COURTNEY BARNETT

HELLO, SUMMER FLAKE
May 2, 2016 1:31 pm

It can be easy to forget about all of the great music coming out of Australia, what with it being on the other side of the world and all. But we all have the internet now, and it would really be worth your while to spend some time exploring what our Aussie friends have to offer.

Summer Flake is a three piece band, and also the pseudonym of Stephanie Crase, a musician from Melbourne by way of Adelaide. Songs from their new release Hello Friends have been described as “A hypnotic guitar riff and a steady drum beat [which] create a sound that could lull you to a trance.” (Stereogum).

ATYPICAL SOUNDS had a nice chat with Stephanie on the pleasures of recording at home and the story behind the cover of Summer Flake’s latest album.

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I’m sorry if you’ve been asked this before, but where did the name Summer Flake come from? It makes me think of that chocolate bar Cadbury makes.

Haha, that’s nice! Yeah, I originally liked all the beachy connotations, I thought it lightened me up, but now I kind of resent that the word “summer” is stamped on everything, that can really change the vibe of a song. Back in 2007 it was my pseudonym in the band Birth Glow; I was Summer Flake, Nick Walton was Dried Up Leaf, and Ellen Carey, Raven Blue Winter. No spring. The whole Summer Flake project was almost called Pinched Sphinx – I thought that was a cool gag; a bunch of awkward consonant sounds back to back, impossible to convey to someone first go…I’m really glad I didn’t stick with that.

Are you still recording your music at home? What is that process like, versus working in a more “professional” studio?

Home recording is a great way to work out what you like and don’t wanna sound like. You know recording is easy – phones, GarageBand, 4 track cassette recorders are everywhere, all you need is time and a little obsession and you’ll spend evenings on Gumtree and eBay for parts, trying to achieve some unnamed idea you have only in your head that can keep you occupied for days, years.

I think recording is a skill like playing an instrument – you practice, you try new toys, new equipment, new mics, new software, and you make the limitations your strengths. I used a Motu 4pre external sound card plugged into a desktop PC that my brother built, a really dated cracked copy of Adobe Audition, and just played with different mics, pedals, plugins, and made myself comfortable in private and just doing a little bit every day and in no time you’ve got hours of music to edit, and that’s easier than a blank canvas. That was the luxury of living in Adelaide though I guess, less work, more time, cheaper space.

When I moved to Melbourne I lost my spare room and my patience and I felt like shaking it up, giving up some control, enjoying the collaboration. I mean, I gave Geoff O’Connor a hard time I’m sure, but he did a great job. He’s also a self-taught recording type, but nerdier and fancier than me, dreamier microphones. Lately I’ve been writing differently – blank canvas style, acoustic demos, rough and direct to my phone.

Was there anything you learned while recording Hello Friends that you wish you had known going into the process?

Yeah, I shoulda learned not to stress. I always spend so long on the lyrics, but I don’t really change much. Maybe it needs that reflection time anyway. Maybe I’ve learned nothing!

Is there anything you’d like people to know before listening to Hello Friends?

It’s not meant to be easy.

The album cover for Hello Friends is a painting of you putting lipstick on your face. How did that come about? Is it a comment on feminism or consumerism?

You know, I was messing around with a friend for a photo shoot, and I have always been uncomfortable with what is the norm; expectations of aesthetics and behavior of femininity in the world. The never-ending demands, judgements and contradictions – to fit in, be made up, look natural, be innocent, be sexual, be fashion as expression, shun fashion as a facade. Lipstick is this dense signifier and I love it but I feel uncomfortable in it, but I desired it, and it felt like a thousand uncomfortable rejections and embraces at once, to use that blood red gloss as a mask to cover me, and to reveal me as a weirdo, a woman, scared and scary, solitary in the mirror reflected, looking at myself, but also facing the world. I thought that would look cool as an album cover.

You were in a number of other bands before forming Summer Flake. What kind of experience do you feel those other bands gave you?

Creative outlet, camaraderie, confidence, joy, friendship, focus. It was life-changing discovering that other people wanted to do this kind of thing as much as I secretly did. Band practice was the highlight of my week, it was my passion. I never thought I’d ever play solo back then though. It was about the group collaboration, and I enjoyed not being the main decision maker. I think I’m easier to be in a band when I’m supporting, not leading.

Are there any musicians in Melbourne or your hometown of Adelaide you feel deserve more attention?

Yeah lots! Lots of stuff that’s different or difficult or rough around the edges, things that are too loud or too quiet, that’s the good stuff. Sarah Mary Chadwick has just recorded a new album which is devastating and hits the right melodic melancholic notes, that’ll be out later this year. Wireheads from Adelaide are powering on, recording album after album in a short number of years, and they’re back in the US recording again in May. Esther Edquist from Superstar has a new solo thing called Sweet Whirl and is recording an album. She plays bass and croons like someone who likes Neil Young, country, and trip hop. That sounds terrifying, but it’s really cool.

