready to start working through them. I expect a good amount of new songs on the horizon, and soon after that it will be in the works to get them out.

Hearts & Plugs is an excellent source of fresh musical discovery, and even though I’ve listened through more than a handful of their artists this week, I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.  They’ve put a lot of work into honing their craft. More importantly though, their label is a guiding light post for the bold, the artistically curious, poetically odd, and all around atypical.  We’re eager for more!

Until next time, check out the label’s awesome spread of merch as well as their Summer Essentials playlist, below!

SHOOT THE SHIT AT SXSW WITH NIKKI’S WIVES
April 2, 2016 11:00 am

Toronto’s own Nikki’s Wives came to SXSW this year, taking time out of a busy schedule to talk with us about their meteoric rise, Shaq’s security team, and a useless hypothetical question.


So you just released your first EP? How long did that take?

Nate: Very quick, very quick.

Dylan: We met this dude who was a big fan and had some big connections, and he loved what we did live so he asked us “why don’t you do a new record? We’d like to work with you on it.” So we said sure we’ll book this studio, but what we didn’t tell him is we didn’t have any songs for it yet, and we booked it in thirty days. So we took time off work, took ten days of pure writing and we wrote the whole EP. But it’s Canada, it’s minus 40 and my heater dies in my apartment, literally. So we did it with no heat and ten days for the whole record.

Nikki: We were just writing so fast, trying to get out of there.

Dylan: It’s cool to be under the gun sometimes, you know?

Nikki: I think that’s when you get the best stuff. That’s when we’re all the most creative is when there’s that kind of pressure.

Either this is gonna happen at this time or it’s not gonna happen at all.

Dylan: Yeah we like the pressure.

How do you start writing? Like ‘okay, I’m here, day one.’ Who starts?

Nate: I mean that week it was just, like, whatever. However we can get it done we got it done. Like, ‘okay I got this beat, Nikki’s got this melody…’ We just start with whatever pieces we have and then add and add and add.

Dylan: At first we could dig from our wells of whatever we had in the past, but by the end of the week it was like ‘okay, we’re sitting down at the keyboard and hopefully we hit something cool and take it from there.’

Nikki: Some days, inspiration doesn’t come until five o’clock, and then we’re there ’till like 1 am writing.

In the freezing cold midnight Canadian winter.

Dylan: An interesting story from the process was with “Forever,” the title track. We were having nothing creatively, just sitting. And my grandma, when she passed, left me this 1940s car with shot glasses, and when you take off the carafe it plays this really creepy melody.

Nate: Like a music box.

But a novelty toy?

Dylan: We recorded it and then we sat down in ProTools and cut all the notes and made a new chord progression out of it. So I mean, anything to get the song done. We pumped all the sound into a sampler and just made up a melody out of the sounds. It sounded really cool.

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So you’re Nikki, and… what are these, your husbands?

Nikki: These are my wives.

I guess I should have known.

Nikki: See, they’re dressed in white.

Yeah, I couldn’t help but notice the white outfits.

Nikki: We kinda figured that this band would be the closest thing that any of us were gonna get to a real relationship, or actually being married, so it was just fitting.

Welcome to 2016.

Nikki: It’s 2016, I can have two wives and it’s totally fine.

And they can be guys.

Nikki: Exactly.

So you guys tour a lot?

Nate: Well we’re just starting to pick up our touring, so we’re gonna be out in the US all around in the late spring/early summer. We got some things, we got some early festivals coming up.

This is the beginning of a bigger thing.

Nikki: Yeah we’ve only been together for, like… it was a year a couple weeks ago.

Dylan: We’re kinda focused on one-offs. We did that San Francisco thing, called Leather and Laces, hosted by like all the cast of Entourage and some Victoria’s Secret models.

Nate: Shaq and Kobe were there.

Together?!

Nikki: We were like, ‘holy fuck is that Shaq right there?’ We walked by like ‘wow he’s so tall.’

Dylan: He’s got all these, like, security guards but they look like children you know? All these hard little kids.

They’re huge, but … they could stop you and me but…

Nikki: They’re just meant to stop regular sized people.

If another Shaq went in there… [laughter]

Do you have a favorite American city, you Canadians you?

Nikki: My favorite was San Francisco, I just thought it reminded me a lot of Toronto but if Toronto was warm. So I liked it. What about you guys?

Nate: I gotta go with New York, I think. It’s just where everything happens.

Dylan: I was gonna say the same thing.

Nate: We were gonna say Vegas because we were there a little while ago, but…

Yeah can’t say like “well I really love Las Vegas.” I mean you can love Vegas but you can’t say it’s your favorite, can’t really rep it that hard.

Dylan: Exactly.

Do you have a specific stage persona or personality that you’re going for?

Nikki: I don’t know, we’re just on stage. It’s very much just the three of us, we have a lot of fun, we have a really great energy, so I think it kinda looks like we’re all married on stage.

Nate: We interact a lot, we feed off each other a lot. It’s a lot of communication, honestly.

Dylan: Yeah and actually doesn’t change too much if theres ten people there or if, like in San Francisco, there are three thousand people there.

Nate: We’re playing for ourselves out there.

You played for three thousand people in SF?

Dylan: Yeah it was that party, it was crazy. It was like a thousand bucks a ticket.

And you just started a year ago.

All: Yeah

Fuck you guys! [laughter]

Nikki: Yeah, it was pretty crazy.

Dylan: Fun time, the Victoria’s Secret Super Bowl party. Pretty lucky.

Nikki: I think we were all in awe.

Who’s the best dancer on stage?

Nikki: I would say Nate.

