New Orleans

EX REYES: GREAT TIMING
October 3, 2016 10:24 am

You’re probably familiar with Ex Reyes and don’t even realize it. Known to friends as Mikey Hart, the accomplished musician has worked with artists including Mitchell Yoshida of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Albert Hammond Jr., and has just began a tour with How To Dress Well where he will be producing 18 shows of the tour as well as performing with his own band. Jeez, Mikey. You’re making the rest of us look bad.

ATYPICAL SOUNDS caught Mikey just before he left on tour and had a nice chat about his debut album as Ex Reyes, Mardi Gras, and the practice of “Mitchelling”.

You’re getting ready to put out your first solo release. Was there anything you learned during its production?
I think my favorite records are just a reflection of a moment, like a photograph, so I tend to kind of fall in love with recordings all along the way. Some of the songs on the upcoming EP have parts that were recorded like 5 years ago, forgotten, and then rediscovered.

So producing, playing, writing music, is just a constantly moving process and I like just being along for the ride and trying to be available whenever something inspiring happens, cause you definitely can’t force that…you can count on it happening, but you have to catch it. I’ve been producing music with and for friends’ projects before this so from like, a technical perspective, I know how to operate the machinery.

You also collaborated on a number of songs with Mitchell Yoshida of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. What would you say he brought to those songs and the overall creative process?
Mitchell is an incredible musician and a wildly creative person—when he lived in NYC and was playing around on the scene, we’d use a term called “Mitchelling” which was basically accepting that he’s going to come in and completely improvise over the music, no fixed parts, but it’s gonna be amazing.

We started some of this music years ago with some other friends, with the idea to form a band. But everyone was too good at what they do and got busy so it turned from a band to like, recording session collaborations when we could get that to happen. Usually, Mitchell would roll through and I’d open up a session and we’d just identify one thing to work on and carve out, and then set to it…so like, I spent a while with Mitchell playing with sounds and tracks and ideas before I ever really figured out how I wanted to sing over it or write over it.

How much input did you have in the creation of your video for “Bad Timing”?
Haha, damn—I pretty much did that from top to bottom, with the help of friends in Nola who are super sick at what they do. I treat Mardi Gras as my one like “holy holiday” that I ask off for, but last year I waited too long to get the tickets so I had to stay for a pretty long time on either side of Mardi Gras day to not spend a fortune.

So I was like, I really want to make a video with that extra time. The initial idea was to go out to a place called the Almonaster dump, which is a massive dump area in New Orleans East that we used to pass going to our grandma’s house, and just blow up a trashed car to kind of exhibit like, you can still do something crazy like that in New Orleans. And then I wanted to mix that idea with an impression of detachment, which is where the parade stuff came in. Like what if you present Mardi Gras festivities as sort of an inevitable background to whatever foreground experience is much bigger? I was thinking of a way to kind of express my bewilderment or exasperation with social inequality, inevitable racism, sexism, homophobia…I can’t tell if the past couple years have been particularly insane, or if me/society is just becoming more aware of the insanity in marginalized communities, the under-publicized social strata.

But anyway, I drove around for a couple of weeks trying to find a car to blow up and the marching band you see in the video is the incredible Edna Karr Marching Band. My friend Akasha Rabut, a brilliant photographer from New Orleans, has been doing a photo project with Edna Karr so they were kind enough to invite us to shoot at their school and on their buses as they prepared for the NOMTOC parade (which is the one you see in the video).

Is your upcoming tour with How To Dress Well your most extensive tour yet?
Without a doubt. It’s also particularly nuts for me cause I’m leading my band and I’m also leading How to Dress Well. So there’s just a massive to do list and I try and chip away at the old ice sculpture a little bit every day until I get a beautiful, life size, frozen sculpture of a successful tour!

Real talk, I’m super excited. Ex Reyes has only played small shows in New York in kind of DIY spaces so it will be an insane and lovely experience to play these rooms and play for Tom’s incredible audience.