What are your favorite venues in Melbourne or Adelaide for listening to music?

I like small venues. I’m not leaping across stage or putting on a lighting show. If there’s anyone watching, listening, I need to feel like we’re close, in the same space. I like Ancient World, Format and the Metro in Adelaide, and the Tote, LongPlay has a tiny seated cinema which can be cool for gigs, the Old Bar, Dane Certificate’s Magic Shop in Melbourne.

What are your plans for the rest of 2016?

We’re touring Australia in May and I am dying to go to the US – anyone need a tour buddy? Email me your tips please, I’m scrambling for cash, and aiming for later this year. I’ve been to the US twice doing band stuff and it was heaps of fun. Real friendly types.

Any takers?

NEARLY OROTORIO: SIMON LAM’S STRIPPED DOWN  TIN EP
April 15, 2016 11:43 am

Melbourne’s Simon Lam is known by many names. Earlier this month, Lam, who releases solo material through the Nearly Orotorio moniker, dropped his second EP, Tin, via Solitaire Recordings.

Whether contributing vocal tracks or lending his keen sound engineering chops, Simon Lam has done a lot in a short span of time–and it seems like any project he decides to take on tends to make its way to an increasingly wide audience. His career launched in 2010 with the formation of Kins, a group that initially manifested in Australia, but later transplanted to Brighton, England. Kins fused wistful guitar with downtempo electronic breaks. They followed up the release of their self-titled full-length by touring in support of last year’s indie rock blockbuster, Courtney Barnett, before officially calling it quits in February. Meanwhile Lam, who didn’t stay around for Kins to fully come to fruition, was busy parsing together tapestries of his soulful vocals and minimal electronics with I’lls. Next he was building warm synth backdrops to back fellow-Melbourn songstress Chloe Kaul for their project Kllo.  They released a debut EP Cusp in 2015 via Dot Dash / Remote Control.

Lam’s first Nearly Oratorio release Showers was released in 2011, perhaps opening the door to some of his other collaborations. His fluid transition from one project to the next is disorienting indeed, but it’s the sign of an ambitious recording artist dedicated to his art and finding just the right collaborative environment to find inspiration for his next work.

Tin is a collection of oddball ditties dedicated to the wandering thinkers and creatives that occasionally get stuck inside their heads. To soak in this album properly one simply needs to lay back in a comfortable position, adorn a pair of headphones and take it in. Tin captures the essence of Sam Lam’s tinkering, the thought-process of a tireless scientist going through the motions of artistic process. It’s packed with a modest range of percussion adding texture and rhythmic dimension to his tracks which are otherwise bare-bones: Sam’s soothing R&B falsetto accompanied by a trickle of acoustic guitar and under synths.  It’s a great introduction to Simon Lin’s signature blissfully minimal sound. 

ARTIST OF THE MONTH: METHYL ETHYL
April 1, 2016 10:58 am

Here at AtypicalSounds we’re always looking out for the next big thing. Our April Artist of the Month is Methyl Ethel, a Perth-based dreampop trio that are hot off the heels of releasing their debut record Oh Inhuman Spectacle, which was released digitally last month via 4AD.  The album showcases a sleek backdrop of psych-rock influences, reverb-drenched guitar, and Jake Web’s oddball lyrics: the chorus to lead single “Twilight Driving” caution unsuspecting drivers to watch out for “roos”.

Methyl Ethel are the latest indie upstart to burst out of Australia in the wake of big acts to emerge from the continent including Courtney Barnett and Tame Impala. The band’s following has been growing steadily since CMJ this past October, demonstrated by their insane and successful performance at this year’s SXSW. They’ve proven their ability to arouse new fans to faithfully follow them wherever their tour may take them.

Unfortunately, if you haven’t had a chance to catch them live yet, you might have to wait a bit. They’ve just wrapped up the US-wing of their international tour and are doing their last handful of shows in Europe and in native Australia. We’ll be waiting their return.

MUSIC’S MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN OF 2015
December 26, 2015 12:14 am

2015 was kind of a hectic, yet exciting time in the music industry. It’s time to remember those female artists who have made a huge impact on their fans (and haters). No, I’m not talking about how Taylor Swift brought her whole girl squad at every performance and music award, and trended the word ‘squad’. I’m not even talking about how Adele’s latest album 25 made this whole generation cry. Sure, they could be great role models but there are quite a few other female artists who deserve to have some light shed on their talent and grit.

Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine)

Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine  The V Festival 2010 held at Weston Park - Performances - Day Two Staffordshire, England - 22.08.10 Mandatory Credit: Nick Pickles/ WENN.com

Did you know she’s bff’s with Taylor Swift, and is officially part of her girl gang? Thanks to T.Swift, she even inspired Florence to write “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” that debuted number 1 in the top US Billboard 200. That album even received five Grammy Nominations! Even the extraordinary Taylor has some things to learn from Flo’s powerful presence. “What sets Florence apart? Everything. Every time I’ve been around her, she is the most magnetic person in the room…There are very few people I’ve met in my life who are truly electric, and Florence is one of them.” (Billboard) Suffering from dyslexia, anxiety, and dyspraxia (a neurological disorder that impairs motor, memory, judgment and other cognitive skills) (Fuse), Flo still manages to write kick-ass songs and excite the crowd until she drops. Literally. She’s had a few tumbles on stage this year but she gets up and goes on with the show. She can’t stop, and won’t stop. The band had many festival appearances this year including Coachella, Governor’s Ball, Way Out West, Glastonbury Festival, and more. I’d have to say that she won me over at Governor’s Ball when she told a girl with a “HUG?” sign to crowd surf her way to the stage and made that girl’s life.

Melanie Martinez
Since her debut on The Voice, she’s pretty much had a core fan base that supported her music and believed in her talent. Although she wasn’t the ‘official’ winner of the show, she has won over many teen hearts with her relatable, grim music. They’ve even named themselves ‘cry babies’ (you know, like the Beliebers), which come from her recent debut album Cry Baby. Along her album release, she’s been putting out music videos for every single song on her album, which she has been directing. She’s also been working with notable music connoisseurs like Babydaddy, Phoebe Ryan, and Emily Warren and she’s only 20 years young! Be sure to check out her North American tour in early 2016 and join the madness.

Sky Ferrira

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You might recognize her as Zachary Cole Smith’s (DIIV) side chick. Or as that chick who signed a record deal after she was discovered singing her own songs on Myspace. Either way, she’s a cool gal who’s not afraid to put herself out there, both physically and emotionally. But sometimes, haters hate when you express yourself through social media. She recently confronted her frustration over online bullies on Instagram, claiming that calling her a ‘slut’ or ‘bitch’ on a daily basis is NOT okay (but really, don’t you have anything else to do?) Not only did she voice her opinion on verbally abusing public female figures, but she also roasted her label Polydor for ripping off her ideas and not giving her any financial or creative support. “Maybe I would have ‘sold more records’ if I had the resources to do so. It’s completely unfair that can even get used against me…I’m talking about labels & how they all need new structure…& need to be more creative & supportive of the people that they sign.” Ouch. Sadly, this isn’t the first time her label’s fucked her over- She wasn’t so happy when Capitol didn’t have vinyl copies in time for the My Time Night Time release date, and how EMI delayed her album for years. Nonetheless, we’re hoping that she’ll have somewhat of a more peaceful and positive year in 2016, especially because her new album Masochism is being released soon!

Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett: 'In interviews I feel like a bit of a doofus.'
You’re basically screwed if you don’t know who she is. Everybody note her name down because this girl from Melbourne, Australia has been nominated as the Best New Artist for the Grammy Awards 2016! And surprisingly, she doesn’t know her fellow nominees Megan Trainor, James Bay, Sam Hunt, or Tori Kelly- But that’s okay. “I don’t know who they are. I probably won’t [check them out]” (NME). Since her debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, she’s gained attention from the media and indie music lovers. It was even nominated at the ARIA Music Awards this year….In eight whopping categories! Now that’s pretty insane. Unlike any other artist, her sound is honest and grungy with witty rambling lyrics. You can check her out on this in-depth article we wrote on her.

Laura Jane Grace (of Against Me!)

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I don’t know what this petition for getting Laura Jane Grace in Star Wars Episode VIII is…But I do know that she’s a likable figure in the music industry. When her band signed to Universal, she was known as Tom Gabel. Now, she’s performing as Laura since 2012 when she opened up about being transgender. She got so sick and tired of being judged by her choices, she wore a black statement jersey on stage that read “GENDER IS OVER! IF YOU WANT IT” for 60 nights. Now that’s dedication! She signed her jersey and “donated it to the group that created it for a charity giveaway.” (RollingStone) She even set up a contest where fans can win her jersey by donating $10-$15, and the proceeds would go to NPO’s. Let’s all learn from her and pay it forward. The band is currently working on their next album which will be released sometime in 2016.

