rough trade

BACKSTAGE WITH BROTHERTIGER
February 5, 2016 1:00 pm

It’s Saturday night and I’m at Rough Trade in Williamsburg. It’s about three hours before Brothertiger is set to play, and I find him onstage assembling his equipment. He shakes my hand and invites me backstage, and I do my best to keep my cool. I’m nervous–I’ve been a fan of his for awhile now–but I remain calm and follow him up and around the stage into a narrow, well-lit, concrete green-room. He offers me a beer–he likes beer too, can you believe it?!–and we sit down to chat.

“You mind if I record this?” I ask, recording this. He doesn’t mind.

“Excited about tonight? Gonna have a good show?”

“Yeah of course. I haven’t played in about a month though so I’m a little nervous.”

I’ve seen him live twice before, once at Webster Hall and once here at Rough Trade. “This is kind of old-hat for you, playing here?”

“Yeah, if I’m gonna play a show a month after touring this is where it’s gonna be. I love playing here, it’s an amazing sounding room. It’ll be a fun night.”

“Has there ever been a point where you felt like you had ‘made it’ somehow?”

“No, I definitely don’t think I’ve made it. I mean, my previous two records I put out on a label, and the first one was really awesome with a lot of hype, built up and stuff, but then the second one was kinda ‘eh,’ so that’s what made me want to make this third one on my own. Good press for me is really a big factor, you can get a lot more plays based off that.”

A man enters with a plate of hummus and pita bread. Standard procedure? I’m impressed. We continue without eating.

“But yeah, I mean I’m always reminded that I shouldn’t stop. I’m the kind of person who is always second guessing myself, and with this last record I was really nervous about it because I was doing it myself, and I was like ‘how am I gonna do this as well as it was on the label?’ But getting good press, seeing that there’s a response from people, that’s to me why I haven’t quit.”

“But do you think about quitting or the eventual end?”

“Right now no. There’s this constant battle like ‘is this the right decision? Is this dumb? Lame? I shouldn’t be doing this, what am I doing?’ But then I’ll play a good show or release an album people like and I’m okay. I don’t see it ending anytime soon. I want to expand it, more than anything. Build on it.”

That’s good to hear, as a fan. I add my two cents: “I think the new album does sound different, but like better and thicker and stuff.”

“Yeah, I mean that was the goal. I didn’t want it to sound like typical electronic stuff.”

“It all flows together well. How long did it take?”

He looks to the ceiling for his memory. “We started it at the beginning of last year–“

“Who’s we?”

“Me and my friend Jon who works at a studio with me. He’s an awesome punk/rock producer, so he comes from that background, but the two of us have worked together a lot and it’s always been really interesting. He co-produced it with me. I had all these demos and everything was sequenced out, we booked four days at this studio in Bed-Stuy, and then we spent about three weeks mixing it. So it was done around late March.”

“Of last year?!” That sandbagging son-of-a-bitch! “You were just sitting on it for nine months?!”

“Yeah I was sitting on it. I was seeing if there was potential for another label to pick it up, but finally I got sick of just waiting around, so I was like ‘screw it, I’ll release it myself.'”

“And it’s harder to get a crowd pumped if they haven’t heard it yet.”

“Yeah, that’s the problem. I never really played the new stuff until the tour with JR JR.”

I have to ask: “What are they like?”

“Very cool dudes from Detroit. We had quite a different vibe musically. I think it was a really cool blend, and they wanted me to come. They asked me to come on their tour which was very cool.”

“That must feel great.”

“Yeah it’s a really amazing feeling. I mean they’re on a big label with Warner Brothers, man. But yeah, they have this cool pop sound that’s really striking and different from me. It was really beneficial, I think I got a lot of new fans out of it, but some people were definitely like ‘whoa, this is interesting.'”

The hummus man returns, this time with chips and salsa. It looks delicious, but totally ruins our conversational flow. I change the subject.

“So, why here? Why New York?”

“So I’m originally from Ohio. I went to school for recording in Ohio. I moved here because I had previously interned here at a recording studio. Basically they said that I should move out here, they can give me work, and that I could actually live there too because it’s like an apartment/loft with the studio. So I lived there, which was great.”

“At that point were you aware of your goals to be a headliner? Or just a producer?”

This one takes him a minute. “Well, not to be a headliner–I still don’t see myself as a headliner–but I knew I wanted to produce other people and also make music myself, and this is the best place for me to do that. So I did it and I’ve been here for about three years.”

