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ARTIST OF THE MONTH: MAGGIE ROGERS
July 1, 2016 6:20 pm

Imagine you’re a music student at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute and Pharrell Williams is coming to teach a masterclass on songwriting. You’ve written a couple bangers or whatever, being a music student and all, but you’re nervous nonetheless. This is likely your only opportunity to have a famous and incredibly successful musician critique your work. What if he cuts it to pieces? What if he kinda likes it except for the one part that also happens to be your favorite part. What if he really likes it and then nothing in your life ever compares to the thrill of celebrity endorsement ever again? Is that the best outcome you can hope for?

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No, the best outcome would be Pharrell’s stunned, appreciative silence going viral and launching your career. Such is the story of Maggie Rogers, internet sensation and pride of NYU, whose song “Alaska” struck Pharrell speechless this past February. We were speechless too, and that is why she is our Artist of the Month. The track is relatively sparse, stacking harmonies atop a phat beat and melodic accompaniment, like if St. Vincent or tUnE-yArDs got out of their own way for one Goddamn second and just wrote what people wanted to hear. Pharrell called Rogers’ sound “singular” which, frankly, couldn’t be more descriptive, “I’ve never heard anything that sounds like that. That’s a drug for me.” Thanks, Pharrell.

The song is poised to be a major summer jam, combining an infectious groove and stunning, polyphonic melody with the internet momentum required for off-brand success. Rogers has already aligned with Brooklyn’s Mick Management (home to Real Estate and Leon Bridges, among others) in an effort to field the snowballing array of label interest, but remember: Rogers was just another person a few months ago, nobody, Pitchfork or even ATYPICAL SOUNDS, would blink twice at. She moved back home with her parents after graduation. She’s going on a postgrad Euro-trip this month. “I’m taking it a day at a time,” she says. “I’m excited to see what the world looks like when I get back in July, but it will probably pretty much look like me living in my childhood bedroom and my mom telling me to do the dishes.”

Are you fucking kidding me? You gotta go ride that wave, girl!

Rogers’ new EP is allegedly finished, but she’s waiting for “Alaska” to play out before releasing it. This could be good–I mean you don’t wanna get all your fame all at once now do you–but it could also be quite stupid, waiting for momentum to fade before capitalizing on it. Don’t you know how this works, Maggie?! This is the internet we’re talking about here, people have clinical deficits of attention. Strike while the iron is hot! Like, what if Zeppelin waited a whole year before albums 1 & 2? Do you wanna last forever or do you wanna blow people’s minds?!

13407114_1028384547247156_7158218423968864883_nWere I on Pharrell’s (and everybody else’s) radar, you can bet I’d be real in-your-face about it. Call into the radio offering an impromptu live interview. Get my publicist in talks with Conan’s people (after, you know, getting a publicist). Rent Manhattan billboard space for my PG-13 spread. Is skywriting still a thing? What about t-shirt cannons, are they legal in the city? Can Fun-Dip do a custom batch for my single release? “Taste the sweetest track of the summer with Fun-Dip! Prices and participation may vary.”

But maybe that’s why she’s blowing up instead of me; she’s got patience (and also musical talent and a fantastic singing voice). I just hope she doesn’t wait too long, else she finds the internet and broader musical community less forbearing than Pharrell and myself.

Maggie Rogers’ traditional folk albums from high school can be found here and here. Look for the official “Alaska” video this summer and her latest EP later this year.

SERF-ING WITH JONS
June 6, 2016 11:57 am

When there’s a will, there’s a way. Jons is celebrating the May 29th release of their debut album Serfs of Today. It was recorded on iPhone, and led to the band’s signing with Solitaire Recordings. The album was so good, that Solitaire decided to release it as-is.

The Victoria (Canada, not Australia) band is also about to embark on 29-date tour, including a show supporting fellow Canadian Alex Calder. And, believe it or not, Jons is already working on a follow-up album.

ATYPICAL SOUNDS spoke with frontman Patrick Rendell on how all of this craziness came to be.

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Congratulations on your new album and your signing to Solitaire. What would you like people to know about your band?

We’ve all been living on Vancouver Island for 5 or 6 years. The band started out with Logan, David, and me making music casually and then the band was fully formed when Logan and Keenan met painting houses.

I’ve heard your album Serfs of Today was recorded on iPhone and cassette. Is that true?

Yeah, that is partly true. There was a period where we didn’t really have the means to record drums (and didn’t really know how to either) and so David would play drums on an app on his iPhone directly into the tape machine. For “Orcachief” I played floor tom and snare while David played ride symbol on his iPhone to get the effect of a full kit.

You’re getting ready for a 29-date tour around Canada. Is this your first tour of that size?

It’s been a lot of work setting up the tour and it makes it harder that we haven’t actually done this before. The longest tour we’ve done so far is to Calgary and back so this is a completely different ballgame.

What are your favorite items to pick up at Tim Horton’s to keep you going?

