pop etc

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.

 

THE WOMBATS HAVE LANDED AT TERMINAL 5
November 30, 2015 12:22 am

Let’s talk about last Tuesday night. The Wombats played Terminal 5. The honor of being able to make that statement has been a long time coming. The U.K.-based trio has been around since 2007, and has toured the U.S. extensively over the last couple of years, but until this night they hadn’t played a New York venue larger than Webster Hall.

American fans of British bands are often spoiled when it comes to touring stateside; it’s not uncommon for bands with top billing at festivals like Reading and Leeds to perform in New York at places like Mercury Lounge (capacity 250 people) or Baby’s All Right (280 people). In fact, The Wombats did play at Mercury Lounge earlier this year. Being able to see such great bands in such small venues can sometimes make fans wish the bands would stay “small” forever, but as the saying goes, “If you love something, let it go to Terminal 5.” And, for the record, the venue was packed.

wombats

Photo by Sasha Maese

The first to perform on Tuesday was the Brooklyn-based POP ETC. The band has toured throughout the U.S. and Japan, and has performed with bands including Death Cab for Cutie, The Kooks, and X Japan. However, according to Spotify, they are most well known for their song “Speak Up”, from the Twilight film Breaking Dawn – part 2. That’s got to be frustrating. Regardless, their dynamic performance was well received by the audience. They performed songs from their upcoming LP Souvenir, as well as recent singles “Bad Break” and “Running in Circles”.

Royal Teeth was next, a five-piece band from Louisiana. They burst onto the stage dancing, with enough energy for every last person in the audience. If they were feeling celebratory, it’s with good reason; earlier this year, the group signed with Elektra records and are releasing their major-label debut in 2016.

Their set included a cover of the song “Heartbeats,” originally by The Knife, as well as their own songs “Mais La” and “Wild.” A cursory search through Wikipedia revealed that “Wild” has already been featured in ads for the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Buick Verano, State Farm, Bose, American Eagle, Metro AG, The Voice, 90210, ESPN, TLC, PBS, Yahoo, and Fox. Not bad for an indie band.

wombats

Photo by Sasha Maese

When “Just Like Heaven” finally begins to play over the venue’s PA system, the audience knows it’s nearly time for The Wombats. They open with “Give Me a Try”, a song that’s in stark contrast to anything performed by the night’s two previous bands; “We could be gigantic/ Everything I need/ Vicodin on Sunday nights/ This could be worth the risk/ Worth the guarantee/ This could be the drug that does’t bite/ Just give me a try,” sings Matthew Murphy. This is followed by songs about one night stands (“Jump Into The Fog”), insomnia (“Moving to New York”) and longing for an adolescence that wasn’t all that great (“1996”).

It’s not that the first two bands to play on Tuesday weren’t great, it’s that they’re just so…clean. Nearly all songs by The Wombats share a feeling of alienation, of trying to fit in to a world that just doesn’t get you. Murphy often writes from his own experiences with depression, and it’s this approach to the creation of their songs that make them so relatable to people that have a hard time relating in general.

About halfway through the set, Murphy shares a story about the song “Pink Lemonade.” The writing of it involved drinking alone in Barcelona, and convincing himself that his girlfriend was sleeping with a random acquaintance. They beauty of it all is that as nuts as their lyrics can be, or the strange evolution of their songs, the audience knew every word. And they danced. And it was awesome.

The show closed the way all Wombats shows close; with “Let’s Dance to Joy Division.” It was the band’s first single, released in 2007, and probably their most beloved song. It remains the perfect encapsulation of the band’s ethos, “Let’s dance to Joy Division/ And raise our glass to the ceiling/ ‘Cause this could all go so wrong/ But we’re so happy.” Even after the band left the stage, that feeling was underscored with “You Can Call Me Al” playing from the PA system, and the audience continuing to dance until Paul Simon sang his last note.

wombats

Photo by Sasha Maese

POP ETC: FAMOUS LAST WORDS
12:02 am

POP ETC has existed in one form or another since 2005 and has performed with bands including Death Cab for Cutie, The Kooks, and X Japan. They were first known as The Morning Benders while based in Berkeley, CA, and then as POP ETC, in Brooklyn, NY. The band, comprised of brothers Chris and Jon Chu, along with Julian Harmon, is currently touring the U.S. with bands Royal Teeth and The Wombats. As if they weren’t busy enough, POP ETC is preparing to release their Souvenir LP in January.

ATYPICAL SOUNDS caught up with the band before Tuesday’s show at Terminal 5, and got to pick their brains on touring, recording, and all that good stuff.

pop

Photo by Sasha Maese

You guys go on in 40 minutes. How do you feel about that?

CC: We just had a really quick soundcheck where we got to play half a song.

You’re from California, but you’ve been in Brooklyn for a while. Have you performed at Terminal 5 before?

CC: One of the first times we played in New York was here, with The Kooks.

They just toured again recently, didn’t they?