“You ever get tired of New York?”

“Yeah all the time. I went on tour in October and I was gone for about a month and a half, and I took my friend who did sound for me. So it was just the two of us in this little Toyota Camry. We put twelve thousand miles on it.”

He’s gesturing as if there’s a map in front of him, but there is not. I make do. “Like in the Midwest and stuff?”

“Everywhere, the whole country. Well, except Texas.”

“Fuck Texas.”

“I know right? But yeah, the whole time I was thinking ‘man I fucking hate New York.’ I knew it was just because I was away and on this amazing experience touring, but I got back here and was like “God I just don’t wanna be here.’ But then after a week or two I was like ‘okay, this isn’t that bad.'”

“Like ‘this is where my fans are, so…'”

“Yeah, I mean I draw pretty well here and in a few other cities around the country.”

“What’s your other favorite city?”

“Well, Denver has been really good to me. My manager is from there. We met when he booked me on this festival out there, and I’ve been playing it for the past three years. I kind of half-convinced him to move to New York, and now he’s booking this new venue here and it all worked out. But yeah, Denver has always been a really good show, I like Denver, LA, New York…”

“Those are some solid cities, that’s awesome. So let’s talk about your music a little bit. How do you start writing a song? Start with the beat? Start with the melody?”

“Yeah, you know I was just asking myself the other day, ‘how do I come up with this shit?'” We laugh that one off for a minute, then he continues. “It always depends. Like sometimes it’ll start out with drums, I’ll get a drum loop going and then just play some chords or something. Or I’ll have a melody in my head or some lead or something and I’ll build around that. It really depends on the song. I usually do have a melody or a beat or a hook in mind that I’ll want to record quickly and build around. But I never set out being like ‘I’m gonna write a song about this.'”

“Well do you even think about the lyrics while you’re writing the music? Or that comes dead last.”

“Yeah, that’s the very last thing. I just read Brian Eno’s biography, and there was one thing that really hit home for me about how he wrote his lyrics. He would go into the studio and loop a section and just speak gibberish into a microphone, and then kind of work that until the consonants and all the sounds made sense and sounded good with the melody, and then form words around that, something that makes half-sorta sense. And that’s exactly how I do it.”

“Must have been good to read that in this book, from this legend.”

“Yeah, I thought I was one of the only people on Earth to do that, but the fact that he does–and he’s one of my biggest influences–it was just like ‘whoa man, fuck yeah!'” 

“Do you use Ableton?”

“Yeah, Ableton is my main thing for sequencing and building a song, but then I’ll mix it in Pro Tools. But yeah, onstage is Ableton. I got my two controllers hooked up to Ableton with a synth and drum pad.”

“How much of it is there already and you just press play, and how much of it are you actually doing?” 

“Yeah, I have it all sectioned out, the parts of each song, so I trigger stuff. But if I don’t trigger it, it stops. So there’s work involved, but it’s essentially just a bunch of loops, like the length of a verse or something. And I can modulate each track if I want to, which I do. But a lot of it’s there, ready to go, because…”

“…because you’re singing up there too, right?”

“Yeah, I mean if I had a band, and I did it that way, yeah I could definitely take away a lot of it from Ableton.”

“You could just press play, you know. It’d be a lot easier.”

“I could, and I know a lot of people who literally just have an ipod and sing on top of it.”

“But that’s not who you’re trying to be.”

“No, I try to make it interesting for myself. I try to break up a song in a certain way to make it fun for me to play, to make it to where I can change it up on every show. But yeah, pretty much everything is already recorded, broken up song-by-song, and it’s like this giant grid mess of colors.”

“So your show is never the same every night?”

“No, no it’s not. In fact tonight I’m even playing a new song. At the very beginning, no less.” We laugh. Why would he do that to himself?! “I’m just gonna wing it and we’ll see what happens. If it sucks, it sucks.”

I’m getting toward the end of my cheat-sheet, but we’re having so much fun I just have to extend the conversation.

“What are you listening to these days? What do you listen to when you’re walking around the street or whatever?”

He thinks about this for a moment. “There’s this guy, and I don’t even know how to say his last name, but I’ve been listening to him constantly. He’s this ambient dude who used to be in the band Emeralds named Steve Hauschildt.” This last name is a doozie. We try to pronounce it, fail, but continue anyway. “He’s got this really awesome ambient album that I’ve been listening to religiously. I’m also pretty obsessed with the 80’s though. Tears For Fears all the time–I’m actually working on a cover album for Tears For Fears, doing the entire thing, so I’m just listening to it always like ‘oh I should do that, oh I should do that, etc.'”