Is this arrangement allowing you to do anything you’ve wanted to do, but haven’t had the resources to do until this point?
Maybe this is the same answer as above…I think the main thing is it’s allowing Ex Reyes to get in front of people in all these cities and show them what we’re about, which is such a fucking cool opportunity for a new band.

Also everyone in Ex Reyes live band is like next level talented so I can’t wait to take that level of musicianship to these stages and show off how awesome the band is!

What have you learned from performing with more established musicians like Albert Hammond Jr. and The Cranberries?
There’s literally so much I’ve learned from them, and more yet to learn. I always joke with Albert that he taught me to rock again cause I spent so many years kind of playing background music or indie rock, you get into this performance style of like “oh, sorry we’re here playing live music”. Maybe part of me still feels that way, but Albert showed me the value of a good fucking guitar stance and how to own a guitar solo like it’ll never go out of style.

Playing with bands, I feel like musicians playing instruments may go in and out of style or feasibility based on demand, but it will always communicate to people in a space when there’s risk involved. Like, you’re up there performing because there’s a risk that it could all go to complete shit and you’re supposed to be good at keeping it from going to shit. I learn something from the people I’m on tour with whatever size, really. Cause you become sort of a momentary family unit, and it doesn’t take long before you’re really just willing to talk about whatever.

Your Facebook page lists your location as “New York City/New Orleans/there too”. Have you lived many places?
It’s more like, I’ve spent long stretches of time not really living in a place. I’ve been touring for so many years now, I never really get used to staying put. Kinda makes me nervous after 2-3 days of being back. Before touring I was traveling around playing music on the street. But my stuff and my psyche always orbit around New Orleans or New York. I’ve only really taken up residence in those two places, and Accra, Ghana.

New York has so many great venues. Do you have a favorite?
I think my favorite venue will always be Zebulon, RIP, because of the fearless booking and laid back vibe. That vibe is hard to find nowadays.

Also Bowery/Music Hall cause the sound is always so incredible and the staff is rad. Shout out to Winston, the security guard who works the backstage stairwell! Dude is rad. We talked about Isaac Hayes for a while once and now it’s just what we talk about when I see him. Just like “Hey! Hot buttered soul! Alright man, peace!”

Do you have any fond memories of Webster Hall, where you’ll be playing with How To Dress Well?
I think this is a funny question because I remember the days of “amateur strip night” at Webster Hall. I lived in the neighborhood then—I never went—but the scene outside on the street was always pretty unhinged.

But, yes. I’ve played Webster a few times and it’s always felt like a milestone—I’ve been playing music in NYC a little while now so each time you go a rung up on the venue capacity, it feels exciting…I remember playing a sold out show with Bleachers at Webster just months after playing to 10 people there with my friend’s band, I remember playing there with Albert in the Marlin Room cause it was our first show as a band and it was insane to book a New York show as your first.

But more than those I think I really have a fond memory of riding my bike back from the beach in 2005 and going straight to a Lightning Bolt/Boredoms with 3 drummers show and just being super sun burned, sandy, and stoned and wiling out so very hard. Stuff like that used to happen more often, damn.

What’s your favorite place in New York to get pizza?
The nearest place. Unless I’m trying to show off, then it’s DiFara’s forever always.

Check out tour dates here, and there are a lot of stops! Find one near you and see what makes them so amazing.

TOP 5 UNDERDOG MUSIC SCENES IN THE US
June 24, 2016 1:35 pm

Keeping up with the slew of musical talent coming out of places like New York City and Los Angeles is enough to make anyone’s head spin. It can become overwhelming to keep up with all the other fantastic music scenes this country has to offer. From coast to coast, there are many cities making a significant mark on the musical world, many that go unappreciated.

For instance…

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-Atlanta.

