brian eno

BEN TALMI IS READY TO PLAY
October 31, 2016 12:00 am

Ben Talmi has worked behind the scenes for ages, manning the boards at Virtue and Vice Studios, as well as scoring films and being a DJ for an EDM-driven circus (more on that later). Now Ben has stepped into the spotlight, releasing a music video for his song, “Play”, and gearing up for the release of his album.

ATYPICAL SOUNDS was lucky to catch a few minutes with this musical renaissance man, and get his take on creating music for a diverse world.

You recently released a video for your song “Play”. What’s next?
I’ve got some more music videos up my sleeve, and an album done that I can’t wait to get out there. I’m hoping to tour as hard as possible on it.

 Virtue and Vice Studios has seen some pretty impressive bands pass through its doors. Do you have a favorite band or artist you worked with there?
Any time that I’ve had the extreme luck of working with or having any of the musicians from yMusic in my studio has been amazing. They operate on a very inspiring level of musicianship while maintaining impeccable taste with their playing. Often times when musicians achieve such a high level of technical ability, they want to use all their knowledge and skill all the time but the musicians in yMusic really balance that world beautifully. I’ve also been writing a bunch of songs with Dave Monks from Tokyo Police Club recently, he’s amazing, just totally free and fun to write songs with.

You wrote the score for the film Duke and the Buffalo, which was included in the Tribeca Film Festival. How does one go about writing a soundtrack for a film about bison? Where do you start?
These days, directors and filmmakers will send you what’s called a “temp score”, that’s sort of a guideline or reference music for cues that they want you to imitate or mimic. Composers generally detest this because it doesn’t leave room for much creativity or the ability to put your identity into the music you are making. With Duke and the Buffalo I was pretty inspired by the peaceful nature of the animals in these epic landscapes virtually untouched by man. If you listen to the score you will hear hints of Brian Eno, Nils Frahm and Jon Brion throughout.

You also wrote an EDM score for Circus Electronica. Acrobats seem pretty different from bison. Is it a challenge for you to switch gears between projects?
Conor Oberst once said something great about how a song is just a naked body and the way you produce it is like sending it into a walk in closet and putting on this shirt or that pair of pants. At the end of the day its all harmony, melody, rhythm and lyrics, just open up the faucet, the water will pour out.

How different is the “real world” of music from what you learned while attending Berklee?
No one cares about how many scales you know, how fast you can play augmented arpeggios or what your proficiency ratings are. The only thing that matters is if you make art that says something and connects with people. It’s not about you, squash your ego, be a vessel for something greater that can inspire and change people for the better.

You’ve also done music for clients like Microsoft. Do you have much experience specifically in the advertising industry? Do you find your advertising clients asking you to do things like making a soundalike of a popular song for an ad?
Whenever I’ve done commercial writing, music supervisors will always ask to mimic other songs or do a soundalike but Microsoft actually licensed one of my own songs for a commercial. Its a really personal song that was inspired by something I went though. I had no intention what so ever of molding the music to fit a commercial sound or putting any kind of obviously “licensable” characteristics in it. Funny how that works.

You have experience in orchestral composition, yet much of your work is electronic. Do you see there being major differences between the way the two genres are composed, or are they more similar than people may think?
It’s all the same if you look at music as the four fundamental elements of harmony, melody, rhythm and lyrics.

What’s your favorite place in New York to get pizza?
This might be obvious to people who live in Brooklyn but Roberta’s will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

BACKSTAGE WITH BROTHERTIGER
February 5, 2016 1:00 pm

It’s Saturday night and I’m at Rough Trade in Williamsburg. It’s about three hours before Brothertiger is set to play, and I find him onstage assembling his equipment. He shakes my hand and invites me backstage, and I do my best to keep my cool. I’m nervous–I’ve been a fan of his for awhile now–but I remain calm and follow him up and around the stage into a narrow, well-lit, concrete green-room. He offers me a beer–he likes beer too, can you believe it?!–and we sit down to chat.

“You mind if I record this?” I ask, recording this. He doesn’t mind.

“Excited about tonight? Gonna have a good show?”

“Yeah of course. I haven’t played in about a month though so I’m a little nervous.”

I’ve seen him live twice before, once at Webster Hall and once here at Rough Trade. “This is kind of old-hat for you, playing here?”

“Yeah, if I’m gonna play a show a month after touring this is where it’s gonna be. I love playing here, it’s an amazing sounding room. It’ll be a fun night.”

“Has there ever been a point where you felt like you had ‘made it’ somehow?”