“Wow, that feeds perfectly into my next question; ‘what was the best decade to be alive for music?'”

“Oh my God,” he begins, clearly having thought hard already about this exact question. “The 1980’s, specifically 1984-1985. If you could be 18 years old in 1984…”

“Wow, you really had that answer ready.”

“It was the greatest year in pop music. Like in the UK, and with new-wave American bands, Talking Heads, all that stuff. Just an amazing little era right there. 1984 is my favorite year and I didn’t even live in it.”

“You do that Talking Heads cover of ‘This Must Be The Place.’ Why? What made you do that?”

“Well, because it’s my favorite song of all time. I don’t remember why exactly I decided to cover it, but I think I had the idea in my mind for a few years. I tried it a few times and it didn’t work, but finally I got it to sound decent and just released it. So now I have it, and it’s a great thing to play at shows because everybody knows it and likes it.”

“It’s a dope song.”

He looks around like well obviously.

“What would you say is your biggest influence that a casual fan wouldn’t expect? Obviously Talking Heads, but I would expect that, you know?”

He thinks for a moment. “Ooo… Wow, that’s a good question.” Did he really just respond to the quality of that question? Unexpected. I have to come clean about it then.

“I actually crowdsourced that question. That was my friend’s question, I can’t take credit for it.”

“That’s a great question! ‘What influence do I have that people wouldn’t expect me to have?’ Boy, that’s a tough one. That’s a fucking tough question. But it’s good, it makes me think!” I can’t believe he likes this damn question so much. What about all of my questions?!

After much deliberation, he comes up with an answer: “Talk Talk, probably, because I love them and listen to them all the time. Talk Talk’s got a really dry, ambient, slow-going sort of sound, which is not at all what I’m going for. On this last album though I took a lot of influence from them. So, yeah. Gotta go with Talk Talk.”

“That’s a good answer.”

“Maybe people expect it, I don’t know, but that’s the one I can think of. I can’t think of anything too zany.”

“Is there any one musician that you’d like to do a collaboration with?”

“Probably M83. You mean modern music? M83. In the past either David Byrne or Tears For Fears.”

“Well obviously. I mean how bout the Beatles too, I mean come on.” I was thinking more realistically, more in the realm of possibility. He laughs.

“So you just went off tour, and then… now what? What’s the future hold for Brothertiger?”

“Well, there’s that cover album, Tears For Fears, and I’m starting to write some new stuff, so hopefully by the mid-to-end of this year I’ll have an EP. I haven’t done an EP in a long time and I think I need to have one, so there’s that. And hopefully touring again soon, maybe in the summer.”

“Do you like touring?”

“I love touring.”

“What’s your favorite part?”

“I think just going to places I haven’t been. I know a lot of people hate the driving, but I think driving is… just seeing the country for what it is is one of my favorite parts.”

“Is touring your favorite part of what you do?”

“I think recording is, but translating it to a live scene is fucking difficult. But I love touring and recording.”

I’m clearly grasping at straws with these questions, and he knows it. I surrender. 

“I’m all out of questions. Is there anything else you want to tell people?”

“Just that, to whoever is listening to my music and whoever likes it, thanks.”

A solid last answer for a solid interview. I stop recording so I can use my phone to take a selfie. I have got to get a selfie with my main man Brothertiger. I mean, pix or it didn’t happen, right?

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But it did happen, and I’ll never forget it.

Låpsley CONQUERS ROUGH TRADE NYC
November 11, 2015 2:18 pm

For most artists, Monday night performances are something of a death sentence. Aside from the ubiquitous handful of college students with nowhere to be on a Tuesday morning, the rest of us aren’t usually willing to risk the 4 days of sleep deprivation that inevitably follow pulling an all-nighter so early in the week. That’s why it was particularly impressive that Låpsley not only attempted a Monday night show, but sold out the venue.

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Låpsley (born Holly Lapsley Fletcher) is a singer and electronic musician from England whose powerful voice has earned her a devoted fanbase before ever releasing an LP. With her debut album scheduled to come out early next year, Låpsley spent the night at Rough Trade performing 10 songs from her previous EPs.

