ian anderson

BEST OF BONNAROO 2016
June 17, 2016 5:41 pm

So Bonnaroo is over and we’ve returned to our normal lives (sad). We’ve showered in private bathrooms, slept in real beds for more than 4 hours at a time, and we finally feel like real human beings again (happy). We never want to see drugs or alcohol of any kind ever again (joking), and we’re so damn excited to tell you and everyone we know about our experiences (serious). Here are our eleven favorite acts at Bonnaroo 2016 (because ten just isn’t enough):

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Pearl Jam at Bonnaroo Photo Cred: Jeff Kravitz

11: Death Cab for Cutie played an afternoon show on the last day of the festival, in 90° heat on the largest and hottest stage, yet they still had the entire audience hanging on every note, word, and emotion. Several people around me were crying unapologetically (not that they needed to apologize, crying is cool and all, but… well, it was unsettling at the time). The Seattle rockers proved that over a decade of mainstream success has not hampered their drive for a killer show, and the group’s sizable catalog had the tens of thousands of audience members clamoring for more. If your biggest problem is that your set is too short to fit all your good songs, you’re doing alright. -IA

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Fidlar at Bonnaroo Photo cred: FilmMagic

10:Band of Horses used this opportunity to showcase their new album Why Are You Ok?, released just a few days earlier. Consistently excellent performers, the band struck a careful balance between this new material and the earlier hits so beloved by the scorched Saturday afternoon crowd. Their anticipation was palpable, as it was clear many in the audience considered Band of Horses the main draw of the festival. Perhaps rightly so, since “Is There A Ghost” and “The Funeral” are two of the most epic live numbers around, screaming with an intensity impossible to replicate in a recording. If you haven’t yet seen Band of Horses live, you should. -IA 

9: Kurt Vile was obviously drunk on stage, drinking and spilling from several cans of Modelo throughout the show, yet he pulled off one of the most casually transcendent performances I’d ever seen. This guy is a seriously awesome guitarist, able to riff passionate, musically-relevant licks without seeming to think too hard. His irreverent stage banter paired well with his loose and mumbly singing, emphasizing his unique take-it-or-leave-it style of not giving a fuck. Before his last song he told everybody he’d be in the pit at the Ween show later, if anyone wanted to say hi. So he was having a pretty good time, it seemed, and it came through in the music. Neat! -IA/AS

8: Third Eye Blind has been doing this for a long time. Their thoroughly-attended tent show was basically a giant sing-along party/crowd-surfing exhibition. Seriously, there was almost too much crowd-surfing, to the point that Stephen Jenkins got involved and jumped into the crowd himself (which was totally awesome but also pretty dangerous for the 51 year-old star). There was one guy in particular who crowd surfed for about 20 minutes straight. We were quite jealous of the look on his face as he floated atop our heads, pumping his fists in the air along to the chorus of “Semi-Charmed Life.” The band that helped define snake person adolescence knew their audience and performed their classics diligently, even going out of their way to change plans and play “Motorcycle Drive By” because some fans they met on the way in (“dressed only in flowers and body paint”) complained that they don’t play enough old stuff. The San Francisco natives excel at developing this sort of audience camaraderie, reminding us frequently that love conquers hate and that we’re all in this together. Fuckin’ hippies, gotta love ’em. – IA/AS

7: Big Grams is half Big Boi (from Outkast) and half Phantogram (whose new album is released today). They played to a packed tent starting around 2AM, and people were pretty much losing their shit. It was awesome. Their “Ms Jackson/Mouthful of Diamonds” mashup was especially mind-blowing, with the entire crowd getting in on every single”I am for reeeal.” Unfortunately, their “The Way You Move” fell flat when mashed with “Don’t Move,” as the crowd expected Outkast’s chorus instead of Phantogram’s and was audibly crestfallen. So the collaboration still needs some tinkering, but both artists’ electric stage-presences combined into a whirlwind of manic energy, fueled by the late night party and contagious beats. Let’s hope for a lasting partnership between these disparate groups. – IA/AS

haim5 1/2: HAIM was unreal. Their catchy tunes have always tickled my ickle, but I DRASTICALLY underestimated how good their live show would be. Este, Danielle and Alana Haim are nothing short of Rock Stars. There is no one of the three carrying the other two, nor is there one that is holding the others back. Add their frenetic, happy energy, and even an impending thunderstorm couldn’t bring the show down. The fact that those three women came from the same vagina is fucking bonkers. – AS