Grimes

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She never fails to surprise us with her psychedelic, pop-influenced, irresistible dream world. The Spectrum sum her up very well when they say “Grimes makes the kind of music you might expect from someone who was formerly both a dancer and a neuroscience major.” The creepy giggling, whispering, talking jibberish basically tell us that she’s nuts- but in a good way. She had an opportunity to open up for Lana Del Rey, exposing herself to (mostly) teenage girls who’ve never heard of her. In her interview with Fuse, she mentions how touring is “bad for the environment” and shows her concerns for the environment. “I think it’s real important to have real cups because we’re trying to reduce garbage…Shipping stuff around and flying 11 people around the world is quite the carbon footprint…So we’re just trying to reduce as much as possible.” She’s also a healthy eater who drinks kombucha and does not allow a single candy in her dressing room “because otherwise, I’ll only eat candy.” We’re hoping that her views on the environment and healthy will rub on to her fans, converting everyone into a bubbly and intelligent woman like her.

ESKIMEAUX SLAYS IN 2015
December 11, 2015 1:59 am

2015 has been a big year for Eskimeaux, the solo project of songwriter producer Gabrielle Smith. While she has been recording as Eskimeaux since 2007, this year marks the first time she has garnered wider recognition from her own music.

As a frequent collaborator and friend of bigger names in the lo-fi/bedroom pop world, like Frankie Cosmos and Mitski, Eskimeaux released her own album O.K. to an unforeseen amount of positive response. The release garnered critical acclaim, successfully catapulted her from the insular Brooklyn indie scene to a more nationally recognized Indie stage. NPR’s host of All Songs Considered, Bob Boilen, picked Eskimeaux’s album as one of his top 10 of the year along with bigger name acts like Courtney Barnett and Girlpool. Rolling Stone declared her one of the artists you need to know this year. Stereogum selected the album as their “album of the week” above more prominent artists The Tallest Man On Earth and Snoop Dog.

Yet with all of this publicity and high praise, it’s likely that most of you haven’t heard Esimeaux before. Luckily with music, it’s never too late to get started.

O.K. is a beautiful collection of eloquent and earnest bedroom-pop. The confessions she makes cut pretty deep, yet the precision with which she molds her lyrics into pristine melodies functions as a haunting juxtaposition to the darkness in her stories. Above a soundscape of beautifully layered keyboards and fuzzy guitars, Smith’s voice floats in a realm of its own—too present to be labeled ethereal yet too aloof to be fully comforting.

The breakout track from the album, “I Admit I’m Scared,” is a masterpiece in the art of understatement. Reworked from an earlier version of the same song, the version that appears on O.K. is a beautiful example of when music and lyrics come together to create something larger than the sum of their parts. The track begins with a nervous and unsteady confession, “I admit I’m scared.” A softly strummed banjo complements the naïve lyrics. Yet as the song continues and the narrator becomes more confident in her confession, booming percussion and guitars chime in to ensure the narrator’s intensity echoes out to the listener. There is a true beauty to Smith’s lyrical and musical method of storytelling – reminiscent of a film score. With a little luck and some excellent sync/licensing placement in the indie film/television world, Eskimeaux could easily become a household staple.

As we near the end of the year, it’s important to remember all of the things that stood out to us about the year. Music discovery is no exception. With an oversaturated market, it’s easy to miss something great and difficult to go back and revisit stuff you may have overlooked. Do not make that mistake with Eskimeaux. Go home, put on the record and give it the full listen that it deserves. You just might find that it sticks.

BRINGING US BACK TO LIVE WITH COURTNEY BARNETT
December 10, 2015 2:23 pm

Live albums are a bit of a lost art these days. There was a time everybody did them, and some live versions were more popular than their studio counter parts (I’m willing to bet many of you have never heard the studio version of “I Want You to Want Me”). While the advent of video live sessions and things like the Spotify Sessions have worked to fill that void, new recordings of bands playing in packed theaters to raucous cheers are few and far between.

Courtney Barnett’s Live at Electric Lady Studios in New York is not quite that but it’s damn close.

courtney-barnett-21-6cfe32152b15be0798da15d1011bdd80fd8b6f91-s1000-c85There are a couple things to consider with any live recording. The most important question is also the reason live recordings are much less popular today – Can the band play? With music production being what it is, there are many acts that simply can’t reproduce what they have on their album. What you get instead is a rhythm section playing along with a computer. In some cases this means the only significant difference between a live recording and the record would be a singer without auto-tune.

This is not something you have to worry about with Courtney. First of all she doesn’t really even sing in the traditional sense. Instead she slurs out her lyrics in a Bob Dylan/Craig Finn talk-singing voice. While this might be off-putting to some, in reality it’s dope as fuck, and in the context of a live recording, it basically means she can’t sing the parts wrong. They weren’t ever quite “right” to begin with.

Taking a step back, you hear the band behind the voice: Courtney on guitar, Andrew “Bones” Sloane on bass, and Dave Mudie on drums. And they can play. Their arrangements are strong and the parts are played right. And coming off the recording is the reason live albums became so popular to begin with: Energy. It sounds like a band playing in a room together, feeding off each other. You can feel it.