Listening to any of her recordings makes it obvious what a talented singer Låpsley is, but hearing her sing live is a whole other beast; the audience was spellbound, myself included. During her performance of “Station”, Låpsley alternates between microphones, singing both the soprano and bass parts of the song. In “Painter (Valentine)”, her voice floats above the crowd, her flowing white dress glowing ethereally under blacklight.

After thanking the crowd for coming, Låpsley closes the show with “Hurt Me”, an ode to a jerk and her most recent single. And that’s it. 10 songs. No more, no less. Every one of them worth the sleep deprivation.

SEOUL BRINGS THE DREAM TO BROOKLYN
October 12, 2015 9:57 am

Montreal indie-pop band Seoul stopped by Rough Trade this past Saturday night and they brought their massive dreamy synth sound with them. Opening the night were locals Lightning Bug, who are master shoegazers. They set the tone with seoulklktheir intricately skilled pedal work and ripping bass lines; definitely a band to keep an eye on. They were followed with a toned down set by Young Ejecta, the Brooklyn based synth-pop duo featuring Leanne Macomber of Neon Indian, who was the only one present for this particular set. The songs were aesthetically sloppy but gave the audience a more candid look into Leanne’s raw style.

Seoul is now more than halfway through their North American tour, and still performing with an energy that moved the crowd. Their Canadian-bred style is just peculiar enough to get you interested, then you crash under the ambient wave of their dream-like synth driven songs. The band has maintained an air of anonymity which seems to work with their reverb drowned style. The Beasts suggest you find this band in a town near you.You can find all the tour dates here. In the meantime, check out their newly released video for “Real June”, and dream on dreamers.

Years & Years Conquer NYC
September 21, 2015 11:54 am

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Years & Years made their return to New York for their 3rd sold out show at Terminal 5 and wowed the crowd. Since their first US show at Rough Trade in January, I’ve been hooked on Olly’s vocals and it’s undeniable that they offer much more than their record. I was so convinced that they were an incredible band that I even travelled to Boston to witness more of the magic they create on stage. One thing I love about this band is that they’re the most humble group of guys, looking genuinely shocked of their success and thank fans after every song. It truly impresses me how much love they get from their fans and they never fail to deliver a memorable performance every time.
Despite the fact that the view isn’t so great at Terminal 5 unless you get there early and secure a close spot to the stage, the band excited the crowd with their electro-pop tunes that made your body uncontrollably dance to the beat. Emry (keyboard) and Mikey (bass) looked calm and collected as always keeping straight faces while Olly showed some of his effortlessly rad dance moves. The set started off with “Foundation” which showcased Olly’s vibrant vocals hitting perfect high notes. Everyone had their phones out trying to capture this moment on video. Fans got a real treat when Olly jumped off stage and started mingling with the front row. A mass of people were pushing towards the front and reaching their hands out in hopes of having a chance to touch him. The band finished the night off with “King” while donning a paper crown, conquering every heart in the crowd. 

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Lazer Cake Shines At Rough Trade
August 21, 2015 7:13 pm

Friday night was a dance party waiting to happen with a line-up of total kick-ass bands at one of Brooklyn’s finest, Rough Trade. The guys of Lazer Cake agree that this is one of their favorite venues to play at. Despite their slight differences with mid-twenties bands, this Brooklyn-based group sure knows how to please the young millennial crowd with their indie pop tunes.

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© 2015 Deborah Farnault, Rock Flour Productions llc

I happened to come across their set at CMJ back in 2013 at Rockwood Music Hall where I was immediately drawn by their synth-pop beats. I mean, we can clearly tell that they’re going to be a hell of a cool gang seeing that their name is Lazer Cake. Since then, their songs have evolved to “become more intricate, in depth, and more lyrical.” Though Robby Sinclair (lead singer & drummer) has been pursuing music for years, it took a while for him to form Lazer Cake since he didn’t find a ‘steady’ guitarist until he met Tom Deis (guitarist). “I was looking for a guitarist and my friend said “Ask Tom, don’t ask anybody else!’” The rest is history. Tom also plays in indie pop band Via Audio where he conquers the music scene in Philadelphia.