With the likes of Deerhunter, Manchester Orchestra and Neutral Milk Hotel all hailing from Atlanta and nearby areas it’s impossible to say they don’t know what they’re doing. Venues such as The Earl, 529 and The Star Bar showcase many local and national acts. If luck is on your side, you can catch members of bands such as The Black Lips or Mastodon playing at these venues with side projects when not out on tour. Locally, Stokeswood gives everyone a reason to dance while Lazer/Wulf slays the instrumental prog metal scene. The Coathangers are a perfect example of the raw sounds that are coming out of this city right now. Further proof of the scene quality, multi-instrumentalist Derek Torres of TOW3RS has uprooted himself from Raleigh, NC to take his dynamic psych pop talents to ATL. The scene is hopping and don’t expect it to stop any time soon.

Noteworthy Artists:
T0W3RS
Jungol
The CoatHangers
Stokeswood

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-New Orleans

This city will be forever known for their blistering jazz- and understandably so. However, what lurks in between the bars is a whole slew of diverse greatness. The folk and blues styles that have been developed here for decades bleed into the city and it’s musicians in fantastic ways. From the always catchy indie pop of Generationals to the Americana influenced Cardinal Sons to the bluesy, sultry folk of Hurray for the Riff Raff, there truly is something to please everyone. With the Circle Bar showing live music every night and Gasa Gasa housing great up and coming acts, there’s no doubt that the music scene here is one to watch.

Noteworthy Artists:

Generationals

Cardinal Sons

Bantam Foxes

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-Omaha

Bright Eyes, The Faint, steaks…These are a few names that come to mind when thinking about Omaha. This city’s music scene is still churning out great bands and it’s only looking to get better. The locally legendary venue Slowdown, made famous as a creative experiment by the Saddle Creek Records, is the place to play. The venue has become a springboard for local artists and, with no cover, the best place to catch the next great band. The Mynabirds released a standout album in 2015 that showcases just what Omaha and Saddle Creek Records are bringing to the table.

Noteworthy Artists:
The Mynabirds
The Decatures
Eli Mardock

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-Portland

Portland has produced some stellar bands. The Decemberists. Sleater Kinney. Blitzen Trapper. The list goes on. The entire city seems to be a part of a hip band. There’s the indie pop of Radiation City, the shoegaze of Lubec, the folk rock of There is No Mountain. The list of music in Portland literally goes on forever. They’re enveloped by spectacular venues as well. Mississippi Studios, Doug Fir Lounge and the Aladdin Theater attract many local and national acts of an unimaginably wide variety. Good luck keeping up with all the talent coming out of this place.

Noteworthy Artists:
Typhoon
Mo Troper
There is No Mountain

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-Tulsa

Between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, you can find more than an earful of great tunes. From the kaleidoscopic sounds of Tallows to the indie rock of Horse Thief and Broncho, there’s plenty of variety to go around. Although a vast amount of the scene here is Americana influenced, that doesn’t stop any of the citizens from branching out. Annie Clark of St. Vincent was born here, only a stone’s throw from the birthplace of Woody Guthrie. The scene is varietal and interesting. Cain’s Ballroom is a nationally recognized venue. The Campus Corner provides a range of indie rock acts while The Blue Door features the quieter, folky side of the town.

Noteworthy Artists:
Horse Thief
Tallow
Broncho

Did we miss any?? Add yours and tweet us @AtypicalBeasts !

LOVE YOUR BOYFRIEND
April 1, 2016 10:47 am

Boyfriend is hard to miss. She’s the one wearing vintage lingerie, her hair in rollers, and depending who you ask, may have started a cupcake fight during this year’s SXSW. You may have caught her last year when she toured with Big Freedia, or learned about her three EPs, LoveYour Boyfriend, parts 1, 2, and 3. The performer from New Orleans is also a brilliant conversationalist, a connoisseur of diners. 

We met up with Boyfriend at Hey Cupcake! in Austin to enjoy some beautiful weather and even-more-beautiful cupcakes.

It’s been raining here, and the mud is full of clay.

BF: You can eat it if you’re starving. It has minerals. My grandmother grew up in the 1930s in rural Alabama, and she was telling me how when they were out working sometimes, they would scoop up a little clay and be like “om nom nom.” That is so Alabama.

I think they used to eat sparrows during the depression, as well.

BF: Oh dear. That’s disgusting to me. Those disgusting, starving people.

