live review

VIRTUAL REALITY CADDIE NEVER SOUNDED SO GOOD
June 28, 2016 1:10 pm

Virtual Reality, the newest entertainment outlet, is going again to the U.S. Open this year. NextVR is helping bring the green grass and polo shirts to the homes of its viewers in a way that can only be appreciated by experiencing it yourself.

Virtual Reality is an amazing thing. For the years that VR has been available, I never was impressed with it, never appearing to be anything more than cool gimmick. Just like 3D TV’s or motion controls for games, I thought VR would come and go. But I was/am so wrong.

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I got the chance to try out the HTC Vive and it was absolutely incredible. Hight felt real as I stood up 20 feet above the ground and objects felt tangible as they would appear closer and further away. The world seemed real and the culmination of HD graphics, motion controls and 3D really made the experience one of a kind. If you haven’t tried out VR yet, you need to check it out as soon as possible. Go to a tech demo, a Best Buy if they have it, or find a friend who has it and get under the goggles for at least an hour, the level entertainment value is quite impressive. 

With three major options, HTC Vive, Playstation VR and Oculus Rift, each ranging from $400 to $800 (not including the game system or computer), the price for such a novelty can be steep to say the least. Although, this is the case for all new technology, the LCD TV I have now was originally $1,600 dollars 10 years ago and today I could buy something 12 inches larger with 4K resolution for $1,400. So yes, VR is expensive now, but good things come to those who wait.

The U.S. Open this year is not totally in VR, only a few holes for a couple of days were captured and broadcast this way. But just being there, closer to the player and seeing the environment they see while they play is a treat in it own.

As VR drops in price and has more content, it will become a household staple. It won’t replace TV or movies, but watching sports and video games will be amazing in years to come. Even though golf lovers and sports enthusiasts will get a kick out of VR Golf, it will take years before it hits any significant market or demographic.

Here is a bit from BBC last year about NextVR:

LAST NIGHT OF TOUR FOR WAXAHATCHEE AND KISSISSIPPI
June 23, 2016 12:21 pm

The Chameleon Club was the tour stop for Waxahatchee (the usual musical baby of Katie Crutchfield played with a full band), joined by Ali Crutchfield and Kississippi and I couldn’t think of a better bill for a warm June night.

Philly band Kississippi opened the show around 6:45 and if you’re like the couple next to me who missed the set to pregame, you made a big mistake. I’ve been a fan for a while but was never able to catch a set until last night. Dreamy, yet intricate and raw, Kississippi sets the bar high for Philadelphia DIY. Vocalist Zoe Allaire has the power to silence an entire room and building up drums and guitar will sweep you off your feet. The loving and well crafted sound makes it clear why Kississippi is one of the most talked about bands at the moment.

Allison Crutchfield played next (and then played next again, joining her sister in Waxahatchee). She played a set full of heartfelt longing backed by lo-fi electronic music. Crutchfield paints a picture of yearning without saying a word, the slow pulse of her synth does it for her. She is authentic, sincere and unapologetic, something I think resonates with an audience.

Lastly, Waxahatchee took to the stage playing mostly a set of songs from Ivy Tripp (an album that I feel so strongly about I’d staple it to my forehead if I could, maybe that’s a little too excessive but you get the idea, its a great album). Waxahatchee’s set definitely felt perfect for a June night, as her warm, delicate yet husky voice sang over defiant chords.  I watched her take control of the audience like a force to be reckoned with (I literally felt the burn as she scolded a group of obnoxious, drunk people who were talking loudly over her set with her eyes, rightfully so). I’m not sure if many people could deliver heartbreakingly poetic songs as well as Waxahatchee does, with music so simplistic and yet as if she were drawing your tears out of your eyes with her own hands.

Overall the night was a mix of beautiful voices, dreamy tones and heartbreaking words, if you missed it, I am so sorry for you.

AQUASONIC AND THEIR BEAUTIFULLY CREEPY MUSIC
June 8, 2016 12:17 pm

I’ll say it right now, this band is pretty amazing. I don’t care how weird or eerie their music sounds, they are super creative and deserve recognition. Also, I know that a lot of videos say “use headphones or loud speakers to feel the full effect.” Don’t ignore it this time, DO IT! Honestly you won’t get much out of this if you don’t, and it’s well worth it.

Between Music is the music company/group based in Denmark that produces this underwater concert called AquaSonic. The act itself has been in the works since 2006 with a huge number of people working on a band that plays entirely underwater. With custom instruments made (a lot of them), discovering new ways to sing underwater (inside an air bubble held in one’s mouth), ways to record the music underwater….the list goes on and I’m seriously impressed they can get it all functioning at once to be honest. Between Music has been researching for years how to create a magical way of playing music underwater. Check out their history section to see the enormous amount of work that has been put into their underwater concert.