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© 2015 Deborah Farnault, Rock Flour Productions llc

Big City Lights has always been my favorite song from them which carries inspirations from 70’s pop music and it always gets the crowd going. It’s practically hard to stay still because the fast paced tempo from the drums and keyboard are full of attitude, which hypnotizes your body to do unspeakable things. Every song pulled me in and had different personalities to it, making each song memorable. Their latest EP featuring the song “Feelin” was apparently written on a whim while Robby was walking to the studio. “I came up with Feelin in about 10 minutes when I was walking from home to the studio. It was like a beam of light that just came to me! My walking tempo created the beat and I had the lyrics in my head. As soon as I got to the studio I got it all down so I won’t forget it.”


You don’t see many bands out there where the lead singer drums, so it’s great to see a change. Robby’s powerful voice echoed through the room and energetic vibes flowed throughout their whole set. Seeing that they are talented musicians, I asked them if they had any other talents. They surprised me when they responded with “I like to cook” (Robby) and “I like to bake pie” (Tom); something no other musician has ever proudly answered in any interview so far, since most people solely dedicate both their work and downtime to music.
After three years as a band, they’ve released 3 EP’s so far and you’re probably wondering “where’s the album?” Fear not, they’re going to start recording soon and hopefully get it out at the beginning of next year! Surprisingly, they also don’t have an official music video out yet so that seems to be in the works as well. Nevertheless, you can still enjoy their music through Spotify, YouTube or SoundCloud.

Lazer Cake Band

© 2015 Deborah Farnault, Rock Flour Productions llc

Little May Keeps it Real
July 28, 2015 10:00 am

As I walk into an artsy Airbnb loft located in East Williamsburg, I was greeted with three friendly hip Australian girls. The place was decorated with all sorts of props from trippy rainbow paintings to slightly terrifying mannequins. Hannah and Annie had just come back from a bikram yoga class while Liz struck some chords on her acoustic guitar and hummed some melodic tunes. It was the first time I’ve had an opportunity to sit down with musicians in such an intimate setting without having to worry about shouting over the loud music at a bar, or having the pressure to finish the interview in time before their set. I was more than thrilled to have a chat with these girls and know more about them beyond their music.

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Seeing Little May play at Rough Trade during Northside Festival for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised with their performance. Their dreamy sounds and great harmony captivated the audience and had their eyes glued on the girls the whole time. “We always struggle putting down a specific genre, but I guess maybe we’re just…honest?” A lot of their songs seem to expose their emotional journey through life with genuine lyrics that recognize sentimentality. It seems as though their lyrics come organically, and they use it as a platform to express their feelings rather than forcefully getting some words out on paper. “When you’re going through something, it’s really hard to figure out what you’re feeling and sometimes thats a good thing because you can vent in that way, but it’s really great to reflect after certain situations have passed and get inspiration from those situations as well.”

During their set Hannah mentioned that one of the songs was about a boy that she liked who ended up kissing somebody else. “Liz and I made that song after we were in a single situation so we wrote a verse each. I guess it’s tongue-in-cheek now but we look back at it and we can joke about it. I think that happens when you’re going through relationships and coming out of them, somebody liking someone else,” Hannah says in a reminiscing tone. Perhaps Hannah also gets inspiration from the popular love guru popstar. “If I’m in a bad mood I like to listen to Taylor Swift, but I’m not embarrassed by it. I just save it for those special occasions.”

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These girls offer some words of wisdom to girls who go through the same relationship struggles – “Just stick it out I guess. Stick it out in life. The thing is, it always get’s better if you just give it a little bit of time. Things always seem worse than they are, so be brave.”

Not only did I pick up on their excellent lyrical content, but I realized that they also have a great sense of fashion. “I think the black pants are any musicians staple and I guess with traveling, being on the road for quite a while, you kind of have to be frugal of what you’re packing so you tend to wear similar things on stage. I think if we had more options that would be great, but we just try to wear something that we’re comfortable in.” Speaking of comfortable, Liz learned that lesson the hard way by experiencing a slight wardrobe malfunction on stage. “There was a show when my top was to the side of my bra. Hannah pointed it out on stage and she was like “Liz..” and I was like oh shit!”

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During their short stay in New York City, they were fortunate enough to have some time off to explore around the city. “Mark, Ken and I went to a Mets game yesterday which was super fun and bought a pretzel and Bud Light. I really wanted to get a hotdog but that’s kind of pushing it” Hannah said excitedly. Liz seemed to enjoy strolling around Brooklyn, doing some shopping. “I was amazed by everything in Williamsburg, on Driggs Avenue. I found some jewelry at a handmade jewelry shop, and also bought some old records.” While Hannah and Liz were focused on certain duties, Annie just wanted to wander around. “I kind of just wandered around and ate vegan food. I’m a vegetarian but out of the past two weeks we’ve been driving around and I’ve been eating a lot of fries and stuff. You know, just wandering around and drinking coffee and just hanging out really.”