Unfortunately this energy can be at odds with the other big “live record question”: How does it sound? Generally speaking, what you gain in energy you lose in fidelity. While Courtney Barnett was never known for her produced sound (rather she is known for her performing sound) there is a noticeable difference between the studio versions and live ones. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Listen to her guitar tones on “Avant Gardener.” They are simply massive. The band sounds like so much more than a trio at times, and she really gets some awesome noise out of her axe. That effect could never come across the same way on a studio track, as you would never know if it is coming from the performance or the production. Here, you know.

But, alas, the sword is double edged, and there are other things that Barnett can never do with a trio. The best example of this comes out in “History Eraser.” It’s a balls-to-the-wall punk love song that revolves around a chanted refrain “In my brain I rearrange the letters on the page to spell your name,” (Fuck yea, right?). The studio version snaps between furious guitar-charged verses and this refrain, chanted over one sustained guitar chord and a tambourine. This has a massive effect. The transition is jarring, and the return to thrashing verse is awesome every time. On top of this, the refrain line sounds like its being chanted by an occult chorus. While the music drops out, the vocal part switches from one voice to many.

The live version can’t do that. The verses are so packed with lyrics that Courtney needs the chorus to catch her breath. That leaves only Bones and Dave to sing the refrain, which the whole song is built around. In this version, it seems the band tried to combat this by keeping the instrumental parts going through the refrain. What is meant to keep the energy up actually stagnates the song. The studio version has the effect of the floor dropping out from under you. The live version is more just a stroll down a hallway. This would not be a two paragraph issue if that weren’t her most popular song.

“History Eraser” gripes aside, this a killer live album. It brings the impressive power of Courtney Barnett’s trio into your living room. The few moments of in-between-the-songs chatting are endearing. The song selection is strong, but as this was recorded years ago, all the songs are off of The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. Fans of Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, might be a bit disappointed. Instead they can keep their fingers crossed and hope that this is not the last live recording to come out of this Aussie badass.

4 Of Many Strong Musical Women With Businesses
October 2, 2015 12:08 am

As I came above ground on the B train to Brooklyn, I flipped through episodes of NPR’s All Songs Considered to see if there was anything I could quickly download before we ducked back underground.

The fan-girl in me saw the name Sharon Van Etten and immediately clicked “download.” I watched as the remaining two megabytes of space on my phone was eaten up by what I prayed would last through the remainder of my commute. The title of the episode “All Songs + 1: Sharon Van Etten Interviews Low’s Mimi Parker.

What I expected: a captivating conversation between two of my favorite musicians out there, Singer-Songwriter Sharon Van Etten and Indie-Rock veteran Mimi Parker (drummer and vocalist of the band Low). What I did not expect: the topic of conversation to be “how to balance being a musician and a mother.”

Typically, I roll my eyes at this kind of piece. You don’t see male rock-stars being hounded by the media with questions like “who takes care of your kids while you’re on the road?” or “what’s it like being away from your child for months at a time?” God forbid the father stay home and care for his child while the mother went out and earned a living.

But as I listened, I was slapped in the face with the privilege of my youth and child-less status. This wasn’t the media forcing two women in the workforce to confine their conversation to the subject of motherhood. No, here was Van Etten vulnerably and honestly confessing her deep fear of subjecting her child to the permanent stain of parental inadequacy. Here was a woman, anxiously anticipating her biological clock as it approaches the station. Any strong woman in her position would have asked for any words of wisdom that could potentially help make the most difficult decision of her life – pursue her dreams and give up on having a child or have a child and risk losing her entire career. Is it possible to do both?

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Parker’s band Low came up in the 90s when album sales were huge. Hell, Parker could afford a nanny to accompany them on tour and watch the kids while she soundchecked, performed, did press shots, signings, meet and greets, etc. Plus, Parker’s husband was also in the band which made touring a happy family affair. Van Etten, admittedly, couldn’t afford that kind of help. In fact, she even mentioned needing to pick up a second form of income to provide for her family. A famous musician with a day job… is Yuppie the new rock and roll?

It’s a shame. Whether we like it or not, today’s music artist has to be more than her moniker. She must be a shrewd businesswoman, a marketing guru, a self-promoter, an entrepreneur. She needs to know not only how to make music but also how to have her music make her money.

The following female indie musicians have successfully been able to strike that balance between art and industry, integrating their creative eye with their business acumen. We are choosing to focus on indie musicians because they have been able to engage with the business side of things without the massive corporate backing and brand partnerships that a major label provides. We are focusing on women because as tough as it is for dudes to make it in this industry, imagine how hard it is to overcome the same obstacles as the dudes plus the added weight of both sexism and/or carrying a child to term.