“No, I definitely don’t think I’ve made it. I mean, my previous two records I put out on a label, and the first one was really awesome with a lot of hype, built up and stuff, but then the second one was kinda ‘eh,’ so that’s what made me want to make this third one on my own. Good press for me is really a big factor, you can get a lot more plays based off that.”

A man enters with a plate of hummus and pita bread. Standard procedure? I’m impressed. We continue without eating.

“But yeah, I mean I’m always reminded that I shouldn’t stop. I’m the kind of person who is always second guessing myself, and with this last record I was really nervous about it because I was doing it myself, and I was like ‘how am I gonna do this as well as it was on the label?’ But getting good press, seeing that there’s a response from people, that’s to me why I haven’t quit.”

“But do you think about quitting or the eventual end?”

“Right now no. There’s this constant battle like ‘is this the right decision? Is this dumb? Lame? I shouldn’t be doing this, what am I doing?’ But then I’ll play a good show or release an album people like and I’m okay. I don’t see it ending anytime soon. I want to expand it, more than anything. Build on it.”

That’s good to hear, as a fan. I add my two cents: “I think the new album does sound different, but like better and thicker and stuff.”

“Yeah, I mean that was the goal. I didn’t want it to sound like typical electronic stuff.”

“It all flows together well. How long did it take?”

He looks to the ceiling for his memory. “We started it at the beginning of last year–“

“Who’s we?”

“Me and my friend Jon who works at a studio with me. He’s an awesome punk/rock producer, so he comes from that background, but the two of us have worked together a lot and it’s always been really interesting. He co-produced it with me. I had all these demos and everything was sequenced out, we booked four days at this studio in Bed-Stuy, and then we spent about three weeks mixing it. So it was done around late March.”

“Of last year?!” That sandbagging son-of-a-bitch! “You were just sitting on it for nine months?!”

“Yeah I was sitting on it. I was seeing if there was potential for another label to pick it up, but finally I got sick of just waiting around, so I was like ‘screw it, I’ll release it myself.'”

“And it’s harder to get a crowd pumped if they haven’t heard it yet.”

“Yeah, that’s the problem. I never really played the new stuff until the tour with JR JR.”

I have to ask: “What are they like?”

“Very cool dudes from Detroit. We had quite a different vibe musically. I think it was a really cool blend, and they wanted me to come. They asked me to come on their tour which was very cool.”

“That must feel great.”

“Yeah it’s a really amazing feeling. I mean they’re on a big label with Warner Brothers, man. But yeah, they have this cool pop sound that’s really striking and different from me. It was really beneficial, I think I got a lot of new fans out of it, but some people were definitely like ‘whoa, this is interesting.'”

The hummus man returns, this time with chips and salsa. It looks delicious, but totally ruins our conversational flow. I change the subject.

“So, why here? Why New York?”

“So I’m originally from Ohio. I went to school for recording in Ohio. I moved here because I had previously interned here at a recording studio. Basically they said that I should move out here, they can give me work, and that I could actually live there too because it’s like an apartment/loft with the studio. So I lived there, which was great.”

“At that point were you aware of your goals to be a headliner? Or just a producer?”

This one takes him a minute. “Well, not to be a headliner–I still don’t see myself as a headliner–but I knew I wanted to produce other people and also make music myself, and this is the best place for me to do that. So I did it and I’ve been here for about three years.”

“You ever get tired of New York?”

“Yeah all the time. I went on tour in October and I was gone for about a month and a half, and I took my friend who did sound for me. So it was just the two of us in this little Toyota Camry. We put twelve thousand miles on it.”

He’s gesturing as if there’s a map in front of him, but there is not. I make do. “Like in the Midwest and stuff?”

“Everywhere, the whole country. Well, except Texas.”

“Fuck Texas.”

“I know right? But yeah, the whole time I was thinking ‘man I fucking hate New York.’ I knew it was just because I was away and on this amazing experience touring, but I got back here and was like “God I just don’t wanna be here.’ But then after a week or two I was like ‘okay, this isn’t that bad.'”

“Like ‘this is where my fans are, so…'”

“Yeah, I mean I draw pretty well here and in a few other cities around the country.”

“What’s your other favorite city?”

“Well, Denver has been really good to me. My manager is from there. We met when he booked me on this festival out there, and I’ve been playing it for the past three years. I kind of half-convinced him to move to New York, and now he’s booking this new venue here and it all worked out. But yeah, Denver has always been a really good show, I like Denver, LA, New York…”

“Those are some solid cities, that’s awesome. So let’s talk about your music a little bit. How do you start writing a song? Start with the beat? Start with the melody?”