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We go off on a tangent and start talking about a food, which is a topic everyone gets excited about. I ask if they’ve had the full New York experience by going out and eating the staple NYC food. “All the typical New York things like bagels and big pizza slices and hotdogs and stuff – You remind yourself, “I gotta eat bagels!” but you can’t eat too many bagels you know?” Annie mentions a Japanese restaurant called Zenkichi in Williamsburg. “I think we’re going there for dinner tonight, but I’m not sure where we’re going.” Hannah is feeling for Mexican food, but pouts because “it’s a group decision.” “There’s this Mexican place when we were staying in Brooklyn not long ago and it had the best quesadilla I’ve ever had, so I’m going to miss that. I wish that we had time to go back.”

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Reptar @ Rough Trade; A Music Overload
July 21, 2015 12:22 pm

I was thoroughly blown away by the overload of back-to-back talent at Friday night’s show at Rough Trade. The first opener, Meth Dad, performed a high energy set in the middle of the audience, eliciting a call-and-response interaction with the crowd. Surrounded by large, inflatable Christmas decorations, he finished his set by collapsing into a pile on the floor. Then came Brothertiger, another solo performer who projected his own unique energy into the crowd, this time from the confines of the stage. The highlight of his set was his excellent rendition of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place.” The penultimate act, Stranger Cat, somehow managed to surpass the high bar set by her predecessors. The brainchild of Brooklyn’s own Cat Martino, Stranger Cat filled the hall at Rough Trade with her soulful vocals and powerful supporting band. I was overwhelmed to day the least, but nothing fell short of straight up awesome.

Finally, however, it was Reptars turn to take the stage. The Athens, GA group produced bouncy synth-pop highlighted by singer/guitarist Graham Ulicny’s very unique vocal performance. Bassist Ryan Engelberger, keyboardist William Kennedy, drummer Andrew McFarland, and guitarist Jace Bartlet round out the five-some and provided more than enough energy to completely saturate the packed house at Rough Trade. They released their new album, Lurid Glow this past spring, and in performance they managed to strike a pleasant balance between their old and new material. I managed to catch a short video of my favorite song, Rainbounce, from their debut album, Body Faucet:

Reptar will continue their summer tour into the Midwest this week, culminating in a show in Chicago on Sunday night.

Big Sound, Little Tybee
July 20, 2015 4:32 pm

Little Tybee is a big band with an even bigger sound. And when the 6-member group performed at Rough Trade last Thursday, ATYPICALSOUNDS was there to receive it. Before the show, we sat down with singer and guitarist Brock Scott to find out how touring was treating him, twelve shows in. 


 
You started your tour by playing 11 nights in a row. How are you still standing?

BS: Well I’m seated right now! We’ve done a bunch of U.S. tours in the past, and it’s always like 10-hour drives in between stops and it just kills us. But this tour, we intentionally booked 3-hour drives per day, so we didn’t stress ourselves out. This tour is really less about marketing, and more about us finishing up an album. Before we finalize everything we want to get the songs mature. When you tour with a song is when the little nuances of the songs come out.

Right, you want to make sure you can perform the songs live.

BS: Josh, our guitarist, plays an 8-string guitar and a lot of the time he’s recording part by part. His technical prowess on the songs is so advanced, he pushes himself to where he’ll write something and record it, but he can’t actually play it live yet. Then it’s like a challenge to progress his talents, to meet up to the recording standards.

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So, this tour is to practice the new songs? Did you get to tour with the last album?

BS: We did, but not as extensively as we would’ve liked. We all have jobs back home, so like July and August is kind of our touring month. A lot of the guys teach in the band, and summers are when a lot of their students are doing summer camp. This is just the time that we go on the road, but most of the time we’re kind of just focusing on online content and doing videos, and recording. I’ve been playing with some of these guys for like 15 years, so we’re not one of those bands who’s just putting everything into it and living out of our van, and then we burn ourselves out because we don’t get to the level we think we’re supposed to be or whatever.

It takes time.