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51/2: FIDLAR can’t be placed above or below Haim, as they are completely different things. But they were equally awesome. The So-Cal surf punks delivered exactly what fans were expecting – a super-high energy show filled with screaming, jumping, and shredding. The only song they didn’t play that I wanted to hear was “Awkward,” but they more than made up for it by cramming basically every other jam they have into their set. -AS

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Misterwives at Bonnaroo 2016 Photo Cred: Jeff Kravitz

4: MisterWives basically held a three ring circus on the main stage, with the bassist and guitarist doing cartwheels and comedy between (and sometimes during) songs, and singer Mandy Lee running around stage stealing everybody’s heart. Many, many people shouted offerings of love and/or marriage to her or her smiling jumbotron projection. Combine that with their anthemic synth-pop and I couldn’t keep my jaw off the floor. The performance was simply on another level, which was both unexpected incredibly inspiring. Leaving the show, I couldn’t help but notice a similar expression on a lot of people’s faces: the excited look of someone who just discovered their new favorite band. -IA

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Pearl Jam at Bonnaroo Photo Cred: Jeff Kravitz

3:Pearl Jam was fucking unbelievable. There’s just no other way to say it. Eddie Vedder has a very real physical and spiritual likeness to Jesus Christ, with his grungy hippie energy and otherworldly, almost godly control over the crowd. After the first song, all of Pearl Jam’s legendary success made complete sense. They played everything a little bit up-tempo, which was totally awesome on energetic hits like “Evenflow” and “Betterman.” Highlights include a political statement about transgender bathrooms in Tennessee (looking at you TN Rep. Susan Lynn), a heart-wrenching rendition of Pink Floyd‘s “Comfortably Numb” (with fireworks!), and every single one of Mike McCready’s insane guitar solos. Watching him perform (and he really sells it), it’s as if his epic shredding already exists out in the world and McCready is just plucking it out of thin air, jamming it through his fingers lickety-split and into his guitar for us all to hear. After executing perhaps the fastest, most intricate guitar performance at the festival (perhaps), McCready fell to the floor in a heap of emotion, relinquishing control back to Vedder’s drastic wailing. Not bad for a pair of 50 year olds. –IA

I’m just stepping in to wholeheartedly agree with Ian here. A lot people were skeptical about Pearl Jam’s place as a headliner, but I think anyone with a remote appreciation for rock n’ roll would have changed their mind at that show. They are simply the best straight-ahead rock band I’ve ever seen. -AS

2: Tame Impala is today’s Pink Floyd. The Australian superstars took their unique brand of washy, psychedelic arena-rock to Friday’s much anticipated 1-3 AM time slot, and holy shit was it incredible. The lawn was stuffed with neon glow-sticks and anthropomorphic totems as far as the eye could see. The audio quality was remarkable, as the band sounded almost exactly as they do in recordings, and the technical staff was on point, with lighting and confetti blowing minds for days. The only draw-back of the transcendent performance was its length; many fans hoped the band might play til sunrise, or at least the set’s full two-hours, but Kevin Parker politely thanked the audience and left the stage about a half an hour before scheduled. So their timing might have disappointed some, but the experience remains worthy of our #2 slot. The fact that it directly followed our #1 band was just gravy, and the one-two punch of seeing them back to back was nothing short of remarkable. – IA/AS

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LCD Soundsystem at Bonnaroo 2016 Photo Cred: Tim Mosenfelder

1: LCD Soundsystem is probably my favorite band of all time. When they announced their reunion in December, my brain said “They are going to play at Roo and I. WILL. NOT. MISS. IT.” My only hesitation was that I was afraid I would cry to death upon seeing them. My expectations were met. Although I’m still alive, they delivered absolutely stellar renditions of James Murphy’s creations, and looked damn good doing it. Murphy did not come across as the eccentric that he is often made out to be. Rather he seemed damn cool, delivering his wry lyrics with passion. The band seemed happy to be back, and I could have stood and watched them play for years. – AS