One good way to prepare is to abstain from Hortons’ until you leave so you have a fresh palette. Keenan’s favourite donut is the Old Fashioned.

You will also be performing a show with Alex Calder on your tour. How did you get involved with him?

Bands in Canada are very interconnected and chances are you always know someone who knows someone. In this case our friends Freak Heat Waves were already playing the show and we were going to be in Montreal at the same time. Logan’s brother also plays in Alex’s band so it just worked out.

You seem like a band that would know a lot about psychedelic music. Are there any albums you’d recommend to someone looking to expand their record collection?

Some albums we’d recommend checking out are A Lovely Sight by Pisces, God Bless Tiny Tim by Tiny Tim, Playback by The Appletree Theatre, July’s self titled album and Release of an Oath by Electric Prunes. Also [Pink Floyd album] The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Friends by The Beach Boys are staples.

Are you working on a followup for Serfs of Today?

We’ve actually been working on our followup to Serfs of Today for coming up on two years now. Dave picked up a Tascam 388 and has become really good with it so it’s a noticeable step up in fidelity. Having Keenan play on the record has been a big deal too. He didn’t play on Serfs of Today and he’s an incredible musician. His playing on the tracks has had a huge effect on our recordings. We’ve been working on it for a very long time and we’ve each grown quite a bit individually as musicians in the process.

Will you be be doing any recording with iPhones, as in Serfs of Today?

No iPhones were used in the making of the record.

I think you’re the first band I’ve interviewed from Victoria. What’s the music scene like there?

It’s really great. It’s a small city but for the size there’s tons of really great bands. Sometimes people pass it by on tour because they don’t want to make the trip to the island but there’s some very cool stuff going on here. I’d highly recommend coming here and checking it out if you get the chance.

Which venues in Victoria are your favorite for seeing live music?

Some of the classic spots to see bands play are Logan’s and the Copper Owl. There’s also a bunch of nightclubs and a thriving scene of DIY spots that are really great to play at.

Are there any local bands you feel deserve more attention?

Some bands you should check out are Privacy, Pinner, Smoke Eaters, Psychosomatic Itch and Fountain. There’s also a small local tape label called Gary Cassettes and everything they’ve put out has been really sweet.

What will you be up to after your tour?

After tour we’re gonna focus on new music. After working on the same songs for so long we’re really stoked to get started on something new.

Will you be performing at any music festivals?

We’re playing at Sled Island in Calgary but thats our only festival this summer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not meant to be easy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your plans for the rest of 2016?

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

Any takers?

DEEP SEA DIVER SHARES THEIR SECRETS
April 12, 2016 1:13 pm

Though the band Deep Sea Diver has only been around for a few years, writer and multi-instrumentalist Jessica Dobson has been on the scene for much longer. Signed to Atlantic Records at 19, Dobson recorded two albums that were ultimately shelved before moving on to collaborating with bands including The Shins, Beck, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Older and wiser, Dobson then went on to form Deep Sea Diver, with this past February seeing the release of their second LP, Secrets.

ATYPICAL SOUNDS had the privilege of speaking with Dobson to get her take on the new album, touring, and life as a seasoned musician.

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Photo by Brian S. Snider

Congratulations on your album release! Are there any new songs that you’re especially fond of playing live?

JD: Thank you! I really love playing “Wide Awake,” “Notice Me” and “Body on the Tracks” because I get to really step out on guitar on those ones and I think the fans really love that. There a lot of sweet guitar solos and pedals to play around with. It makes it even more exciting for me to do something different every night, especially with “Wide Awake.”

When you tour, how do you prepare to hit the road? What do you do to pass the time while traveling?

We basically start rehearsing about a month ahead and try to get the songs so deeply ingrained in our muscle memory so that by the time we hit the road, we feel totally free playing the songs. Its all about energy and vibe for us at shows, so we want to be emotionally as present as possible, not worried about whether or not we are ready to play the songs. In the van, its easy to tune out and go on your phone for hours on end, I try to read a few books at a time, and keep a journal about whatever I’m experiencing on the road and at shows.

Do you have any places you look forward to visiting when you tour?

New York is always a highlight for us. There’s a distinct energy in the city and we always see it as an adventure when we get to bounce around the different boroughs and eat the best food and stay out way too late.

Seattle might still be best known as the birthplace of the grunge movement. Has any of that culture remained popular in Seattle? Has it come back since the resurgence in popularity of 90s music?

Thankfully grunge has not made another comeback yet, but I think that music business people in Seattle wish that there was another resurgence of a scene that popular (insert $ signs). The music scene in Seattle is thankfully much more broad now and hopefully it will continue on that trajectory.

You’ve been a part of the music industry for about 10 years. What advice can you give to someone looking to break into the field? What do you think the biggest misconception about the industry is?