They probably don’t have a lot of meat on them either. They’re so small and have all those feathers.

BF: They barely have marrow in their hollow bones. I’m vegetarian so I’m a little out of my realm, so who knows.

I was raised vegetarian – my parents are hippies.boyfriend_2

BF: Did you revert?

I eat fish.

BF: I eat fish occasionally. If it’s a nice sushi place.

Is there good sushi in New Orleans?

BF: I love oysters. Raw gulf oysters. Sorry Pacific and any other place that has oysters, I’m all about the gulf oysters; I mean they’re the biggest and the most delicious. But I’m biased because I grew up on the gulf coast.

How is it in New Orleans since the hurricane?

BF: It’s thriving and vibrant and expanding and gentrifying, and all of the -ing words that you associate with a hip place. Much like Austin, or Nashville, or Asheville, or Brooklyn, just a neighborhood that you used to not go to, you now go to. I think that New Orleans, specifically, is back with a vengeance. There’s just so much going on there right now.

Do you feel like you have everything you need to run your career from where you are in New Orleans?

BF: I sort of resist the narrative of being a “blank-based artist” because I think anyone who’s being realistic knows that you’re an internet-based artist, and that physically you might be in one place but your emailing with people in different places every single day, and you’re going to places for meetings, and for sessions. So, could I have stayed in New Orleans and not leave, and become who I’ve become? No way. But I don’t think anyone could stay where they live and become who they’re going to become. You should always reach out. I’ve always been very much a tumbleweed, gypsy lady.

Have you lived in other places?

BF: I grew up in Nashville, I lived in LA for five years, then I lived in New Orleans. But during all of that, I’m also traveling constantly, bouncing around the country. It’s the nature of the life.

What are your favorite places to listen to music?

BF: I used to really enjoy Cheer Up Charlies, but I don’t know if I’m going to be allowed to go there anymore. Even back when it was called De Ville, it was a great space. I think our days are numbered.

What happened?

BF: I performed there the Friday of SXSW, and I brought cupcakes from Hey Cupcake! Before a show, I want a hot bath and I want a cupcake, and having been to Austin several times before, I was familiar with Hey Cupcake! and how delicious their stuff is, especially their cream cheese icing.

The person I shared my Lyft car with this morning said the same thing.

BF: So I’m not alone. So I was having one, and I said to the manager, “We need to make sure that everyone at the show tonight has one of these. I think that would be very special”. I was the final set of the night, so everyone was going to be hungry and drunk. We’ve got to feed them. So we brought 250 cupcakes to the show to make sure everyone there got to have one, and things got a little bit rowdy as they tend to at the end of a show. And, unfortunately, the venue was kind of upset about that.

Did you have to stay behind and mop the floor?

BF: Well, I didn’t.

Was this your first SXSW?

BF: My second, technically my third. I was there, sort of as a ghost my first year. As a spirit, haunting the place.

Did you perform?

BF: I did, unofficially. I enjoy.

Your costumes are great [she’s wearing a 1950s-style satin bra and panty set with a dressing gown].

BF: Thanks. Believe it or not, this was from a fan. I perform a birthday bash every year in New Orleans and it’s become sort of a thing where I give everyone gifts. I pretty much give everyone gifts at every show; cupcakes, tampons, something, but since it was my birthday I decided to really go all-out. So anyone who came in lingerie received an actual present in a bag. And that’s something I do for all my birthday shows – you dress up in lingerie, you will be rewarded.

Well, I started receiving gifts as part of the whole exchange and someone handed me this beautifully wrapped, it was wrapped in an antique mat with a sprig of lavender, and [gestures to her dressing gown] this robe was inside of it. She just took it upon herself to make this for me. So then I reached out to her on Instagram, my favorite place, and said “I love the robe, I want something to wear under it.” and so she found this vintage pattern, and I sent her my measurements, and I picked out the color, and it matches my nails. And there we are.

It looks great.

BF: Thank you! It feels great. I’ll never wear another thread of denim in my life. I need something slick.