Nate: Yeah, I kinda sit down…

Well if you’re seated, that’s not really…

Dylan: It’s hard to explain.

Nate: I do a little bounce, a little shuffle.

Nikki: Nate’s the dancer.

Nate: Yeah, it’s fun.

What else are you gonna do, you know? But you’re in the back, right?

Nikki: Yeah, yeah. We get comments on it all the time, like ‘your drummer’s fucking crazy.’

Nate: It’s a weird thing, I stand up and play sometimes, just kinda move around a lot.

It’ s a physical instrument, you gotta kick the shit out of it. Do you guys have previous iterations of the band?

Nikki: We’ve all been in various bands but I used to be a solo project, then Dylan and I started writing together, and then we were playing some shows and we needed a drummer, and Dylan and Nate went to University together, so he was like ‘oh I’ll just ask my friend Nate.’

And then you got married.

Nate: Yep. That night!

You went to Vegas and had a three person wedding! 

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Who would you say are your biggest influences? Or just is it just you in a cold room with a deadline?

Dylan: I don’t think you can really hear it in our music, but we were talking about this this morning for another thing: David Lynch.

Really?!

Dylan: We find ourselves always talking about him and how stark and kind of unsettling all his visual stuff is, and we’re trying to kinda get that going a little bit.

Translate it to music?

Dylan: Yeah, and I don’t know if it translates but it still influences our decisions even if we don’t sound like what he looks like.

That’s a great answer to… kind of a bad question. [laughter]

Nate: Musically… I mean, I like Peter Gabriel a lot, I like a lot of prog-rock bands, so like King Crimson and stuff. We listen to a lot of hip hop, Kendrick and Skepta recently.

What do you listen to in the van?

Nikki: There’s so much time that we have to pass that it goes like all over the place. Every single Kanye West record, this band Snarky Puppy which is like instrumental, I don’t even know.

Dylan: If you wanna listen to a crazy jazz fusion band from New York at south by, go see Snarky Puppy on Saturday. They’re crazy.

Nikki: It’s just kinda everything.

Dylan: Mastodon, metal, rock, like even some punk records, like FIDLAR or whatever, lots of hip hop, all over the map, jazz, Britney Spears–we love Britney. Backstreet Boys

Nikki: Get it all in there.

Do you have any one song that you think encapsulates your sound?

Nikki: I would say our debut song, the title track “Forever.”

That’s why it became the title track.

Nate: It’s kind of our attitude more than any other song. I think lyrically it really pins us down.

How would you describe that attitude?

Nikki: Um, like kind of a bad bitch vibe. Like up in Miami in a suit, briefcases of money…

Nate: Like a faded kind of vibe, an after-party vibe.

Nikki: It’s like you went to a really dope party and then you wake up the next morning and you’re still wearing what you were wearing and you pick up your cigarette that was burning…

Still burning ‘cuz you fell asleep with it in your mouth, totally get it. What’s your favorite part of your lives right now?

Dylan: This, here right here! [laughter]

Nate: This very instant.

This moment. You’ve never been more thrilled than right now, talking to me, getting this interview out on the internet. It’s gonna be sick.

Dylan: And if this is coming out during south by…

Oh no, there’s no way.

Nate: Oh. Well then I’m sorry you missed our gigs at south by! [laughter]

I have one more question. I promised my friend I would ask you this hypothetical question: would you rather be born with only one leg, or with three legs? Those are the only two choices.

[a moment of thoughtful consideration]

Nate: Ah, okay, so… when we’re talking three legs, do we have equal movement in each?

Yes, but they’re three across, not like a tripod.

Nate: So I couldn’t have three and have one amputated?

Dylan: They already call me the tripod…

[to Dylan] Yeah that’s what I figured. I set you up for that. [to Nate] Yeah you could, but then you’d have to get a leg amputated and you’d have a stump where one of your legs began.

Nate: I would go with three because I play drums and it’d be hard to drum with one leg.

Oooo and it’d be sweet too, you could play the double petal and the high hat.

Nate: Exactly.

Dylan: I’m gonna say one for sympathy girls. I’d stay real fit, hop around.

Nate: Maybe I could donate you my leg.

Do a leg transplant.

Nikki: I’m gonna go with three because I’m very uncoordinated, and I feel like one leg would just…

Dylan: Three would probably be an improvement to your life.

Nikki: Probably! I mean if someone could hook me up with a third leg…

Nate: You’d have to get extra shoes every time and throw one away. Is it two left feet and one right?

One symmetrical middle foot.

Nikki: But it would give me an excuse to buy more shoes!

Welcome to south by, where everything’s ridiculous.

ROLLIN’ WITH BANDITS AT SXSW
March 30, 2016 11:11 am

We sat down with Denver’s very own BANDITS at SXSW, discussing their influences, their destructive stage antics, and their van.

So, how long have you guys been here at SXSW?

Lulu: This is our second… third day.

Andrew: Third day.

And you tour a lot too, right?

John: Yep

L: Yeah, we’re pretty… we’re on the road a lot.

A: We’ve been on the road for about… in the last month we’ve been home for about five days. We went from Denver all the way out to New York City and back–in like a two-and-a-half week tour–then had a couple days off and then toured our way down here.

What’s the longest tour you’ve ever done?

J: I think that one actually. Like two weeks.

L: Yeah we like to keep them sporadic. Go home for a couple days in between, regroup.

A: This way we can do them a lot.

Do you like touring?

L: Oh yeah.

J: I love touring. Being on the road is the best part. You just get to see a new city every night, and you get to experience the culture everywhere. You get to play in front of new people all the time.

A: It’s great when all you have to do is focus on just going and playing music every night. You just kinda get into that zone, and that’s where you wanna be as a musician.