Their debut concert was actually a little over a week ago, May 27th in Rotterdam, Holland. They caught the attention of various media groups like NowThis and the BBC. As of now, they don’t have any upcoming tour dates that I could find so if you want to see them, it might be a while unfortunately.

AquaSonic is actually the first of a four part series that Between Music is producing. The quadrology is called Human Evolution, and without question water is the first step of (hu)man’s life, an interesting concept to say the least and well represented by AquaSonic in my opinion.

If all else fails, any horror movie with an underwater theme could talk to AquaSonic for a hypnotic and haunting soundtrack. If Saw 8 ever happened, their only path to take would be a shattered submarine, with accompaniment. Love it or hate it, either way, you can’t deny the powerful waves of sound that come from AquaSonic, a truly impressive work of art.

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THE KILLS: WHEN DOING IT TO DEATH IS A GOOD THING
April 13, 2016 11:04 am

The Kills came out with their first new single in 4 years last month.

It’s about damn time.

And the good news is “Doing it to Death” is sick. The new album Ash & Ice is slotted for a June 3rd release, and if their single is anything to base it off, we should be in for a treat.

Furthermore, their live show is straight bitchin.

Alison Mosshart (who you may know through her work with Jack White & The Dead Weather) and Jamie Hince have been working together since 2001 and it shows. They share an onstage chemistry that is truly infectious. These two clearly enjoy not just performing, but performing together. While Mosshart puts on a clinic of “How to Behave as a Lead Singer When Not Singing,” Hince plays the part of “the Rest of the Band.” Yes, The Kills do perform with a backing bassist and drummer, but the songs are still built around Hince’s ability to blend tones and textures into exciting songs. Mosshart brought a fiendish energy to the room with her vocals, and the two stomped all over the stage of Exit/In in Nashville.

Possibly the most refreshing aspect of the show was that it dispelled a slight worry about the new album. It’s evident that The Kills have moved a little out of the punk world and more into the indie one throughout their career. This is not an inherently bad thing, and frequently a band’s best work can occur at some point along this sliding scale, rather than at one end of it (see: Blood Sugar Sex Magik). But “Doing It To Death” could give some Kills fans pause. Simply put, it’s catchier than some of their older stuff. Emphasis on some. The Kills are no stranger to electronics – they started their career accompanied only by a drum machine. While some of the synth work may be a bit more forward in the mix, the effect is no different from that of the guitars on “Future Starts Slow,” the most successful song off their last record, Blood Pressures. And if you don’t think The Kills make catchy danceable songs, then you haven’t listened to “Getting Down” off 2008’s Midnight Bloom. Put it on now and thank me later.

The point here is not “The Kills make great catchy danceable tunes so why are you worried about them just doing that?” The point is that The Kills have always made great catchy danceable tunes in addition to the bluesy punky guitar and vocal centric tunes that they do SO well. They have no plans to let go of this side of their music, which they showed by performing songs like “Kissy Kissy” off their first album, 2003’s Keep On Your Mean Side. As much of their set was dedicated to getting the crowd moving, probably more was dedicated to getting the crowd feeling.

The Kills have been writing and performing together for 15 years. They are not getting worse at either of those things. They may continue to embrace a more centric style and production, but better that than forcing an aesthetic that is played out. The Kills continue to grow and evolve as a rock band, and we should all be excited for their next step.

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TAKE A TRIP WITH JACK GARRATT’S PHASE
March 10, 2016 2:48 pm

Singer. Songwriter. Guitarist. Pianist. Percussionist. Producer. Performer. How many threats is that? You could try to break the UK’s Jack Garratt down into his constituent parts, or you could describe him like Aussie R&B singer Jarryd James did last fall – “He’s a freak.” Don’t you worry about it though, Jack. Jarryd meant it in the best possible way.

But this is all stuff we already knew. We talked to Jack Garratt after his show in Nashville back in August, so we already had high expectations for his new album Phase.

He did not disappoint.

Phase is a 19 song double-debut record. Six or seven of these had been released previously, either on old EP’s or as singles. While a 10 song record with six or seven “old” songs on it might seem a bit frustrating, a 19 song record still brings plenty of new material to the table. And if you haven’t been wearing out everything you’ve been able to get your ears on for the past nine months like I have, then this is probably not an issue at all. If you’ve never heard Jack Garratt before, then rejoice. You get to listen to “Weathered” for the first time. I’m Jealous.