Denim can chafe, especially if it’s hot out. When I was researching you for this interview, I noticed that certain publications were trying to describe your performance style. I think NPR called you a “mysterious, raunchy, feminist”, and Paper Magazine said you were “endearingly weird.” Do you feel like those descriptions are accurate? Or rather how would you like people to see what you’re doing, and what would you like them to get out of it?

BF: I practice bathtub meditation, and one of the things I focus on when I am neck deep in bubbles, is not being invested in the reaction of others, for I know I have no control over that. I can control whether or not my nails match my outfit, I can control how much champagne in pour into my flute before I get into the bathtub, but I cannot control how people react to me. So they will choose their adjectives and I’d say that NPR chose some pretty good adjectives. I hope other people agree with those adjectives. I’m sure there’s a few flying around after Cheer Up Charlies. I love the English language, whether the adjectives are favorable or unfavorable.

A lot of your songs focus around feminist issues. Would you say you became interested in that because they’re issues that effect you directly, or are you interested in feminism as a whole, or is it a combination of the two?

BF: Feminism as a whole, and feminism as an individual, and feminism as an unconscious mode of being. As being a woman, born into the world, and walking around the planet as a woman. These are just the things that I experience and encounter, and those are the things I comment on.

Have you performed in New York?

BF: I have. I was on tour with Big Freedia this fall, and we performed at Irving Plaza. And I’ve performed at Pianos, and I’ve performed at Joe’s Pub. I especially love Joe’s Pub because the cabaret setting is the perfect setting for Rap Cabaret.

What’s coming up for you this year?

BF: I released an album yesterday. It’s a baby, an infant, it has not yet suckled at my teat, it’s so young. So that was Love Your Boyfriend, Pt. 3. and it is the third and final part of the Love Your Boyfriend EP.

Do you listen to a lot of rap?

BF: I’ll tell you this: I don’t think that Harper Lee read a novel and turned around and wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. I think that she grew up in the south, as a woman, experiencing things, observing things, and then she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. And that would be my answer to who influences me, and why I avoid talking about music that I listen to. Because I think that journalism, the knee-jerk reaction is to be referential, saying “If you’re this band, you must like this band, this band, this band.” And the band says “Yes, we do like this band, this band, this band.” It just becomes a list instead of a dialogue. Waiting in line at the bank might be as influential on a song as a concert you saw when you were four years old.

I did actually go to the Lilith Fair when I was eight. My mom loved Sarah McLachlan, but when I was eight, I was loving Jewel. Pieces of You is like my jam. Yeah, I loved the Lilith Fair.

Do you have any last words before you hit the road again?

BF: Let them eat cake.

CHECKING OUR VITALS WITH MUTEMATH
January 7, 2016 1:49 pm

I’ve known about MuteMath since the early 2000’s and this band has always been prominent in the indie electro-pop music scene. I heard of them all the way from Alaska when music wasn’t so easily accessible as it is today. The power in the psychedelic electronic pop that this band has carried is on par with the likes of MGMT with the soul of Portugal.the man, but on a more long term scale. These guys have their interest in funk going successfully since 2002.

The New Orleans band’s new album Vitals was released on November 13th. In perfect timing to heat up our souls for this oncoming drastic winter with their catchy words, warm tones and dancing melodies. This is soul electronica at its finest, as heard in their song “Used To” off of the new record. Then you move on to some more emotional and heart felt inflection in “Safe if we Don’t Look Down” Which sounds more similar to the softer songs of Coldplay in the X and Y era.

This whole record has waltzing melodies in the vein of The Shins, but in the song “Light up”off the album has more of a Minus the Bear kind of vibe; a melancholy dance fest. Meany’s voice (what a great name) is effortless and full of reverence in this ode to fractured love and yearning for better times. Not to mention the beautiful instruments they’re known to use would make any vintage heart drop.