What’s your least favorite part of touring?

J: Well, loading in and out kinda sucks, but it’s mostly fun.

L: I would say my least favorite part is driving for so long. I get sore from sitting in the van for like nine and a half hours at a time. But it’s not that bad.

A: I think the hardest part is trying to stay healthy and sleep well and eat well and not get sick. It’s definitely a physical struggle.

banditYou’re up late every night?

J: Oh yeah, up ’til like three, four in the morning.

And then you gotta hop in the van next day?

L: For like nine hours, yeah.

Shit. Do you have a name for the van?

L: Not really.

J: We had a few of them, one of them was “Nelson Vandela.”

A: Yeah that’s a good one

J: We made a Facebook post of what to name it, and that’s what we got.

L: We’ve never been like “everyone to the… whatever.”

“To the mystery machine!”

L: It’s just our van.

So you guys do a lot of social media outreach or crowdsourcing and shit?

J: Yeah, I mean we post every day on Facebook.

You got to, right? Welcome to 2016.

L: And then Twitter and Instagram. I mean we do it, we do a good job staying in touch with our fans. That’s the easiest way to talk to them and know what they’re thinking or feeling about everything.

Do you find it difficult to stay active, stay relevant, stay involved with the fans to have that kind of relationship?

J: Yeah, sometimes. I think also when you’re absent on Facebook for a few days it really helps people stay interested in what you’re doing. Not posting all the time…just exclusive stuff.

That’s cool. So, you guys play pretty heavy rock. You remind me of the classics, some Sabbath, some classic rock type situations. Do you have modern influences as well?

L: I would say we have a lot of modern influences. We listen to so much when we’re sitting in the van for nine hours that we take in a lot and are always bringing it back to rehearsal. Like, ‘how can we use this, how can we use that.’ But I would say Queens of the Stone Age are a big influence, The Kills, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Tame Impala, we listen to a lot of hip hop that also comes into play.

Really? How do you find that the hip hop effects your music? 

A: I think more than anything… well, definitely the groove and the beat because hip hop drums comes from the same place as rock drums, and the rhythms are the same. But I think also the attitude, a lot of the time. You could say that about any music though.

J: Yeah definitely the attitude.

What would you say is your biggest influence that I wouldn’t expect? bandit2

L: I’d say Biggie. We loves Biggie.

J: Just the whole attitude thing there.

How far is it from here to Denver?

L: Like a sixteen hour drive. It’s not great.

Who drives the most?

L: John.

J: I’m kind of a control freak, I like to drive a lot.

L: John likes to drive.

Would you say you’re the best driver?

J: Well, I don’t know.

L: No. [laughter]

J: I’d say Lulu’s the best.

L: I’m the most cautious driver.

A: I’m the best with the trailer. If you gotta back a trailer into something, I got it.

J: But if you wanna get there in maybe eight hours less, let me drive.

A: If you want somebody to drive a hundred miles an hour the whole time, not give a shit…

Law be damned, just go for it.

J: We listen to a lot of Motörhead when we drive that fast.

Yeah, that’s good for driving. Anything else? Any other music in the van?

A: Oh man, there are so many. We’re all over the place. We’ve been listening to a lot of Dr John

J: Lot of Iggy, his new album

A: And his old albums…

L: I love to listen to Portishead and nobody else ever wants to listen to it.

When you’re driving though that’s up to you.

L: Yeah. The Roots, listened to them on the way down here. Tame Impala’s new album

J: Humble Pie.

A: The Arcs, all that new Dan Auerbach stuff, that’s really good stuff. We listen to that a lot.

Do you guys write songs in the car? 

L: I don’t think we’ve ever done that. It’s not the most inspirational place to be.

J: I’ve thought about words and stuff, but…

Who writes most of the lyrics?

J: We split it up usually, and then we’ll bring it into practice.

How do you start a song?

J: Well usually it’s a riff or something. I usually just sit down with the guitar and noodle.

Have fun until something materializes?

J: Yeah and then we put words to that, bring the song to practice, and then kind of develop it from there.

So you start with it and then the group kinda builds off of it?

J: Yeah either me or Lulu will start, and then we’ll bring it to Andrew and all converge.

L: Yeah, we’ll keep developing ideas.

Which of your songs would you say best encapsulates your sound?

J: That’s a hard question to answer because a lot of our songs have different vibes.

L: I would say our band has kind of a dual personality, because John and I split up being lead singers, and I think that’s why our new 7″ is so good. We’re gonna be releasing a vinyl in a couple weeks, and it has my single where I’m the singer and it’s a different vibe.

J: Yeah there’s two different vibes going on, which is kinda cool.

What’s your favorite song to play on stage?

A: I mean we always… The closer song of our set usually has a big, like, jam section at the end where we get really quiet and then build it up really big. It’s a little more psychedelic and gets really heavy at the end, and that one’s always really fun because it’s the end of the set.

L: That one’s always really fun.

J: Yeah I think I’d say that one.

Do you guys try to give off a certain vibe on stage? A personality?

J: Definitely. I mean, we’re just a very, very high-energy band. We kinda have to be because our music is so aggressive…

L: We want our crowd to know that it’s okay to dance around.

J: And that we enjoy the music. I don’t like going to see bands and then they just stand there. Especially for a rock and roll, you know.

L: We wanna go crazy, we wanna get rowdy.

Do you get the crowds to mosh or anything?

J: We’ve had a few moshes…

I mean, they happen on their own. You don’t have to be like ‘hey excuse me’…

L: ‘Hey excuse me, can you start moshing down there? Thank you.’