“Yeah, you know I was just asking myself the other day, ‘how do I come up with this shit?'” We laugh that one off for a minute, then he continues. “It always depends. Like sometimes it’ll start out with drums, I’ll get a drum loop going and then just play some chords or something. Or I’ll have a melody in my head or some lead or something and I’ll build around that. It really depends on the song. I usually do have a melody or a beat or a hook in mind that I’ll want to record quickly and build around. But I never set out being like ‘I’m gonna write a song about this.'”

“Well do you even think about the lyrics while you’re writing the music? Or that comes dead last.”

“Yeah, that’s the very last thing. I just read Brian Eno’s biography, and there was one thing that really hit home for me about how he wrote his lyrics. He would go into the studio and loop a section and just speak gibberish into a microphone, and then kind of work that until the consonants and all the sounds made sense and sounded good with the melody, and then form words around that, something that makes half-sorta sense. And that’s exactly how I do it.”

“Must have been good to read that in this book, from this legend.”

“Yeah, I thought I was one of the only people on Earth to do that, but the fact that he does–and he’s one of my biggest influences–it was just like ‘whoa man, fuck yeah!'” 

“Do you use Ableton?”

“Yeah, Ableton is my main thing for sequencing and building a song, but then I’ll mix it in Pro Tools. But yeah, onstage is Ableton. I got my two controllers hooked up to Ableton with a synth and drum pad.”

“How much of it is there already and you just press play, and how much of it are you actually doing?” 

“Yeah, I have it all sectioned out, the parts of each song, so I trigger stuff. But if I don’t trigger it, it stops. So there’s work involved, but it’s essentially just a bunch of loops, like the length of a verse or something. And I can modulate each track if I want to, which I do. But a lot of it’s there, ready to go, because…”

“…because you’re singing up there too, right?”

“Yeah, I mean if I had a band, and I did it that way, yeah I could definitely take away a lot of it from Ableton.”

“You could just press play, you know. It’d be a lot easier.”

“I could, and I know a lot of people who literally just have an ipod and sing on top of it.”

“But that’s not who you’re trying to be.”

“No, I try to make it interesting for myself. I try to break up a song in a certain way to make it fun for me to play, to make it to where I can change it up on every show. But yeah, pretty much everything is already recorded, broken up song-by-song, and it’s like this giant grid mess of colors.”

“So your show is never the same every night?”

“No, no it’s not. In fact tonight I’m even playing a new song. At the very beginning, no less.” We laugh. Why would he do that to himself?! “I’m just gonna wing it and we’ll see what happens. If it sucks, it sucks.”

I’m getting toward the end of my cheat-sheet, but we’re having so much fun I just have to extend the conversation.

“What are you listening to these days? What do you listen to when you’re walking around the street or whatever?”

He thinks about this for a moment. “There’s this guy, and I don’t even know how to say his last name, but I’ve been listening to him constantly. He’s this ambient dude who used to be in the band Emeralds named Steve Hauschildt.” This last name is a doozie. We try to pronounce it, fail, but continue anyway. “He’s got this really awesome ambient album that I’ve been listening to religiously. I’m also pretty obsessed with the 80’s though. Tears For Fears all the time–I’m actually working on a cover album for Tears For Fears, doing the entire thing, so I’m just listening to it always like ‘oh I should do that, oh I should do that, etc.'”

“Wow, that feeds perfectly into my next question; ‘what was the best decade to be alive for music?'”

“Oh my God,” he begins, clearly having thought hard already about this exact question. “The 1980’s, specifically 1984-1985. If you could be 18 years old in 1984…”

“Wow, you really had that answer ready.”

“It was the greatest year in pop music. Like in the UK, and with new-wave American bands, Talking Heads, all that stuff. Just an amazing little era right there. 1984 is my favorite year and I didn’t even live in it.”

“You do that Talking Heads cover of ‘This Must Be The Place.’ Why? What made you do that?”

“Well, because it’s my favorite song of all time. I don’t remember why exactly I decided to cover it, but I think I had the idea in my mind for a few years. I tried it a few times and it didn’t work, but finally I got it to sound decent and just released it. So now I have it, and it’s a great thing to play at shows because everybody knows it and likes it.”

“It’s a dope song.”

He looks around like well obviously.

“What would you say is your biggest influence that a casual fan wouldn’t expect? Obviously Talking Heads, but I would expect that, you know?”

He thinks for a moment. “Ooo… Wow, that’s a good question.” Did he really just respond to the quality of that question? Unexpected. I have to come clean about it then.