Music business is basically 99% smoke and mirrors and if you elevate the business end above the creative end, you will most likely be sorely disappointed. There is absolutely zero stability in the music industry and sometimes good art gets noticed, sometimes it doesn’t. You have to do everything you can to keep creating from an honest place and make the best art you possibly can. That is much more fulfilling than trying to pander to music business people and to fleeting musical trends.

What’s it like working with your spouse? Is it difficult to leave the workday behind once you get home?

Yeah its almost impossible to stop our minds from thinking about new songs, record label plans (we started a record label, High Beam Records) and what the next step is for Deep Sea Diver. We fight about silly things like who’s chorus ideas are better, but when we aren’t being immature, it’s the most fun to create with the person you love most.

Are you working on anything with The Shins at the moment?

Nope! I had to give Deep Sea Diver my full attention in order to get this new record out and to promote it as much as possible. I believe they are working on some new songs and I can’t wait to hear what comes of it!

You’ve also worked with Beck. Do you feel more pressure to perform well when you’re working on your own projects, or other people’s?

Performing live is one of my favorite aspects about being a musician and I treat any project or show like its the last thing I’ll ever do. I love the kind of healthy “pressure” that comes with performing, and it causes me to keep pushing my limits live. With that said, if a show of Deep Sea Diver’s gets a bad review or goes poorly, yeah, it stings a bit more because we wrote these songs and they are much more personal to us.

Is there anything you’d like your fans to know before listening to your new album?

If you can tell me who I’m singing about in the song “Secrets” I’ll somehow find a million dollars to give you.

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.

 

Sol Cat Keepin’ it Trippy
July 18, 2015 9:00 am

If somebody’s going to name their band Sol Cat you’d think that they’d be a groovy, old school jazz orchestra…or at least have a liking for cats. “I’m super allergic to cats and I don’t like dogs either. I’m actually not an animal person for the record. Except fish, I love fish” lead singer Brett Myers tells me. Apparently the name was given by some “‘bohemian roulette dealer” that he came across while taking a vacation in the bahamas. “I could be hallucinating still, I still can’t figure out if it happened or not.”

This five piece band hailing from Nashville, Tennessee played a trippy show at Pianos and seemed to attract a wide range of fans from young hipsters to middle aged men in suits. They stay true to their dance-y psychedelic tunes and it’s clear that they’ve pulled influences from classic rock. Brett’s deep vocals echo through the room sending good vibes to everyone in the room who start swaying their body to the music. There’s something nostalgic about their sound that no other band has achieved so far, instantly bringing you back to the 90’s music scene.

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These kool kats met in college while Tom Myers (drummer) was schooling at a different location and eventually connected through mutual friends. “We were most like acquaintances in similar groups that kind of overlapped, so the band didn’t click until pretty much my last semester of college.” They originally envisioned Sol Cat as a World Music genre with “crazy, eclectic, Latin, African percussive influences with more contemporary pop American sort of things. So the original demos are very hilarious.” As much as we’d like to hear Sol Cat jam on congos and bongos, sadly, they are no where to be found on the interwebs.

They’ll be touring pretty much non-stop this month which means they’ll be spending most of their time in a van, sleeping and talking about “weird stuff.” “Jaan threw up a caesar salad on the way to New York [laughs]. We left really early and I don’t know why we had to be up here so early. That’s the most interesting thing that’s happened in the van so far.” Living their life in a van for a month seems pretty adventurous and fun, but Tom mentions the downside of it – “I miss my fiance. I should also plug in my dog, I miss my dog. I miss consistency, being home, and sleeping in my bed.” On the other hand, Brett seems to prefer the tour life. “I enjoy being on the road for the most part. I would say I miss being able to not have a schedule. I just miss waking up whenever I want to and work on music, be productive and just lay low.”

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Unlike every other band that writes music on the road, Brett prefers to write in the comfort of his home. “I don’t really do writing on the road thing. I hardly ever write anything when I’m on tour. My theory is that if I don’t write anything while we’re gone for two weeks, by the time we get home just by the nature of life, I have things that I need to get out after that. So it’s almost like – you’ll fill the glass up for two weeks, and then when you get home you just spill it. I find it really hard to sit in the van or venue and try to write. I think it’s awesome when dudes can go sit in the corner of bar and bring a notepad and channel it, but I can’t do that.”

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Being able to work as full time musicians now, he talks about another great job he’s had in the past working at a zipline when he was a teenager…Which turned out to be sort of a life lesson. “I loved pushing kids off that zipline! Think about it, this kids crying and you’re 40/50 ft up in the air and have a 100 yard zipline rolling down that makes them nervous, but guarantee every time they got to the bottom they came back and wanted to do it again. And that’s life. You just gotta push people ’til they fucking feel so uncomfortable they have nothing to do but have a good time and they come back for more.” So deep.

They released their EP “UNO” a few weeks ago and have another called “DOS” that should be out “August-ish.” They also have an appearance at Austin City Limits at the end of the summer, so don’t forget to give them some love if you come across them!

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