‘Don’t say enough, we’re not out of love
We just grew up having to find out that
Hearts go astray, sparks slip away
But I have to say, I still light up for you’

The unfortunate adult experience in love and loss, and most importantly longing, these guys sure seem to get it. We’re loving it, and if you’re going through a heart ache or loss you need to pick this album up and cry at home on a Saturday night so you can wake up Sunday morning and keep pushing yourself to get the hell out of bed with their song “Monument” because new love will always find you.

Bent Denim Romances You
September 16, 2015 4:29 pm

Bent Denim builds beautiful, narrative-driven songs by swapping tracks over email between their respective home bases of Nashville, New Orleans, and New York.  This is how the band describes themselves on their Facebook page. We were intrigued by the swapping tracks over email part and it turns out the story of this band and their process for creating is quite interesting.

Ben Littlejohn and Dennis Sager are the two creative forces behind Bent Denim.  The duo grew up together in Dallas and has since found shelter in New Orleans & Nashville and most recently NYC.  They describe their music as nightmare pop and while that gives us a chuckle, we have to disagree.  Their music is quite the opposite of a nightmare and more like a lucid dream where you are falling into a big comfy bed at dusk.

We really are digging the Romances You LP and it’s been on repeat all week in our office.  The band just released a video for the first track, “Good Night’s Sleep” that you can watch below.  The lyrics instantly got my attention when I heard the line, “I’m stuck in daydreams and sex dreams and reality I can’t keep straight”. That is some deep shit when you really process that.  I mean aren’t we all in some way?

I jokingly asked the bands publicist if the second track, “Caitlin” was written about her and she replied, “they like to keep me guessing”.

There are so many gems on this album that it’s hard to really choose my favorite but I can say that the words to “Off Chance” have been haunting me since first listen.  “I’ll protect you through the low lands and I’ll be right here, on the off chance that you still stop by, in my shadow and creek through door ways into picture frames.” What a beautifully sad sentiment.

Ben says that “This album was crafted in numerous spaces over a few years —two dorm rooms (a single and a double), a mansion’s foyer, my brother’s living room in New Orleans, my childhood bedroom, a back house, my friend Robbie’s extra bedroom, Dennis’ last three rented bedrooms in New Orleans, and a rented bedroom in Nashville. All of these spaces have imprinted a different sonic character on the parts of the songs. The reflections of these rooms combine to create an album without any real sense of place.”

A little geeky, a lot of lo-fi and some heavy emotional lyrics sprinkled on top.  What’s not to love about Bent Denim?  Having your heart broken never felt so good.

BENT DENIM BAND

We got to chat with Dennis and find out some more about Bent Denim.

How did the band begin?

We all grew up in Dallas. Ben, in Nashville, and Dennis in New Orleans, started swapping/building up tracks via email in Spring 2013. Dennis just moved to NYC.

What was the inspiration for the Cavalcade song and video?

Our good pal Will Taylor made the video with some old family vacation footage from his uncle’s camera. My verse is a bit of snapshot of where I was at the time- burnt out from the road and wanting something new.

What is next for Bent Denim material wise?

We’re piecing together that whole second record thing. Anette Records in Berlin is putting out Romances You on vinyl in mid-November. We have a new video coming out soon, too.

Who are you looking forward to performing with or seeing  at CMJ?

Our pals Donovan Wolfington, Dent May, Car Seat Headrest (probably some others I am forgetting). I am very much looking forward to seeing some new bands though.

What do you do to pass the time while traveling / touring?

Reading, NPR, craigslist browsing of gear, eating foreign things, loitering at Chipotle, attempting to make friends, drinking beer and sometimes even playing/listening to music!

What do you think of the pizza in New York? How does it compare to other pizzas elsewhere?

I like my pizza dipped in ranch- a bit of a Texas thing. Grandma pizza, deep dish, thin crust- As long as its got cheese and bread I’m stoked.

What do you have in store for the future.

We’ve all been working very hard on our on-stage banter. Practice makes perfect!

Check out their video for “Good Night’s Sleep” below and to hear more of Ben Denim’s music listen here.

Be sure to catch the band at this years CMJ Music Marathon. Their debut album “Romances You” is out now!