I’d love to take you through every song, but I figure you have shit to do so I’ll try to get to the important points. I won’t talk about Garratt’s stellar vocal performance throughout the record. and how he utilizes his crazy range bringing emotion and grit. I won’t talk about his guitar playing, or his broad use of synth sounds. I won’t talk about this groovy thing he does throughout the record where he layers half-time feel and double-time feel over one another, switching between the two at will. I won’t talk about how crazy stupid awesome his new video “Chemical” is.

Instead I’m going to talk about the two things that really set this record apart. The first thing is micro: something present in all his songs. Jack Garratt is a superb arranger. His songs are paced immaculately. One of the biggest challenges with really any music, but especially electronic music, is getting a song to go somewhere. To not sound the same way the whole time. Jack Garratt’s songs are little journeys. His combination of different electronic sounds and styles gives him a broader scope than a lot of other artists. Elements of Hip Hop, R&B, Drum & Bass, Blues, Gospel, EDM, and dubstep give Garratt plenty of tools in his kit. His trick is that he’s constantly using all of them, pulling little things from each to combine into his own unique sound. Where another artist may come into the second verse with a little more going on, Garratt comes in with a totally different feel, and totally different synths, or guitar instead of piano. Combine this with Garratt’s ability to sing his absolute ass off, and his songs turn into those said journeys. You’re not sure where they’re going to go next, but you’re excited because you know they can go anywhere.

The second thing that stands Phase apart is macro: apparent when looking at it as a whole. Phase really is an album. While 18 Months by Calvin Harris is one of the best collections of pop songs ever created (I challenge anyone to debate that), that’s exactly what it is – a collection of songs. Phase is cohesive. Phase listens like a Jack Garratt song does. There’s change and excitement. It’s dynamic. But it’s also thematic. Love and loneliness. Worry. Hope. In a world of electronic music dominated by collaborations and remixes, Garratt brings something that is truly original, and quite personal. He took a huge amount of music, probably written over years, and blended it into a whole. There is a defined sound to the album, but the songs still stand apart from one another, and fill different roles. And coming out of it, I feel like I know something about Garratt.

Something other than the fact that he likes to make music that gets your booty movin’.

MILAN TO MINSK TO MERCURY LOUNGE: EP RELEASE
February 26, 2016 10:15 am

Brooklyn based indie art-pop act Milan to Minsk were out this past Tuesday night to release their debut self-titled
EP at Mercury Lounge. The show brought life and color to an otherwise grey and rainy New York City day. Opening the night was Gobbinjr and a particularly energetic set by atmospheric indie rock band Isadora.

DPP_017Milan to Minsk are a special case of Brooklyn indie rock – a rare combination of classically trained and jazz musicians who initially met within the musical community of Tel Aviv, Israel. The bond is clear in the tightness of their unique sound. A sound which has a definite 90’s influence, with the sophistication of Coltrane, the obscurity of Bowie, and a possibly unhealthy obsession with Sting. The musicality of Milan to Minsk’s rhythm/horn section, coupled with the intellectual yet humorous songwriting of lead singer Daniel Rote is absolutely a show worth seeing.

While the band lacks the visibility that some of the Brooklyn indie scene has garnished, their style remains true to the DIY, community oriented ethos that defines the bushwick neighborhood music scene. It’s a humble approach to an at times vanity filled, ego driven scene which seems to forget about the music.

If true creativity, musicality and originality is something that you have been missing in your musical consumption as of late, then the Beasts highly suggest you take a listen to the brand new Milan to Minsk EP and make sure to check them out at an upcoming show. You can find the dates here.

A NIGHT OH WONDER AT THE BOWERY BALLROOM
February 1, 2016 12:05 am

The Beasts were out last Friday night to witness the brilliance of our indie friends from across the pond; Oh Wonder, the highly acclaimed and widely talked about indie synth-pop act out of London. Opening the night was Pop Etc., a well respected pop indie outfit themselves, having toured with the likes of Broken Bells, Grizzly Bear, The Kooks and more.

Pop Etc. drew a “sophisticated” crowd of college types and future grad school students, yet their set expressed a sound rooted in punk anthems that have been deconstructed and reassembled as synth based pop songs. The show marked the debut and release date of their new album Souvenir. A high point in the set was a perfectly tempered version of the Tears For Fears classic “Mad World.”

By the time Oh Wonder took the stage, the ballroom was filled to capacity with a slightly older and more culturally hip crowd. Despite the tightly packed conditions, Oh Wonder’s music brought a lightness and fluidity to the crowd. The first song set the tone for a heartfelt night, fueled by the distinct energy that only New York City nightlife can provide. The songs touched upon the delicate emotions of love and navigating this world as a young adult.