BS: Yeah, exactly. I’m a firm believer in slow-build. Cause that’s when you get true, devout fans, and people that follow a kind of legacy, or a discography, as opposed to a Pitchfork, overnight band, where it’s like, “They’re awesome! Everyone’s got to see them!” But then after 3 months it’s like, “Who?”

We’ve messed up enough times in our career to know what not to do. It’s almost like things have leveled out on all sides, where we’re not wearing ourselves too thin. We’ve made it work. But to answer your question, we toured a good bit around the U.S., but really we’re trying to focus on online content and then potentially doing festivals. It’s kind of where our future lies.

As a folk band, what kind of festivals would you like to do?

BS: I think we fall into a lot of genres. Believe it or not, we appeal to the metal scene because of Josh playing the 8-string. He’s playing a lot of technically advanced things. The way we write songs, if you add distortion, a lot of our songs would be metal songs. It’s really kind of arpeggiated and classical sounding, but cleaner. We don’t really want to pigeonhole ourselves into one genre, we kind of want to be accessible to you and your grandmother, and everyone.

Similar to how ska is basically sped-up polka music, do you try changing up a single element in your music that turns it into a completely different genre? 

BS: I think we have a little bit of that in there. I think what we try to do though, is not be limited. In one song, we might have four different genres. On the new album we have this one song that goes from sounding like a funeral procession, a New Orleans-style ending part with a horn section, to rah-rah marching band kind of stuff. But then right before that, it’ll be really prog-y and almost sound like [the Yes album] Fragile. So we just kind of go wherever our interests lie. We’re just having fun.

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Do you get to do anything cool on your tour stops besides play? Do you get to look around, or do things? Or are you just trying to catch up on sleep?

BS: I guess the biggest endurance challenge is on your liver. Because you get to the venue, you get to the soundcheck, and you’re hanging out. They’re like “Oh, by the way, here’s a bunch of free drink tickets!” You need a lot of restraint, and there’s a lot of fatigue. It’s not tiredness, because we’ll get a full night’s sleep. But fatigue is a different kind of monster.

We just came from Richmond, and we hung out with some locals there. A lot of times we hang out with the bands, we have a lot of friends in all the cities we’ve played in over the years. We’ll make a plan to stop at the Crystal Cave on a drive if we see it, or Wizard World or something; as long as we have time for it and it seems interesting enough.

I noticed you’re going up to Canada on this tour.

BS: This is more or less an east coast kind of thing. We started in Georgia, and then went down through Florida, then have been working our way up the coast. But from New York, we’re moving to Boston, and then Maine, and then Vermont and Canada, and then down through Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, and then making our way back down to Nashville and then home.

It’s about 36 stops in 38 days. It’s a lot, but it’s the only way. We’re not a band that gets gigantic guarantees, so the only way to make it financially viable for us is to play every night. And it’s what we want to do, because it allows us to get really tight, like that tour-tightness that you don’t really get normally. We’ll practice just before a show, but you don’t have the nuance of the songs down, so I think we’re just now settling in to how the songs are supposed to be.

Have you done anything since coming to New York? Have you tried the pizza?

BS: We haven’t really done anything other than sit in traffic for a while. But we’ve been to New York a whole bunch of times in the past, so we have friends in the area, in Williamsburg and Manhattan.

Nirvana, our violinist, is Dominican and her family lives in Teaneck, right over the bridge. And they’re awesome. They cook the best authentic Dominican food you’ll ever have. So we’re going to go there straight after this.

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Tell me about the new album.

BS: The new direction is awesome, it’s really 1970’s-inspired. Real direct-sounding. For a while, everyone was on a Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear kick, so reverb was cranked high on those albums. We’re going back to Harry Nilsson, Bill Withers, really 1970’s close drums, tight vocals, everything’s right in your ears instead of in a field. It’s real bombastic and I’m really excited. I think this is our first album where we actually figured out our sound and our writing process. We look forward to having it out, probably at the beginning of next year.

You mentioned you all work outside of the band. How do you find time to be a band?

BS: I work building sets for the movie industry, I’m a welder. I build props for The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games, and a bunch of other things. Some of the guys work at a brewery, a lot of the guys teach. They’re all jobs in which we can have a flexible schedule where they don’t mind if we take off for like two months or something. Traveling the country, playing music, doing the things you love, there’s nothing better than that.