J: There was one show we played in Lincoln, Nebraska that was the last day of our tour and we weren’t expecting anybody to be there, and then it was a packed room of 300 people, going fucking crazy.

L: Crazy, stage diving and stuff. We were like, what? What is Nebraska?

Yeah, I wouldn’t have expected that.

A: We were moshing ourselves the other night. The first night we were here we went and saw the OCs and few other bands, we played some shows with them back in Denver so we know them, and we were just moshing in the front. I got hit in the head. It was awesome.

What’s your craziest partying on stage, head-banging, ‘oh I hit my head’ kind of story?

J: Oh, I mean we always knock–I knock over everything.

L: John, yeah, he knocks everything over. But I think injury-wise, John has hit both Andrew and I with his head stock so many times. It’s the worst.

That’s dangerous.

J: There was one show I remember, I don’t know what I was doing, we were obviously all drinking quite a bit. I was down on the ground and I got up and just fell into the drumset, passed out almost. I didn’t really realize what had happened.

A: There was one show where you just kept knocking over a drum of mine, like in the middle of a set, kept knocking it over, and so I ended up playing the rest of the set with just a kick and a snare and a high hat because everything else was all over the place.

You’re not gonna change in the middle of a song, not gonna try to fix it. 

A: Yeah I was like ‘just go with it.’ There was another show where John had his amps stacked up on each other, and at the end of the night he knocked both of them over and then chucked his guitar at the wall. He almost hit me in the head, like, the guitar was this far from my face.

L: Literally going straight for his head.

Did you break it? You break your guitar?

J: No it was completely fine! It was a hollow body too, I was expecting it to be, like, snapped in half, but…

A: And the amps were both fine.

L: Lucky.

You guys go through instruments or equipment?

J: Not at all.

L: I mean, you would think that we would. I definitely get nervous about it. John knocks over so much stuff, like my keyboard–the volume knob doesn’t work anymore because John’s knocked it over so many times.

A: Every single show John knocks that thing over. He has a vendetta against it, I think he just hates it.

L: One of these days we’re gonna be out on tour and my keyboard’s gonna break for real and then I won’t have one.

And then that’s it.

L: And then that’s it, and then our band is done and we’ll quit forever.

Hopefully you don’t do that. One last question–what’s next? You guys on tour still?

J: So after SXSW we’re gonna go home, we’re gonna go into the studio and just record everything we got, and we’ll kinda just see what happens from there. Then we got a lot of shows coming up in April, and then May we’re gonna be releasing our 7″, so lots of stuff.

L: Hopefully we tour some more. We’re gonna be doing a lot of touring over the summer and the fall.

Well good luck with that, looking forward to it.

L: Thanks so much.

Thanks for the interview, do you mind if we take a quick selfie?

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POST-SXSW ARNDTERVIEW
March 29, 2016 11:11 am

Sibling rock stars Jocelyn & Chris Arndt took their soulful, hook-laden blues/rock sound to this year’s SXSW. I caught up with them at Austin’s Handlebar and discussed Harvard, Ocean’s Eleven and life on the road.


arndtSo is this your first SXSW?

Jocelyn: Yes, yes it is.

How do you like it so far?

J: It’s crazy but awesome. Crazy awesome.

How many shows have you had?

J: We had one yesterday…

Chris: We had three yesterday, then one today and one tomorrow.

Damn, not too bad for your first time.

C: [laughter] No no, not at all

Well that’s just fantastic. Now, you guys are from New York, right?

J: Upstate New York. We’re from Fort Plain which is an hour west of Albany.

Okay, so right in the middle of nowhere.

J: [laughter] Yep, right there.

That’s awesome. And you just released an album about a month ago, right? Are you happy with it?

J: Yes, very much so. It’s called Edges, and it’s our first full length, which is a big deal. We’re freaking out.

Well of course. How many… “half lengths” have you had?

C: Just one.

J: We did an EP, but yeah this time we really got to sink our teeth in.

And you got some momentum going into SXSW. Are you on tour? Is this a stop on a tour?

C: Yeah, we came down from New York, we were in Cleveland, and then Chattanooga and Nashville, then Arkansas and then Houston. Actually Dallas, not Houston.

Somewhere in Texas. It all runs together.

C: …and then we’re gonna work our way back up next week.

Back up to… upstate?

C: Yeah.

What’s your favorite part of touring?

J: [thinks for a moment] I like knowing that every night we’re gonna be somewhere different, which is weird because I feel like some people would be like ‘oh my god another 8 hours in the car,’ but it’s kinda nice to be able to travel with the music and know that no matter where you are you get to play a set but then you get to go somewhere else.

So you get that time to explore, that’s cool. What do you do on the road? Who drives?

J: Our drummer, who’s also our producer…

C: And our manager…

Oh, multitalented.

J: Yeah he does most of–well, all of the driving.

Yeah I was gonna say, it’s not just you two. How does that work? Who writes the songs?

J: We both write together.

Which is good because you have that family bond, you work off each other. Who’s older? I can’t really tell.

C: [laughter] She is.

No way!

C: [shows x’s on hands] I’m not even 21.

Get the fuck outta here!

J: …and I just turned 21.

Oh wow, well welcome to adulthood–or something. Whatever that means. Do you have a favorite city that you’ve been to on tour?

J: I really really like Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Wow, that’s random but cool.

J: It’s random. We stopped there once, I think we had played in Nashville and then they were like ‘oh this seems like a good place to do another show.’ We stopped there and now every time we’re down south we make sure we go there because people come out and really really support us.

C: The music scene there is amazing.

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And then they know you now kind of. Do you have a good following up in Albany?

C: Yeah we do well in Albany.