Oh Wonder, fronted by Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht, created an impressive buzz in the music world over the past year by releasing one single every month beginning September of 2015. These releases eventually accumulated into their debut self-titled album, which they have since performed on tour internationally. The unorthodox independent release granted them the recognition of millions of listeners on Soundcloud and a contract with major label subsidiary Caroline Records. Even the grand master of pop music himself, Rick Rubin, proclaimed to be a devoted fan.

Despite the highly polished electric sound of the album, Oh Wonder’s live set translates really well acoustically and shows no doubt of true musicianship and aesthetic genius. Each song has been written, recorded and engineered by Anthony and Josephine themselves out of their London-based studio.

Their trans-continental tour picks back up in Europe, starting off in Paris on February 26th, along with plenty of North American shows beginning in May at Sasquatch! Music Festival. If you get a chance to see them live, don’t miss out on this rising act of genuine pop music, that is so full of wonder.

 

CHALAXY AND FRIENDS BLAST OFF AT BASEMENT EAST
January 15, 2016 9:16 pm

Chalaxy just came out with a new album, and to celebrate, they threw together a stellar night of local music. The electronic-psychedelic-dance-rock band were joined at Nashville’s Basement East by three acts: Dead Cures, Lauren Strange and The Pretty Killers, and Justin Kalk. The evening rounded out into a great blend of sights and sounds, so let’s dig in.

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Kicking the show of was Dead Cures. The brand-new alt-pop trio released their first single “Say Everything Now” on October 2nd, and they have yet to release a second… but you can get away with that when your single is freaking AWESOME. Thankfully, their performance lived up to my high expectations. Strokesian guitar riffs from Michael Kisak and slick drum fills from Evan Buchanan supported Sharon Koltick as she grooved on bass and sang with both sweetness and intensity (not the easiest combo to pull off). The group showed a nice chemistry on stage, especially considering their relative novelty, and the smiles on their faces were contagious. I look forward to future bad-assery from them.

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Up next was another trio, Lauren Strange and The Pretty Killers. Grand-Prize Winner of the John Lennon International Songwriting Contest, Lauren Strange pours herself into a noble, dying art – 90’s grunge pop-rock. Her single Say Yescertainly brings Alanis Morissette to mind (and if you think that’s a bad thing you should probably listen to You Oughta Know right now). Strange is powerful on stage, both vocally and on guitar. She’s backed up on bass by icy-cool Lauren Sauer (pronounced “sour.” Yes, those are their real names. Yes, that is awesome) and the animated Adam Reszenski on drums. If you’ve been stuck listening to early Veruca Salt, keep an eye out for her debut album, which should be coming soon.

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Then came the main event – Chalaxy. As the Pretty Killers cleared the stage a flurry of activity spurred onto it. Colorful set pieces were thrown about as Chalaxy jammed The Basement East’s large stage with enough stuff to make their 5 piece band look like 7 people. The house lights dimmed and the projectors came on, throwing acidy swirls of neon around the room. The band hit the stage and started pumping pure energy into the room. Guitars were shredded. Drums were pounded. Hair. Was. Flipped. Chalaxy’s blend of genres combines some of the most potent musical elements from the past four or five decades. Tastes of psychedelic, prog, metal, Latin, dance, house, electronic, and good ol’ rock n’ roll are tied together by the band’s technical skill and strong songwriting. Their sound is huge, and they manage to work in a surprising amount of variance while never losing what makes them unique. Front-man Taylor Cole slithered around the stage with a blacked gaze, engaging the crowd and his band mates. He’s a dynamic performer who really shows that he belongs on stage. While it would be nigh-impossible to capture their live energy on a record, Pronia comes pretty close. Parts like the jungle-drum breakdown on “HeadHunters” don’t hit with the same force that they do live, but the record absolutely showcases the band’s breadth and talent.

Closing out the night was electric blues shredder Justin Kalk. Supported by a couple heavy hitters – Steo Britton on bass and Jeremy Williams on drums – Kalk proved that blues guitar rock is not dead. His massive amp stack blasted adroit guitar licks right to the back of the room as he stomped, twisted, and thrashed about the stage. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, those that want see someone seriously rip on a guitar are in for a treat.

FOALS BRING THE “LONDON THUNDER” TO PHILLY
December 21, 2015 8:48 am

“Hello Philadelphia, it’s been a while,” Foals’ frontman shouted out to the crowd who was in attendance at the Union Transfer December 19th. “Are you ready to fucking rock?”

And the crowd certainly was.

The last time Foals played a show in the City of Brotherly Love was in 2011 at the TLA and before that, in 2008 at Johnny Brenda’s. It’s baffling to picture the Oxford playing a show at a small bar after the show I watched them play last night.