Watch: Little Tybee, “Tuck My Tail”

Artist of the Month: Years & Years
July 1, 2015 1:43 pm

Years and Years will be your ultimate band crush of 2015. This British trio composed of Olly Alexander, Mikey Goldsworth, and Emre Turkmen have been rapidly climbing the music charts with their indie-pop sound ever since their song “Real” emerged. It’s quite hard to put a genre on them since they have hints of electronic, pop, soul, and R&B that somehow captures a wide range of young peoples attention. They’ve been given the 2015 Woodie Award for Artist to Watch and have also won BBC Sound of 2015 Award. Within the past year their careers have skyrocketed and have been on tour non-stop.

I first stumbled upon their music last fall when I was browsing through a Spotify playlist and got instantly hooked with “Real.” The more I binged on them, the more I fell in love. When I found out that their U.S. debut show was in January, I immediately jumped on it since I was dying to go to as many shows as possible during the winter season instead of being cooped up in my cozy comforter. I didn’t expect them to wow me since they were a fresh band who only had a few songs released here and there. I also didn’t know how well they would transcribe their electronic sounds in a live setting.

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Their set blew my mind. You could tell that they were genuinely nervous to play in front of an American crowd for the first time. Olly says in one Nylon interview “It’s crazy coming to a place you’ve never been to and people know your songs. I’ll never get over that.”

Years and Years performing live on stage at the 2014 Great Escape in Brighton, UK

Years and Years performing live on stage at the 2014 Great Escape in Brighton, UK

Surprisingly Olly is also a talented actor who starred in God Help The Girl, but “it’s always been the dream” (Noisey) for him to become a singer. You’d think that with such talent he’d be confident enough to flaunt his vocal chords, but he always seems to be pretty shy on stage! Their recordings are great as it is, but seeing their raw talent on stage is a whole other magical experience.

Years and Years’ music have been described as ‘dance music with heart’ which the band members seem to agree. “I’m not interested in writing songs about nothing. I’m writing personal songs, which is like therapy in a way. Those are the kind of songs I really loved when I was growing up — singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley and Bob Dylan — and I’ve always written that way. But I love dance music and I love electronic music; it really affects you physically, so I’ve found a way to marry the two. Dance music is really emotional, but it often gets used in a very banal, middle-of-the-road kind of way, and that’s a shame. I would not be making music if I couldn’t make it personal to me.” (HungerTV)

I was reluctant for their set at Rough Trade to end, since I wasn’t sure when the next time I’d be able to experience them would be. But soon enough, they came back to the U.S. in March and I had a chance to see them in Boston again. They’ve also release some new music and videos, as well as announce their debut album (finally!) which comes out on July 10th in the U.S.! “Thematically, a lot of the songs I’ve written—at least 6 or 8—are breakup songs. It’s going to be a whiny breakup album. I’m most creative when I’m feeling a bit shit and lonely. I use music as therapy. A lot of the songs come from painful rejection [laughs].” (Noisey)

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Teen Commandments Keeps Brooklyn Dancing
May 19, 2015 10:09 am

Rough Trade is one of my favorite venues in the city, so it’s always been a pleasure to see bands play here. Living in NYC for a while, I’ve heard about this Brooklynite band Teen Commandments but never had a chance to see them. I caught on to the accidental (or deliberate) biblical references once I learned that the lead singer’s last name was Moses. If I wasn’t already intrigued, I was now.

I didn’t know what to expect from Teen Commandments, but their stage presence is astonishing. There were neon wires drooped on stage and a seemingly random taxidermy squirrel propped on a chair behind the bassist. They walked on stage with retro white outfits and lead singer Brett Moses donned a biker jacket that made me nostalgic for the 80’s. Adorned with a flower crown and a beetle necklace, Moses attire was nothing short of eccentric, but I was instantly fascinated by his unique style and quirkiness.

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The crowd’s eyes were immediately glued to them, and their upbeat synth-pop tunes were controlling my body. Their heavy beats and clear cut sounds of the guitar fused so well, it was almost impossible for me to stay still. People upfront were showing off their dance moves as if they finally got a chance to go to the disco. As the music progressed, the crowd followed. By the end of the night, everybody was raising their hands and swaying back and forth. This show took me through an epic journey to the 80’s! Definitely a local band to check out if you’re in the city!

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After the finale of Teen Commandments’ superb performance, three piece band Prinze George showed a graceful presence on stage. They’re a fashionable band who brought a very authentic sound to the scene. What a great end to a great show! I finally have another band to add to my list.