J: We play the city (NYC) a lot too

Of course, that makes sense. Where in the city?

J: We played the Bitter End, we played the Slipper Room…

C: We played Rockwood a lot.

Rockwood is where it’s at. They don’t fuck around–if you’re bad they don’t invite you back.

C: Yeah they’re awesome.

So you guys write together? How does that work?

J: I do the lyrics and melody, and then Chris does the chords the rhythm.

Who goes first? Do you start with the chords and then build off that, or…

C: Depends on the song, really. Sometimes she’ll come up with something and might be like ‘I need chords,’ other times I’ll go to her with a chord pattern I really like and she’ll have lyrics and we’ll sort of fit them together.

But it’s just you two, not the drummer/producer/manager.

J: Nope, just us.

And you have a bassist?

J: We have a bassist as well, Eric.

But he’s just a random dude.

J: Yeah I mean we met him in Albany.

C: He’s a student and an awesome dude.

How do you meet these people? School?

J: Through our manager, he’s the one with the contact.

How did you meet him? How’d you get started, you just started playing?

J: We had a high school band. We’ve been doing this for a long time. This was our high school job–a great job, better than most high school jobs. We had a band called The Dependents, and we’d play, like, fairs and stuff, and we were playing at the beer tent at the local fair and this guy came up and slipped us a card and said ‘Hey I like your sound.’

And you were like ‘thanks me too’?

J: [laughter] Yeah, and he turned out to be David. You never know who’s listening.

You never know! That’s why you just gotta play everywhere, see everyone, expand your audience and shit. That’s awesome. That was in high school, like five years ago?

J: Three or four.

Oh right you’re young as fuck, I forgot. Well okay. And you’ve been slowly building since then?

C: It was kind of slow for the first couple years.

J: Well first you gotta build a foundation.

C: We were working on a sound and stuff, and then this past like year and a half things have been ramping up super fast, so it’s pretty awesome.

What’s the best part of that so far?

C: Oh man.

J: I like the fact that we have a new CD, that’s a huge plus for me.

C: That’s pretty exciting. I honestly like just…

Just being a rock star?

C: Yeah it’s cool. When I was in high school it never even occurred to me that because of our music we would get to travel to California and Texas and Nashville and Michigan or wherever, and now we’re going all over the country and probably going to Canada and maybe the UK all with our music.

Whoa, whoa, slow down there!

J: It would be cool. You gotta have goals.

Well that’s fantastic. Do you guys have day jobs? Or is this it?

C: Just this.

LADYGUNN-160318_JOCELYN-CHRIS-ARNDT_SXSW_001You save up and then go on tour and stuff….

J: Well we also go to College.

Oh really? Where?

J: We both go to Harvard.

Fuck you guys! No way! [laughter] I’ve heard of it, I’ve heard of it.

J: But this is definitely our job, job.

Holy shit. Okay, so you’re both at Harvard. Currently.

J: [gestures to self] Junior, [gestures to Chris] sophomore.

What are you studying? Music?

C: I’m joint music and computer science.

J: I’m English but these days it’s mostly music, so…

Well that helps with lyrics too, right? Do you find you draw inspiration from your studies?

J: Yeah, a little bit definitely. And people. Everybody around us. You know, basically everything.

There are some smart people there. What do you think of Harvard?

J: It’s fun. I’ll tell you– SXSW is probably a little more fun. [laughter]

Yeah maybe a little. And the weather is nicer. What are you, on spring break right now?

J: Yeah.

Do you go on tour during the school year?

C: We do. We go weekends, we skip Monday and Friday–not every Monday and Friday but…

How do you…. I mean you go to Harvard, shouldn’t you be focused on Harvard?

C: That’s what some people say but, like, I kinda like music, you know? [laughter]

J: The other thing is, as long as we can do both we’re gonna do both. But if it comes down to Harvard or music, Harvard’s not going anywhere. Music is our thing, so…

How do you like the Cambridge/Boston area?

C: It’s a cool place to live. It’s pretty awesome.

J: Yeah it’s like New York’s friendlier, shorter cousin.

Friendlier… sometimes.

C: It feels less aggressive when you’re there. New York is a very “kill or be killed” vibe.

J: New York also literally never sleeps, as they say. Nothing ever turns off. Boston is like ‘midnight, better get on the last T or else you’re stuck.’

Do you play around Boston? Or around campus?

J: We haven’t a ton.

C: We honestly haven’t that much, we’re gonna start doing so more and more, but we’ve been really focused on New York, Nashville and LA for the past year.

jocelyn+&+chris+arndt-3
How do you like LA?

C: LA is awesome, the music scene is so great. We played The Viper Room, which was insane. But yeah, we’re starting to do pretty well in those three cities so we’re gonna branch out. But this is our first time in Texas.

And you like it?

J: Yeah we like it. We’re gonna come back.

Do you have any plans for today or tonight?

J: We don’t have a show tonight, not ’til tomorrow. So we’re still weighing our options.

Do you run into trouble playing venues underage?

C: Most of the time they’re just like ‘you can’t hang out beforehand, you can’t hang out afterwards, wait by the door while I get a marker to mark your hands.’ So it’s a little annoying. Vegas is kind of… [laughter] It was fun playing Vegas but they were like ‘you’re allowed to be on the casino floor as long as you don’t stand still.’

J: You can’t look at anything, you obviously can’t drink anything. I felt bad for the little bro.

C: But they let us play music, which is the most important thing.

Where did you play in Vegas?

J: We played this place the Sand Dollar

C: And then a place called… 

J: We did an open mic thing at the Beat Coffeehouse.

C: Yeah that was cool, it’s like a coffee house slash wine bar slash brewery slash record store.