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Photo by Kenzie Gasper

Philadelphia was their last U.S. date so I knew the show was going to be insane, and after seeing them two years ago in New York City (and waiting all night to meet them — I was a teenager, ok?) I tried to prepare myself for what I was about to ensue, but there was no preparing.

Foals took the stage at about 9 P.M. and opened with “Snake Oil” off their new album What Went Down (an album I’d definitely consider as one of the best of this year) and immediately got the crowd energized. Even some of the security guards were bobbing their heads to this serious jam. Yannis Philippakis, Foal’s frontman had already begun doing his signature moves — which aren’t really moves, just him running back and forth, jumping, and spinning like a madman. To each his own.

If Foals decided to leave the venue, I’m almost certain everyone would be fine with it, as the first song was a show in itself. But they didn’t, they continued with “Olympic Airways” and added in “Balloons,” older songs from Antidotes, their first album. It was at this point I began to feel like a teenager again, wanting to scream at the top of my lungs due to the sheer force this band brought. Thankfully, there were two drunk girls next to me who did enough screaming for all of us!

Halfway through, the band slowed it down with “Spanish Sahara,” which is a long song, but a very beautiful one. As Philippakis shouted “I’m the fury in your head, I’m the fury in your bed, I’m the ghost in the back of your head” into the microphone, I looked around and saw mostly everyone in the crowd, myself included, singing along.

The band ended their set with “Inhaler,” one of their most popular songs, and looking out into the crowd I saw everyone on their feet screaming back at Philippakis. After the band left the stage the entire Union Transfer began chanting so loud that it sounded like I was at a futbol game.

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Photo by Kenzie Gasper

The band came back to play “Mountain At My Gates” and “What Went Down,” and I knew what song was coming next. As a huge Foals fan I almost feel it’s a religious experience to see “Two Steps, Twice” at least once in your life and thats exactly what happened.

The rest of the band started playing as Philippakis was notably absent from the stage, but suddenly a spotlight hit the balcony and there he was. If you aren’t a Foals fan you’d probably be really confused at what he was doing, and if you probably wouldn’t want to be standing underneath him.

In the blink of an eye he jumped from off the balcony and fans caught him. He then crowd surfed back to stage to finish the set.  Foals won NME’s best live band award and it’s obvious why. This band truly puts their heart, blood, and a lot of sweat on to every stage they play. I wouldn’t be surprised if Foals became the biggest band in the world.

The band is hitting up Australia next, and doing a run around Europe, so if you want to catch them, you’ll have to wait a little, but until then check out their new album if you haven’t had the chance!

Frank Turner
December 16, 2015 10:34 am

He used to scream when he sang. He still does sometimes, but only on the side.

For the past ten years he’s been singer-songwritering. But just because there’s a melody, it doesn’t mean Frank Turner doesn’t want you yelling along. Quite the opposite. His new album Positive Songs for Negative People shows Turner’s hardcore roots creeping back out from underneath his folk growth.

He keeps a mental tally of every show he’s played since he started his solo career.

Turner came through Nashville last week. He played to a sold out crowd at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville, Tennessee. I got to talk to him before he took the stage and notched one more tally in his mental bedpost.

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So which number show with this be tonight?

Tonight is show number 1,800 on the nose. I have an in-store this afternoon at Grimey’s Records and that’ll be 1’799.

How’d you get your start playing music?

Rock n’ roll wasn’t really a part of my life growing up because my parents didn’t believe in it. Then I just sort of stumbled across it when I was about ten. And just straight away wanted to be involved…which I think is kind of a personality thing to a degree as well. It felt like something that I wanted to try my hand at. And my parents got me one of those 60 buck Strat-copy starter packs, comes with a little amp, from like a department store for Christmas. My next door neighbor got a drum kit and we played together. And that was twenty-fuckin-three years ago… Jesus Christ. Long time ago.

What is your goal with the music you make? What are you trying to accomplish with your songs?

Well you can answer that question on a lot of different levels – which is, I suppose, why you ask it. Well, you know, I’m trying to make a living. That’s the most mundane level. But I’m mean I’m trying to create art that I think is worthwhile. And I’m trying to express myself. And most of what I do falls somewhere between those two poles.

I saw a quote from you that pointed to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska as an inspiration in your shift from hardcore music to what you do now.

Yeah, it’s funny that piece of information has… it’s not that you’re wrong, it’s just that [that bit of info] has slightly assumed a life of its own. Basically there was a period in my life, because I grew up listening to metal and punk and hardcore, where I didn’t have anyone guiding me through the history of popular music. So I knew everything there was to know about Agnostic Front before I’d ever heard a Bob Dylan record. Nebraska was a moment for me, but it was really a whole series of records. The American Recording Series by Johnny Cash was probably more important. It was that idea of being able to create meaningful and, I suppose, heavy and intense art, that didn’t involve taking your shirt off and screaming.