So take a peek into the side-endeavors of just a few of your favorite female indie rockers and allow yourself to become inspired by their creativity and their work ethic. I know I am.

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Courtney Barnett – Breakout indie rocker of 2015, Courtney Barnett captured the hearts of millions with her neo-Dylan talk-singing, psychedelic melodies, and proto-punk electric guitar riffs. But did you know she also co-founded Milk! Records with her girlfriend, Jen Cloher and their friends. Their website outlines how they are an “independent label where you can buy direct from the artist.” They also “occasionally curate special events, compilations, split 7” vinyl releases and artist designed t-shirts and curios from friends and artists we love.” A group of friends self-releasing their own material and selling it to a DIY-hungry audience sounds like the dream to me.

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Zooey Deschanel – You may think I’m going to talk about her highly lucrative career as an actress, but I’m not. Not only is Zooey a fabulous musician and infectious actress, but she also founded hellogiggles, a “positive online community for women (although men are always welcome!) covering DIY and crafting projects, beauty, friendship, sex & relationships, tips on savvy and stylish living meant to inspire a smile.” Sure that sounds like the quirk-heavy Zooey that polarizes many women across the country, but you can’t really argue with the numbers and with how much traffic her site gets, that’s one hell of a side-gig.

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Amanda Palmer – You may know her as lead singer of The Dresden Dolls. You may know her from her infamous kickstarter campaign which raised nearly 1.2 million dollars. Or perhaps you know her from the countless controversies she has encountered like her publicized dispute with Roadrunner Records or her Poem for Dzhokkar. Palmer has captured our attention over the years for countless reasons, one of which she turned into a book. Following the success of her highly viewed Ted Talk special “The Art of Asking,” Palmer turned her speech into a book with the same title. The book garnered mixed reviews but sure enough it climbed its way onto the New York Times bestsellers list. Not bad for a first time author.

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Brittany Howard – Lead singer and guitarist of the acclaimed Alabama Shakes recently announced her side-project, Thunderbitch. Thunderbitch is the old-school rock outlet for a collective of seasoned acts including Fly Golden Eagle and Clear Plastic Masks. Their website bio reads “Thunderbitch. Rock ‘n’ Roll. The end.” Thunderbitch is not tied to any known label (indie or otherwise) and seems to be running the whole operation on its own. While she’s left me with more questions than I’d like, I’m definitely stoked to see what this side-endeavor evolves into.

 

The Beast Recap of Bonnaroo 2015
June 23, 2015 4:56 pm

Every year, tens of thousands of festival lovers (to the heights of 80,000 to be exact) travel to Manchester, TN for one of America’s most well know festivals, Bonnaroo. This music and arts festival has a whirlwind of opportunities for its festival-goers, going way beyond the music itself. From the hammock haven found in the shadows of the only trees of the campgrounds, to the comedy tent hidden inside Centeroo, there is constant activity to please all likings. But with 125+ artists across 8 stages (including the silent disco) how can one decide their destiny in this 4-day chose-your-own-adventure festival? Here’s the run-down of what we saw, what we learned, and why we will ALWAYS be the first ones buying our tickets to Bonnaroo.

THURSDAY: DAY 1

BONNAROO ALABAMA SHAKES

First day on the farm is of course overwhelming. The campground is slowing filling, the Bonnarovians (the official name given to the inhabitants of the farm) are out and about and exploring what greatness this festival is about to provide for the next 4 days. Not to mention the spectacular line up in which Bonnaroo did not feel shy.

BONNAROO TEMPLES

Starting out our line up for the festival, we saw Temples. Their lights and 70’s inspired melodies (and hair) revved the crowd in preparation for the balance of the evening on the highly anticipated first day. Playing each of our favorites, Temples rocked their golden hour, and left us wishing they would play Shelter over and over again as the sound reverberated throughout the packed tent.

BONNAROO CENTEROO

Through the rest of the evening, we moved from space to space and were able to catch hints of The Growlers and Glass Animals, both pulling impressive crowds for a not yet fully populated festival. Courtney Barnett however, stole our attention as her femme fatal rock played into the crowd. Of course she played our favorite hits, History Eraser and Pedestrian at Best, and the crowd agreed with our taste as they screamed out the lyrics and swatted at the copious amounts of balloons soaring through the air. At this point, we couldn’t get enough of her kick ass energy and were left feeling ferocious and ready to be the next female ruler.

As the night continued, you would have to say that Mac Demarco and his trio of equally weird bandmates took the cake when they trekked all the way to Tennessee to camp in the excessive heat. Demarco proceeded to introduce each song with his famously creepy voice, like the one your parents told you to always run away from, while alternatively swooning the crowd with his latest hits; Salad Days, Blue Boy, and Freaking Out the Neighborhood being the stand out songs of the set. And just to top their night off, Demarco and band claimed to be on a mission to set the world record for the most crowd members on top of other crowd member’s shoulders. Like any beast would, I hopped onto of my neighbor’s shoulders to join in on the mission for Demarco’s claim to fame.