J: Which is basically all the bases to cover.

Yeah that’s everything you need. Plus it’s Vegas, so…

J: Yeah we got to walk around, see the Bellagio, pretend we’re in Ocean’s Eleven.

C: Except, you know, we hadn’t just stolen a hundred and sixty four million dollars.

You can tell me if you have, I won’t tell anyone.

C: No, I mean I wish we had [laughter].

Anything else you would like to tell me/the world?

J: Check out the new album, it’s called Edges, it’s online, out now, bandcamp, iTunes, the works.

And you guys are continuing your tour?

J: Yeah this one wasn’t super long, we’re going… where are we going? Alabama on Saturday, then Cleveland…

C: Saturday morning we wake up early, Alabama, Cleveland and then we’re back.

J: We just pushed to radio, so the next couple weeks we’ll be doing that.

Playing at stations and shit?

C: We’re doing that, we’re playing a festival in Roanoke, and then the Florida Music Festival, and then between those it’s like every weekend we can we’re gonna be playing. And then a lot of radio stations.

Well that’s awesome, we’ll tune in to all those things. One last thing–can I get a selfie with you guys?

J: Yeah, sure!

C: Can we get one with you?

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THIRSTIE FOR BOOZE DELIVERY
January 21, 2016 6:11 am

We’ve all been there. Oh shit it’s mom’s birthday! Better get her a bottle of wine. Good thinking, that’s just what she’d want. Or maybe more like we’re already drunk but running low and it’s cold outside.

Well you really should have thought about that before the party, what were you thinking?! Or what about I’ll be late to the train if I stop at the store. Hot damn, you’re shit outta luck! What are you gonna do? If only there were a reliable alcohol delivery service in your area. There are literally billions of reasons–honest, proud reasons–for an alcohol delivery service, why haven’t they figured this out by now?

Well they have and it’s called Thirstie. Thirstie is an alcohol delivery and recommendation service, servicing cities like San Francisco, LA, New York and Miami. Thirstie relies on local distributors to actually deliver the goods, but they maintain strict oversight and consider the user experience paramount. They also produce online, drink-related content and provide reliable recommendations.

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Really ups your small-talk game. I mean, just picture yourself at your office wine and cheese party. You need pairing recommendations to impress your boss, you know how chatty he can get at parties. Tell me more about that gouda! Wow you take the subway too? Please don’t look me in the eyes. Preparation is mandatory. Thirstie’s got your back.

Really though, what else are you gonna do? Alcohol delivery is the future, and without it you’re left with limited options. You could just muster some energy and go drink at a bar, nothing wrong with that. Text your friends, “Waddup broskis, wanna hit up Skinny Jimmy’s? Lookin 2 get tipsy on some whiskey.” I think we all know that’s a no go, bro. Not gonna be one of those nights. Maybe you just give up and decide you’re content to drink the beer your brother brought you two weeks ago that nobody wanted and has been sitting in the back of the fridge ever since. Why do they even make Sam Adams’ Cherry Wheat? It doesn’t make any sense, try not to lose sleep over it.

You already know the solution, and you can download it onto your phone. You can press a few buttons and have high quality alcohol delivered to your doorstep. Holy shit, why haven’t I done this already? I know, right? You said it, buster! Download it now and thank me later.

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NEW PAPERWHITE – GET AWAY
January 6, 2016 1:38 pm

Don’t you wanna get away? Escape all your problems somehow? Jump off a “cliff” into the “ocean”? Just do it! Go for it! Take those monkeys on your back and throw them in the garbage! Nobody’s gonna stop you! Jump! Fly! Live! Here, watch this new Paperwhite video to get you in the mood (SPOILER ALERT: it’s quite good):

NAVIGATING THROUGH EVERY NOISE AT ONCE
November 18, 2015 2:55 am

You’ve probably seen musical genres represented visually: lines connecting artists or eras, shapes and colors defining interrelationships (with varying purviews and degrees of similarity). Sometimes they look like subway maps, constellations, or large, elaborate plants. They’re all visually pleasing, but they’re never quite the same–which is good, as it gives them each a unique insight into one specific aspect of music. Genres don’t fall on a linear scale. You could sort them by instrumentation, tempo, key, origin, lyrics, mood, relation to other music, to fans, critics, or any number of variables representing a piece of the noise.

Screen_Shot_2015-11-18_at_2.11.33_AM

Every Noise at Once, an incredibly detailed visual representation of musical genres, defines its range by two general variables: “down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.” Other than that it is minimalistic, a rainbow of small words on an empty white page. Many genres are familiar, like blues-rock, tin-pan-alley or opera. Click on indie r&b, for example, to hear 30 seconds of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” (or the link at the bottom for the whole song on Spotify). Click on the little arrow button to further explore the genre. Exemplifying artists splatter this next page, multitudinous and fascinating. Phantogram, Chvrches, Yeasayer, Grimes, Macy Grey, Drake, Pharrell, Aaliyah, Wyclef and 500 other musicians we all know and love are messily strewn in a generally red-to-green pile of words. Listing them all would be counterproductive, because exploring them yourself–realizing how many you know, how far apart they are from each other, why they are categorized similarly–is the whole point of the site. It’s something to sit and look at for hours. It is stimulating and satisfying.