Other notable activity: BØRNS headlined Thursday night to a tremendous crowd, highlighted by back-to-back covers of Arcade Fire (“Rebellion”) and David Bowie (“Heroes”). Chvrches seemed unused to such a huge (main) stage, but a guest appearance from Haley Williams of Paramore more than made up for it. John Mayer led The Dead (as in ‘Grateful’) on a four-hour Sunday night set, and holy shit is he still the best guitarist alive today. M83 and Two Door Cinema Club both played solid shows on the Which Stage. Several up-and-coming artists gave excellent performances as well, especially Waxahatchee, Jarryd James, Hundred Waters, and Rayland Baxter. Baxter frisbeed a red felt peace sign into the crowd and Ian caught it with his very own hand, which was incredible. Macklemore’s set was interrupted for about an hour by a righteous thunderstorm, during which time Bonnaroo officials ordered fans into their cars for safety. Our friend Molly Rocket brought us some sandwiches while we were waiting.

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Written by Ian Anderson and Atticus Swartwood

CAR SEAT HEADREST’S NEW ALBUM IS SO DAMN AWESOME
June 7, 2016 12:27 pm

ATTENTION! ATTENTION! FANS OF JEFF TWEETY, RIVERS CUOMO, AND/OR KURT VILE! YOUR NEW FAVORITE BAND HAS ARRIVED!

Will Toledo began self-releasing albums in 2010 at the age of 18. He amassed a sizable online following through the next 5 years as he self-recorded and released 8 albums, 2 EP’s, and 2 compilation albums under the name Car Seat Headrest. Eventually he drew the attention of Matador Records who urged him to rerecord his “greatest hits”–the best songs from all his DIY-albums–for what would become 2015’s Teens of Style. The album was a success and incited a flurry of anticipation for his sophomore release, this time with a full band and completely new material. Fans didn’t have long to wait, and they were not disappointed. Teens of Denial was released May 20th and is totally the most badass piece of music released so far this year.

It’s not just that the songs are awesome, although they are. Confident, anthemic and emotionally-charged, Teens of Denial combines the intellectual satisfaction of a well-made song with the passionate energy of raw human emotion, billowing in the wind for all the world to see. The album should come with free boxes of tissues (for the tears), aspirin (for the heartache) and throat lozenges (for when you can’t help but scream along too loudly and ultimately lose your voice, causing permanent vocal damage (if left untreated)).

No, the real magic is in the details. These are long songs full of build and release, anticipation and resolution, but between each emotional wave is a slightly different tone of voice, a new musical element not previously explored, a heartstring plucked I didn’t even know existed. “I didn’t want you to hear that shake in my voice / my pain is my own” he sings in “1937 State Park,” but that’s not quite true–every evocative shake in his voice is public, and as much a part of the music as the phat beat and driving guitars. His pain is for us all, and it is very real. Maybe try some out for yourself?

*Written by Ian Anderson and Atticus Swartwood 

ROONEY: NEW LINEUP, SAME OKAY TASTE
May 13, 2016 12:00 pm

Prominent 00’s rockers and California enthusiasts Rooney are back, and with more of the same. The band’s fourth album is thick and mellow, like a Weezer ballad or an OK Go video, but it represents a new direction for the formerly-large-but-now-only-one-man band. Founder/singer/multi-instrumentalist Robert Schwartzman released the following statement on the band’s website:

Rooney is my baby and I really love it and I miss it. I came to a place where I felt creatively ready to make new Rooney music. On Washed Away, I wrote, produced, engineered, mixed and performed all of the songs which, I hope, will serve as a direct line from me to you. I hope you enjoy it.

So, pretty much what you’d expect. Guy likes music, guy makes similar music, music doesn’t quite compare with band’s greatest hits. That’s not to say the album isn’t good–it’s excellent background music, go listen to it–but nothing really jumps out as the indie smash hit I’m looking for. Not since the days of The OC has Rooney felt particularly relevant, and no amount of nostalgic west-coast-pop is going to change that. I want to feel like Luke belting “Sh-Sh-Shakin'” like an idiot, but I’m left more like moody Ryan leaving the show early. Thanks a lot, Marissa:

DJ SNOWDEN REQUESTS AN EXIT
April 28, 2016 6:00 am

Trapped in Moscow and bored out of his mind (snowed in?), NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden got busy with some turntables. The resulting track is “Exit,” and I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s incredibly frantic, high-energy EDM, reminiscent of that moment in movies when shit gets real and everything explodes. But just because I don’t want to listen to it doesn’t mean it isn’t legit af.