Yeah I figured it couldn’t have been as simple as just Bruce.

Yeah, the other thing that is worth mentioning is that Springsteen is obviously very famous in the UK, but he’s not quite as culturally ubiquitous [as in the US]. So as far as I knew growing up, Springsteen was Born in the U.S.Aand that was it. That’s all I knew. And I’m still not an enormous fan of that song. And particularly if you’re listening to Minor Threat. That song did my fuckin head in. So a big part of the Nebraska thing was just finding out that he had that kind of depth as an artist. It was news to me.

So your music sits somewhere on the spectrum between the folk-acoustic world you’ve entered into and the hardcore-punk world you came from. And over these past ten years, you’ve been everywhere on that spectrum, back-and-forth. Do you ever find there is a tension between a direction you want to go, and another one you feel like you should go?

I don’t really do “shoulds” for reasons other than my own desire, really. It’s funny, because I think you’re right with the punk and folk thing. Folk-punk gets thrown at me quite a lot. Which is fine, I think it’s a reasonably accurate description. And that’s all good. But the there’s a big part of me, the older I get, the more I want to use the words rock ‘n roll to describe what I do. Simply because stylistically and structurally it’s guitar, bass, drums, and piano. It’s three and a half minute long songs. And it’s not enormously different from Sun Studios and Elvis Presley. There’s an expansiveness to what you can do as a Rock n’ Roller that I think is really cool.

I’d say your new record is maybe the easiest to categorize as just Rock n’ Roll.

It’s definitely the rock end of my spectrum.

So let’s talk about the new record. It’s a little over ten years now you’ve been doing the solo thing…

Yeah… [Nervously groans]… [Laughs]

And it appears to me that you’ve had a pretty steady climb. Which these days is almost unusual. These days a lot of people explode over-night. It seems with you, each year I hear about you just little bit more.

Certainly it’s been a bit unusual on that level. I feel very fortunate that I’m not one of those bands that gets one song and then just goes *bleh.*  A few bands have that happen to them and then they have more to say and more to give and the rest of it. But that’s pretty often the death knell of a band. And certainly we have a world where the music industry is very much predicated on immediate success. And I haven’t had that. I don’t really fit into a lot of people’s boxes. Which occasionally can work against me. Even now some of the labels… some of them don’t quite know what to do with me. But taking the long view on it, I think it works in my favor. I just don’t really fit into that many neat categories, which is a good thing I think.

There’s an unfortunate tendency with bands where the further they get from their roots, the less connected and emotional their music becomes. That is something I do not think at all about your new record. If anything I think the emotional feel and intensity is there more than ever.

Thank you.

How do you personally try to maintain that integrity or feeling throughout your career?

Well there’s so many things to say. Certainly when we were making the previous record, Tape Deck Heart, I definitely had that feeling that a lot of bands stop meaning what they say, or become more sweeping in their tone, in a way that is slightly obnoxious. Tape Deck Heart was an attempt to do the exact opposite of that, and to try and write the most experientially personal record that I could at that time. It seemed kind of perverse and interesting to me. To, at the moment when I should probably start writing concept albums about the feature, to actually write the most gut-stabbingly personal thing I could. But, there’s a real tension with me. It’s funny you mentioned the word roots, because I’ve been thinking about this a lot with the new record. On the one hand I feel extremely strongly and adamant that it is the duty of an artist to change. The idea that an artist should be linked somehow constantly forever-anchored to what it was when they first started out is bullshit. I don’t want to make the art I would have made when I was twenty three for the rest of my life, that’s ridiculous. And plus I’ve already made it! I was making art then and it exists. That’s the other thing I want to say to people. There are occasions where people will say to me, sort of accusatorily “well I prefer your earlier records.”  If I’m making a record that some people aren’t enjoying, that’s a bummer on some level. But it’s not like I’ve gone round to people’s houses and removed various records from their collection. [in a stern voice] “You can no longer listen to this one!”

That’s especially true coming from the punk and hardcore world where people can really take offense to change.

Yeah, it’s funny, because this new record is in some ways more “rootsy” for me, in that it’s more punk than anything I’ve really done in my solo career. But that’s not how my solo career started, it was me trying to get away from that, in a way. The thing is though, I’m totally fine having all these conversations. I think they’re good and well and interesting. But when I’m creating, when I’m writing, I think it’s really important not to have these conversations. I think one of the reasons a lot of bands disappear up their own ass, or lose their spark, is because they get used to being judged in the court of music criticism, and they become music critics before they’re musicians. And if you’re sitting there trying to figure out what Rolling Stone is going say about your songs before you’ve even fucking written them, or let alone recorded them, then of course you’re going to make bad art. So when it’s time for me to create, I think it’s really important to not think about any of that shit. It’s good not to think about how what I do relates to my roots or not.