FRIDAY: DAY 2

BONNAROO BELLE AND SEBASTIAN

Day 2 on the farm welcomed us with a wave of heat, promptly at 7:30AM, and the only cure was to explore the vast campground and accompanying art scene. As mentioned before, the farm offers their Bonnarovians a hammock haven hidden in the only natural shade found on the festival grounds – but you better claim your hammock early, because they were a hot commodity (pun intended). Through the hammocks, we found tables for crafts. Yes crafts. All materials needed for bedazzling the official shoe of Bonnaroo, the Teva sandal. But if arts and crafts weren’t your jam, Centeroo offered a variety of art venders spanning from unique, one-of-a-kind prints, to specialized body art drawing.

BONNAROO CROWD

As the heat (sort of) let up, our impatience got the best of us and we headed off to the tents to start the day. Opening our lineup for the afternoon was Rustie, the Scottish electronic artist from Glasgow. His instrumental mix between electronic and hip-hop electrified the crowd as they jumped to each beat in unintentional synchronized fashion. A crowd pleaser to the max, he gave a performance that goes to show the variety of electronic we’ve come to recognize within the past couple of years. To keep the electro buzz strong, Unknown Mortal Orchestra hit our next chord as they overflowed the tent pleasing us with old hits and ending strong with one of their latest (and excellent) releases, Can’t Keep Checking My Phone.

BONNAROO PHOX 2

The show stopper of the day was of course, Alabama Shakes. Lead singer Brittney Howard owned the stage immediately as she stepped foot into the crowd’s sight. Playing hits from their latest album, Sound and Color, Alabama Shakes could not disappoint, and their appreciation of the massive crowd presence did not fall unseen. Mid performance, Howard pauses, “I don’t even know what to say,” as she scans the crowd in amazement. After a long silence and a soulful sigh, she proceeds with “thank you. Now we can move on” and continues the set to play everything, but their original hit Hold On.

The rest of Day 2 was spent idolizing our past, listening to Tears for Fears and replaying Donnie Darko over and over in our heads. Standing behind the crowd you couldn’t tell what was clearer, the band’s voices or the crowd belting out Everyone Wants to Rule the World.

SATURDAY: DAY 3

BONNAROO PHOX 1

The third day of Bonnaroo was by far the most loaded of the weekend. (So many artists, with so few hours in the day.) Being the mid west gal that I am, seeing PHOX was first on our list. Having the chance to see a familiar face on stage was a breath of fresh air, just like the band itself. The eclectic group, made up of lead singer Monica Martin along with 5 other Baraboo, Wisconsin friends, I like to label as a mix between Beirut, Alabama Shakes and Amy Winehouse. Their soulful sound and quirky character gives a whole new take on indie pop. After their performance, with a special cover of Blink 182’s I Miss You, I was able to sit down with Ms. Martin and uncover her thoughts on Bonnaroo and festival life itself.

BONNAROO MONICA INTERVIEW

You guys have played at so many festivals this year, so far what has been your favorite?

Sasquatch is perfect, Newport Folk Festival is perfect, Coachella is a whole different animal and it’s a scary one to me but I also acknowledge that people really get into it.

And how do you feel about Bonnaroo?

Oh right, I should talk about this one. It’s great, it’s really really great. I like it.

Since you’re not able to hang out long, what artists are you most disappointed to miss?

Not just because he’s sitting right here, but Shakey Graves. I would love to see them play. I’m also sad that we’re missing Bahamas, they’re great. But we are playing a one off show with them soon, so I’m excited for that. Umm, D’Angelo. I really wish I could see D’Angelo. I mean who I really wanted to see I got to see and that was Kendrick Lamar last night.

Oh so you guys stayed last night, did you camp?

I did, I stayed, I camped! That was weird. That was a new experience.

Camping can be sort of terrible.

It’s a thing. It was weird. Part of me would rather just go camping.

OK, and one last question- If you could describe PHOX in three words what would it be?

Oh man. Three words. Confused eighth grader. I would elaborate more, but I’ve only got three words.

BONNAROO TRAMPLED BY TURTLES

As Monica and I parted ways, Atypical Sounds kept up on the folk inspired trend and watched Woods, the folk rock band from Brooklyn take over the tent and wow the crowd with Shepherd and Moving to the Left from their latest album ‘With Light and Love’. From there we saw Trampled by Turtles (another mid west favorite) lure in the crowd at the main stage, and we danced away the afternoon to the feet tapping, head bobbing blue grass perfection.