Now multiply that by a thousand and you start to understand what ENaO really is. See, that was just one example: the enormous world of indie r&b, a world quite familiar to millennial interneters like myself. But the list of Every Noise at Once’s genres lists 1,371 distinct types of music, each with an equally detailed picture of music. Many genres are regionally specific, like swedish punk or didgeridoo, or simply obscure like musique concrete or liturgical. Spoken word genres are well represented, including poetry, oratory, comedy, and drama (Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” is the main example for drama, LOL). You might think that’s pushing the definition of musical genre, but I got news for you buddy: we’re just getting started. Ridiculous alleged “genres” abound, some overly specific (dark-electro-industrial, progressive-uplifting-trance), some completely absurd (hauntology, corrosion, skinhead reggae). But they are all rooted in an active or historical musical community, and the most interesting ones lie somewhere between “I can’t believe that’s a thing ” and “oh I guess that does make sense now that I think about it.”

Consider abstractro, a type of abstract electronic music, or laboratorio, an avant-garde, old-timey-tech thing. Both make theoretical sense, but I’m sure I’ve never met anyone in my life who has used those completely made-up words. Abstractro? Laboratorio? They’re straight out of a cartoon like Marvin the Martian. Maybe I’m wrong and my upstairs neighbor really loves abstractro (or dansktop, witch house, footwork, discofox, etc), but I’m probably not, and the only way I’m ever going to experience laboratorio (or grave wave, sleep, dark jazz, riot grrrl, etc) is through Every Noise at Once.

They know this–that ENaO is insanely detailed and uniquely comprehensive–and actively work it to their advantage. The juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated genres is insightful and thought-provoking; who would have thought that deep jazz fusion and mellow gold could be so similar? What does it mean that nepali music and crack-rock-steady are similarly organic and atmospheric? What is the algorithm they’re using to define these relationships, and does it completely ignore details like time-period/location of origin? What is the deal?!

After clicking deeper into a genre and exploring the musicians within, you are encouraged to explore nearby artists (same as the main page) or artists representing genres on the complete opposite end of their respective spectrum. Take meditation, for example, a genre full of incredibly relaxing noises. The bottom of that page has two boxes: the meditation box (with green genres like meditation, healing and new-age), and the opposite-of-meditation box (with orange genres like edm, house and bubblegum-pop). You might not have known that house music is the opposite of meditation. Perhaps you’ve found peace at the club, dhyana in the edm. No shame.

Every Noise at Once is the most complete visual representation of musical genres I could possibly imagine. If you spend your days thinking about music, their histories and interrelationships, then spend a little while pouring over the site. You’ll learn completely new things about fascinating music from around the world, and–if you’re not careful–you just might have a little fun in the process.

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KARAOKE ANYWHERE & THE STAGE OF HEROES
November 11, 2015 12:44 am

A single spotlight on an empty stage. Fade-in synths, enter baseline and percussion. A shadow emerges, a face in the dark. Lips pursed, brow furrowed, eyes tight, heart racing. Drum fill shatters the tension. The crowd is electric, hanging on every expression, every whiff of emotion. W-whoa w-whoa w-w-w-whoa w-whoa w-whoa w-w-w-whoa. Every single hardship of humanity is irrelevant. In this moment we are heroes, a collection of souls united behind a single, magical, performative experience. Once upon a time, not so long ago. Reputation be damned. Nothing exists beyond the end of this song. Pride and shame become one in the limelight, and the only course of action is to expose your heart to the world, to define yourself once and for all. Confidence abounds, sure as the day you were born, barely in time to begin: Tommy used to work on the docks…

Everybody has their go-to karaoke jam. If you don’t, figure one out. It’s an excellent first-date question, like “what’s your favorite animal” or “would you like to play my kazoo?” or “did you just call me ‘mom’?” Who you are in your karaoke moment is how you’ll be remembered by tens, maybe hundreds of people. Were you Jon Bon Jovi? Probably not, but you were close. You could have been, maybe you still could be. Never give up on yourself.

Now imagine you could have the same karaoke experience without the hassle of a dark, dusty bar. Without the smelly mic, the kids yelling from the anonymous corner of the room. “You suck!” they say, crushing your swollen heart. “Sing like Creed!” What are they thinking?! The absurdity of it all is overwhelming, and you might not survive.

Fortunately there’s Karaoke Anywhere, an app that lets you sing karaoke, well, anywhere. Wherever you are, you can sing. Need I say more? Here, I’ll let them explain:

karaoke

“We’ve partnered with a ton of Karaoke manufacturers to bring you the world’s most complete and fully legal streaming Karaoke library on the planet! For a low monthly price you can stream as many songs as you can handle, selecting from an expansive library of songs updated monthly.”

When I first read that they were the world’s most complete library on the planet, I saw past the redundancy and focused on their emphatic completeness. Do they have every song ever made? Perhaps they’ve conducted extensive research on karaoke preferences around the globe, ranking music by popularity and singability. Who is to say what constitutes an entirely complete collection? Surely I could find a counterexample, a song I’d like to sing not included in their library. Wouldn’t that prove their imperfection and imply their incompleteness?

Precisely, and it didn’t take long. It was the first place I looked, in fact, right between Bonnie Raitt and Boston: a big empty patch of nothing. My heart sank. No Bon Jovi! Why else am I here except for my main man JBJ! We used to call him Jonny Badass in high school, a practice I’d defend with my life to this day. My name is Ian and “Livin’ On A Prayer” is my go-to karaoke jam. Karaoke Anywhere did not have that song, nor any other Jovi masterpiece, and I am disappointed.

Maybe it’s not their fault. I can totally see Jonny Badass withholding the rights, squeezing every dollar out of his songs. It is all about the Benjamins, baby. Indeed, Karaoke Anywhere does have an immense library full of reputable artists. Scroll through the A’s to find Aretha, Aaliyah, Alanis, Alicia Keys, Amy Winehouse, Alice Cooper and All-American Rejects, as well as about 75 more “A”-listers. Yes I said 75, I counted them because I was surprised by how many there were. About as many B’s too (despite one glaring omission), and generally consistent throughout the alphabet. I’d consider paying $9.99/month for the listening rights if I didn’t already have Spotify.