You have a quote about working with Butch Walker, who produced your new album, saying you wish you had found him ten years ago. What is it that separates him from other producers you’ve worked with?

[Laughs] Well the first thing is that is a statement I slightly regret making. As I realized after making it, there’s a slightly implied dis to some of the other producers I’ve worked with, which was not my intention at all. I also think that counter-factuality about your own life is really boring. You know, “What would have happened if I’d done this album with guy.” Just fucking get on with your life, you know?

Having said all that, the thing is Butch is just an immensely talented producer. Also, I think that he and I have a lot in common as songwriters, and as performers, as well just a producer-artist kind of thing. With Positive Songs I had this idea about how I wanted to make the record, and I just couldn’t find anyone that I felt really grasped what I was saying on a level that would make it work. Of course when you have a conversation with a producer who the label is putting up, they’re going to tell you that they understand exactly what you mean and exactly what you’re driving at. But with all of them I was like “No you fucking don’t, shut up.” Whereas with Butch the minute we started talking about it, it was just like “Yeah?” “Yeah!” You know one of those conversations where you agree on everything for a long period of time. I really feel like he understands what I’m trying to do. In part, because it’s not a million miles away from what he’s trying to do.

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Listening to the record, it gets to “Silent Key,” and all of a sudden it’s this stunning female vocal. It’s placement on the record is a sort of shock of fresh air through the headphones. Can you tell me a little bit more about it?

Well firstly I will join you in the celebrating the joy that is Esme Patterson, who sang that vocal part. She’s incredible. I knew I wanted to have a guest vocal part, I knew I wanted it to be a woman. I also wanted it to be an American, because she’s playing Christa McAuliffe, so it seemed respectful to try to get someone from the same country. So we kind of ran through a list of people, and the label was trying to get me to get someone with a “name” on the record. Which… I don’t want to be overly punk about this—that would be cool on some levels. But it didn’t come together.

So, Esme is signed with Extra Mile Recordings, the label that I work with in the UK. We’d done some shows together. At this point, we’d actually finished recording the record, we’d done everything apart from that vocal part. And it was starting to become a bit of an issue, logistically speaking. And I did a couple of shows with her in January and the minute she started singing it was like “Duh! This is the person who is supposed to do this. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before.” It was fantastic. I taught her the part, took her down to the studio and she cut it in two takes.

It really is great. She has a blending voice with yours, but it’s also totally different.  And it’s so clear…

Exactly! It sounds like a fucking chiming bell! I love it. It just cuts through. And it’s effortless. The way she kind of slides into that first note… just uhh [fawns].

So I’d like to talk about your unreleased/B-sides recordings, The First Three Years, The Second Three Years, and those things. Why do you end up with so many unused recordings? And why then release them?

I dunno, I think most bands have a lot of material hanging around, and they choose to stockpile it, or not release it or whatever. It’s not that I have low-standards, per-say. I was recording yesterday, here in Nashville, just doing B-sides. I want my recordings to have a degree of verity to them. I’m not the best singer in the world, I’m not the best guitar player. We could do 400 takes and keep going until I get it absolutely 100% perfect, and there have been occasions when I’ve done that on records. But there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to do that. That doesn’t sound like me. It’s dishonest to a degree, you know? I’d like to think that as a performer and as a musician I have dirt under my fingernails. I guess what I’m getting at is I don’t mind knocking out a version and putting it out there, that’s cool with me.

So will you actually go into the studio to record B-Side tracks?

Sometimes, yeah. But sometimes it’s just the stuff hanging around. Another thing to mention is, I remember reading something years ago in an interview with Evan Dando, who is somebody I’m a huge fan of. He pointed out the word singer-songwriter (if that is the label that I have to bear in life, which apparently it is. It’s fine, it just makes me think of Jack Johnson, which makes me want to cut my own head off. But then again Neil Young is a singer-songwriter, and he’s punk as fuck. Anyway…). Singer-songwriter is a combination of two words. You can be a singer, you don’t necessarily have to write the songs.  I think interpretation is a really undervalued art. I spend a lot of time playing other people’s songs; that’s how I learned to play music, that’s how I learned to write songs. All the time I’m learning other bits and bobs. I mean yesterday I knocked down an Elvis cover and there’s a British Musical act called Flanders and Swann from the 40’s and 50’s. I knocked out a cover of theirs as well.

Which Elvis tune did you do?