Legendary electronic music pioneer and longtime French celebrity Jean Michel Jarre collaborated with Snowden during his ongoing politically charged exile from the United States. Snowden, of course, released classified information about the National Security Agency in 2013, and has been a vocal opponent of government surveillance ever since. After the first three-ish minutes of manic house music, “Exit” slows down for Snowden’s passionate voiceover:

“Technology can actually increase privacy. The question is: why are our private details that are transmitted online, and why are private details that are stored on our personal devices, any different than the details and private records of our lives that are stored in our private journals? (Stored in our private journals?) I think, you know, saying that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say. It’s a deeply antisocial principle, because rights are not just individual, they’re collective. And what may not have value to you today may have value to an entire, you know, population, an entire people, or an entire way of life tomorrow. And if you don’t stand up for it, then who will? (And if you don’t stand up for it, then who will?)

Then it returns to it’s pulsating house vibe, repeating and if you don’t stand up for it then who will a few times for good measure. Powerful question indeed, what with the NSA and all, but the real message is something more personal, more immediate: Snowden would like to leave Russia. In case the music isn’t crazy, stressful, “get-me-out-of-here” enough, the name “Exit” should also give it away. He’s even offered to go to jail in the US if it means seeing his family. Fuck all the noise and bullshit, this human being just wants to go home.

Speaking of which, Academy Award®-winning director Oliver Stone & company just released the trailer for their new biographical political-thriller. Snowden is scheduled to be released September 16th:

ANDY FRASCO IS ROCK & ROLL
April 7, 2016 12:00 pm

Andy Frasco is living proof that if you really, really want to be something, you should just go out and be it. Live it, create it, experience it—whatever it is just go do it, and do it right goddamn now. Put enough of your life into something and it will return the favor. Inspiring? Certainly. Intimidating? Probably. Difficult? I asked him myself, and he told me what it takes:

“Yeah, I do two hundred and fifty shows a year. For the last ten years.”

No one said this would be easy.

“I’ve lived in a van like ten fucking years. I started when I was 18 and I’m 28 now. I was my own booking agent for five years, cold-calling venues, bullshitting my ass off.”

Frasco started his touring career by hiring new musicians in each new city he played. He’d find them on craigslist, rehearse a bit (maybe), and then just go for it.

“It taught me how to be a frontman, to conduct a band, learn how to write solid three/four-chord songs that anyone can hang with. Throw a party. Tell the drummer four-on-the-floor, gimme a one-two on the bass, and I’ll entertain these fucking people. I’ll crowd surf, whatever. I look up to the Frank Sinatras of the world, the James Browns; it’s all about the live show. You can have listeners by getting a song on the radio, but if you want fans you gotta make sure your live show is the shit and that they come back every year. A lot of these bands are so into their hair or their fucking flannel, super pretentious. No, music is
supposed to be here for fun. You gotta live in the moment. We’re trying to bring rock & roll back. People are scared to crowd surf, do drugs on stage, get kicked out of bars and stuff. But that just raises your rep.”
Andy-Frasco-and-the-UN-photo-by-Morgan-Demeter-Now, remember that he does this for ten months out of the year, every single year, for ten years and counting. One recent flier dubbed him “Mr. Human Cocaine” (which I admit is rough, but fair). Over time he has assembled a huge network of musicians and related personnel throughout the country, the best of which he hand picked for his now-permanent band, The U.N.

“Me and my eight piece band, we live in a van down by the river. Everybody’s from a different city. My goal was to get the alpha-males, the fucking rock star of each town, and then we all join a band.”

The approach seems to have paid off. Andy Frasco and the U.N. have a great understanding and appreciation for the live-show experience. They exude an outrageous energy and have earned a solid following because of it.

“We played with this hippie band The String Cheese Incident, and also Umphrey’s McGee. We’re in the jam scene, like four hour sets and stuff. That’s one thing about the jam scene, they really appreciate music and they’ll stick with you. If you give them energy, they will fucking stay.”

This flexibility—playing an epic, four-hour jam as naturally as a tight, forty-minute set—is uncommonly awesome, and it reflects Frasco’s varied experiences and continuing ambition. When I asked what’s next for the band, he laid out an elaborate, month-long European tour, to be followed immediately by three additional months of touring the U.S. (beginning at NYC’s Rockwood on May 11th and continuing through the end of July). I defy you to identify a harder working band than Andy Frasco and the U.N. They hail from all over the country and travel all over the world. Their music is a vehicle for their insane energy, and it bleeds through no matter what they play or where they play it. But through this rock & roll chaos, a consistent theme shines through: it’s all about the music.