CC: I think so. We saw them once during the whole tour. They’re doing their own thing. A lot of bands that come from the U.K. go from touring in Europe, and then they come here on no sleep and do 10 shows in a row and leave. So I think they were just tired.

Has that been your experience during this tour with The Wombats?

CC: Our first show of the tour with them was yesterday, but I chatted with them for a second and they were super nice.

JC: It was their first show in the states, too.

CC: They played a show in Berlin the day before. Or maybe they had 1 day in between.

popetc

Photo by Sasha Maese

You’ve performed in Japan as well.

CC: We just got back from Japan, we were there for 2 weeks. We had a few shows, but we mostly did a bunch of promo. It was more of a promotional trip, because the record is coming out there in January. And this band that I’ve produced over there, called Galileo Galilei, we call them GG, we were touring with them and we did a lot of interviews with them about working together and stuff like that. But yeah, it was awesome. We love Japan.

Did you get to meet Yoshiki or any of the X Japan guys?

CC: I knew about them, [gestures to his bandmates] these guys didn’t. They weren’t on our radar. We should’ve, we would’ve known how lucky we were.

You opened for Death Cab for Cutie as well.

CC: A long time ago.

JC: That might’ve been The Kooks tour, actually. It was kind of a festival.

CC: I also played a few shows for Ben Gibbard’s solo tour as well. I guess we played more shows with him than I thought. He was super sweet.

You have an album coming out in January, how are your preparing? Will you tour when it comes out?

CC: Yeah, we actually are pretty amped on touring ’cause we spent a really long time on this record. Longer than we have on any record before. The whole point when we were making this record was we didn’t want to put a deadline on it. So that’s why it took forever.

That’s the best way to do it.

CC: I think so too, but there’s times in the middle of it where you lose sight. Kind of like “When is this going to end?” or “What is this?” When you’re playing songs, and you’re seeing people reacting to them in real time, when we’re not in the studio or in my house writing stuff, it’s just kind of re-energizing after spending so much time inside.

JC: It’s like I forgot people actually listen to it.

CC: Although, as soon as we’re touring for a while, I want to go back to the studio.

When you’re touring it’s like you’re working 100% of the time for weeks. I could see how that gets exhausting.

CC: You are and you aren’t. You’re also only playing like, 1/20th of the time that you’re on the road, if that.

Is it hard for you to sit in a van for that long?

CC: For me it’s hard because I like to write music all the time. I feel best when I’m working on stuff.

popetc

Photo by Sasha Maese

Is that what you do to pass the time?

CC: Yeah, when I’m not on tour. When I’m on tour, I can’t really get into the mindset. I’ll do little ideas of something, but it’s like there’s no quiet place to record. But we get into it. We like going and meeting people, traveling. We really like food, so we like to go to restaurants. We have all our favorite restaurants across the country now, so we like playing our tours around going to eat at them.

What’s been your favorite?

JC: Japan was the best.

CC: Japan’s in a different league. One of our favorite restaurants is Monell’s [in Nashville]. We haven’t been there in a while, but we’re ending this tour in Nashville, so we’ll probably go 2 or 3 times.

Will you be at South by Southwest this year?

CC: Not if we can avoid it.

This coming year will be my first time. Do you have any advice?

CC: The first time is awesome. We’ve played it a bunch, and it actually is really fun to just go. I went one year just as a fan, and it was really fun. It’s really hectic as a band. Like you’re just sitting in traffic, trying to go 2 blocks, and you’re not going to make it [to your gig], so you just throw [the van] next to a hydrant and run your amps across the street. It’s really crazy. It’s too small an area. It’s too big a festival for that small an area at this point. It’s just grown.

JC: You get free Jansport backpacks, which is awesome. I still use mine.

Any last words before you go onstage, in front of thousands of people at Terminal 5?

CC: I’m going to save my last words, because I feel like this is just the beginning.

JC: That’s beautiful.

POP ETC RELEASES NEW VIDEO
June 10, 2015 3:30 pm

The new video for “Bad Break” from POP ETC is riding the “nostalgia for the 90s” wave. Rife with karaoke style lyrics along the bottom of the screen, obsolete gadgets like old video cameras, VHS and campy “Friends” style humor, the video is adorably retro. The boys in the band run through NYC and engage in slapstick-style humor, all to the infectious beat of their new single.

“Bad Break” is a song meant to be played on the dance floor, but has a poignant emotional sentiment. “To us, the song ‘Bad Break’ has a sad, dark sentiment wrapped up in an energetic upbeat arrangement. We wanted to make sure the video had the same contrast,” says front-man Chris Chu. The video does have this duality; although it is humorous, its overdone and exaggerated nature points to the greater meaning of the song. “The way we made it gives it a comical feel, and I like how weird that combination feels.”

POP ETC, (formerly The Morning Benders) are currently working on their new album, which they say is nearly completed. “Honestly, we can’t wait to be done with the damn thing so we can get it out into the world!”  We’re looking forward to the release as well and be sure to catch it on Atypical Sounds.

Written by Alessandra Licul