Don’t Be Cruel.” But I’ve got a kind of weird plan for that one, so I’m not going to talk about it yet, because it’s controversial. The actual Three Years records that we had… the first one we did was because when you’re starting out you end up with a bunch of weird songs on weird compilations, and EPs and B-Sides or splits or whatever. And I thought, once all those original pressings are sold out, rather than Extra Mile or whoever having to constantly re-press all that stuff, let’s make it easier for people to get ahold of stuff. And then it just snowballed. Having said that, we just did The First Ten Years as a vinyl box set, which was a really fantastic thing to do, and hold as a physical product. At the same time, I’m not that interested in repetition, and there’s a part of me that thinks this might be an opportunity to get off that train. [Laughs]. I don’t know, maybe not. We’ll see.

So there’s a lot of bands that lean towards either being studio band or a live show band. You have this huge discography for just ten years, but on the other hand, you’ve won things like the AIM Best Live Act Award. It really seems like you are actively and excitedly living in both worlds.

I would say I pursue the live side of it with considerably more excitement. The studio is not my favorite place in the world. For a lot reasons. Part of me feels that there’s something slightly artificial about recording. Without being too melodramatic, it’s like pinning butterflies down in a photograph album. Songs continue to grow and live. Take a song like “Photosynthesis” off the second record we did. We’ve played that song every fucking day since we put the record out, and the way we play it now… I mean the structure of the song is the same, but the nuance and feel and the arrangement has mutated to the point where occasionally I’ll catch a brief snippet of the original recording and I kind of go “Fuck me, is that how people hear that song?”  The thing about playing live, and this is the thing that makes touring such an appealing way of life, is that every night is a chance to do it again. You get another go at playing the song the way it’s supposed to be. Whereas that recording that I made in 2007 or whatever it was… It’s still fucking there. [Laughs] On CD’s and iTunes accounts around the world. That constant ability to reinvent is really important to me.

I found another quote from you from the midst of your first big arena tour. You said “Life should never be lived in your comfort zone.” How are you pushing yourself out of your comfort zone now? How do you plan on doing that in days to come?

Well I stand by that comment strongly, but at the same time there’s a part of me that is very proud of the idea of continuing to do what I do, and the way that I do it, for a long time. And the more I do it, there are people who started touring with me who have gone off and done other stuff. And there’s part of me that wants to be the lifer, and go “Fuck you short timers! I wasn’t kidding!” I want to still be playing Nottingham Rock City when I’m in my 60’s. This is my world, it’s my craft, it’s the thing I know how to do. It’s the universe I want to exist in. I’ve spent a majority of my life on tour buses and in dressing rooms and I’m fine with that. That’s ok. Creatively though I’m in the middle of deciding quite how extreme I’m going to be as far as going outside of my comfort zone on the next thing I do. Because there’s part of me that wants to completely ditch everything now and do something completely different. It should be noted that this will be after this album’s cycle of touring is done, which is still a year and a half away. But there’s a part of me that wants to fuck everything off and make a soul album or a bluegrass record or something. I don’t want to repeat myself. I don’t want people to go “Oh yeah, I know what that Frank Turner guy sounds like. I don’t need to get his next record.” I want to do something weird. We’ll see, I might retract all of this.

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Photo by Atticus Swartwood

One thing that can unequivocally be said – Frank Turner has a comfort zone, and it is on stage. He took the stage with a confidence and comfortability that can only be earned over ten years and 1,799 performances. It was a full fifteen minutes of music before he stopped to say a word, and when he did he only added to the energy in the room. One would not be remiss in comparing him to a certain Boss (perhaps that’s why that quote is so popular…).

It is also clear that Turner benefited from his time in the hardcore scene. The stage presence of his band was fueled by the energy they all brought to the stage. On top of Turner’s songs having inlaid energy, the band brought even more to the performances.

But perhaps the clearest indicator of Frank Turner’s skill as a musician and performer is the audience. 3rd and Lindsley could not have held more people. And they were not just young rockers looking to get fired up. They were there, but those people’s parents were also there, dancing their asses off. And their kids. Not a song was played where there wasn’t at least one person singing along to every word. Many of the songs had huge groups of the crowd throwing fists in the air and belting. There is something in his music that just makes you want to do that.

Based on the size of the room and the statistics that exist in my head, there must have been someone jumping up and down on artificial hips.

But there was also a girl in the front row. I could see her from the balcony. She couldn’t have been older than 10 or 11. When Frank Turner walked on stage her eyes lit up like a Disney character. She clapped and cheered. She belted out choruses. She giggled when he said fuck. The look of happiness and wonder on her face was totally complete, and did not fade. Rather, it grew with each song. That girl had a better time than I think I’ve ever had doing anything.

If there is any truer measure of success in music than bringing people such pure delight, I don’t know what it could be.