How does he keep this going year after year after year?

“I mean, how badly do you want something?”

AUDIODRUGS ASMR AND NERVANA
March 11, 2016 9:00 am

Let me tell you a little bit about the exciting world of binaural audio and 3-D sound. Binaural recording is a production technique used to send slightly-different audio signals along stereo channels into your ears. It is designed to be used with headphones, and it can be really awesome. Not to be confused with stereo recording–designed for your home theater or car stereo or whatever–binaural recording makes heavy use of the way your brain processes the minute differences between what each of your ears hears.

Sound only travels so fast you know, so when a sound hits one ear before the other, we can tell. This is called sound localization and is essential for human survival, but it’s not the only neat thing we can do with our ears. Audio nerds began experimenting with this way back in the 1800s, and they’ve cooked up a number of funky tricks in the meantime.

Let’s start with the basics: binaural beats (or what the hippies call “audiodrugs”). Renowned biochemist and raging megahippie Gerald Oster popularized binaural beats within the scientific community back in 1973, linking the phenomenon with sound localization, the “cocktail-party effect” and the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The alternative-medicine community (more hippies) thought it was great and added it to their list of bullshit, and that’s where it sat for decades, slowly developing along with the technology required to refine it.

But this is 2016, and what used to be “hippie malarkey” is now serious af. Audio technology is so advanced nowadays that people are actually getting high on sound. Scientists in the Middle East are calling to ban binaural beats because of their hypnotic effect and potential for abuse. The beats have been proven to modulate dopamine levels in users’ brains, similar to marijuana and the like. This shit is for real, and we’re only getting better at it.

e308c17c445a85409e13bce467feb32dSomewhat less trippy but considerably more popular is ASMR, the YouTube phenomenon known for its incredibly quiet, spatially-localized whispering, tapping and roleplay, for the purposes of relaxation, meditation or sleep. ASMR is a physiological response to certain audio triggers usually felt on the scalp, neck and spine. Not everybody experiences it, but over a million people watch these videos every day. After a certain virtual haircut went viral in 2007, the internet started to take notice of 3D sound, and you know how things go from there. Consumer-grade technology is now capable of high-quality binaural audio (and by “technology” I mean a severed robot ears), and now every jabroni with a webcam is getting in on it. Whoop-dee-doo!

While most binaural audio can be experienced using regular, everyday headphones, a new company called Nervana has taken it a step further. Their headphones release a tiny electric charge designed to stimulate your vagus nerve (which just so happens to connect your ear canal with your brain and your heart and your stomach). It can even be synchronized to your existing music, so that as your headphone’s tiny speaker pushes sound into your eardrum, your parasympathetic nervous system is electrocuted in time with the audio signal. No, it doesn’t hurt, and yes, it’s completely safe. People are electrocuted all the time. (Ever rub your feet on a carpet or a balloon in your hair? Static electricity can kill–you’ve been warned.) And even if it’s bad for you, guess what: it feels really good and leaves you feeling good for awhile. They are set to be released this spring, but you can preorder them starting on March 15th.

Or you can just keep living your life, blind to the wonders of the modern world. Science will be there regardless, advancing humanity one fun thing at a time.

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.

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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U NEED GIFTZ? I GIVE U GIFTZ
December 17, 2015 4:20 am

So you haven’t finished your “holiday” shopping yet, so what? You don’t need to do everything all at once. You’re a busy person, and that’s okay. We understand, and we’ve got you covered. Some of these gift ideas are way legit, and some of these are eye-rollers, but all of them are good ideas, and when it comes down to it you’re gonna have to respect a good idea. That’s called being a grown-up.

First up we have this badass hoodie.

audioengineerhoodie

It’s a good wear for sure, sturdy and stylish, but it’s true badassery comes from its “acoustically transparent” speaker cloth paneled hood. That’s right–gone are those silent, chilly days, caught between the need for over-ear headphones and the urge for a comfortable neck, scalp and upper forehead. Perfect for audio engineers, professional joggers, or anyone else who wears headphones all day or maybe just some of the time. Maybe you just like music and hoodies and you need something to wear. I don’t know, I’m just saying. Let’s move on.