But I do have Spotify, and I don’t need Karaoke Anywhere. They’re not even the actual songs, just wordless, soulless reproductions, background tracks to Kidz Bop music. Yes I can imagine an unlikely scenario where I would want to sing these songs in public specifically without the artists’ vocals, but doing so requires a seriousness usually reserved for professionals, most of whom wouldn’t be caught dead using a karaoke machine they downloaded onto their phones. I’m comfortable just singing along to the actual song, especially in informal situations. Obviously life on stage is a different story–how dare JBJ step on my toes during my moment of glory–but most karaoke stages have karaoke machines. You don’t need to bring your own.

GAZING RIGHT BACK AT RIVERGAZER
October 22, 2015 10:09 am

Kevin Farrant (Porches) has a killer side-project you need to check out: Rivergazer. Thoughtful and introspective, this Brooklyn-based trio is seriously moving, but lighthearted enough not to get you down. Farrant, looking for an outlet for his songwriting, created Rivergazer with producer Hunter Davidsohn and multi-instrumentalist Kolson Pickard. Check out “Safari Jack” from their debut album Random Nostalgia:

Makes you forget they’re from New York, right? Fits right in along the Mississippi (well, except for the safari theme). No, in fact “Safari Jack” is by far their most upbeat song–everything else is much calmer, a brooding reflection of a difficult life. Themes of loneliness, alcohol and money problems permeate these mellow jams. Sounds dark, I know, but they come at it with enough laid-back confidence that it ends up feeling inspired, almost bohemian. After a long day of being broke and creative, the best thing to do is wrap your feet in some blankets and cue up some Rivergazer:

Although Farrant has been more involved with Porches lately, Rivergazer continues to be an active band around New York City. Look for them in Brooklyn and beyond, and stay informed by following us on twitter and instagram.

JamCam & The Spectrum of Human Archetypes
September 29, 2015 2:19 pm

Is JamCam too foreign for a yokel like me? Too intangible? Or is this just the music/social app I’ve been looking for? I don’t want to find new music, and I don’t want to find new friends. I just want to watch strangers lip-sync pop songs. Not the entire song either–no that would be exhausting. I want short, 15-second, Snapchat-esque selfie videos. “Who are these people?” I ask. “What are their stories? Do they feel what I feel when I listen to Justin Bieber’s ‘What Do You Mean’?”

That was a trick question, of course, because I’d never listen to that song (or feel anything if I did). Don’t make me laugh.

JamCam app

As far as I can tell JamCam is Vine meets Chatroulette, with a little bit of Snapchat and a lot bit of top-40 hits. I do not picture myself sending my friends JamCam videos (no matter how much they miss me), nor would I otherwise be listening to the selection of songs featured on the app. However, I am totally fascinated by the people in the videos. I love people, looking at them and stuff. Comparing them to myself, trying to analyze where I fall on the great spectrum of human archetypes. And JamCam has people, you better believe it. People I can relate to, people I can’t relate to, people who make me look in the mirror and question everything I’ve ever known. “Who am I, how did I get here, and where am I going?!”

About half the time, the person is a child: Preteen girl lip-syncing Ke$ha into her phone. Skinny boy with glasses screaming “Let It Go.” Baby on swingset with “Gangnam Style.” Sometimes they seem appropriately innocent, just a girl taking a selfie video at school. A few concern me though, the way my mother might be concerned if she saw a very young girl mouthing The Weeknd’s “The Hills.” This girl really understands what she’s singing, but I’d rather she didn’t.

More revealing though are the adults. My cursory analysis suggests about a 50/50 split between kids and grown-ups, but the 50 that can vote are a lot more varied in character. A woman in Lululemon singing “Dancing Queen” on the stairmaster. A scruffy, chubby, white dude blasting Rob Zombie in the car at night. A shameless older black woman absolutely crushing “Stayin’ Alive.” These are human beings just like me. They talk and poop and love. They film themselves singing “Moves Like Jagger” while driving, because multitasking is easy! They don’t need your attitude, thank you very much. “What a great song, watch me sing it!”

And then out of nowhere everybody’s vaping (thanks a lot hipsters)! Smoke and Drake just pouring out of their mouths. I’d love to figure out some sort of correlation/causation situation here, but it doesn’t seem to be limited to any particular demographic. College girls vape in groups. Older bros vape on the street (or wherever the hell they want, bro). Suspiciously young-looking people stare proudly into the camera as they suck down that vapor. Ooo, delicious!

Now I’m not one to get carried away with things, but I just cannot stop watching the seemingly endless amateur karaoke show that is JamCam. I even posted my own video (The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me”) but then grumpily deleted it because I looked terrible. Couldn’t pull it off, sorry. Better to focus on other people’s lives, how they spend their time, what their priorities are, who they lip-sync Backstreet Boys hits with. Am I like them? Would I have looked so innocent at that age (had I a smartphone and JamCam)? Should I vape? What can I learn from these strangers? Can I amass enough data to positively alter my social interactions? Am I changing how I see others and, in turn, myself? Do I actually like “What Do You Mean”?

None of these questions have an answer, and that’s a good thing. Ignorance is bliss. I don’t wanna know. Don’t think about it. It doesn’t have to make sense. All I need is a 15 second glimpse into the musical life of a stranger, and I’m good. Butter me up and serve me at dinner, baby. I’ll just be over here, watching me-as-a-kid vaping along to “Trap Queen.”