“I actually crowdsourced that question. That was my friend’s question, I can’t take credit for it.”

“That’s a great question! ‘What influence do I have that people wouldn’t expect me to have?’ Boy, that’s a tough one. That’s a fucking tough question. But it’s good, it makes me think!” I can’t believe he likes this damn question so much. What about all of my questions?!

After much deliberation, he comes up with an answer: “Talk Talk, probably, because I love them and listen to them all the time. Talk Talk’s got a really dry, ambient, slow-going sort of sound, which is not at all what I’m going for. On this last album though I took a lot of influence from them. So, yeah. Gotta go with Talk Talk.”

“That’s a good answer.”

“Maybe people expect it, I don’t know, but that’s the one I can think of. I can’t think of anything too zany.”

“Is there any one musician that you’d like to do a collaboration with?”

“Probably M83. You mean modern music? M83. In the past either David Byrne or Tears For Fears.”

“Well obviously. I mean how bout the Beatles too, I mean come on.” I was thinking more realistically, more in the realm of possibility. He laughs.

“So you just went off tour, and then… now what? What’s the future hold for Brothertiger?”

“Well, there’s that cover album, Tears For Fears, and I’m starting to write some new stuff, so hopefully by the mid-to-end of this year I’ll have an EP. I haven’t done an EP in a long time and I think I need to have one, so there’s that. And hopefully touring again soon, maybe in the summer.”

“Do you like touring?”

“I love touring.”

“What’s your favorite part?”

“I think just going to places I haven’t been. I know a lot of people hate the driving, but I think driving is… just seeing the country for what it is is one of my favorite parts.”

“Is touring your favorite part of what you do?”

“I think recording is, but translating it to a live scene is fucking difficult. But I love touring and recording.”

I’m clearly grasping at straws with these questions, and he knows it. I surrender. 

“I’m all out of questions. Is there anything else you want to tell people?”

“Just that, to whoever is listening to my music and whoever likes it, thanks.”

A solid last answer for a solid interview. I stop recording so I can use my phone to take a selfie. I have got to get a selfie with my main man Brothertiger. I mean, pix or it didn’t happen, right?

BroTigerSelfie

But it did happen, and I’ll never forget it.

HERE WE GO MAGIC SLIMS DOWN WITH BE SMALL
November 6, 2015 1:00 pm

Here We Go Magic reemerged a couple of weeks ago and it seems they’ve been hitting the gym since their last record – slimming down from a five piece to a duo. It is only fitting that the band, now consisting solely of Luke Temple and Michael Bloch, titled their new album Be Small.

sc315-hwgm-fc-hr-1425 You may know Here We Go Magic from their extensive touring history, opening for big name acts like The Walkmen and Grizzly Bear. Or perhaps you know their most popular song “How Do I Know” off their critically acclaimed 2012 record A Different Ship?

Be Small opens with an “Intro.” So does A Different Ship. However, the two records don’t have much in common when you get past the first 30 seconds. Inspired by Brian Eno and John Cale’s collaborative album Wrong Way Up, Be Small is a mess of genres. But it’s a welcomed mess, one that makes the whole record feel familiar and comfortable. The album is a true hybrid, with each song tapping into the realms of Prog-rock, Soul, Electronic, Americana, and of course Indie rock.

The true opener of the album, “Stella” begins with a psychedelic looping synthesizer riff bouncing back and forth through your brain, and gradually layers on soaring lead synth, vocals, and plentiful pads. Although it lacks a traditional chorus, it builds energy throughout and is a song that immediately demands your attention.

The band then jumps into the title track “Be Small.” Again eschewing the use of a traditional verse-chorus-verse structure, Here We Go Magic here leaves the electro-pop stylings of “Stella” behind for a unique blend of the lush chordal orchestrations from bands such as Earth Wind and Fire with the earthy approachability of CSNY. As Temple advises the listener “stay low to the ground,” it’s clear thathere-we-go-magic Here We Go Magic is looking backwards for inspiration while striving forward towards new uncharted sounds.

Every song on this album has its merits, but “Tokyo London US Korea” strikes us as being particularly noteworthy, drawing on Steve Reich-esque layered rhythmic patterns while somehow including the earthen tones Here We Go Magic is known for. Some may find the title combined with the constantly shifting rhythm a bit too on-the-nose. But we find the approach refreshing and unique. Much like the album itself.

Find yourself a good pair of headphones, and listen to Be Small today.

BROTHERTIGER: READY, SET, TOUR!
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.

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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 allmusic.com. 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