Aerodrums

Aerodrums-Verpackung

This is for all the drummers out there, or at least every lonely jabroni thinking s/he can hit the sticks into something emotionally bearable. Just keep trying, as they say–it’ll sound good eventually. Of course I’m talking about the quiet and portable alternative to a real drum set, also known as “aerodrums” (or “magic drumless drumsticks” for us laypeople). These little miracles are made of plastic, electronics, and some sort of wood-like substitute that, when banged together just so, produce a realistic and totally radical drumset out of literally nothing at all. Far out! This is exactly how I picture myself in my dreams: playing drums for God in heaven–sans drums, of course–like Tommy Fucking Lee (minus the lameness, disease and actual drums. He’s diseased, right? Maybe another drummer then, I don’t know. Naming famous drummers isn’t really my thing. Travis Barker? Carter Beauford? Ringo?! Insert drummer here.) NOW IF ONLY YOU COULD AFFORD IT!

Here’s something you can afford: fruit. That’s right, put an apple in your mother’s stocking. She’ll fucking love it. “Oh how thoughtful, what a stellar child I’ve begat. Way better than your sister…” Oh how right she is. Nailed it, thanks mom.

Hey here’s another real “budget” idea (in case you’re shopping for any of your “budget” friends). It’s called not giving a fuck. Step 1: buy blank t-shirts. Step 2: buy markers. (These links are just for reference–buy these literally anywhere.) Step 3: go ham on these t-shirts. Don’t even think too hard about it. Say to yourself “this shirt is for cousin Brett” and then draw a crude, amateur portrait of Brett. Depict him realistically, with his stupid face and clothes, beside his stupid car and girlfriend. He’ll laugh, don’t worry. It’s no big deal, Brett can take a little holiday joke. Classic Brett.

You know what, I have a better idea. Draw the whole family together, but like in an infomercial or something. Real random and/or obscure, like the whole family got together to sell ladders or soap or whatever. Think of it like crazy internet photoshop, except with markers and t-shirts. Make 15 copies. Distribute periodically throughout the year.

Alright that’s enough “budget” gifts. Some people really take offense to that sort of thing. I don’t know, people are weird. But oh boy is this next gift idea totally legit. Don’t even worry. I’ll be honest–all this other shit I didn’t actually buy or use or even google that thoroughly. But the pick punch? Yeah, this I actually have. You bet your booty!

guitar punch

My brother gave it to me a while ago, and oh boy was it worth it. “Turn your old gift cards into guitar picks!” he tells me between hearty spoonfuls of pumpkin pie. It’s true, this device can turn your ordinary plastic shit into guitar-pick-shaped plastic shit. “Stop giving me gift cards!” I say, pie already thoroughly swallowed and partially digested. “But you love Starbucks!” he continues, making a fool out of himself. What an idiot. “Go fuck yourself!” I respond, reflecting the values so deeply entrenched into our society. Aren’t the holidays’ magical? Thank Jebus for the pick punch.

Straight up though, let’s keep the “guitars are cool as hell” ball rolling here. What if you’re shopping for a raging guitarist, legend of excellence? What if they polish their axe with a diaper and baby oil? We’re not ones to judge, we do plenty of weird shit when no one’s looking. Full disclosure, I only play my guitar/love-of-my-life after a deep, hearty lotioning of my fingertips. It is what it is, okay? Those strings are literally gold. No judgement, thanks. All I’m saying is what if you care about your guitar more than your actual waking life? You have 911 for if you almost die, right? Well say hello to 911 for your guitar. (WARNING: NOT A REAL PHONE NUMBER.)

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That’s right, in case of emergency please buy this for your friends, family or guitar-tech nerds. They’re people too, okay? They put their pants on one overzealous, misguided leg at a time. Only difference is once they’re finished with that, they give their heart to an inanimate object. It makes sense when you do it, okay? Guitars are awesome. If you disagree, well you can just shut up.

But what if you don’t have a guitar, or you don’t like guitars, or you don’t even know what I’m talking about? What even is a guitar? What an important question, I thought you’d never ask. What even is music? Is it just an aural expression of life, like fine art is visually? Where does art stop and reality begin? Who am I, how did I get here, and where am I going? Never stop asking these questions.

And hey if you’re really out of ideas, just buy your friends booze and candy so they can look like this all the time. I mean, it worked for me.

JCwed