Changing gears for the balance of the afternoon to some synth-pop, we had the chance to catch Phoebe Ryan at her first ever performance at Bonnaroo. Playing at the smallest of the spaces Ms. Ryan surely did not disappoint as she owned the stage and kept the crowd singing along with her biggest hit Ignition/Do You.. (Mashup). Later in the weekend we had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan and talk about her latest EP released Tuesday, June 9th , and her thoughts on her very first performance at the farm.

BONNAROO PHOEBE RYAN 2

You released your first EP last week. How does it feel to have all that hard work finally out there?

It feels amazing! It’s literally been a year in the making. A year ago I flew down to Nashville for the summer and started writing the EP, and now here I am back in Tennesee. It’s mind-blowing.

BONNAROO PHOEBE RYAN INTERVIEW

This is your first year at Bonnaroo! How did you feel?

I love it. The vibes are so great, people are getting weird here, I love it

There is definitely a little bit of everything here!

Yea it’s wild, I’m a supporter! A supporter of the weirdness.

Have you been able to see any other performances while you’re here?

I haven’t been able to see as many as I wanted to, but I did get to catch Tove Lo’s set and I saw my friend Kevin Garrett. It’s been pretty great.

Anyone you regret not being able to see?

Haha everyone! Everyone is so cool, I wish I had more time to observe.

We definitely will keep an eye out for Ryan as she’s working on a new album this summer and just released a new single, We Won’t, with Jaymes Young. We are pretty sure that although her set at Bonnaroo was killer, the best is definitely yet to come.

Another indie-pop band that grabbed our attention was Belle and Sebastian. Their happy-go-lucky sound gave the crowd an extra jump of energy on the day, and when we least expected, lead Stuart Murdoch hopped onto the corner amp to shout out his jealousy that in the comedy tent, someone was fed fake gummy bears by a celebrity. His dreams came true (and so did ours) when Jon Hamm waltzed onto the stage to fulfill Murdoch’s fantasy.

The balance of the evening was overtaken by Childish Gambino, playing a variety of hip-hop and soulful power ballads. From was the EDM take over, where Bassnectar lit up the sky with glow stick showers and Flume defined the perfect ending for Bonnaroo Day 3 by playing our favorites Sleepless and Insane and ensuring we dance until the sun comes up on the final and last day of our festival adventure.

BONNAROO CHILDISH GAMBINOBONNAROO CHILDISH GAMBINO

SUNDAY: Day 4

The 4th and final day of Bonnaroo. We never thought it would come, nor did we ever want it to. It had been a long hot week and the perfect remedy was to lay low; our blanket game was on point.

Starting out our day we basked in the sun for Spoon. Lead singer and guitarist Britt Daniel captivated the crowd starting the set with old time classics, like The Way We Get By. The band continued to play from their newest album ‘They Want My Soul’ as they threw in old time favorites and ended the set with I Turn My Camera On.

To continue the lounging experience of the day, we sat through parts of Punch Brothers, and Florence and the Machine (knowing she would have an amazing performance after watching her glide across the stage this past Governor’s Ball). We caught Florence just in time to bring a guest from the crowd to the stage (as she had done for past sets), and to get chased by her own security as she continuously ran through the open areas of the venue. Surprisingly quick for having just recently broken her ankle at Coachella this past spring.

A highlight of our evening was Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters. As a music community we’ve grown to love Robert Plant from his role as lead singer of Led Zeppelin, and although he’s at the age of 66, Plant still fully understands how to rock and roll with his crowd. We sang along and watched from afar as Plant played some of Zeppelin’s best hits, which unfortunately did not include Stairway to Heaven.

As all good things must end, it came to be this sad time for Bonnaroo. One last artist and our 4-day adventure was over. We had highly anticipated this performance as not only was Billy Joel the only set of the night, but was also was slotted for a magical 2 and half hours. At the age 66, this New York native vocally amazed us. The field was filled with Bonnaroovians of all sorts and all ages, but somehow Billy Joel pulled everyone together to appreciate these last few moments. Joel played his classic hits, Piano Man, Uptown Girl, and We Didn’t Start the Fire, although we had secretly hoped Vienna would grace the set list. The disappointment set in early, when Joel walked off the stage at 10:15pm, only to be followed by a 20 minute encore and confusing delay before fireworks (his set time was slated for 9pm-11:30pm). Do we wish he played longer, of course. But was this early ending a blessing in disguise, absolutely.

Bonnarovians slowly left Centeroo, forming a mass of walking zombies as they all made their way back to their camps to either pack or pass out before the long (or short) journey home the next day. Despite the heat, and the massive crowds, Bonnaroo holds a dear place in our hearts. It’s not until after you leave, that you realize life on the farm is (debatably) better than life in reality itself.

BONNAROO RADIATE POSITIVITY

BONNAROO THAT TENT

BONNAROO THE GROWLERS